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How to Run a Great Basketball Practice

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Many young coaches tend to just show up at practice without a second thought what to accomplish that day or what drills they will be running.

They want to play it by ear and see how it goes. The players deserve better and you can give it to them.

Let's go over some of the items that are held in practices and how they should be structured


Each practice should be planned down to the minute. Drills should be done in a timely manner and always at full speed.


Start with stretching exercises for 10-15 minutes. The older the players, the more time I'd dedicate. Make sure that legs, arms and back are good and stretched before jumping into things. Take the time during stretching to let the players know what is to be expected that day. I've had coaches have white boards showing what drills would be done and for how long and even when practice would be over. I loved it when it was that detailed. Time is precious. Don't waste this time that you have your players' attention.


Don't do the same drills every day. There are so many quality drills out there and your players will get bored and start going through the motions if you do the same thing every day. Don't forget to utilize assistant coaches and let the guards work out with the guards and the post players with fellow forwards and centers. Allow adequate time for drills. Make sure that the drills are the focus of the practice. I mention it each chance I get and that is to practice each drill at full speed and go from drill to drill quickly. Don't allow your players to walk from drill to drill. Get into the drill, making sure that each one is done correctly and at game speed. Create competition as much as possible by making the losers be punished somehow.

Free Throw Shooting

Free throws should be taken at every break after an exhausting drill. For example after you have just run finished a fast break drill. With the amount of running they do on that drill, they will be very tired and that's a great time to put them on the line. Demand that they make 80% (or whatever seems right for your players) because this teaches them to hit free throws during a game. If they don't make the expected percentage be ready to make them run or be punished somehow so that they feel some pressure. How often do your players get to shoot free throws in a game when they aren't tired or feel no pressure? Why in the world would you not want to emulate the same situation they will be in during a game at practice?

Practice Game Type Situations

Your team is down ten points with 3 minutes left. Let your starters try to come back in that scenario. Allocate a good amount of time for these scenarios and see how your team responds. You will learn a lot about your players this way. Don't just scrimmage for the purpose of having your players play - make it mean something.


At the first of the season I tell coaches to use as many conditioning drills as possible to get the players in shape. When you are in mid-season then tone it down a bit and only maintain. Each practice should consist of a fair amount of conditioning, but remember that if your players are going hard each drill and running from drill to drill they will be in very good shape. Don't work them into the ground, but let them know why you are doing it and why it is important.

End on a Positive Note

I once had a coach who would work us like crazy and then at the end get us all in a circle and tell us how proud he was of us and how much he loved us. I haven't ever forgotten that. Each practice ended with us feeling good about ourselves regardless of how the practice went. I encourage coaches to end practice with a drill that brings out the best in players and makes them feel good. Help them realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

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