13 tips to sharpen your daily practice plan
A major part of coaching is the ability to prepare your players and your team. That process takes place on the practice floor.
The limited time you have for practice is sacred. It’s the time that you have the most influence on your players’ progress, and the only way to accomplish that is with a daily practice plan. You cannot and must not run your practice off the cuff. Just as you might demand that your players be prepared for practice, you must understand your responsibility to do the same.
I realize that not all situations are the same for coaches. Some will have a full gym with several assistants and eight baskets, others will only have a half court with one basket, and some might not have the benefit of assistants. No matter the situation, the one common thread is for the coach to be prepared by understanding what they want to accomplish during each and every practice session.
One rule of thumb for all coaches is to use the gym time to the max. Don’t waste time stretching, which is important but should be done prior to practice in a hallway or some other room. While your players are stretching, use the time to talk to them. Talk about your expectations for practice that day, and inform them what you want to accomplish. Talk about your next opponent and how you plan to win the game. Those 10 to 15 minutes before practice are critical, because not only are the players physically preparing but they are also getting ready mentally. This allows players to hit the floor running and for your practice to start on the right note.
Work on getting all of your players involved in drills. Develop team drills that require everyone to participate, especially for those who are in their first year with the team. The more engaged your players, the better practice it will be.
Here are some things all coaches should consider when developing a quality practice plan.
1. Develop times frames for each segment lasting no more than 10 minutes.
2. Stick to the time frame, which means avoiding interruptions in your drills or exercises.
3. Try to mix up the time frames. For example, alternate individual and team drills or switch between offense and defense. Keep players engaged.
4. Start possessions in your practices the way you start them in games. Don’t start possessions with the guard on top, where you give them the ball and play begins. Possessions should start with out-of-bounds plays, or they can start with a free throw. This allows you to work on more than one skill with each possession.
5. Every practice must incorporate individual skills. If your players can’t shoot, dribble, pass and catch, it doesn’t matter what play you run.
6. Footwork is the most underappreciated and neglected part of the game. Make sure you’re committing practice time to footwork.
7. Implement advantage and disadvantage drills into your practices. Making practice more difficult than the games helps players thrive in live action. Put restrictions on your offense, making it more difficult to score. Or create mismatches by putting one more offensive player on the floor to make your defense work harder.
8. Create competition into your practices. Develop point system in scrimmage situations. Make it easier for your second team to win. For example, if the second team gets an offensive rebound, it automatically wins. This makes players work harder to box out and fight for boards.
9. Use point systems in scrimmages to emphasize where you need improvement. If you turn over the ball too much, tell players that all turnovers will reset their team’s score back to zero.
10. Try to create as many full-court drills as possible. Make sure these drills are active and challenging.
11. Make sure your players either love or hate each of your drills. If they love it, they will automatically work hard. If they hate it, it will be good for them.
12. Make sure that you implement at least one time/score situation into each practice. You cannot expect your players to perform something that they don’t practice. For example, set a scrimmage with one team up four points and one minute left on the clock.
13. Always end practice on a positive note. Let your players leave the floor feeling good about themselves and the team. This gives them confidence heading into the next practice or game.
This is not an exclusive list, but I hope some of these ideas help you construct your practice plan. I can’t emphasize how important it is for each of us to walk into that gym understanding exactly what we want to accomplish and how we plan to get there.
Marty Gaughan coached high school basketball for 25 years and is a member of the Winning Hoops Editorial Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at @beabettercoach.