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Using Bricks and Saves to Improve Your Team Basketball Practices

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Years ago I heard Rick Pitino speak at a coaching clinic and he shared his "Bricks and Saves" system which is still one of the very best practice ideas that I have ever heard.

The purpose of "Bricks and Saves" is to reward great effort, to encourage players to focus and concentrate throughout the entire practice, and to make up for any mistakes by reacting positively.

Possibly the most important thing this system accomplishes is that it makes the entire roster accountable for their on-court performance.

The system is very simple. Every time a player performs a positive action the coach yells "Save" and a manager or assistant coach marks it down. Every time a player performs a negative action the coach yells "Brick" and that is also recorded. At the end of practice the players run for every "brick" that is not canceled out by a "save." For example, Pitino has his players make 6 full court layups in 35 seconds (three right handed and three left handed) for every "brick" left over.

Using a practice strategy such as "Bricks and Saves" allows the players to determine just how much running they are going to do at the end of practice. If they run a lot, they have no one to blame but themselves.

What constitutes "Bricks and Saves" is obviously left up to the coach's discretion and largely depends on the age group and/or skill level of the team. A younger player may be penalized for not giving maximum effort or losing his focus and concentration while that same player may be rewarded for extreme hustle or for making an advanced basketball play.

Older, more skilled players can be held to a higher standard of performance. Pitino used to award "bricks" for such things as not running hard, not running wide on the break, not screening out, reaching fouls, not talking on defense, missing layups, and not in proper defensive help position. "Saves" were handed out after a steal, an offensive rebound, taking a charge, deflecting a pass, tipping the ball from behind, and diving for loose balls. Any area that really needs extra emphasis (offensive rebounds) or requires extra effort (diving on loose balls) can be rewarded with more than one "save" at a time.

Seth Greenburg at Virginia Tech does something similar with what he calls "Teams and Reminders." The biggest difference is that Coach Greenburg allows his players to either save the "teams" for their own use later or they can donate them to one of their teammates in need. They keep track of all "Teams and Reminders" for the entire season and then at the end of the year team banquet award the biggest trophy of the night to the player who accumulated the most "teams."

With a little creativity you can find other ways to increase the intensity of your practices while still rewarding the performances that are important to your particular program. For example, at the University of North Carolina, Roy Williams' secondary fast break is largely dependent on how quickly the post players can inbound the ball. Every player is assigned a designated spot on the break and either the 4 player or 5 player can pass the ball inbounds. But whichever player inbounds the ball the most during practice doesn't have to run at the end of the day. As a result, both the 4 and the 5 are literally racing each other to get to the ball first which in turns makes the Carolina break one of the very best in the country.

No matter which strategy you use, anything that makes players more accountable for the way they practice while increasing their focus, concentration, and intensity is going to be very beneficial for your entire team and is going to ultimately help you win more games.

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