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Practice Organization Tips

Read these 26 Practice Organization Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Basketball tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Drinking enough fluids is one of the most overlooked requirements of physical health. By the time your mouth is dry and you're thirsty, it's too late--you're already dehydrated! To help ensure the proper state of hydration, it's recommended that you drink at least 16 oz of fluid before sleeping on the evening before exercise and another 16 oz first thing in the morning. To help "top off" fluid stores, drink another 16-32 oz one hour before competing.

The type of fluid you consume before exercise is important. Make sure you drink fluids containing small amounts of sodium, such as water or sports drinks, and avoid soft drinks or fluids that are high in sugar. The sodium in these drinks will cut down on fluid loss and better maintain hydration.

For optimal rehydration, you should drink a carbohydrate/electrolyte drink as soon as possible after training or competing. The carbohydrates and sodium in these drinks provide flavoring that helps to stimulate consumption. The result is better hydration, which will positively affect your performance in your training session or competition.


Time Standards

A perceptive coach can tell if a player is running hard and should push his players to do so. Superior effort and personal bests are what should matter. Always encourage players to “catch the person in front of them” or “not to get caught.” Doing this, rather than having players run a certain distance in a certain amount of time, will push players enough.


Maximum Effort

Always demand maximum effort from your players, both mentally and physically, in practice drills. This will prepare them to face all game situations successfully. Drills should be your best conditioner. If you demand hustle and push your players to execute properly, they'll be in condition to play full games.


Statistics and Video in Practice

Keep statistics in practice. This added pressure forces players to concentrate. Evaluate daily stats and post them in the locker room. Keep cumulative stats as well to provide goals and weekly standards. It's extremely important that your players be aware that you're constantly checking their numbers on field goals and free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists, and turnovers. You may choose to reward players to encourage quality performance.

If you videotape your practices, you'll be able to see the whole court and evaluate how all of your players performed at practice. Taping your practices also allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of your drills. A secondary benefit is that your players may actually work harder knowing that they're being filmed and that “big brother is watching.”


Short-Sided Games

Going 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 puts added pressure on the defense because, in most cases, you remove weak side help and force the defense to cover a larger area of the floor. Setting drills so that the defense or offense is at a disadvantage forces tremendous intensity and execution. Demand that all drills be run at full-speed and constantly check defensive positioning and talk about breakdowns as they occur.


Practice Length

Practices should rarely, if ever, last longer than two hours. Players have a difficult time maintaining focus and effort beyond that time. Do not fall into the “lottle” principle. You know, if a little is good, then a “lottle” must be better. By going longer, you may end up accomplishing less. As the season progresses, the length of practice should get shorter in order to stay fresh. Be respectful of players' time. If you want them to respect your starting time, it's important that you respect the finishing time.


Break Down Drills

Basketball coaches and basketball players are always searching for new drills to work on their game. Coaches sit at clinics and seminars for hours, waiting for that one drill that fits what they do. Team offenses, defenses, and individual basketball skills can be practiced with an infinite number of "break down drills." The only thing that limits the number of basketball drills and the manner in which they're employed is the players' or coach's imaginations.

Any offensive or defensive strategy that a basketball team employs can be broken down by the basketball coach and practiced in much smaller parts. Learning, refining, and mastering a part of a sequence is much easier if the sequence is smaller or shorter.

A coach could take a specific part of the basketball team's offense and make it into a shooting drill that mimics the execution of the play. For the most basic example: A line at the point and a line under the basket can be used for a variety of drills. The point can practice his passing and entering the offense while the player beneath the basket can work on getting open at the wing and establishing a pivot foot. Add extra players on defense for the next progression. Next, the passer could cut to the basket for a "give and go" or set a screen for a pick and roll. Add a line on the opposite side of the floor and you could practice setting screens and using screens in a "motion offense," or reverse the ball to practice your passing and timing in the "flex offense." End every rotation with a shot, a block out, and a rebound.

Now you've practiced getting open, passing, screening, using screens, and shooting, all while working on the execution of your team's own offense. Additional work on rebounding and defense makes the drills that much more valuable.

With break down drills, a team can get the maximum amount of repetitions and the coach can concentrate on the details of execution in a smaller, more controlled setting. This will lead to optimum improvement in all areas of a team's performance.


Enjoyable Conditioning

The workout that works best is the one that the players will commit to and put maximum effort into. For that reason, try to make the program as enjoyable as possible for them. Push them and motivate them, but try not to be a drill sergeant; at a certain point, you'll get to a point of diminishing returns. You may push them so hard that they actually turn off and stop working to their potential.


