Basketball coaches at any level have a limited amount of time with their players. So maximizing practice time, especially entering a new season, becomes paramount. At the youth level, this remains a stark reality. Coaches might only have their players for a few hours a week. No matter the level, basketball coaches invariably spend time practice planning.
Basketball Practice Planning
Most basketball coaches have their own approaches to practice planning. Some minimize the pre-practice work, opting instead for what feels right in the moment. Others build off of the previous day, or something that stood out in the last game. A coach might scribble notes on a pad or random slip of paper. That paper usually finds itself tucked behind the elastic of the coach’s shorts.
The key to a good practice plan will always be efficiency. Coaches must consider not only what their specific goals are, but how those goals will be reached within a given time frame. Youth leagues often limit practice time. Even high school teams find themselves forced into a given time slot at the school’s gym.
The best practice plans can be constructed on one sheet of paper. This paper focuses the goals and approaches for the day. Having a wide view of practice allows a coach to establish a logical progression through the drills. The plan can also keep a general timing structure, although flexibility is key for any coach.
By listing the drills and concepts clearly on the practice plan, coaches know exactly what the focus of each practice segment will be. This will eliminate any lost time between drills or segments, maximizing contact time.
Sample Practice Plan
Every coach should know the amount of time available to them for practice, both how long each practice will be and what the schedule looks like for the week.
From there, it’s a matter of dividing the time of each practice. These segments will have specific focuses. Segments might include warm-up and stretching, individual skill development or larger team concepts.
One helpful inclusion for any basketball coach’s practice planning is a drill library. Having the different drills listed directly on the plan itself will facilitate movement from segment to segment. The drill library can include not only the drills themselves, but also the specific focus points for development.
Having a drill library also allows a coach to vary practices from session to session. Sure, each coach will have a core set of drills they like to implement, but falling into a rigid routine is something to avoid. Keeping practice fresh can only benefit the players and maintain engagement.
Beyond that, varying the practice plan itself allows for the drills and segments that invariably will be cut short because others went long to be incorporated into the next practice.
Coaching basketball at the youth level invariably involves dealing with zone defenses. The most common zone, 2-3, allows developing teams to hide certain players on the defensive end. It can also frustrate offenses to no end, especially if the offensive players tend to stick to their spots. So, as zones become more and more common even at the game’s highest levels, it’s integral that every coach knows exactly what they want to do when attacking a 2-3 zone.
One of the most common misconceptions to combating a good zone is the reliance on distance shooting. Teams might have a reliable zone-buster on their team, capable of consistently draining three-pointers. But the reality is most defenses would rather their opponent launch from deep rather than attack for higher percentage shots near the rim.
Keys to Attacking a 2-3 Zone
The first, and perhaps most important, key to attacking a 2-3 zone remains not settling for a three-point shot. Of course, if a three-pointer comes as a clean result of an offensive action, then by all means take it. But too often, teams settle for threes against zones because they can’t consistently pressure the paint. Approaching the zone with a one-pass-shot, or ball-reversal-shot, gets the defense off the hook.
Another key to combatting the zone is movement. Many times, the offensive players stand around and the zone shifts with each pass. The offense occupies set positions during the possession in hopes of finding an opening. The reality is, the openings won’t appear until more than just the ball moves. Accompanying a pass with a hard cut, filling the vacant spots, and forcing the defense to account for the movement stresses the rigidity of the zone.
A forgotten key against a zone defense is offensive rebounding. With defenders occupying designated areas instead of checking specific players, boxing out becomes problematic. Facing any zone creates lanes for offensive players to crash the boards on missed shots. The misses often result in scramble situations which could yield good scoring opportunities.
The final key to dealing with this defensive set up is learning how to screen the zone. While ball screens are typically staple counters against man-to-man defense, learning to screen the zone forces the defense to immediately adjust their alignment. If the defense doesn’t adjust, huge openings appear within the zone itself.
Continuity Offense Attacking a 2-3 Zone
Continuity offenses stand as one of the most valuable approaches to attacking a 2-3 zone. These plays and sets create a rhythm and offensive flow that allows the team to stress the opposing defense. Offensive players know where to go as each pass is made within the continuity. The constant flow forces the defense to adjust, not only to each pass but also to each cut.
The set up for this continuity involves using a 1-3-1 counter to the 2-3 zone. 1 brings the ball down, with 2 and 3 on the wings. 4 occupies the high post, while 5 takes the low post. The initial action is a pass to either wing. 4 reads that initial pass, then cuts with the ball to that strong-side corner (or short corner).
From there, 5 presents as a low-post option and 2 cuts across from the opposite wing. 2 flashes to the open elbow area, while 1 makes a flare cut to the opposite wing. 3 reads the movement of the defense before making the next pass. If 2 doesn’t immediately receive the ball at the elbow, they lift to the top of the key.
The continuous element of this continuity offense comes if the defense recovers through the initial movement. 3 gets the ball to 2, who reverses to 1. As the ball switches sides, both 4 and 5 cut to the new strong side of the offense. 4 makes the baseline cut behind the zone, while 5 flashes to the opposite low post.
As the ball reverses, 3 makes the cut across, flashing to the open elbow. 2 makes a flare cut to the opposite wing, away from the ball.
