Coaching Basketball: Competitive Practices

I recently received the following question about coaching basketball and competition in practices: I am a new coach at the HS level and I am looking for drills that will make the boys want to practice (instead of scrimmages) and I also want to create a program where the boys are "not afraid to fail". An example is where I have witnessed coaches make the players run if they miss a lay-up and so on. I do not want that kind of program, I want to reward them for getting back up and trying again and again. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Click here to learn more about Basketball fails compilation 2014.

A: Any coach in his or her first year of coaching high school basketball should be congratulated! What basketball coaches do is extremely important in the growth and development of the kids they work with. I think that these questions are questions that a lot of coaches ask when they shift from coaching youth sports and go to the high school level. Hopefully my these responses will provide insight:

1. Make the boys want to practice:

In my experience, getting kids interested in practice happens when you can find ways to make things competitive. This can be done in a couple of different ways.

Kids can compete against a personal goal or the clock (i. e. setting a goal to score 100 points in 3 minutes of running the three-man weave shooting drill). If you can set benchmarks like this and give your players something specific to work towards, you usually be able to maintain their interest.
Often the best way to make practices competitive is to scrimmage. Scrimmaging is practicing; in fact, it's the most realistic type of practice. As a result, it's something that you should try to do as often as possible.
That doesn't mean that you should just roll the balls out and "let the kids play".

As a coach you set the parameters on how scrimmages look in any given practice. I think the scrimmaging you are referring to when you say that you would 'rather have your kids practice than scrimmage' is uncontrolled scrimmaging, or scrimmaging without a purpose.

When you scrimmage, to maintain a focus on growth and improvement, consider "scrimmaging with conditions".

The conditions that you set will depend on what area of the game you're working on. You have literally hundreds of options.

If you're working on executing your halfcourt sets, then you might want to consider scrimmaging one possession at a time.

As you get more advanced and your players are able to maintain their poise and focus, practice one possession at a time but add in a transition component - i. e. - the offense begins to scrimmage by running its halfcourt offense against five defenders. Instead of stopping play at the end of the possession, allow the defensive team one quick break to the other end of the floor.

By allowing the defense to switch to offense and by forcing the offense to switch to defense you're integrating conversion, which accounts for at least one third of game play. If you're like most coaches, your experience with your players is that they want to "just play". There's nothing wrong with this tendency; your job is a coach is to encourage it while at the same time controlling it so that it is productive. For more info visit Basketball bloopers compilation.

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