Enjoyable Drills

Be able to take time for some enjoyable drills during each practice session. This will help boost team morale and create a positive practice atmosphere. As coaches, we can better prepare our teams for the tough grind of a season with the effectiveness of our drills. It's important that players know that they can work hard and have fun at the same time. Through the constant evaluation of our practice sessions, we can make it so that our players enjoy drills and practice more.


Simulate the Game

Try to make all drills as much like a game as possible. Using the scoreboard and calling fouls creates a game-like situation and may help your players to react better in actual games. All players love drills with something on the line, such as a sprint or push-ups. This competition generates enthusiasm and intensity.

End all drills with a rebound, turnover, basket, foul, offensive charge, or transition. All fouls should be called during practice and offenders penalized like in a game. We like to assign a few push-ups to a player who commits a foul. This reinforces the importance of playing tough defense without fouling. Develop transition into your half-court drills so that your players will react to turnovers and push the ball up the court. It also motivates the defense to force errors and capitalize. Also, players seem to enjoy transition basketball.


Meaningful Drills

As a coach, you need to constantly improve your drills and work to get the most out of them. All coaches have their own sets of drills that work in concert with their individual basketball philosophies, but there are many ways that you can create more intensity, enthusiasm, discipline, et cetera, among your team. Start by evaluating all of the factors involved in a drill. Believe in what you're doing and practice things you'll be trying to do in actual games. Design them so that all of your players are working and take full advantage of the gym's side baskets and your assistant coaches. You can often use players who are not involved in certain drills as outlets or feeders, or you can have them shoot free throws. There will also be times when you'll want them to just watch and listen to all instructions and criticisms. Always do drills on both sides of the court so that footwork, ball-handling, and vision are properly developed. 

Give each drill a name so that players can identify the procedure and purpose of each one. For example, the "two-ball power-ups" drill works on inside power moves, using two balls in the lane area. Don't waste time on the floor going from drill to drill. Discipline your players to sprint to the next drill station. You also don't want to find yourself spending too much time explaining how to run a drill. You might demonstrate all new drills on chalkboard prior to practice or give the players a page for their playbook the night before to avoid confusion on the floor. Never allow your players to become bored with a drill or to lose their intensity by staying with it for too long. Come back to that drill the next day rather than have your players lose interest. Talk about critical mistakes made in the drill in pre-practice chalk talks, rather than on the court.

Add options to all drills that will give each one a different look and a different emphasis. These additions will generate enthusiasm among your players because they keep the drills fresh. This will also allow you to work on different things while preparing for different teams. Never allow players to complete a drill without having done it properly at least once. Coaches must demand proper execution before progressing with any amount of success--having players do a particular drill right a few times builds the confidence that they can do it. Repeat all drills throughout the season. Repeating drills correctly and with intensity develops good habits that are hard to break.


Practice Progressions

Teams won't execute everything perfectly the first time. A good concept to remember is: INTRODUCE-REVIEW-MASTER. Know where your team is in the process at all times. Use this throughout the season and remember that it takes several times for anything to be truly committed to memory.



It is very beneficial when an athlete finds the conditioning program motivating. Rather than having a coach yelling and screaming to "go go go!" or "push push push!", it will help if the athlete can "see" improvement. Always call out times, post results, or have the athlete chart his own performance. This will create a self-motivated athlete who will continue to work even after the coach stops yelling.



…is the spice of life, so they say, and an important part of developing well-rounded basketball players!

Multi-skill your players. Don't confine your big kid to playing two feet from the ring at both ends and don't impart rules on who can and cannot shoot. Expose players to all facets of the game. Down the line, that little kid could end up growing to 6'8", or the big kid may end up acting as point guard.

Mix up the styles of game you play. For example, you may play full-court pressure defense one week and half-court containment the next, depending upon the opponent.

Give players roles and vary them regularly. You might be playing against a good team with a particularly strong dribbler. You may assign someone the job of denying that player the ball. The next week, they may be the main ball-handler for you . Help them develop a sense of pride in being versatile.


Age-Appropriate Workouts

The program should also be appropriate for the age of the group that you're working with. What was appropriate for the youth league team you once coached may not be strenuous enough for your high school team. Similarly, the high school program may be too tough for the AAU travel team that you coach in the off-season. Adjust the program to the ability of the players.