Variations to this Continuity
A variation for this set could involve 5 cutting to the corner or short corner, then 4 cuts into the low post. This would be an option of the 4 and 5 are interchangeable on offense.
Another variation involves using a skip pass. If the defense overplays the elbow cut, or overplays the potential ball reversal at the top, the wing can use the skip pass to the opposite side. As that skip is happening, 4 and 5 make their cross cuts like normal.
A drawback to running continuity will always be the defense learning the cuts that are coming. Adding a slight variation to the progression might catch the defense off guard. Varying this continuity with an overload option should yield good looks.
In the overload, 1 makes the initial wing pass, but instead of cutting away, 1 cuts to the strong side corner. From there, 5 turns and screens the middle of the zone and 4 flashes to the open low post area. 2 can stay wide for a skip pass or cut up to the top of the key.
It’s key for the offensive players to be patient when attacking a 2-3 zone. Force the defense to adjust to each pass and cut before settling for a shot. The initial progression through the continuity might not yield openings, but as the offense moves, the defense must remained disciplined. If the defense is slow to adjust, the openings will be there.
Coaches with talented playmakers often face a similar defensive set up: high-pressure in the half court. To combat this pressure, a coach might incorporate a high screen to free up the ball handler. But defensive-minded coaches can counter in a variety of ways. Defenses can blitz the pick-and-roll, hard hedge or trap. Enter the Ram and Veer offense.
Each defensive counter is specifically designed to get the ball out of the playmaker’s hands. Once a playmaker surrenders the ball, getting it back within the flow of the offense can prove problematic. The Ram and Veer offensive sets get multiple actions going, so the defense can’t key in on one specific player.
Ram and Veer Offense: The Basic Actions
The vast majority of basketball teams, regardless of level, incorporate some sort of pick-and-roll action into their base offense. The pick-and-roll is such a fundamental action in basketball that it filters from the top (as a staple of all NBA offenses) down the the lowest youth level.
But defenses can key on particularly talented playmakers to remove the ball from their hands. To combat potential defensive counters, a coaches can install Ram and Veer offense actions.
“Ram” designates an action where a smaller player screens down on a big’s defender to free the big to set a high ball-screen. This action frees the big to set the screen without his defender immediately engaging in some blitz, hedge or trap.
“Veer” designates an action where a player who has just set a ball-screen, immediately moves into an off-ball screen for another player. The initial screen is sometimes called a “ghost” screen, then, instead of rolling to the basket, the screen moves into a wide pin-down screen for a teammate away from the ball.
The Veer action preys upon a defense’s “tag” of the roller. In the image above, 5 sets the ghost screen for 1, then immediately moves into the veer action. Typically, 2’s defender is tasked with “tagging” the roll man in a high pick-and-roll, so he’d cheat off his man. But the veer action sets the pin-down screen for 2, freeing him up completely.
Depending upon how aggressive a defense is when handling the initial screen action, Veer also creates the opportunity for the screen to slip for an open layup.
Ram and Veer Offense: Play Option 1
The first play that would be useful against aggressive, trapping defenses, relies mostly on the Ram action. For this play, 3 should be the best shooter on the floor. 1 executes a dribble hand-off (DHO) with 2, which is largely a decoy action. From there, the play progresses quickly.
1 and 2 initiate the action with the DHO on the wing, while 3 begins the Ram action with a down screen for 5. 5 sprints to the top of the key, where he completes a ball-screen for 2, who is attacking off the initial action. 5 rolls as 2 turns the corner.
As this action is unfolding at the top of the key, 3 gets a pin-down screen from 4 to free him up on the opposite wing. So, as 2 attacks the lane, his options include 5 as the roll man, 3 for a kick out, or keeping the ball for an elbow jumper or layup. If 4’s defender overplays the pin-down screen, he can slip for a layup. 1 remains an option for the throwback pass as well.
This action is particularly useful at the high school level to combat overly aggressive defenses. This core actions also appear regularly at the NBA level.
Ram and Veer Offense: Play Option 2
This next play option incorporates both the Ram and Veer actions into the offense. The initial set up for this play implements a double-stack under the basket. The shooters execute a floppy cut to get open on the wings, an action that’s particularly effective at the high school level.
From there, the action of the play unfolds. 1 hits 2 coming off the floppy and immediately initiates the Ram action. 4 races up to set the ball screen for 2. As that’s happening, 1 cuts off a screen from 5 along the baseline and occupies the strong side corner. 2’s first look, before using 4’s screen, should be the corner.
If the corner pass is there, 1 receives and either shoots or immediately attacks the defense. If the shot isn’t there, 5 initiates a back screen for 2, who cuts. After the back screen, 5 enters into a ball screen for 1, who attacks from there.
If the ball doesn’t go to 1 in the corner, 2 has the ball screen from 4 (Frame 4 above). This becomes the Veer action. 4 sets a ball screen, then sprints into a pin-down screen for 1. 2 attacks into the lane as 1 lifts on the wing. 5 can seal his man for either 2’s layup opportunity or for a dump down. 3 occupies the opposite corner.
Ram and Veer Offense: Quick Hitter
Ram and Veer use several actions to free up ball-handlers and create opportunities on offense. These actions can be particularly useful against overly aggressive defenses that like to blitz, hard hedge or trap screens.
