Wednesday, June 22, 2016


As team members and leaders of a team, we need to engage in all meetings, practices, work outs and games with a focus.  Even the 30 second time out needs to have a focus.  Without focus - there will be a ton of discussions but no direction.  Here are some ideas to evaluate your own focus and begin to have more clear communication within your team or organization:

Define the purpose of the meeting, practice, game, etc. which could include:

  • Feedback from an evaluation, practice or game
  • Communicating goals for the upcoming week
  • Resolving conflict
  • Giving praise for an outstanding performance
Once you as the leader have defined a purpose - be sure to communicate this purpose to your team members effectively.  Take into account that there might be different learning styles and you want to present information in a way that engages the diversity that you have.  

Set a time limit for the meeting, practice, work out etc.  For coaches, I believe this is a huge key to success!  If you constantly say practice will be 1 hour but you always go over using an hour and a half or maybe even 2 hours - this is a clear sign that there is not focus or goal to what you have outlined in your practice plan.  When game time comes, do not be surprised when players struggle to reach goals or perform within the game time because you have not prepared them to do so. 

As simple as that may sound - setting a time limit not only prepares team members to execute goals within the limit, it also gives everyone involved a sense of urgency.  As a coach, I can remember running practices for 2-3 hours then watching film for another hour and could not figure out why my players would look sleepy or tired.  I used to always say - they don't love basketball the way I do.  During the off season, I attended some clinics and other coaches practices and realized how much more efficient they were because they had a FOCUS and goals for each drill which allowed the team to complete goals and move on instead of just shooting for 10 minutes straight and having no concept of the percentages made or missed.

Going into the next season - every drill had goals and a focus was outlined for every practice.  We even had weekly goals that we wanted to complete by the end of our pre-season.  Our main goals were to be great man to man defenders, aggressive rebounders and able to score the ball in high volumes by forcing turn overs.  We wanted to advance the ball on the pass - not the bounce unless necessary.  We wanted to teach players to cut and screen away from the ball and work together to score high percentage shots which would open up long range shots.  So with these goals in mind - each week would build upon these foundations.  Here is an example of how we would break down our preseason work outs:

Week 1 = Basic Man to Man Defense 
 1 on 1, build up to 2 on 2, build up to 3 on 3, 4 on 4 then 5 on 5.  Help Defense.
 Then we would practice defending 6 or 7 players - disadvantage situations. 
 Communication, stance, timing and active hands are key contributors to our pressure defense.

Week 2 = Relentless Rebounding
 Teaching players how to keep their eyes on the ball and their man
 We always say "Pursue with Two" = box out with your butt then use two hands to get the ball.
 We drill rebounding all the way through the outlet to half court.  This eliminate turnovers. 
*See Relentless Rebounding blog post 8/7/15.

Week 3 = Conversion
 From our defensive drills we focus on getting stops = forced turnover or rebounding a missed shot.
 All week we would practice converting on all stops pushing the ball up the floor for a lay-up first.  
 Once the defense slows down our transition to the hole, then we will spot up for a shot.
 At the same time, we are working on transition defense too --> its a 2 for 1 special!

Week 4 = Transition
 This focus would be on full court passing and running lanes.
 Teaching players how to run their lanes needs to be a daily emphasis - spacing is crucial.

Week 5 = Half Court Sets
 Now we are getting more game like and teaching our secondary break - if transition is not open.
 We teach how to cut effectively using angles to create space to catch the ball.
 Then we teach setting and using screens effectively.
 Drill the details of ball movement, ball reversal, seeing the floor, reading defenders, etc.

Don't be a slave to your practice plans - if your team is learning something by the middle of the week, make an executive decision to move on and begin teaching the next concept.  

Repetition will give you a chance to sharpen up each skill and create the habits for competition.  Repetition also yields more confidence and cohesion.  I read in an article that Geno Auriemma said "most teams practice until they get it right, we practice until we can't get it wrong."  That speaks volumes of how valuable repetition is. 

We do the same thing with weight work outs and conditioning - everything has a focus and goals. Everything is competitive and they are learning how to see opposition, but trust the process of defeating it.  This comes in handy when its game time so when we call a time out to bring them back into focus, they are used to trusting our processes and trained to execute. 

Hope this helps with your upcoming season and if you have any questions or maybe want to see a sample practice plan from us, just e-mail us at and we will be sure to get back to you.