Sport-Specific Conditioning

When putting together a total conditioning program, try to make sure that the exercises are “sport-specific.” This means that the drills, lifts, and movements should mimic those that are used in the game of basketball.


Speak the Same Language

You must communicate on the court in order to be successful and organized. Be sure that all coaches and players speak the same language. For instance, some teams may use the word "go" when switching, while other programs may just say, "switch." Constantly be aware of the fact that the same words trigger different reactions from different people. Go over your terminology and make sure that all coaches and players are on the same page and that they understand exactly what your key words mean.


5-Line Dynamic Basketball Warm-up

Because time is limited, you can gradually ease into a workout or a practice by using a series of dynamic footwork drills that mimic many of the movements used in a basketball game. This is preferred over the "static stretch" that many coaches have employed for years. It is also a way to get some additional “basketball” practice during your warm up period. You could start with players on one end of the court and in three-to-five lines so that the players will execute in groups of three-to five at a time. This is easily adaptable to larger groups with more lines or smaller groups with only three lines.


Players should jog to one end and back, concentrating on long strides and moving their arms.


Jog to half court, turn 180 degrees on the move, and back peddle the rest of the way.


Lift the knees as high possible while jogging down the court and back.


Players should kick their heels all the way back and actually hit their own rear ends. This will stretch out their quads.


Moving laterally, take one step in front of the body and then take another step behind the body. The arms balance the body to move in the desired direction. This movement is coordinated to maintain timing and rhythm. Keep the head focused up and forward in a natural athletic position. Move and push off of the balls of the feet and rotate the hips for the assigned distance.


Players should skip and explode as high as possible. Different than a popular "plyometric" exercise, we like to use their arms to mimic the appropriate fundamentals of a layup (i.e. right leg up, right arm up).


Players will take a few small steps in one direction, plant the outside foot, and change directions with a BIG stride. Their path on the court should draw the letter V.


Players should run and execute a hop stop at each quarter of the court. This is also called a “jump stop,” but don't let players go airborne as the word “jump” implies. Focus on short and quick two-foot, one-sound stops.


Players should run and execute a hop stop at each quarter of the court. Execute a reverse pivot followed by a front turn. Maintain a pivot foot, stay low, and proceed to the next quarter court.


(Three times). Defensive slide sideways at angles and change directions, never crossing the feet and always facing the baseline. The knees should be bent and the butt kept low in a good, athletic defensive stance. First rep. should be low and slow, second rep. should have one slide, third rep. should have two slides.


Defensive slide a few strides, then chop-step to close out with high hands to trace the basketball. Get in stance and slide again in the opposite direction. Continue to the end.


Defensive slide a few strides, then turn and sprint to a spot up the floor and get in stance again. Continue to the end.

At the end of these drills, a player should be on his way to a good “sweat” and ready to go 100 percent during the workout or practice.


Rest and Recovery

Be conscious of rest and recovery times when conditioning. This holds true between intervals as well as between workouts. Participants need to have enough time to replenish their oxygen intake in order to perform the next repetition.

The frequency at which exercises are performed is also important for avoiding injury and over-training. Players may need to follow heavy days with light days or work alternate muscle groups. For example, legs one day and then upper body the next day, or sprints one day, endurance the next. Or better yet, running one day, and a weight workout the next. The bottom line is: Know when to push and when to ease off.


Teaching vs. Competition

We all have players who ask questions during drills in order to take a break. We encourage players to ask questions and make suggestions about how we might do things better, as long as it done off of the court. To help achieve this, we have "teaching drills," where questions and explanations are encouraged, and "competitive drills" that are more game-like and require the players to self-correct and make adjustments on their own. Coaches need to be aware of this distinction and try not to stop play during the competitive segments. If someone makes a mistake or something needs to be taught, "park it" and come back to it later for further consideration.


Be Positive

Require your players to adhere to the following rules during practice:

  • Give your best effort.
  • Listen and try to learn.
  • Always try to compliment a teammate.
  • Be positive and enthusiastic.
The same goes for our coaches, with one additional rule: Give constructive criticism (i.e. "I liked your effort, now here's a better way"). Reward your players daily and weekly with positive verbal reinforcement and with actual awards of some kind, such as Practice Player of the Week, Weekly Rebound Award, Weekly Free Throw Award, Take Charge Champion, Defensive Player of the Week, et cetera.