It’s important when teaching screening at practice that the screeners know to sprint into their screens. If a player jogs to the screen, this allows the defense to adjust and defeats the purpose of the screen itself.
This last play option combines the two actions into one quick hitting option. This is a useful after-timeout play call, or even as an end-of-game situation.
The action sees 3, the team’s best shooter, set the Ram screen for 5. 5 sprints into the ball screen and immediately cuts into the Veer action. 5 does a pin-down away from the ball for 2, while 3 receives a down screen from 4 on the opposite wing. 1 uses the initial ball screen and pressures the defense. 1 can pass to either wing off this set, or attack on his own.
Coming up with unique approaches on offense can be some of the most fun for any basketball coach. It’s important, however, for coaches to understand the skill level of their squad before imagining elaborate offensive sets. While the Chicago Action in basketball is widely used at both the NBA and NCAA levels, this offensive set can be integrated at the youth and high school levels with the right team.
Chicago Action involves two common basketball movements, the pin-down screen and the dribble hand-off (DHO). When used together, these two elements can stress any defense and provide the offense with multiple avenues to score. It usually necessitates a talented big who can be an offensive playmaker from the elbow.
This set loads an offense’s three most talented players on one end, while the other two perform decoy actions away from the ball. The beauty of this set remains the multiple variations a team can layer into their attack.
Chicago Action Basketball
The basics of the Chicago Action involves two fundamental elements: the pin-down screen and the dribble hand-off. This action engages three of the five players on offense. It can be expanded to involve all five.
The set itself can initiate from four-out, five-out or horns sets. Use this set against man-to-man defenses.
In the four-out configuration, 4 pops to the elbow to receive an entry pass. From there, the 2 cuts over the big to set up the pin-down screen.
To make this truly effective, 1 must set up his defender with a jab step from the corner before cutting up off the pin-down.
4 turns and immediately enters into a dribble hand-off (DHO) situation. 1 comes off the pin-down to receive the hand off. This action effectively gives 1 a pair of screens and forces the defense to make multiple decisions.
1 now attacks the defense as 4 rolls and 2 lifts from the corner. 1 reads the defense. Who is tagging the roller? Is his defender called a switch or is in lock-and-trail position? Depending upon the reaction of the defense, 1 chooses the next course of action. 1 can attack the rim, feed the roll, kick to the corner for a three-pointer or take an elbow jumper.
Away from the strong side of the floor, 3 and 5 can run decoy actions. There can be another pin-down, or a simple exchange. Something to engage those other two defenders and prevent either from sagging into the lane.
Developing basketball defensive systems stands as one of the most important aspects for any coach out there. While designing offensive plays might be more fun, crafting the right defensive system might make more a difference between winning and losing. A good defense feeds directly into offense and it makes scoring that much easier.
Many coaches believe it’s better to sport a simple offense and complex defense, rather than the other way around. How a coach crafts their team’s defensive approach often dictates the very identity of the team. Also, not all players, particularly at the youth level, will have the same natural abilities on the offensive end, but most players can be taught complex defensive schemes and excel.
Basketball Defensive Systems
One key consideration for any coach, when creating their basketball defensive systems, should be the capability of the team. Depending upon the skill level of the players, a coach needs to adapt their system to fit what the team can actually do. The system itself becomes the terminology the coach decides upon, and what each call represents for the players on the floor.
One particularly useful approach when designing a defensive system is to divide the court into quarters. “Four” represents full court. “Three” represents three-quarter court. “Two” represents half court. And “One” represents the three-point line.
Dividing the court in this way allows for the defensive system to have clear calls from the sideline. This concept is also very simple for players to understand.
From there, a coach needs to decide what defensive approaches are best suited for the team.
Basketball Defensive Systems Optionality
What makes a defense complex isn’t the core concept itself, but the constant variations. If a team were to run the same base defense through each possession, it’s only a matter of time before the opposing offense feels comfortable and adjusts. This is increasingly true as the competition improves.
So when a coach decides upon their defensive approaches, most will settle on a base defense, but also install variations and special attacks. For example, a team’s base defense might be man-to-man, but a coach will also install a half court zone, as well as some sort of press. Some coaches layer multiple defensive approaches as a season progresses.
Once the base defenses are installed, players run through the different progressions to understand the key principals. A coach will have a man-to-man defense, then perhaps zones with even fronts and odd fronts. Players practice with each approach and learn the specific terminology. From there, it’s a matter of bringing the system together.
The calls from the sideline would combine the defensive approach and the pickup point. So one call might be: “Red 4” which would signal to the players a full court, man-to-man press. Another call might be “Blue 2”, which would be a half court, 2-3 zone.
Coaches can play with the terminology and defensive approaches, but the optionality is what makes these basketball defensive systems complex. Constant changes frustrate opposing offenses and create opportunities for the defenses.
Most basketball coaches often search for staples for their practices. These staples always make it on the practice plan, no matter what the focus of that day might be. Players become comfortable with these progressions and often master specific skills over the course of the season. One of the most valuable basketball practice staples is 4-on-4 Cut Throat.
4-on-4 Cut Throat stands as a favorite drill among young players because of its game-like nature. For coaches, 4-on-4 Cut Throat provides each basketball practice with the opportunity to stress and develop specific elements of the game.
