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Tips For How to Run an Effective Basketball Camp Or Practice Session

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I was at the gym the other day watching a basketball camp taking place and came away very frustrated by what I saw. Kids from the ages of 12 - 16 were lined up getting ready for a drill to start while the coach was making a very weak effort to explain the purpose of it. Most of the kids seemed to be thinking about what flavor of Gatorade they wanted after practice as opposed to paying attention to what was being said.

As the coach broke the players up into groups to start the drill the players walked over to the lines and were less than enthusiastic about what was about to take place. The players then went on to execute the drills at half-speed while the coach talked to a parent or an assistant. As a result, NOT ONE PLAYER got any better or learned anything from the experience.

There are a few things that really bother me about this situation and I tire of watching it over and over again. It isn't that the person running the camp didn't know what was going on it was that the wrong strategies were being used to teach these kids the great game of basketball. It's so important that every minute we spend with these kids is used effectively. To make sure you always maximize the time you have with your players I've broken down 4 key items you'll want to keep in mind in order to make camp or practice situations more productive.

1. Practice Plans & Organization: Each coach or player needs a practice plan. As a team what are we going to work on today and as a player what am I going to work on today? These plans should be outlined clearly beforehand either in writing on computer or something where it can be followed.

The plan should be thought out and meticulous in detail. For example, if I'm a coach and working with my team I want to document every 15 minutes and what the plans are for those 15 minutes. Organization is the key to utilizing the time you have and getting the most from your practices. Players want and need to be involved. They need to be actively participating in every way at all times.

2. No Standing Around! Nothing drives me crazier than watching kids standing at practice. If I pay hundreds to go to a basketball camp I don't want to stand around and watch other kids do drills or listen to people speak for an hour. Players need to be involved and moving around. No standing. If you are running the practice or the camp then take the time in your plan to think about downtime and how much of it is spent wasted. Players need rest time but not as much as you think. Kids are resilient and need to play the game to be better. It should be stressed to players that they don't walk after a missed shot or walk to the drinking fountain for a drink. No standing around.

3. Practice at game speed: My number 1 pet peeve for watching players working out by themselves is how slow they go. Nothing is done at game speed and I go a little crazy. Players who want to get better need to go at game speed. It is much better to go hard for a half hour and give all you have than it is to take 2 hours of shooting a shot and walking after the rebound.

As mentioned in the points above, you should have a basketball practice plan lined out already and if you are practicing alone then it should say 30 shots with the right hand, 30 shots with the left hand, 10 foul shots, drink or something along those lines. It should be followed to a T so that everything can be done with structure and planning. Write the breaks in but use your rest time for shooting foul shots.

Schedule out your ball handling and everything. Make it fun but work hard. Love for the game is developed when the game is truly respected. To respect the game of basketball or anything in life you give whatever you can to it and while you are engaged in the activity you commit to it 100%.

4. Communication & Attention: When explaining drills and working with your kids always speak loud & clear and with lots of authority. If you are soft spoken your point doesn't come across clearly and you aren't taken as serious as you should be. It's easy for kids to start daydreaming if you don't speak with authority and demand their attention.

If you don't seem excited about what's going on they will get the feeling that your camp or training is weak and unimportant. The second part of this point is to pay close attention to what each kid is doing and offer them feedback and encouragement. If you start a drill and then go chat with someone else or look at your notes, you are sending the message that you really don't care about them.

Kids are a lot smarter than we think and if they get the idea that you aren't paying attention they don't really care to try their hardest or to learn anything. They'll just go through the motions - because you let them. I've been to camps before where the instruction being given was actually very bad but because the coach was so excited and energetic about everything it did wonders for kids.

I've been to similar camps where the instruction was phenomenal but because the energy and focus was so weak the kids came away with next to nothing. I'm not saying one has to yell and scream their head off to be effective. What I'm saying is you do need to be excited and display lots of energy, enthusiasm and focus in order for kids to have a meaningful experience.

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