Simplify Your Drills, Simplify
Your Skills, or What?

On a recent article about my experience coaching a couple of Loyola Chicago players in high school, here is a question I received.

    Great article Joe. Hope you are still enjoying your vacation! What I take from that article is the simplification of the drills. While I certainly understand the need to promote Breakthrough Basketball and enjoy the content, I almost feel like the amount of info that comes makes it extremely difficult to simplify and focus on a few key drills. Would love to see a follow up article or just a direct reply to my email on what drills you simplified for them. I have a 7th grade son and would love to give him some basic drills going into the Summer. Thanks again and keep up the great work!

Rather than simplifying drills, while this may be necessary, I would say it's more about simplifying what skills that you practice. You want to focus on the most important skill sets that you do the most during the games.

Don Kelbick wrote a good piece about this What Are Your Big Rocks?.

This article also shows you what to focus on.
Klay's Superhuman Night and A Surprising 19% NBA Study

How To Develop Your 1v1 Offensive Skills

Here is an overview of what I like to do when working on 1v1 offensive skills.

What Drills Should You Use?

Here is my viewpoint on drills.

Drills are just medium for improving your skill set. So first, set your objective. Then use drills that you think best achieve that.

At the same time, you need to keep your players engaged and challenge them appropriately, so they continuously improve. You want to keep them in the "sweet spot".

Jeff Haefner wrote this in an article...

    Part of our philosophy is to keep players in the sweet spot of development. In other words, we want to challenge them but not challenge them too much.

    If it's too easy, players get complacent and do not improve as much as they could. If it's too hard, they can lose confidence and enthusiasm.

    The concept of the sweet spot is discussed in The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and the 21st Century Basketball Practice by Brian McCormick:

Keeping Players Engaged - Regressions & Progressions, Tweaking The Drill, and Varying Drills

One way to accomplish this is to simply have regressions and progressions. Even though the drill appears to be the same, simply changing the focus is enough to keep the player engaged.

For example, let's say you're working on footwork. You're working on a basic front pivot to face the basket like in the drill below. As you may have noticed, if you try to teach all aspects of doing this effectively, the kid will look more like Mr. Roboto rather than a fluid and athletic basketball player. I've been guilty of this in the past.

So the first day, you just focus on pivoting on the correct foot and in the correct direction. They'll screw up. They'll travel. But that's day one.

Next, maybe they're sliding the foot too much and traveling. So you focus on keeping that pivot foot in the same spot.

Next, you tell them to keep their hips slightly down through the pivot. "Hips down"

After that, you might focus on getting the feet in the proper position to shoot. Sometimes, kids over-pivot and their feet aren't in an ideal position to shoot.

Next, you might focus on speeding up the pivot. That way, a player can transition to face the basket quicker. Thus, shooting the ball quicker.

Then you might put a bigger emphasis on cutting harder and faster prior to catching the ball to pivot.

Depending on the age level and skill level, this progression could take days or it could take years.

This goes hand in hand with the small incremental improvements by using the same drill that I mentioned in the Loyola Chicago article.

Sometimes, making little changes to the drill helps keep players engaged...

  • Picking the ball off a chair.
  • Having a coach be a passer.
  • Alternate different skills between reps.
  • Changing the location of the cut and the shot.
  • Using visual cues to dictate action of offense.
  • Using a defender to give the offense different looks. Offense shoots or attacks.
  • Use the situation and make it a 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 game.

Let's take this 1v1 drill as an example.

You could take this same drill and have the offensive player start with the ball and the defender reacts on the offensive player's move.

You could change the position of the defender. You could move the defender further away. You could have the defender trail from different distances. You could have the defender switch sides.

You could change positions on the floor. You could start in the corner, top of the key, elbow, near half court, etc.

You could add a second defender that starts from the opposite block to simulate help defense. You could add and make it 2v2 and 3v3.

You could switch the type of defender. You might compete against a tall and lanky player. You might compete against a short and quick player. This forces the offense to find different solutions to scoring based on the different types of players they will face during the game.

When and When Not To Change The Drill

And other times, it's just changing the drill to keep players engaged to work on the same skill set. Hence, all of the drills that you see in the newsletter.

At the same, you don't want to vary the drills too much. You don't want to waste a bunch of practice time constantly teaching new drills. Players still need reps!

With experience, you eventually figure out what works best for you and hopefully what's best for your players.

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


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