4-on-4 Cut Throat Basketball
4-on-4 Cut Throat is a high-energy, high-movement drill. Coaches divide their teams into sets of four, with two groups on the floor at all times. Through each progression, players navigate the possession, looking to score or get a stop. As each possession ends, the successful team (the one that scored or made the stop) stays on the floor, while the losing group comes off. The waiting team comes on and fills the vacancy.
Coaches can allow the players to free play, or can install specific needs in a possession. The free-flowing nature of the drill allows players to learn on the fly. Whatever a coach decides to emphasize in the drill often translates directly to the game.
Once the players are on the floor, coaches layer specific commands into a possession. If a coach wants to focus on spacing, they might outlaw ball screen. If a coach wants to focus on movement, maybe players must pass and pick away. There are any number of layers that can be added to this drill.
The emphasis of this drill is to build solid offensive and defensive habits. The goal for each team remains staying on offense. Although this drill can be altered to be 5-on-5 or 3-on-3, the 4-on-4 set up might be the most effective for incorporating specific offensive elements. 5-on-5 tends to get bogged down in the half court, especially with good defensive teams. And 3-on-3 often provides the offense with too much space.
The hidden value of this drill remains the opportunity for coaches to provide direct instruction to the teams that lose a possession. As the losing team comes off the floor, a coach can immediately pull them aside and talk through what went wrong while the other two teams progress through the drill.
One of the most important elements to designing a valuable practice plan is deciding what core basketball elements you’ll concentrate on. So when deciding between basketball practice warm up drills, it’s important for a coach to know where the focus will be. Getting your players warmed up and ready to compete needs to happen at the start of every practice. So why not use that segment to instill core elements to your offense and defense?
Many practices begin with traditional layup lines and jump shots. But how often are the players simply going through the motions of those drills? Installing the right warm up drills will vastly improve the efficiency of your practice.
Basketball Practice Warm Up Drills: Argentina Passing
Coaches always love drills that do double duty. When a drill that incorporates multiple basketball elements can be used, it helps maximize the value of that practice segment. Drills that develop specific skills and other elements like conditioning and/or communication are inherently more valuable than single-focus drills.
Argentina Passing sports that layered value because players progressing through the drill develop their passing skills, as well as hand-eye coordination, communication and conditioning. Passing drills in general get players mentally focused, and this one gets them moving as well.
Eight players start on the court for this basketball practice warm up drill. Each player stands partnered with the teammate directly across or diagonally across from them in the half court. The two balls start with the center players and those players pass to their right. Immediately after a player passes, they cut across the court and exchange places with their partner.
This drill rises above a normal passing drill because the players are sprinting through once they’ve made their pass. Players must concentrate on the catch, using a reverse pivot to open their hips on the catch.
Passes exclusively run to one side, meaning the players are always either passing to the right or the left. Coaches can focus on specific pass types. Coaches can also reverse the drill after a set amount of time.
Players work on passing, foot work, communication and conditioning through the drill.
Basketball Practice Warm Up Drills: Star Passing
Star Passing is common one in many gyms, but this version of the drill incorporates the necessary element of finishing with a made basket. This doubles well not only as a basketball practice warm up drill, but also as a game warm up.
The drill begins with players arrayed in a star across the half court. The ball starts with the line under the basket. There are lines in the corners, as well as on the wings.
The first pass goes from under the basket to the left wing. The passer follows their pass and joins the end of that line. From there, the left wing passes to the right corner and follows. Right corner makes a baseline pass to the left corner and follows.
The final move in this initial turn through the drill involves the left corner feeding the player that cuts from the right wing. That player receives the pass and finishes the turn with a layup.
Variations of the drill can incorporate a number of additional basketball elements. Coaches can require that the ball never hits the floor. They can reverse the flow of the drill to work on left-hand layups. Coaches can have a defender waiting at the rim to challenge the finisher. The list goes on an on.
Basketball Practice Warm Up Drills: Pivot Passing
The final basketball practice warm up drill here is called Pivot Passing. While this drill remains a staple at the youth level, there are practical elements here that can be incorporated into the practice plan of more advanced teams.
This drill stresses the specific development basic footwork. Players pair off and stand in four lines. If the players start on the baseline, they explode out with an attack dribble to the free throw line extended area. From there, the players jump stop, reverse pivot then pass to their partner at the baseline. The partner receives the pass an immediately explodes into the dribble.
The reverse pivot helps practice creating space, a necessary skill for any level of player. Coaches can layer shot fakes, step throughs, rips, etc. Change the specific pivot foot for the players and force them to adjust. Even the most athletic players may struggle with this seemingly basic drill because it layers specific movements and does so quickly.
Youth player development can be an avenue for coaches to share their love of the game. But if a team is going to be successful, it takes more than just love. Coaches are tasked with improving players both individually and within the context of the team. So youth player development often takes center stage with young teams.
To maximize their time with their players, coaches need to manage their time well. And one of the most important tools to optimize shared time is a detailed practice plan. Coaches that just roll the balls out often find their practices lack the focus and intensity necessary to improve the team.
