10 Golden Rules You Should Apply to Your
Basketball Drills

These are things that almost all coaches should be doing. Do you follow all these rules?

  1. No standing in lines. Players should spend VERY little time standing in lines. I can't tell you how many practices I see where players are standing around waiting to do something. That's a tremendous waste of time and de-motivating for players.

  2. Use a practice plan. You must have a practice plan to keep your basketball drills moving efficiently and effectively. The last thing you want is players waiting around. If you prepare ahead of time and document a practice plan, your practice and drills will be much more efficient and effective.

  3. Vary your drills. A major enemy of skill development is boredom. The large number of repetitions necessary to improve or learn a skill could lead to routine, mundane sessions. Having multiple drills that work on the same skill and rotating them by workout will go a long way to maintaining interest and enthusiasm. It also exposes players to multiple situations in which he can use the skills he is working on. This creates greater motivation and better workouts.

  4. If possible, every player should have a ball. The more touches players get with the ball, the better they will get with it. Such a simple concept, yet how much time do you spend practicing 5 on 5 scrimmages? How many touches do you think players get during scrimmage? Not many. Do you even have enough basketballs for all your players? Bottom line, use drills and small sided games (like 3 on 3) so players get more touches with the ball.

  5. Use multifaceted drills. This allows you to get more done in less time. Use drills that work on multiple aspects of the game. For example, you could use drills that improve footwork, ballhandling, and shooting all at the same time.

  6. Incorporate your offense into your skill development drills. Take a piece of your offense and turn it into a skill development drill. This allows you to make twice as much progress in your practice. As an example, you could take a common screen or cut from your offense. Have players run that cut and shoot or make a move at the end of the cut. You can use chairs to simulate defenders. This allows them to practice a piece of your offense and skill at the same time (shooting, ballhandling, passing, footwork, and so on).

  7. Remove competition when teaching NEW skills. The greatest motivation in any activity is success and success comes slowly with new skills. It is important, while teaching, to reduce stress and fear of failure. Getting a player to buy in and work through the knowledge and adjustments necessary to develop new skills is difficult. When you factor in the emotional toll of unsuccessful repetitions that will certainly occur while learning, you realize that having players compete with undeveloped skills will erode any confidence he may have and might actually affect other skills as well. Your aim is to program for success, not failure.

  8. Go in short bursts. To keep players attention and focus, you need to limit the time of each drill. If you stick on something for 10 minutes or more, you're almost always wasting your time. Not to mention, players like to keep things fast paced and moving. It makes for a more enjoyable practice.

  9. Simulate game situations. As players get comfortable with a skill, it's important to simulate what they will see in games. That means players must perform at game speed and be put in competitive situations they will see in games.

  10. Provide lots of positive reinforcement. This is one of the best skill development and motivation tools that you have. When correcting, use the sandwich technique. Also, consider letting the player work things out on their own. The point is that you need to be positive for them to reach their potential.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Mark Parrish says:
1/9/2014 at 1:01:11 PM

Love the Sandwich Method - I write that down on every practice sheet. That way I don't forget because it is easy to go into lecture/correction mode. It also keeps your comments short or at least shorter.


Ken Sartini says:
1/6/2014 at 9:56:31 AM

Coach Oak -

Amen to all that!!

I had pre season meetings with all the players in my program and discussed just what you have said.

Basketball in that order

I did tell them that the order changes a little when you come to school... Academics comes first and when you are on the basketball floor, that comes first.

I coached girls during my last year, one girl came to me and said she had to leave practice early the next day - Halloween - I asked why, she said that she had to take her little brother trick or treating..... I just smiled and said, sure, as long as he brings me a piece of candy the next day... which he did and I gave him a candy bar also...:-)

While I wanted to win also... sometimes there are more important things in life.

Don''t get me wrong.... IF they had to see a teacher during our practice time for whatever reason, that always came first.... IF they had to do something for their family, that also came first.

BUT, IF you are having a family problem, that always comes first, don''t be afraid to talk to me or a counselor at school about it. IF you make yourself available to the kids you will be surprised what they will come to you and talk about.


Coach Oak says:
1/6/2014 at 3:52:51 AM

The "sandwich"technique is not rocket science. I have been using it in my 5th grade classrooms for the past 25 years. These Golden Rules are absolutely spot on. How about a hierarchy of needs for your basketball team; or life in general. Our's looks like this: Picture a triangle with God at the base...he is our foundation. Next is Family, and believe me, we have families with some major problems. Third is education, and lastly is basketball. There are many coaches that focus on just wins and losses without delving into and trying to help players with problems. You are truly missing out if you are one of them. When these players come back 10-20 years later and thank you: THAT is what coaching is all about.


David Ashman says:
1/5/2014 at 9:50:54 PM

Thanks Jeff,

I coach an early middle school team, and reading through these 10 I agree 100%. Every point goes along way to keeping training for the players both effective and interesting.

I would also add as point 11. If a drill isn't working or acheiving the desired results after 10 minutes stop it and start another. (This might be an extension of #8).


Ken Sartini says:
1/5/2014 at 1:02:20 PM

Our AD used to say that we should use " 5 attaboys to every negative comment "

When you are teaching and coaching, Positive reinforcement is a must. Kids will respond a lot better to that than ragging them all the time.


Jeff Haefner says:
1/5/2014 at 12:45:57 PM

Here's what the "sandwich technique" means...

First you compliment the player, then tell them what they did wrong and what they need to do to correct it, then follow with another compliment.

For example, "Way to hustle back on defense, John. When trying to take a charge, make sure to get there a split second earlier, otherwise they'''ll call the foul on you if you'''re still moving. Keep playing hard. Great job."

I learned the sandwich technique from Morgan Wooten. But I’ve also seen this same concept reinforced in child development books. In parenting books, they call it the “2 for 1 rule”. For every negative response you make in your disciplinary role, make two other positive responses to the child in the next half hour.

The experts claim (and they are right) that it’s too easy for adults to constantly correct children and occasionally discipline them. Adults think this will change their behavior. However, the opposite is true! The relationship starts to suffer and the adult actually ends up with less influence. The less positive the relationship becomes, the less the child is inclined to listen and do what the parent or adult wants.

Parents and coaches forget to compliment the good things they do. They just take that stuff for granted. This is called positive reinforcement. It’s usually not done enough!


Chef Goldblum says:
1/5/2014 at 12:16:51 PM

Sandwich method-2 positive comments and 1 constructive/teaching comment in the middle...let players know what they did well, but offer critique in a positive way to establish what you expect from drill/play if it was still missing a little something.


Mertreisa Wiley says:
1/5/2014 at 3:08:43 AM

Number 10 states use the sandwich technique, when correcting. What does that means?


Ken Sartini says:
1/3/2014 at 4:57:00 PM

These are great rules Jeff. Good stuff for coaches at all levels.

They are all good but I like 8 & 9 a lot.


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