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PostPosted: 09 Aug 2019, 09:44 

Posts: 11
Hey coaches,

I'm about to start my second year building our school's middle school program (5th-8th grade, both boys and girls).

While I'm planning out the season, I would like to get some ideas on how other coaches would approach planning their practices if they were in my shoes.

A little background about where I coach:
We are a small private school and we don't have the number of kids that would come out for the team as you would find in public schools. Basically if you come out for the team, you're on the team. The talent level is mixed and some kids are brand new to the sport.

That being said, I know that many kids are lacking in the basic fundamentals. We need to be able to do the basics without having to think about the technical aspects of the skill while playing in games. I want the kids to get to the point where they are reacting and attacking and not looking to me on the sidelines on what to do.

I see there is a lot of push for kids to practice fundamentals with a games like approach (Chris Oliver and Nate Sanderson). However, I still think the kids in our program need to develop the basic fundamentals like dribbling with their head up, using both hands, proper shooting form, and finishes at the rim.

I have about 90 minutes per day 2-3 times per week to practice. I would like to see some ideas on how I can break down practice and what skills would be worked on in each segment.

Thanks for your time and I hope to get some feedback on this.

PostPosted: 10 Aug 2019, 07:21 
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Coach - I have done and would break down my practices something like this for that age group:

What we do here varies greatly. based on what the players need. But generally speaking we work on ballhandling, shooting, finishing, pivoting, ball security, passing. We try to be as efficient as possible with a ball in players hands as much as possible. Sometimes it's mostly 1v0 type of drills and other times it's a lot of small sided games. It just depends on what I think the players need the most.

For you practicing 3 times a week, I think you'll do a lot of game based drills. Maybe 50% with no defenders and 50% game based. It could be much more of less than that, depending on how you want to structure things.

BLOBs - work on BLOB plays and defense

We don't always do this... but when needed we review press breaker, very simple EOG play,, free throw box outs, or any situation we think it important. We don't spend much time on this but I do add this to around 50% of our practices.

Usually did a box out drill every day and emphasize rebounding. Didn't spend a lot of time on it... spent more time in context of other drills.

Close outs
Shell drill progressions
1v1, if needed
We usually did star close outs and then shell drill because that was best bang for our buck. However our kids this past season in middle school already knew how to defend the ball very well. You might need to start with on ball defense.

Very quickly review motion. How much depends on the team. This past year, we spent no time working on motion until the end of year. I spent 5 minutes introducing our motion rules at the first practice and then we just played (scrimmaged). We had a pretty successful season... however the players already understood basic cutting, spacing concepts, and some drive and kick. With other teams, I would have had to spend a little more time on those fundamental aspects. But this past season with 8th graders we only worked on motion during scrimmages. And then at end of year we started incorporating more screening fundamentals (but we only practiced once a week so I had to be very efficient in our use of time).

At the end of practice we'd go half and/or full court working on everything that is important to us. We used the word "freeze" more at beginning of season to get kids playing how we wanted. Focused early on season on defense, BOXING OUT, and BLOBs. First practice... they were going to defend and box out. Every single time! The got the message right away. We had to do this as undersized team. Then moved to motion and press break more.

My theory is to work on things that will give us the biggest bang for our buck and also prepare (develop) these kids for the next level. We try to be as efficient as possible.

So we focus on and get great at:
- Skill and player development
- Special teams (football reference).... this includes BLOB situations (scoring off BLOBs and defending BLOBs) and press breaker
- Half court man defense (and maybe some full court man)
- Rebounding
- Teamwork and playing together

If we defend, rebound, take care of the ball, execute special teams situations, and play together... we will win or have a chance to win almost every game we play.

It's an effort mentality. I will say I have had a lot of success with this. Taking "b" teams and greatly exceeding expectations... however you still need the right players that are competent and have some athletic ability.

What I like about this is we focus on becoming great at just a few things... and we are able to win plenty of games and still spend a huge amount of our time on player development (which eventyally leads to more wins).

Jeff Haefner

PostPosted: 10 Aug 2019, 07:59 

Posts: 11
Wow, Jeff! This is complete GOLD!

Thank you so much for the breakdown. I will definitely use this to guide my practice planning this season.

My goal is to get these kids able to play high school and hopefully college basketball by the time they “graduate” from my teams.

PostPosted: 03 Sep 2020, 09:41 

Posts: 15
One of the hardest things at that level is convincing your players to buy-in to the "boring" parts of skill development. I use the phrase "Chop Wood, Carry Water" when we do our skill. It's something that isn't the most fun thing to do, but if you don't do it every day, you won't survive. Certain parts of our skill development we do every practice, regardless of time. You can get a pretty intense skill development session done in 20-25 minutes. Here's how I structured mine with the same ages last year. It's amazing to see the progression of kids at the end of the year. Really pay attention to them on the first day of practice vs. the last day of practice.

Ball Handling
- High Rhythm, Low Rhythm, High Non-Rhythm, Low Non-Rhythm (10-15 seconds each then change)
- One-High/ One-Low, Wipers, In-and-Out, Forward Back (10-15 seconds each then change)
- Kyrie Irving Drill (30-40 seconds) Sit on floor with your legs spread out. With each hand individually, dribble back and forth from outside your right leg, in between, and outside left leg. Do for 20-30 seconds and switch hands. Advanced players will attempt to use two basketballs.
- Lie on your back and dribble (30-40 seconds)
- FC Zig-Zag Dribble against Defense (Each partner goes twice)
- FC weak hand work (5 wipers at FT line, 5 in-outs at half-court line, down & back)
- Two Ball full court down and back (5 wipers at FT line, 5 in-outs at half-court line, down & back)

You can change what dribble moves they do in the FC work, these are just examples.

Form Shooting
Wrist Extensions / Lie on your back, perfect form, add a ball / Straight Line, side of the backboard, front of the backboard, against the wall. NO shots at the basket. They're only practicing perfect form.

“GET 50” (Finishing and Form drill)
Do 10 of each (JH players only, have them record their makes)
Set lifts (1-hand form shooting),
Reverse Mikan
Bradleys (Ball above your head, elbow under the ball) work around the rim no deeper than semi-circle,
1-2 steps from 3 point line, Object is perfect technique. Receive pass from teammate, practicing perfect footwork (stepping into your shot)

These were 3 things that never left a practice plan. We would have to cut it short on Wednesdays for kids with church that night and never took this out. I'd much rather develop their fundamental skills even up into 8th grade than spend 20-30 minutes working on special plays that only benefit a few players. It's amazing to see their development throughout the course of the year if you're strict to keeping it in the practice plan.

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