NEW Article: Cheaper & More Effective Alternative to Summer Basketball Camps

By Joe Haefner

With the summer rolling around, summer basketball camps are becoming a priority. Check out this article on an alternative that may be cheaper and more effective:

NEW Article: 7 Tips For Developing Offseason Workouts

By Joe Haefner

Check out these 7 tips from Don Kelbick that will help you effectively use this offseason as a stepping stone to a successful basketball season.

7 Tips For Developing Offseason Workouts

How to Develop “Mentally Tough” Players With Geno Auriemma

By Don Kelbick

Mental toughness, what is it? Aside from being probably the most overused phrase in coaching, can anyone really describe it? I am not sure you can. I have been coaching for a long time and I can’t figure it out.

I get very concerned when people use some traditional terminology without examining its meaning. Too many times, I have seen coaches torturing players in the name of building mental toughness. They take the fun out of the game, wear down their players then blame them when things don’t go right. I would like to give you another way to look at mental toughness.

Confident players are mentally tough. Players who believe they will attain success in the end regardless of what they go through on the journey are mentally tough. These players are bred of success. There can be no understating the benefits of experiencing success. Putting your players in the position where they can experience success will pay dividends.

I was really struck by some comments that were made by members of the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball Team, after they won their most recent championship. I don’t normally watch a lot of women’s basketball. There is nothing wrong with it but they play a different game and I really don’t like it. But, UConn is different. At the time, I was speaking to a good friend who is an assistant for a Div. I women’s team so I thought it was appropriate to watch. In case you missed it, UConn scored 12 points in the first half. That is the lowest point total in a half in the history of the women’s Div. I championship playoffs. It seems to be ironic when the best team in history turns in the lowest scoring half in history. After they came back to win the game, I watched the player interviews afterward. A lot of the questions centered on the first half and how they turned it around. To a player, they all said they were unconcerned because their coach, Gino Auriemma, creates an atmosphere of success no matter where they go. They all said that he convinces them that if they continue to do the right things, regardless of the situation, they will come out successful. He is a tough, demand coach but there is never a time where he makes them feel that they can’t accomplish what he asks. Everything in their program revolves around the belief that they can be successful. Philosophy, basketball drills, game plan, etc, all center on rewards of success and not penalties of failure. They always want to make the next play.

We should all learn from that. If you want to build mental toughness, the foundation is success. Reward, don’t punish. Catch players doing the right thing as opposed to jumping on them for the wrong thing. Teach them to crave success, not fear failure.

It shows on the court. That is coaching. That is mental toughness.

Practice Players Versus Game Players – Why Do Some Play Better/Worse In Games?

By Don Kelbick


Why do some players look so good in tryouts/practice but totally become invisible during a game, while some look average in tryouts/practice but then go kick butt during a real game? How can I decipher through this during tryouts/practice to choose the best game players? Thank you.


What you are asking about is one of the challenges of coaching and there is very little you can do about it.

Firstly, let’s look at basketball tryouts. What is it that you do in the tryouts? How long do they last? How many days? If you are running one of those one day tryouts where players are on the court for 10 minutes and then they are done, you are working with a very small sample size. Have you ever had a bad 10 minutes on the court yourself, maybe gone 0-5 from the floor in your 10 minutes. If that is the only time someone will look at you, they will think you can’t shoot. They won’t see (or care) when you hit your next 32 shots in a row because they weren’t in your tryout time.

Players who shine during practice but not in games usually have one of two (or both) issues. One is talent. When playing in practice against his teammates, he might be more evenly matched with his opponent because, as a coach, you are trying to make practices competitive. You construct your competitions by finding players that are evenly matched so they are challenged but can experience some success. In a game you don’t have that luxury. He might be simply playing against a better player in a game.

More than likely, though, his problem is self image and confidence. Practice is a very comfortable atmosphere where there are more knowns than unknowns. That comfort breeds confidence and better play. In a game, where all the situations are different and the competition is a mystery, poor self image and doubt control the situation. It also has a tendency to snowball. If you don’t understand what is happening, think about how confused your player is. You have to be very careful how you handle this situation. Once he starts believing he can’t do it, he can spiral downwards and never become an effective player.

In regard to the second situation where a player is hidden during practice and plays well in games, again, there might be two issues. One is he might be bored in practice. You have to find different ways to focus him and to teach him the value of practice, even if he feels he isn’t challenged.

The second situation is simple, players play better with good players. In practice, everyone gets on the court. In games, theoretically only the better players get to play at the higher levels of basketball. It could be possible that his game is helped by the other players. Getting the ball at the right time in the right spots, having other threats on the floor to occupy the defense would even make my game better.

As far as how can you decipher as to what players will do in games, become a coach and guess with the rest of us.

The Gold Standard by Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K)

By Ken Sartini

Here are some key points from the Gold Standard by Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.

* Remember that everyone on a team must adapt, including the leader, so that your team benefits from the best of each member. Your team will not be the best that it can be if everyone adapts to a single individual.. …remember that the sacrifice is worth the reward because teams can accomplish things that no one individual could ever accomplish alone.

* The way you practice will determine the way that you play….I do believe that strong relationships are the foundation for great teams and that team bonding is essential… Players improve individually when internal competition is created during practice.