Youth Player Development: Practice Planning
Different coaches have different approaches to practice planning. Some youth coaches zero in on specific basketball skill that need development, while others take a more free-flowing view. Some coaches scribble notes on a sheet of paper and tuck that folded plan into their waist band, whole others meticulously craft a minute-by-minute split using an app.
Whatever the preferred approach, it remains integral that coaches have a plan in place to maximize practice time.
A valuable practice plan lays out the exact avenues of attack a coach wants to explore. Especially early when youth basketball development is at its peak for the season, plotting out points of emphasis can be particularly useful. What exactly do you want to accomplish during this practice session? Often writing those specific goals aid in achieving them.
From there, coaches can sketch out the best outline for the day. Teaching drills and execution is key in youth player development, but haphazard approaches can often sabotage valuable practice time. A detailed practice plan might help a coach that wants to get to a number of skills and sets focus on key developmental aspects.
What daily drills will you include? How much teaching happens before a drill? What does the debrief look like? These are all important questions coaches should ask themselves prior to the start of any given practice.
For many coaches, the quest for new and engaging basketball pre-game warm up drills seems like it’s never ending. And for the coaches who are tired of doing the same old things, sifting through all of the resources online can feel like a daunting task.
The key to any pre-game warm up routine is to get the players physically and mentally prepared. The traditional layup lines can certainly provide movement and the chance to practice an important shot. But too often, this drill engages just two or three of the players on the team. There’s a lot of standing around and waiting, and that’s not what you want your team to be doing in the run up to a game.
The reality is, pre-game is often an underutilized part of the game for many coaches. Instead of passively moving through a series of routine drills, coaches should approach pre-game with the same intensity and focus that’s expected of the game itself. The following drills should engage and prepare players of any age or ability.
Basketball Pre-Game Warm Up Drills: Four Corner & Show Time Passing
Four Corner Passing has been a stable of so many coaches, thanks to the great Bobby Knight. While chaotic at first, this drill gets multiple players moving and practicing a key skill. Starting with four lines (two on the blocks and two at the elbows), players pass to the right, receives a pass back and runs through a dribble hand-off (DHO). Players rotate and the lines keep moving. This drill can go right or left and multiple balls can be added as the players improve.
Show Time Passing is another active drill that gets the players moving and thinking. The five line set up features near constant movement from the players, and involves the basic pass-and-cut, give-and-go action that’s integral to good team basketball.
Addition Pre-Game Warm Up Sequences
This quick video below demonstrates a few pre-game warm up drills, including drive-and-kick for layups and baseline curl shot sequences.
This video provides an extended look at additional basketball pre-game warm up drills. A solid defensive sequence involves 3-on-3 close outs. It focuses on help-side responsibilities on defense and attacking the basket on offense. In addition, there’s a 5-on-5 walk through of offensive sets and a basic, four-person shooting drill.
Basketball coaches everywhere are constantly searching for new Competitive Practice Games. Keeping young players engaged throughout a practice period often means mixing up physical warm-ups and stretching, technical drills and competitive contests. Coaches need to layer the information and embed key skills before introducing and installing specific sets.
But running through the same drills over and over can result in bored, disengaged players. Yes, they need to master the basic layup. But running through the same two-line drill every practice might have players check-out on their coach.
Enter the competitive practice games.
Basketball Competitive Practice Games
These games aren’t teaching drills per-say. The goal of competitive games is to get your players practicing key skills within the controlled environment of the closed gym. Here, the players are learning as they make their way through the progressions and reads, relying on their teammates to pick them up.
It’s important for coaches to allow their players to play through their mistakes and learn as these competitive practice games to unfold. These controlled situations and scrimmages also provide plenty of information for coaching staffs to digest. They’re learning the strengths and weaknesses of their teams.
This is a full-court competitive game that allows coaches to install a specific play or set, while also practice key defensive principles. In the half court, the offense runs their first action against a full compliment of defenders. If this action results in a basket, then the offense and defense switch. But if the defense gets a stop, then it’s a full court game.
The defensive stop flows into transition offense as that squad seeks to score. Only points scored off of defensive stops count in this competitive practice game. This game should flow back and forth for several minutes before coaches change anything.
Emphasis: Defense. Basketball coaches that incorporate this competitive practice game look to establish the mindset that the team needs to focus on getting defensive stops before getting to the offensive end of the floor.
One of the most frustrating elements of coaching at seemingly any level is dealing with unbalanced teams. Having a starting five that’s far more talented than their teammates forces a coach to come up with different ways of maximizing practice time. Since a starting five typically sports a team’s top players, scrimmaging the first five against any combination of the rest of the roster might not produce the practice results coaches are looking for.
And on those teams where there’s a dramatic split in playing level between the first five and the next five, scrimmages can often become just as frustrating for the players. But it’s also important for the best players in the rotation to get practice time together on the floor.
“Perfection” ultimately handicaps the competition, evening the practice floor to make it more interesting and engaging. The idea with this competitive practice game is for the “strong” team to play like normal. They need to be “perfect” and they get points for scores or anything else a coach is looking for. The “weaker” team, meanwhile, has access to all of the normal points, but also could get points for specific accomplishments, like offensive rebounds, forced turnovers, etc.
