7 Tips for Running a Great Basketball Practice
Running a basketball practice can be a daunting task at any level and coaches seldom feel like they have enough practice time. With time constraints always an issue, trying to figure out how to maximize the time with your players is essential. Considering the fact that most kids do not love to practice - how do you get your team to buy into what you are in doing in the time frame available?
- Always be prepared. Every minute of practice should be planned out - though one must always be flexible to change if need be. The preparation is a guideline, but should always be fluid. Start with a plan in your head of where you want your team to be and then design your practices to build them up to that point. Remember: Rome was not built in a day.
- Be accessible, but firm to your players. Practices should be hard and challenging. Challenge your players to give all that they have, but also make sure to praise them often and loudly when they do. This will promote the atmosphere you desire.
- Decide what you will and will not tolerate. Every coach has different thoughts on what is ok behavior and what is not. You must set the tone for this early and stick to it. For example, do you want them on the floor ready to stretch at the beginning of your practice? Or do you want them already there and stretched out so that you hit the ground running at the beginning of your practice? For my team, if someone is late for my practice and has not let me know beforehand - they all run. Also, whenever I blow my whistle they have to sprint to me from wherever they are. These are just a few ways that you can set a tone of what your practice behavior should be like. Be strong, firm, and consistent.
- Limit the amount of talk. As mentioned, practice time is limited. There is a lot of teaching to do for sure, but try to speak efficiently to keep things moving. Every minute that you are speaking they are standing and not working.
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- Keep them moving. Try to keep everyone moving as much as possible. Standing promotes laziness and is not an effective use of practice time. Use drills that will utilize as many players as possible at once.
- Make everything competitive. All games are competitive, so practices should be. You don't want them to get in a game and be taken back by the competitive nature of it. I try to make every drill competitive in some fashion. If it is a defensive lane slide drill, I make them partner up and try to touch more lines than their partner. You won't believe the difference a competitive nature makes to a team.
- Don't do any one thing for too long. If you want to hold your team's attention, break up what you are working on into short periods. If you work on one thing for too long, they will lose interest and you will start to see the opposite of what you want. I like to break my practices into 10-minute segments. Constantly changing what you do keeps a team fresh and refocuses them mentally.
About the Author: Tim Sayles has been a youth coach for basketball leagues for 10 years and a varsity boys' basketball coach for Grace Academy in Matthews, N.C.