#1 Mistake Coaches Make In Practice

This mistake alone ends up causing more losses than anything else I know. I believe that it's the #1 mistake that coaches make during practice.

Short term, you don't see the impact. You might even win a few more games immediately by doing this. It's actually kind of like fool's gold because it results in more losses in the long run!

The mistake is that coaches don't spend enough time on skill development during practice.

Many coaches will even completely remove skill development from their practices!

Instead, some coaches focus on strategies and tactics like teaching plays, multiple defenses, multiple offenses, etc. And these things have no impact on the long term development of the team or the players!

In fact, if this happens year after year... not only does the team lose more games, but it's also possibly costing your players a chance at college scholarships.

Spend at Least 1/3 of Practice on Skill Development

You should spend AT LEAST 1/3 of your practice on skill development.

(Note: If you're coaching teams ages 16 and under, you should also teach universal offensive concepts and universal defensive concepts.)

The late Hall of Fame coach Don Meyer who once led the NCAA in total wins (923) once said...

    "When it comes time for the playoffs, which would you rather have, two better players, or two new plays? I would rather have two better players."

From personal experience, you even start to see major differences by the second half of the season!

Simple Math Shows Why This Is Vital!

And if you think about it, this makes sense.

Let's say you have 30 practices that are 90 minutes each. At each practice, you spend 30 minutes on skill development.

Over the course of just one season, that's 900 minutes of skill development! You can make a big impact over just one season!

All things being equal, who is going to be the better team? The team who spent this time memorizing plays or the team who became better at shooting, ball handling, passing, footwork, and attacking the defense.

Then let's do that over the course of 9 seasons, that's 8,100 minutes of skill development!

You can make a tremendous impact on multiple seasons!

How to Turn 8,100 Minutes of Skill Development into 810,000 Minutes

And to top it off... you motivate players to practice outside of practice.

1 - You show them drills to do. So they know what to work on outside of practice. Not every kid will do this, but some will.

2 - When they see themselves getting better at their basketball skills, they want to practice more outside of practice. It's fun seeing yourself improve! So those 8,100 minutes could easily turn into 810,000 minutes! That's where you get unbelievable results.

What Skill Development System I Use with My Team

When it comes to teaching skill development and mentality with my teams, Don Kelbick's Attack & Counter Skill Development System is a big part of what I do. You can incorporate many of the principles with players as young as 10 or 11 years old.

It's also very important to learn how to attack the defense. That's why I use plenty of game-based drills (or small-sided games).

Let Us Know Your Thoughts Below!

Has this approach for skill development helped you? Have you benefited from Attack & Counter skill development system? Do you have questions? Let us know below!

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


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Jimithon Jones says:
10/19/2018 at 9:46:31 AM

Agreed. All too often... in the excitement and chaos of an actual game... players fail to execute the offense or defense to perfection anyway. It appears to be more improvisation than intentionality. Yet if they can still dribble with skill, pass a ball, catch a pass, rebound, play sound one-on-one defense, and maintain proper spacing... they will still hold their own on the court.


James P Thorson says:
10/17/2018 at 5:01:48 PM

Two things:
1. Don Meyer also used every game warmup as a practice time for fundamentals. 20 minutes times 25 games is another 500 minutes, 83+ hours, to work on your skills over a season.

2. The mentality Don Kelbick talks about is so important in having the player understand not only what they are doing, but why they do it, and when to do it. Teaching how to play makes it so much easier to adjust than teaching a play for every adjustment.


Joseph says:
10/16/2018 at 4:09:40 PM

I've used the attack and counter system and feel its great. The problem with player development is players once developed move on to a more established team.


Allen Skeens says:
10/16/2018 at 1:24:33 PM

I think you are right on with this Joe. We spend 1/2 of each practice each week on skill development and that is along with doing 2-4 team skill development academy sessions outside of that. It is by far and away the most important thing we do. Spend the other 1/2 on the shell drill and I always feel like my teams are prepared. The boys learn how to play the game. As a teacher I don't want my students learning the material just to pass a test. I want them to actually master the material so they can utilize it moving forward and have a foundation we can build on. Keep up the good work. Hope all is well.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
10/16/2018 at 2:07:06 PM

Thanks, Al! Hope you are well.

Readers, just a heads up... Coach Allen Skeen’s team won the 2018 Junior NBA World Championships! He’s produced dozens maybe hundreds of college players. He’s starting to have some sprinkle in the NBA like Michael Porter Jr. Quite a feat on mutilple levels considering he coaches them between the ages of 10 and 14.

  1 reply  

Allen Skeens says:
10/16/2018 at 4:39:36 PM

Thanks Joe. All good with us. Our teams just started back up at the beginning of October. The Jr. NBA World Championship was an incredible experience for the boys. I was just happy they took me along for the ride. Regarding the topic for the day it's pretty simple from my standpoint. I've always felt it was much more important to teach kids HOW to actually play, as opposed to just learning a specific set of plays.


Ryan says:
10/16/2018 at 9:24:11 AM

I am a HS Varsity coach and I also coach our MS teams. To us and our program it is crucial that kids enter the 7th grade able to handle the ball with their right and left hands, catch the ball with proper footwork, and understand basic M2M principles.

I could care less about how many games a team wins in 2-6th grade. And for that matter their wins and losses in the 7th and 8th don't matter either.

If you are a youth coach who wants to see their kid expierence success at the HS level start spending more time on skill development and stop worrying about what your opponent does. Just focus on your kids and how you can best prepare them to have success at the next level.

  1 reply  

Reg says:
10/18/2018 at 7:15:27 PM

Couldn't agree with you more Ryan. You are fortunate to have MS anHS. catch them early, before they pick up too many bad habits.

Too many coaches are looking at W & L's and not developing the athlete.

Coach your team and don't worry about what they are doing.
Teach man principles, and proper foot placement and movement.

one hand passing is a great skill for young kids. Their hands will grow into skill as they mature.


Anthony says:
10/16/2018 at 8:01:40 AM

There’s a lot of factors that tie into how we teach and that’s has to do with the time you have before a game, the age grade, and skill level your coaching and your style of play...

I do use about use about 1/3 of my practice for skill development, but I’m always teaching proper fundamentals as I’m coaching X’ and O”... I may come back to skill development towards the end of practice it just depends... also what’s most important to is that I don’t have confused kids during the game!


Jukka Mantere says:
10/16/2018 at 6:48:24 AM

Hi Coach,
this is so true and many times also the fundamental skills are outside of the play itself.
Young players pick up bad habits. The biggest at the moment everywhere even in girls basketball is to teach one hand passing or layupping directly from the dribble. The young players never learn how to catch the basketball, how to protect the ball. Easy for defense, bad to learn pull ups, flouters, push passes, two hand passing etc.
Learn fundamentals first properly, and if you are good enough in those maybe you will learn also some tricks.


Saso Gjoreski says:
10/14/2018 at 1:57:54 AM

I am sure that every coach in the world would agree that its better to have two improved players than a improved tactics in a game. Its important also but if an army has no HQ soldiers than what are the high tech arms for if no one knows how to use them? Right? Its essential to improve the players or to teach new ones.


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