Avoid These Game-Day Warm Up Mistakes That Could Cause You To Lose Games!

Learn how to consistently surprise and pounce on your opponents with quick 4 to 8 point leads. At the same time, develop injury resistant players who can jump out of the gym and move quickly.

If you do the traditional lay up and shooting lines, do stretching on the basketball court, and don't use drills with defenders in your warm ups, there are some big changes you want to make. These changes can have a dramatic impact on your season and possibly even your coaching career.

Check out the tips below...

1 - Prepare the body to move before you step on the court to reduce injuries, improve quickness, and develop better jumpers.

You should dedicate at least 15 to 20 minutes to prepare your body to move before you step on the court.

However, I often see players doing movement preparation exercises on the basketball court during their allotted warm up time. This is a complete waste of time. This can easily be done elsewhere like in the hallway, locker room, any other space.

All of your court time during the warm up should be dedicated to basketball drills. Drills that get you ready to play.

Additionally, a well-designed movement preparation program should:

  • Reduce injuries which will result in more wins - You can't improve if your players are hurt. Actually, most recovery time is spent just getting back to where you were before the injury.

  • Develop better athletes - If your warm up isn't improving balance, coordination, speed, jumping, and other athletic qualities, you need to modify your warm up.

Sample Of Movement Preparation & Athletic Development Exercises

Diving into the details of a proper movement preparation would make this article far too long. I've modeled the first part of my warm up after Vern Gambetta's and Gary Gray's teachings.

Here is a quick sample (emphasis on the sample). There are variations, regressions, and progressions.

  • 2 Minutes Warm Up - Jump Rope
  • Leg Swings - Forward and Back, Side to Side
  • Reaches - Alternate up, Alternate up and over, Alternate rotating
  • Minibands - Sidestep, Walk forwards and backwards, carioca, monster walk
  • Single leg squat - forward and side
  • Balance exercises - Step or do a little jump, then hold position.
  • Lunge and reach - Lunge forward, lunge to the side, lunge rotationally backwards. And do these three reaches for each lunge. Reach up, reach down (touch toes), reach opposite (twist).
  • Jackknife Crawl
  • Hurdle walk - Sideways over and under (Might need to use imagination if you don't have hurdles.)
  • Quick skip
  • Lateral skip
  • Side step with arm swing
  • Carioca - long and low
  • Backwards to forward run
  • Forwards to backward run

Then I add basketball specific movements to the tail end of it... pivoting, jump stops, hip turns, shuffles, and different jumping variations.

A little tip for practices: I also take this same approach with practices. If my court time starts at 6:00 PM, I will start practice anywhere between 5:30 PM and 5:40 PM.

2 - Use court time to wake up the brain, improve decision-making, and shock the competition at the beginning of the game.

From watching thousands of games at the youth and high school level, I can tell you that very few teams do what I'm about to tell you. From a competitive standpoint, this is awesome for you and me.

While the first part of a great warm up is to prepare the body to move, you also need to wake up your brain! Just going through two line lay up drills or the same shooting drills that you see in every gym is not going to accomplish this.

Your players need to be ready to make game decisions quickly from the opening tip. So you need to do plenty of drills with live defenders.

That way, there isn't a mental warm up period at the beginning of the game that turns into a huge disadvantage for you.

And if your opponents are like most of the teams I've seen, it will give you an edge at the beginning of every game. Even if you only get an advantage of two points per game, this can still have a big impact on your season.

Additionally, your team could spend an additional 10 to 20 hours each season of getting more high-intensity practice time. Tiny little improvements for each game can lead to big improvements over time.

Sample Of Warm Up On The Court

So I will do some of these drills that are based on my philosophies and system. Here is my outline:

Note: I do not do all of these drills in one warm up. These are just examples.

    High-rep shooting drills - These do not include defenders, but I still think they are important at the beginning of a warm up.

