Basketball Practice Plans:
Critical Tools for Success
Basketball practice plans lay out specifically what we will do to help achieve the goals we have set for our players and our team. Without good planning, there will be no progression toward better performance, and the pre-season then becomes simply a series of pick-up games.
Basketball practice plans should be separated into three sections: Fundamentals, Team Offense, and Team Defense.
This section focuses on the skills and abilities each individual player needs to know. They include:
- Conditioning Drills
- Skills Drills
- Offensive Movement (setting screens, pick and roll, cuts, fakes, etc.)
- Ball Handling
- Individual Defensive Skills
Match the fundamentals focus to the Offense and Defense focus for that practice - e.g., if you are introducing the fast break in your Offense, then work on passing and speed dribble in your fundamentals.
This section of the basketball practice plan focuses on the team aspect of the game, specifically the patterns the team runs in order to get a player free to score. When introducing these patterns, it is important to break them into smaller patterns, and then teach the smaller patterns first before putting it all together into the full, larger pattern. They include:
- Fast break organization - primary and secondary breaks
- Various offensive plays
- Special situations - jump ball, sideline inbounds plays, end line inbounds plays, breaking the defensive press
Again, focus of this part of the basketball practice plan is on the team game, but this time on the defensive patterns the team may run. While man-to-man defense should be the most prevalent style of defense used, especially with younger players as it focuses more on fundamental skills, you will also have occasion to use other styles of defense. This section would include:
- Man-to-man defense principles
- Defending against a fast break
- Zone defenses
- Zone presses
- Specialty defenses
Not exactly part of the daily basketball practice plan, but still an aspect of coaching that needs to be worked into long-range planning.
Sometimes having the team meet in a classroom can be effective - if nothing else, it gets the team together and that can improve camaraderie and team loyalty. Don't waste practice time for this - practice time needs to be spent on the court, being active - but a regularly scheduled lunch-time meeting may be very beneficial. Possible topics might include:
- Review of previous game's highlights - for good and bad points. Especially effective if you have video to show.
- Review of offensive plays or particularly important points before a game.
- Special subjects like proper nutrition, stress management, or study skills.
- A discussion of the stats used and what they can show us - though you don't want to turn your players into stats-obsessed junkies.
If possible, have everyone eat the same meal. For example, if you have a cafeteria in the school, have the team eat some pasta at lunch on game day - good carbs, creates a feeling of team unity, and allows you to discuss important concepts you want to focus on in th egame.
A Few Final Points
When introducing new skills or plays, walk through them first and then have your players practice them in controlled drills. But once they understand the skills / plays, your drills and practices should always simulate game situations. If your players aren't hustling in practice, they won't know how to execute effectively in the game.
At the beginning of the season, or if you have many inexperienced players, you will likely spend much more time on fundamentals. As players' fundamental skills improve, you will be able to move more into team play - offenses and defenses - and be able to teach these aspects effectively.
Both fundamentals and team aspects of the game are important - don't neglect either, but fundamentals need to be strong before team offenses and defenses are introduced. Many times I come across a coach who is desperate to introduce an offensive play to his team, but hasn't taught the fundamentals well enough yet. You can't neglect the team aspects of the game, but you need to be sure your team is ready to execute them - with good fundamentals.
By the time the season begins, practices should become quite methodical. Your team offenses and defenses will have been taught, and so you will be running fundamental drills to keep your players sharp, running offenses and defenses to solidify movements, and doing a lot of scrimmaging to adjust and refine the play.
Occasionally, if something becomes evident in a game that needs to be addressed - e.g., getting lazy on rebounds - you will have a special emphasis on that aspect at the next practice. And you will want to vary the fundamentals and fast break drills regularly, so players don't get bored and can work on different situations. But in general, your basketball practice plans will follow the same structure, assuming your preseason has progressed well, from teaching strong fundamentals to the team game.
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