Emphasis: Attention to detail, competitive balance. While the top players might be more talented than their teammates, this competitive practice game can balance the scales to a certain extent and keep all parties engaged throughout. Afterwards, and this is true of any basketball competitive practice game, it’s important that coaches debrief with their players to emphasize specific elements.
One Way Basket Basketball Competitive Practice Game
One of the most important parts of any coach’s practice plan is the incorporation of basketball shooting drills. These drills are valuable no matter the level of the team or the talent of the individual player. Shooting remains a key aspect of the game, and only through repetition and focus can a player improve.
For coaches, finding the right drills for your team can be frustrating. Depending on the team’s level and the talents of the gathered players, coaches sift through dozens of drills, searching for the right series. It’s important for a coach to understand their team’s ability and continuously push them to improve.
When developing shooting drills, a good coach must consider what types of shots they want to focus on. Drills should reinforce the skills that will help the players perform within the context of a game. So shooting drills should be designed around shots that would normally result from a team’s offensive actions. The best basketball shooting drills are representative of a team’s base offense.
Basketball Shooting Drills: 3-2-1 Shooting
This drill involves at least two players and is a high-volume, high-repetition practice. Over the course of one or two minutes, non-stop, a single shooter progresses through a series of jump shots. The other player rebounds and feeds the shooter from near the hoop.
The shooter begins behind the three-point line for their first shot. From there, the shooter moves into the midrange for their second shot. The last shot in the sequence is a layup (which is worth one point). The rebounder keeps track of the shooter’s score as their teammate progresses through the drill. After the time is up, the players switch roles.
This shooting drill provides valuable practice for any shooter, regardless of talent-level. The shooter must move, set their feet and find a repeatable release. Even the other player gets reps at securing rebounds and making solid passes.
This drill can incorporate internal competition as well. The two partnered players can compete with one another, or with another pair at another hoop.
Team Spot Shooting is one of the most valuable basketball shooting drills. This practice sequence emphasizes form shooting and positioning, all within the framework of a team competition.
This drill involves a set number of players progressing through a series of shots on the floor. The group might start at the short corner, then move to the elbow, free throw, opposite elbow and opposite short corner. In order to progress to the next spot, the group needs to make a designated number of shots in a row. Once the group has made three from the short corner, for example, they move to the elbow. But if they miss at the elbow, a coach can signal either that the team runs or returns to the previous spot.
This drill can be redesigned as a practice game as well.
No basketball coach’s playbook is ever complete without a go-to baseline out of bounds play. Sometimes referred to as a BLOB, the baseline out of bounds play serves as a scoring opportunity for most teams. These plays are often quick-hitters with multiple options for the inbound passer.
Coaches can be as creative as they want to be when designing these plays, but they have to keep in mind the skill-level of their team. Another consideration is being able to shift directly into the team’s core offense. Finally, some coaches prefer to install baseline out of bounds sets that have multiple variations from which to attack the basket.
Baseline Out of Bounds Play: 14-Flat
14-Flat features the four players on the floor arrayed along the baseline. Players occupy the three-point corners and the two blocks. The inbounder has a clear line of sight along the baseline and plenty of room to make the necessary reads.
The first action in 14-Flat involves 1 popping from the box to the elbow. As that pass is happening, 5 moves from the opposite block into a ball screen at the elbow. 1 attacks onto the key, with 2 waiting for a kick in the strong-side corner. After setting the initial ball screen, 5 turns and drops into a down-screen for the inbounder. 1 attacks the basket at that point with multiple options, including a layup, corner kick out, back pass and more.
This play should be run against a man-to-man defense.
Baseline Out of Bounds Play: 14-Flat – Cyclone
This play is used against a zone defense. For Cyclone, the offense still uses the 14-Flat alignment, with players arrayed along the baseline. This time 1 starts in the strong-side corner and flashes to the top of the key. From there, 2, which started in the opposite corner, cuts across using two screens at the block. Once 2 has cleared both screens, 4 turns and sets another screen, this time across the key. 5 curls toward the inbounder and 4 seals his man, leaving the inbounder with multiple reads.
The key to this play remains the inbounder’s ability to read the progression correctly and make a good interior pass. 1’s cut is a decoy, as is 2’s to the corner. 5’s curl may result in a layup, but the most likely basket often comes on 4’s seal against the backend of the zone. The inbounder must direct the defense away from that action, focusing on the corner with a ball fake. From there, it’s a matter of getting a good feed into the post.
A key consideration for any baseline out of bounds play is the ability to flow into a team’s offensive continuity. Depending upon a team’s base offense, the most effective BLOBs allow the offense to attack quickly. But if a defense covers up the initial actions, the BLOB flows into the normal offense or a specific half court play.
A good basketball playbook must include a solid sideline out of bounds play. Often forgotten or disregarded, these sets can be used in a variety of ways to stress the opposing defense. Sideline out of bounds plays (SLOBs) can initiate attacking actions, be a quick hitter or even as an end-of-game go-to.
Sideline Out of Bounds Play – Celtic
This SLOB starts in a box set. The 2 and 3 set up near the blocks, while the 4 and 5 occupy the elbows to start. 1 serves as the inbounder for this set.
The initial action sees 2 cut hard to the opposite corner to draw his defender away. 4 sets a down screen for 3, who flashes to the top of the key. 1 finds 3 with the inbound pass.