    1v1, 2v1, 2v2 Drills
    • 1v1 close out drills
    • 1v1 finishing drills
    • Dribble attack drills with 1v1 and 2v1 (with second defender trailing)
    Mini scrimmages - I typically pick a couple of constraints with 3v3, 4v4, or 5v5 depending on my situation. Here are a few examples:
    • No dribble - (3v3, 4v4, or 5v5)
    • Lay Ups Only for first 10 passes
    • 2 post touches before a jump shot
    • 2 dribble limit on each catch
    • Cut throat
    • Overload Defense Drill - (4v3 or 5v4)

If I'm limited on time, I will just go straight to mini scrimmages. I will try to do as much basketball skill work off the court.

If your team comes out lethargic even after doing this, another tactic is to full court press for the first few possessions.

3 - Use non-court time to warm up basketball skills

You can have your players kneel and shoot against a wall. You can have them do pound dribbles. You can do constrained one on one drills. Basically, do anything in your space that will help you warm up your basketball skills before you get on the court.

As mentioned before, it's important that you use most of your court time to get the brain ready to make good decisions on the floor.

So you might need 30 minutes to prepare the body to move and do basic skill warm ups prior to the game. If you want, you can even spend more time.

4 - Incorporate shootarounds

If you have the option, use your facilities for shootarounds on game day. Even if it's a few hours before the game, getting 100 shots up in 15 to 30 minutes will help prepare your players to shoot in the game. Your players will need less time to find their shooting rhythm during the warm up.

Additionally, doing this 20 to 30 times throughout the year may result in residual improvements in shooting that can make a big difference.

On a side note, I almost added a fifth tip that has to do with mentality, but I'm still looking into this. Hopefully, I have some really cool new information in a future newsletter that could have a big impact on reducing anxiety and improving game performance.

So an ideal structure for your warm ups would be:

Earlier in the day - Shootaround for 30 minutes

30 minutes prior to court time - Movement preparation

10 minutes prior to court time - Basketball skill work

Court time - Game-like drills

A note for tournament settings:

If you play two or three games a day, my first warm up of the day will be the "long warm up" as mentioned above.

After that the warm ups are much shorter, I will just take 5 to 10 minutes to do running movements before each game. Carioca, Backwards to forward run, forward to backwards run, jumping exercises, then basketball specific movements.


I'm not a big fan of static stretching before practices and games. However, you might do this afterward.

If you have a tight area, you may do some massage work like foam rolling and light stretching prior to the warm up.

However, I would not hold a stretch for more than 10 seconds. The longer you hold stretches, the more it relaxes your body. Instead, you need your body activated and ready to move.

Well, I hope that these changes to your warm up will help you and your team.

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


Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

J Frazer says:
1/23/2018 at 2:42:22 PM

Have been coaching youth basketball for years. We often only have 4-5 minutes between games to warm up as the tourneys pack as many games in as possible. We go straight to competitive 3-2, rotate everyone from O to D. Our kids are ready to go at tipoff.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
1/23/2018 at 3:03:59 PM

Good deal! In those settings, we usually have a long warm up to start the day. I like to take them to a hallway or any other place with a little space.

Then prior to following games, we'll do a quick 3 to 5 minute warm up prior to taking the court.

Then if there are only a few minutes, we go straight to drills like yours. Thanks for sharing!


IJ says:
1/23/2018 at 11:16:17 AM

Could you please make a video of the on court drills and games that you use for the warm up? I think the ideas shared are awesome but I am challenged to see the logistics of it.

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
1/23/2018 at 3:02:32 PM

Here's a sample of a 1v1 finishing drill:

Here's a multi-purpose drill that works on ball handling, finishing, shooting, defense, close outs, etc.:

For scrimmaging, I'm a fan of the no-dribble drill.

One you can also mix in is Designated Shooter:

Here are a couple of overload drills for defense:


Hopefully, that gives you some ideas.


Dave Nedbalek says:
3/22/2017 at 1:56:11 PM



Mark M says:
1/23/2017 at 12:33:37 PM

Good article. Can you send/provide this in a PDF so I can print it and add to my practice planner? Thanks.

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

Dave Nedbalek says:
3/22/2017 at 1:55:35 PM


When you say practice planner, what do you use for this?

- Dave Nedbalek


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