Coach's Guide: Running an Efficient Practice

All the best coaches, from youth leagues to the NBA, will tell you the best way to run a practice is to make sure it is well organized. Keep it moving so the players are engaged and on the go.

Let’s say your typical practice session lasts one hour. Take a few moments to break down the hour into 5 or 10 minutes blocks. You might spend the first 5 minutes with a run around the gym. Then the next 5 minutes might be devoted to calisthenics so players are loosened up properly. The next 10 minutes might be a two-line lay up drill and so forth.

Start and stop each block of time with a quick whistle. Young players will like it because they’ll be constantly moving. If you organize your practice well, you can accomplish a lot more than you could ever imagine.

If you do have to stop practice to teach a fundamental or demonstrate a play, that’s fine. But again, put yourself on the clock. Make your point, keep it short, and keep the action moving! As a reward, if you want to let the team scrimmage, do that at the end of practice — and be sure everyone gets equal playing time.

The ideal time to reinforce your rapport with your players is during drills. Build their self-confidence with lots of praise. Let them know you see them working hard. Especially with those youngsters who may be struggling. It’s up to you to build them up, to let them know that they’re making progress. Remember — you’re not just the coach for the better players — you’re the coach for the entire team. Who knows? One of those players struggling at the beginning might just grow into a star.

DRILLS

REMINDER: One way to keep practice interesting and fun is to limit each drill to no more than 10 minutes.

SINGLE LINE PASSING

Set up two single file lines facing one another. A player from the front of one line passes the ball to the player at the front of the other line and runs to the back of that line.

KING OF THE CIRCLE (DOC’s FAVORITE)

Place two players who are both dribbling basketballs in the center circle at mid court. Both players have to keep dribbling the ball while attempting to steal their opponent's ball. To make it even more interesting, blow a whistle every 10 or 15 seconds and have the players change the hand they are dribbling with.

SIDE TO SIDE SLIDE

Set up two single file lines, one to the right of the free-throw line, the other to the left. The first player in line assumes the defensive position. The next player dribbles down the court in a zig-zag — three dribbles to the right using the right hand, three dribbles to the left using the crossover to go from the right hand to the left hand and so on down the court. The defensive player slides from side to side staying in front of the dribbler.

TEAM SHOOTING GAME

Divide the team into two groups, one at either end of the court. Both teams start 10 to 15 feet from the right or left side of the basket. The first player in line takes a shot. If he misses, the next player shoots from the same spot. The entire group moves to the next spot as soon as somebody makes a shot from the first position. The winning team is the group that can hit all 10 shots — corner, between the corner and free-throw line, free-throw, opposite space between the free-throw line and corner and opposite corner — and back before the other team.

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