As 3 receives the pass, two things happen simultaneously. 1 immediately cuts seeking a dribble-hand-off (DHO) action. As the DHO is taking place, 5 comes up and sets a hard ball screen.
The second progression of this play immediately puts the offense into attack-mode. 1 uses the ball screen at the top of the key, looking to turn the corner.
As the high ball screen is taking place, 4 rotates up and sets a weak-side screen. 3 uses the flare screen to drift to the corner. 4 remains high to be an option for 1 on the drive.
After setting the ball screen, 5 rolls down the lane with hands ready. 2 reads the defender to either stay in the corner or drift high. 2 must present as a kick-out option for 1’s drive.
From here, 1 has multiple options to attack the defense. A breakdown may open a driving lane for a layup, or there are four potential passes to make.
Feeding 2 could result in an open corner three-pointer. 5’s dive could be a layup. If 4 is a pick-and-pop big, a pass there could result in a three-pointer or a high-low game between 4 and 5.
The least likely option in this sequence is a pass to 3 in the weak-side corner. Unless 1 gets to the baseline, that’s a hard pass to make.
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The Alabama High School Athletic Association has approved its Return to Play “Best Practices” guidelines for winter sports
starts January 11 (it appears) and will end in late March. Not sure yet on fans and the use of masks may or may not be in play for athletes!
Practice for winter season sports had begun on Nov. 9 for the counties, districts and schools that met metrics to allow for a permissible start, the AIA said. Those schools can continue to practice until further notice, the AIA said.
With surging COVID-19 metrics again hitting the state, Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Director David Hines recommended to the Executive Board on Monday that high school winter sports competition be delayed until sometime in January.
Limited spectators, no in season tournaments, if a conference game is missed due to COVID reasons and can’t be made up the game isn’t counted/penalized, for either school. Conferences have choice on a district tournament and how it’ll be played, our conference will probably travel to the higher seeded team.
Dates shifted, yes, but sports are also played at a different time. For example, boys volleyball is usually a spring sport, but it has moved to the same time as girls volleyball during the “fall sports” that will begin mid December through mid February. Girls tennis is usually a fall sport and it is moved back to the “spring sports” at the same time as boys tennis beginning at the end of February through early May.
They have shifted from 3 seasons (fall, winter, spring) down to 2. So there are a lot of sports happening at the same time that do not share seasons. Makes it difficult for multi sport athletes that have 2 of their favorite sports happening at the same time. Basketball and baseball/softball as an example.
The state of California has always had an 18 hour rule during the week. Games/meets/matches count as 3 hours towards that number, even if a cross country meet only takes 20 minutes, it counts for 3 hours. Plus the practice time during the week. If you play one sport a season, that is very reasonable. There will be more people trying to play 2 sports at the same time instead of making a tough decision. That 18 hour rule will be pushed big time in that case. In addition, the 18 hour rule also states you cannot double up on sports on back to back days.
Delayed Start until March
Season moved back to start January. Shortened season (14 games). As of right now, play with masks, no spectators
postponed at the moment after a spike. Prior was playing a shortened season and area teams. CT has announced we are postponed until January 19.
Have not found much looks like they are playing
is playing every county is different tho. My county (orange) is doing covid testing every few weeks. And we have several in game changes when it comes to covid. Like no jump ball to start game, sanitized ball every timeout, come to game in uniform, etc. Fl is county to county even though you don’t have them as missing. Most counties are pretty normal. Ours unfortunately is not 1 of those. We can only play in county. We could play a tourney vs out of county teams though as long as the games were at a private school in our county.
Hawaii has a tentative date of Jan 4….. we still have no protocol or policy
As of now, Illinois is leaving it up to the local school districts. The governor wanted it moved till spring but the IHSA is not following that guidance. Illinois is currently in limbo (at least my school is). Governor and IDPH both have said basketball is high risk and the season is postponed. IHSA has said the season will commence on schedule. Some have opted out, some are saying they’ll play. Illinois – Health Department says NO to basketball. IHSA- sports association says we are going to ignore you and play. Most schools have announced they will not play due to insurance liability issues. Insurance companies cannot support a school knowingly going against expert health advice.
IHSA sent a survey to delay the season. They meet on 11/11/20 to discuss. Practices scheduled to start next Monday 11/16. Very few schools have committed to participate.
Playing. Coaches wearing masks, limited tickets for family pending on school, players are playing on (no masks) at the middle school level in
We are currently as normal. Some conferences are limiting fans but as far as the top goes they have only submitted recommendations.
Here is KS, we have some limitations on crowd size depending on the school (most everything is decided local) and we are not having jump balls this year to start the game, instead visiting team will start with a side out.
Kentucky High School Athletic Association votes to delay hoops, other winter sports until Jan. 4
Seem be to playing/ No masks for players
Under the announced schedule, teams in all winter sports except for wrestling may conduct “skills and drills” practices beginning Dec. 7, with more formal preseason practices and intrasquad scrimmages scheduled to start Dec. 14.
MPSSAA in MD granted permission to begin winter sports as early as Dec 7. (First day of tryouts. MD requires 20 days of practice before competition.) However Anne Arundel County where I am just suspended indefinitely all indoor and outdoor workouts, practices and training due to a surge in cases locally. Dev 7 is now up in the air. The original plan a month ago was a 2nd semester winter sports season starting in early February.
