Practice - Preparing for Basketball

Notice: This article was written by Steve Jordan, Coach's Notebook. Email the author at

Things to Consider

A good practice includes scheduled time for warm-up, personal skill development, team play (such as defensive strategies or half court offense work), situational plays and review and correction of past performance.

This is very important - Expand and refine player's game vocabulary. Many times the players do not understand the coach's directions because basic terms are not defined, i.e. lanes, picks or seal. Make sure you understand the terms, too. Players may be embarrassed to ask for clarification and make assumptions instead.

Be sure players understand what you are talking about. Often coaches have the impression they have been heard in practice only to discover in the game that the team is actually confused, or is missing a conceptual link between the lesson and its application. To avoid this phenomenon:

Try to prevent your team from developing a dual personality. Too often players develop a set of behaviors to get through practice but when its game time they resort to the same old habits and styles they have always known. Develop and rehearse your game plan in practice. Stick with your plan during the early season games. It may cost a game or two, but the team must always strive to implement the game plan that they practiced. The alternative is to have the players abandon the plan as soon as the going gets tough. When the players bail out, the usual result is chaos. The worst thing is for the players to abandon the plan but win anyway due to the opponent's ineptitude or a lucky break. Such an event assures future loss of discipline.

Tips for Successful Practice Sessions:

Early Season Practices

Although excitement runs high during pre-season practices, its also a frustrating time for the players because their skills are rusty and they are not in top condition. Fatigue promotes errors and errors are embarrassing. It is essential to work on conditioning and basic skills early in the year.

Reluctance to use offense plan

Early wins promote overconfidence

Sample Practice Plan

The practice plan can be as simple an outline or a grocery list. Here's what we did at a recent practice:

  1. Warmup / conditioning
  2. Offensive Review
  3. Defensive Review
  4. Shooting Practice

Practice over - 90 minutes.

Notice there is no work on fundamentals. The reason is that we are in our YMCA season with very limited gym time for practice so concentrate on team skills. When the high schools season starts, there will be daily practice with roughly a third dedicated each to fundamentals, conditioning and team skills. If we were a younger team, we would spend much less time on conditioning and much more on fundamental skills.

Season Plan

Its common to come up with a game plan or a list of things to work on in a practice, but it is also important to list learning goals for the team to accomplish over the course of the season. Such a list makes it easier to transition from one team skill to another and have some sense of completion at the end of the season.

The season plan is a long range outline that organizes practice activities to meet the goals of the season. Before you begin, you must evaluate the strengths, weaknesses and potential of your team. Age and experience are critical factors. You do not want to bore your advanced players by having them dribble around pylons, for instance. Most teams do not have the luxury of unlimited practice time, so these hours should be budgeted carefully.