Help Your Team Learn How To Win With These Game-Style Drills

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For years, coaches have been practicing situation plays. Putting time on the clock and a score on the board (20 seconds on the clock, red up 2) and saying, "Here is what we do now," has been used since Naismith. It is great for execution and it is easy to isolate the situation during a game by calling a time out.

However, I was never comfortable that I was able to teach key strategic principles between the beginning of the game and the end. There comes a time when the opponent ceases to be the other team and becomes the clock. For instance, there are shots that are fine (even encouraged) in the body of the game, but not when you are up 4 points with 45 seconds to go. That doesn't mean it can't be done, just that I was not comfortable with it. Here are a couple of things that have been great for me.

Time and Score Scrimmage

We then came up with the, "Time and Score," scrimmage. I am not a genius, and I am sure that I am not the first person to come up with it; however, we came up with it while trying to solve some problems, and, aside from a full game scrimmage, now I rarely conduct scrimmages any other way.

Here Is How It Works:

The coach decides what time frame he wants to work on (1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes, 15 seconds, etc). He also decides how much regular scrimmage work he wants and translates that to points (for example, if it is mostly going to be a situation scrimmage, you might choose 4 points; if it is going to be an execution scrimmage, you might choose 10 points).

Let's say you want to run a 2-minute situation. You might choose to run a "6 and 2."

Here is the way it would work:

You put 2 minutes on the clock. You then run a regular scrimmage (fouls, violations, etc.). As soon as one team gets to 6 points, the clock starts. Regular time is kept. Wherever you are, that is your situation. It could be 6-5 with 2 minutes left, it could be 6-0 with 2 minutes left, or it could be anywhere in between. Most importantly, the scrimmage does not stop when the clock starts. You just play through. You might want to announce that the clock is on, or you might choose to let the players notice on their own. Just don't stop the scrimmage to announce what the situation is. Let them learn to keep track of the clock.

During the score portion of the scrimmage, you can work on whatever you like. You work on a particular play or play package, work on your zone defense or offense, work on pressures, etc., or just play. Once the clock starts, you coach to win the game. Adjust your defense and offense to do exactly what you would do in a game. Call time outs, strategically foul, make substitutions based on roles, put on or take off pressures. You can "reset" your situation (1 timeout left, both teams in the bonus, postmen have 4 fouls, etc.). Whatever you want to do, set it up before you start the scrimmage.

You can run any combination you feel you need work on. Run a "10 and 4" for a longer scrimmage. Try a "3 and 1" for short end-of-games. I have found no better tool for teaching your players, especially your guards, how to manage a game.

This is the only effective way that I have found to teach the difference in the strategic principles for early in the game compared to the end of the game. There may be others that work just as well but this has worked great for me.


While the "Time and Score" scrimmage is the drill that I think, far and away, is the best game type work I have used in practice, I have run into situations when I have not been able to use it. There are times when we were on the road, practicing in foreign gyms without access to a clock was a common occurrence. We tried to run the scrimmage using timers but a big part of the teaching process was teaching the players to think on the court. Without the ability to see the time and score severely hampered the process. We had to come up with another method for times when we did not have an available scoreboard.

What we came up with was "6 to Win."

Here Is How It Works:

Very simply (and it is very simple), we would scrimmage under late game situations; regular scoring, both teams in the bonus, all fouls shot appropriately, 1 time out per team. We would use, for offense and defense, whatever was the emphasis of the day (3 play, zone defense, etc.) until one team hit 6 points.

When one team reached 6, you play what you need to win the game and it was next basket wins. Regardless of the score. If there were foul shots, both shot had to be made for one team to win. Can a team be behind 6-0 and lose on the next shot? Certainly. In a game, can you outplay your opponent for most of the game and lose at the end? Absolutely. While what we were looking for was to find something we can play when we didn't have a clock for "Time and Score," in practice, we found something more.

The emphasis on the scrimmage was to play the game to the end. What we found the players learned was, get good shots, shut down defense - anyone can beat you, exploit the other team's weaknesses and protect yours, go to your strengths, find a go-to player and play. Players learn they have to defend on every play. They learned that going to the right people can make a difference. It became very important in our practice plan and we saw results in games.

I used these 2 drills extensively. I think they had significant impact on the ability for my teams to learn the game and what was necessary for them to at different points of the game in order to win.

To view coaching products from Don Kelbick, go to Don Kelbick Products.

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Related Pages and Helpful Resources:

Basketball Drills for Coaches
Basketball Game Strategy and How to Get an Edge Over the Competition
The Missing Link To Player Development

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


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Stepan says:
1/10/2013 at 5:18:08 AM

Great stuff, I used similar drills too. But what''s the point of playing up until one team scores 6 (referring to the "no board variation" of the drill)? Why not just announce at a random time that the next basket wins? Otherwise you might have a situation when 4 guys on a team that is down, say, 2-4 are just waiting in the frontcourt giving up an easy basket to make it 2-6 and then score immediately after a quick inbound pass. I mean, everything for the win, right? That''s the psychology.


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