Whole-Part-Whole Teaching Method

Important to the development of any basketball skill or strategy is an understanding of the "feel" or rhythm of the activity. In order to improve the game, the player should clearly understand how the activity flows from one segment to the next when executed correctly. As coach, it's crucial that you begin instruction with what is known as the "whole-part-whole" teaching philosophy. A beginner basketball player must understand the concept of the entire (whole) movement before instruction moves to the individual parts. The theory is that without "whole" knowledge of the activity, the individual components are worthless. This is true for both individual skills as well as team strategies.

When learning, it is important to understand the end result that you are aiming for. Once that "whole" part is presented, the task can be broken down into smaller "parts" to practice. This is as important for learning how to shoot, pass, or dribble as it is for developing team defense or for executing an offense.

Shooting cannot be "fragmented" because the shooter will lose rhythm and power. It must be a smooth, continuous motion. Dribble moves will not be effective unless the "parts" of the move are precisely timed and sequential.

Similarly, an offense must be timed precisely to free players at the most opportune moments. A team's defensive rotation must occur instantaneously, otherwise the offense will be free for an open shot.

When the player or team recognizes the ultimate objective, each minute detail can then be practiced separately. Once each part is learned, the task then becomes one of blending these parts back together and learning the transitions.

This brings us back to and reinforces the whole-part-whole teaching philosophy mentioned earlier. The whole action cannot truly be understood and performed without an understanding of and proficiency in the individual parts.

The use of the whole-part-whole method is a most effective teaching tool for achieving maximum understanding and performance in any basketball skill, technique, or strategy.


Practice Organization

Organization is critical to preparation. The key, then, to being a good coach and having a well-prepared team, is to be organized. When you go into a practice, make sure that you know what you want to accomplish during that practice and how you are going to accomplish it. Know what drills will be done and how much time you will spend on each drill. Make effective use of the time you have, as it's often very limited. This is the start of a practice plan, an invaluable tool for the organized coach.

Always take every practice seriously because the way that you practice is the way that you are going to play. If you don't put much effort into practice, those habits will show on the court during the game. Practice hard and you will play hard in the games.


Running is Rarely the Answer

You want players to practice hard and focus because it's the right thing to do and because, due to your well-planned practice, it's impossible not to do. You don't want them to practice hard for fear of running. You can't stop play in the middle of a game and tell them to "get on the line!" They should be able to gain focus on their own because you've taught them to get into the habit of doing so.

A simple reminder or "attitude adjustment" time (sprint up and back, take a lap, et cetera) is one thing when it's aimed at getting their attention and recommitting them to the task; however, "punitive" running on a regular basis loses its effectiveness and is counter-productive over the long haul. They may straighten up for the next drill, but in reality, they are actually losing focus down the line. Now when they practice, they might be thinking about not running as opposed to the real objective, which is to play the right way. This is similar to the "pre-game speech" that everyone looks for; it's only good for about the amount of time it takes to run down the hall from the locker room to the court. After that, you had better have a pretty good warm up, some focused players, and a solid game plan.

Running at the very end of practice can also cause players to try to “save” themselves by not practicing as hard as they can. This can create a negative effect and players may develop bad habits. Finally, if the last thing that players do at practice before they hit the locker room and go home is something that they do not enjoy (or even dislike!), that is what they will be talking about until the next practice comes around.


Practice Planning

As often as possible, make practices competitive. Games are played to be won and lost, so the more competition you can have in practice, the more used to competition your players will be. Winning then becomes a habit.

When running drills, break your team into groups for short drills. You want to keep practices fast-paced, and this will help. The smaller groups keep the team active and give everyone several repetitions in the exercise. By keeping the drill time short, you keep their interest.

Have an idea of how you want your basketball practices to flow. There should be a natural progression to what you do. Practices should start slow for warm-up purposes and gradually get more intense. You might want to insert fun and enjoyable drills immediately after more strenuous activities. It's a good idea to work on shooting when the team is tired. Try developing a chart or checklist to make sure that you cover skills and strategies as often as you'd like.

You might want to try teaching new plays during a pre-practice walk-through before the team is stretched and loosened up. At this point, their minds will be more focused on learning. If they stand and listen for too long after warming up, they will get tight and it might be hard to get them going again.


Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down

It is of the utmost importance to have an effective warm-up in order to prevent injury and maximize performance. Dynamic stretches before a workout have shown the best results and a static stretch can be used as a supplement or as a morning routine. A cool-down period, during which the athlete gradually slows down, seems to prevent muscle soreness the following day. Static stretches can be used at this time as well.

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