MA… still being negotiated. Youth basketball not happening as of now.
I’m in Michigan and our players have to wear masks at all times, even while playing. Coaches, fans, and refs will be masked too. No more than 2 spectators per player/coach, no locker room use for practice, no jump balls for games. Michigan is playing but has instituted a ton of restrictions/rules. Refs can’t the ball. No jump ball. Coin flip if game goes into OT. Have to play with masks on. Etc.
18 games instead of 26 for the regular season. Section play offs, the state tournament is undetermined as yet. Two family members per player can attend. This could change as COVID-19 numbers are rising.
Seems to be playing
Missouri is playing and pretty much like nothing happened. Looking like our bench is going to be 6 feet away from each other
Delayed start of 1 month. Reduced spectators based on county health recommendations. Games start Jan 2
Nebraska currently: 25% capacity, limited to house hold members only effective till Nov 30. Masks worn by all except those on floor. No pregame or post game hand shakes. Masks on bus rides. Athletes responsible for their own water bottle during games.
Do not seem to be playing
A tentative start to competition is set for Jan. 11, 2021.
As of now NJ is playing. Shortened season. Players are supposed to wear face covering while on bench. Not sure how that will work/be addressed. No fans at all. NJ: 14 regular season games. 1 scrimmage. Down from 25ish and 4. Home and Home with the same opponent each week. Limited state playoffs.
NM no sports at all happening In The state. New Mexico tentative start date Jan. 4th 2021 with 18 game schedule
We have confirmed with state officials that low & moderate risk winter sports may begin play on Nov. 30. We continue to examine opportunities for high-risk sports to be played with strict risk minimization efforts in place. At this time, high-risk sports are not authorized. New York recently got moved to January 4th
North Dakota is playing a full season at this point. Masks during games and practices just came down for volleyball so I expect it is coming for winter sports. We have been doing open gyms with masks.
Winter High School Sports & Activities Suspended in North Dakota Until December 14
The Ohio High School Athletic Association reaffirmed its plans Wednesday to move ahead with winter sports as scheduled, notifying athletic directors across the state while providing results of a recent survey.
Is playing. Oklahoma we put signs up to wear masks, and social distance but games are packed like sardines and no masks. Game un changed
winter seasons slated with our athletic association, OSAA, to start December 28th with a short 7-week season. However our governor says no full contact sports which basketball has been designated, until OR phase 3 which is a long ways off… a reliable COVID treatment or vaccine is required. Oregon reduced games from 24 to 14. Season from 14 weeks to 9. Pushed start back by 6 weeks.
PA is starting basketball on time on Nov 20 with full schedules planned. Many schools are starting to shut down
Season shortened from 17 to 10 games then playoffs.
Possibly Varsity only no JV , Max roster 15 but only 12 dress for games. Games played on Saturdays. 2 spectators per player no student fans. All players will wear masks even while playing
All subject to change
limit number of fans … follow protocols as far as distance on bench, players/coaches wear mask while on bench… HSL has recommended playing same opponent back to back (Tues/Fri), tournaments pretty much have been canceled… recommending coming dressed to games, limit use of locker rooms.. have several basketballs for use during games…
South Dakota is starting as normal. Fan limits are on school to school basis.
Game limit of 27, no tournaments. Only one game allowed during school week. —-Nov 10 Texas, 1st game today, must wear a mask while playing and on the bench. No fans allowed in the gym
Gov tonight declares a state of emergency effective tomorrow due to rising Covid cases and limited hospital space. Late-night order includes a statewide mask mandate and orders people to restrict casual social gatherings to family only. No youth or high school sports
A tentative start to competition is set for Jan. 11, 2021. Vermont, practice start 11/30, games begin 1/11/21. Right now no spectators.
At this point VA is starting winter sports on Dec. 7th with a condensed season and championship bracket. For public schools, high schools are slated to start practicing in a couple of weeks, cutting season by about 25% of games, no spectators in the gym. I’m a middle school coach, and we are not slated to start practicing until January, have cut about 20% of the games, and only 1 parent per kid in the gym (no siblings)
No fall sports in WA State; we are supposed to start basketball on 12/28/20. Currently practicing; only 5 players and 1 coach per practice.
Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order on Friday morning that the high school winter sports season will postponed until Jan. 11 at the earliest.
Dane County is not playing. The WIAA is going on with a season….Yes we are doing wrestling and winter sports when our state is on fire. Our State Association has done NOTHING to push for a later start or second season.
The WHSAA has not pushed back the start date for any winter sports
Countries around the World
Japan. Back to Normal
Ontario, Canada (a province, not a state) is currently not playing winter sports
In Italy all youth basketball is suspended. Only the first two male and female championship are playing
England is in a lockdown until early December so just about all competitive matches put back to a January 2021 start.
Sydney, Australia – we have been playing since July (on and off). No masks but at times no spectators. All change rooms are closed so you need to turn up in your gear. Players must sanitise hands as they sub in and out as well as out of timeouts and breaks between quarters/halves. Now each player is allowed one spectator to any indoor sport but spectators must remain socially distanced. Seems to have worked well so far.