Top Basketball Drills
The Zipper

The Zipper Drill is one of the quicker top basketball drills, developing good passing skills, quick reaction time, and the ability to finish the fast break. Players are sprinting the length of the court while passing, so conditioning comes into play as well. A great warm-up and a great way to focus on passing skills.

This drill will appear complex at first, but players catch on quickly. It's a fast-paced drill, and all players in the drill get conditioning benefits - runners sprint down court, passing and receiving on the fly; passers pass to the runner and then immediately move to the next passing position, ready to receive the next pass. So there is very little time wasted standing still.

And because the running is non-stop (the next runner should be coming past only a few moments after the previous runner), players need to remain focused and ensure they are ready to receive and pass back. So there is little opportunity to slack off and daydream (daydreaming in this drill often results in a basketball bouncing off your head!)

And players love this drill!

Top Basketball Drills
Instructions to Players

  • Strong chest passes throughout

  • Runners are moving fast, so passes need to lead them appropriately. Runners should provide a target for passers by extending their hand in front of them.

  • Passers need to catch and then return the pass very quickly - no time to readjust. Passers should practice catching with hands in position to pass immediately - i.e., one hand directly in line with the ball, one hand to the side.

  • Passers need to move quickly from one position to the next, and be watching behind for the next runner, not ahead at the runner who has just gone through

  • Passers cannot fade up court, out of position - they must be reminded not to move away from the pass, but rather to move to the pass. If players begin to slide up court, everyone begins to bunch together and the passing quickly deteriorates. This is good offensive practice as well for players in the outlet position.

Top Basketball Drills
How the Zipper is Run

  • Passers take up three positions - one at outlet (#2), one at middle (#3), one at the far outlet (#4) - indicated in the diagram

  • Players not initially in the drill line up behind the first outlet, out of bounds - they enter the drill at this outlet position

The Runner

  • The runner (#1) begins under the basket with the ball. He outlets to the first outlet passer (#2), and sprints up court
  • #2 receives the pass and immediately passes back to #1

  • #1 receives the pass from #2 and immediately turns and passes to the passer at half (#3

NOTE: While this happens on one side of the court, the same is happening on the other side, moving in the opposite direction

The Passers

  • Immediately after passing back to #1, #2 begins moving to the center passer position - where #3 is

  • #3 returns the pass to #1; #1 passes to the far outlet (#4)

  • #3 immediately begins moving to the far outlet where #4 is, and #2 takes his vacated place at half

  • #4 passes back to #1 who takes the ball to the hoop - he should be close enough when he receives the pass that he doesn't need a dribble

  • #3 takes the position of #4; #4 follows #1 in to the basket and grabs the rebound

  • #4 outlets the ball to the near outlet (#11) and sprints down court (#4 becomes the runner on the other side)

  • #1, after making the basket, moves to the back of the line behind #11

Repeat this top basketball drill for as long as you want them to run, but it will become tiring for them soon enough and they'll start to make mistakes - bad passes, sloppy layups.

One good approach would be to have them run it non-stop for 3 or 4 minutes, and then have them make 10 or 20 layups in a row to finish off the drill.

The Zipper Drill is a quick drill that forces players to work together and to learn how to react to changes at high speed. Players do not have much down time in this drill - the time they are in line up out of play is mere seconds, as this drill moves fast. And focus is a necessity - it is not uncommon for players to not be paying attention and get the ball off the back of the head.

I use this top basketball drill for warm-ups in the practices immediately after reviewing proper passing technique, and anytime throughout the season when I feel our passing needs work. But because it is such a fast drill, it does much more than enforce passing skills - it is conditioning and fast break preparation as well, and good practice for the give and go.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit."

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