* The practice plan is a living thing; it is fluid and ever-changing. But writing out the plan beforehand is a step I always take. I can’t ask my players to be prepared to improve and to pursue our goal if I am not prepared.

* I love practice. It is when a coach exercises the most control over the improvement of his or her team.

* I constantly told our team…”We are not going to let them run plays. We want to force them to make plays.” If we could disrupt their system, we could reduce them to a group of individuals on the court as opposed to a team.

* On our team, there were two things that we talked about every single day; the gold medal and defense, our goal and our competitive edge.

* I do believe that strong relationships are the foundation for great teams and that team bonding is essential.

* Just as a team gets better as a whole in the face of competition, players improve individually when internal competition is created during practice.

* My goal was to seek out at least three guys at each practice and try to have personal interaction with them…..a leader wants all members of a team to feel included and invested all the time.

* I also try to think about which players I may want to single out for personal interaction, whether it be on the bus, while the players are getting taped and lacing up their shoes, during practice itself, or while they are working on individual shooting at the end.

* I can’t ask my players to be prepared to improve and to pursue our goal if I am not prepared.

* I love practice. It is when a coach exercises the most control over the improvement of his or her team.

* Part of what makes practices successful is attention to detail and respect for the opponent.

* I always tried to explain to the players their roles on the team, roles that were always evolving…. when you give time to a person and explain their ever-evolving role, it makes them feel good. It is a reminder to them that their role is important enough to warrant explanation.

Does Stationary Ball Handling Waste Valuable Practice Time?

By Joe Haefner

Many players will spend 10 to 20 minutes or even more on stationary ball handling during practice or a skill session. I see players do it in the gym and I see it on players’ workouts on the message boards on the web. Not to mention, I would spend almost 10 minutes on this every practice as a coach and nearly 15 to 20 minutes as a player.

I think this is a mistake, because most of the meaningful ball handling during a game occurs on the move. Many coaches also preach if you are going to dribble, make sure you are going somewhere with it. So shouldn’t we spend the majority of our ball handling work on the move?

Well, you might also argue that if you are working on stationary ball handling or ball handling on the move, it doesn’t matter because they are going to get better at handling the ball.

That is somewhat true. However, dribbling on the move is a slightly different skill than dribbling while stationary. Hand position and the angle of the dribble are different. When dribbling on the move, your hand will be slightly behind the ball rather than having your hand on top of the ball. The ball is also being pushed forward and sometimes backwards at different angles rather than dribbling the ball straight into the ground. You also add the additional facet of lower-body movement. Combining coordination between the upper and lower bodies can be difficult for some, so it needs to be practiced.

Now, back to the original question…
Is stationary ball handling wasting valuable practice time?

Yes and no. I think the answer to this question is situational.

Are you working with beginners?

With beginners, you may want to start with stationary ball handling to help them progress to dribbling on the move and build some confidence.

On the other hand, an intermediate to advanced player may skip stationary ball handling. Their time may be better spent on practicing moves off the dribble. Or in a team setting, your time may be better spent on game-like situational drills that force the player to make the decisions with the basketball. A couple of drills would be the 1 on 2 Drill and 3 on 2, 2 on 1 Transition Drill.

How much time do you have for practice or a skill session?

If you are short on time, you might want to practice skills that are more important. You might want to use drills that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck.

If you have 90 minutes, you might be able do some stationary work for 5 minutes. If you have 60 minutes, maybe you want to skip it or spend 2 to 3 minutes on it.

What are you doing and why are you doing it? What is the purpose?

Some coaches use stationary ball handling to improve hand-eye coordination and rhythm.

Some coaches use it as a beginning progression.

Some coaches use it as part of the warm up.

Some coaches use it for 3 to 5 minutes to improve ball handling.

These are some extremely valid and important reasons to do so.

Here is a sample 2 ball workout that I like to use for 3 to 5 minutes that meets all of the previous statements.

Ball Slaps – 10 seconds
Finger Tips – 10 Seconds
Figure 8 (No Dribble) – 15 to 30 Seconds
Two Ball Pound Alternating Heights – 15 to 30 Seconds
Two Ball Front to Back – 15 Seconds
Two Ball Side to Side – 15 Seconds
Two Ball Alternating Dribble – 15 to 30 Seconds

Then, I like to practice 1 or 2 difficult advancements. Here are some samples:
Two Ball Figure 8 Dribble – 30 Seconds
Two Ball – One Crossover, One Between the Legs – 30 Seconds
Dribbling with Tennis Ball Tosses off the wall – 30 seconds

Final Thoughts:

You will often see trainers doing crazy stationary ball handling drills. Some of these trainers are good. Some are bad. Just because someone can dribble 4 basketballs at once while rotating 5 tennis balls around their head does not validate them as a good trainer, even though, it is a cool trick and fun to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for kids going in the driveway and doing tricks with the ball to have fun, but when it comes to a practice or a skill session I believe that your time needs to be used in a more efficient manner in order to produce skilled basketball players.

Now, let’s say that you take that extra 10 to 20 minutes spent on ball handling and apply it to developing more important basketball skills that applicable to the game or take part of that time to develop athleticism, don’t you think that would make a better basketball player?

Tell us what you think…