Questions From Subscribers...

Topic:  Short Practice Time

Question from Stephan:
One thing I wonder is that in Germany, we have only up to 2-3 training units with "lower class" Basketball Teams with only 2h of training time.

How would you organise training in such a limited period of time? Stress more defense, offense, how would you integrate athletic training etc?

Answers and Comments

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Carrie Belt says:
7/12/2007 at 7:33:23 AM

Believe it or not, two hours is a standard practice time for many American middle school and high school basketball teams. Unless your players are professional athletes, their bodies would probably not be fit enough to endure more than two hours of training at any one time. As such, it’s very common for coaches and players to have to fit in weight lifting, drills, scrimmages, plays, and cardiovascular training into one two-hour practice.

In order to achieve all of your practice goals, it’s important to stay on track with your practices and develop a plan for each week before the week begins. Some players and coaches like to keep a notebook of drills and exercises with them along with a full practice schedule. The idea is that while the players are in the gym, they should never have time to simply stand around, unless they are watching a play or learning about a drill from the coach. At all other times, they should be interacting with other players and with the equipment.

In terms of what you should stress during practice times, your team’s performance will largely dictate what you decide to do each week. For example, if your team desperately needs to work on zone defense after a bad game, you can adjust the schedule. If your team needs to work on plays, then it will be obvious from scrimmages. Your practices, otherwise, should be balanced between defensive drills, offensive drills, and athletic training.

Also, many coaches like to rotate focus on different days. For example, Mondays and Wednesdays might be largely set aside to go over defensive drills while Tuesdays and Thursdays could be important for offense. Friday would be a day to review whatever the coach felt needed the most reviewing. Keep in mind that you do not have to do everything at once; your players will benefit from the change of schedule as well, as it will keep the court fresh and fun.

Here’s a sample schedule for a productive practice day for your two training units:
Hour One
0-5 minutes: stretch
5-10 minutes: jump rope
10-20 minutes: 1 mile run
20-30 minutes: lay-up practice
30-40 minutes: ball handling drills (check out our e-book for some great ball handling drills)
40-45 minutes: free throws
45-60 minutes: defensive drills

Hour Two:
0-5 minutes: water and stretching break
5-35 minutes: play review and practice
35-45 minutes: defensive drills
45-55 minutes: full court scrimmage
55-60 minutes: sprint drills

Now, if you have to train your two or three units at once in the same two-hour block of time, it will be important to rely on assistant coaches or team captains to run the drills and schedule for each group. In a large part, you’ll probably find that your teams will be self-sufficient and will not need to be watched like a hawk in order to ensure that they complete all of their practice items well. It’s okay to assign leadership roles to team members in order to have someone guiding the small group practices along. Plus, assigning leadership roles to players helps the players invest in the team.

Carrie Belt
Editor -


Stephan says:
7/12/2007 at 7:39:35 AM

Hey Carrie,

thanks a lot for the information. Acutally I do have a week planner, so I had the right idea before.

It's really great having a coaches community where there is fast help. As soon as I have another problem, I'll post it if it's wished.

Regards from Germany


Jim says:
8/14/2007 at 9:12:45 AM

How important do you think sports psychology is for younger basketball players? I'm thinking particularly about imagery and visualisation as younger minds tend to be more vivid.


Jeff says:
8/14/2007 at 3:50:55 PM

Hi Jim,

It depends, how old are the players that you had in mind?



Jim says:
8/15/2007 at 3:08:12 AM

13 to 17 year old players are the ones I am working with at the moment.


Jeff says:
8/17/2007 at 7:51:31 AM


Experienced players of that age can certainly benefit from some of the mental aspects you mentioned.

In fact, I think the mental aspects are VERY important and neglected by most coaches. I believe this is because most coaches don't understand the mental aspects or how to teach them.

I suggest that you teach things like:

- Visualizing what you want to happen (and many times it will happen!)

- Thinking positive.

- Believing and KNOWING that you can do something. It helps to clear the mind and don't yourself that you can do it. Don't let those little demons sneak in the back of your mind. don't think about excuses.

- Mental compression. This simply means that you imagine doing something under extreme conditions. For example, if you're running a 1 mile race. Imagine that you have to run the race with a 100 pound back pack strapped to you and it's raining and you have a broken leg. Then imagine winning under those conditions!! Once you actually run the race it will seem easy and you'll run faster than ever. Mental compression works!

- Tell yourself that you have to succeed no matter what. Imagine that a bear was chasing you and your life would end if you did not run the 400 in under 55 seconds but you've never run it under 60 seconds. You would just get focused and do it not matter what, wouldn't you? So get focuses and tell yourself you have to succeed no matter what!

- Practice. Confidence will be improved just by practicing.

- Teach your players how to CLEAR their mind and get focused before games and practices. This can be done various ways like meditation and breathing, yoga, and various mental exercises.

These are just a couple ideas. There are lots of mental exercises that help sports. Find and learn those mental exercises and teach them.

If you find some good ones, come back and share.

Good luck!

Jeff Haefner


8/28/2007 at 4:22:55 AM

fundamental and skill of shoting.


tom ellis says:
10/25/2007 at 12:53:35 PM

like to get some ideas on 1hour and 15 min middle school practice


Don Kelbick says:
10/25/2007 at 6:16:13 PM


This is a battle that all coaches fight. If left to my own devices, my practices would have been 17 hours long. One of the things I learned is that you can't coach everything every day.

I think you might be looking at your situation backwards. I think first you should decide what it is you want to accomplish in that practice, then decide how much time you need to spend on each aspect.

This is helped by sitting down before your season and devloping a master plan. Decide what you want to do for the season, decide by when you want to have each aspect completed and plan accordingly.

In middle school, I would run a skill heavy practice, a lot of dribbling, passing and shooting. I wouldn't worry too much about plays but I would teach some team fundamentals such as spacing and screening. You can develop an offense by using drills to practice things like screening and cutting. By multi-tasking your teaching drills you can maximize your time in practice.

I hope this helps you.

If I can help you further, feel free to contact me.

Don Kelbick
Contributing Editor Breakthrough Basketball


Scott LIndberg says:
11/13/2007 at 12:46:54 PM

I am a first year coach for a 6th grade boys in-house league. I played before, and know there is a big difference between the two. The Kids are not basketball junkies (well most of them) and have limited skills and abilities. I have 1 hour of gym time maybe twice a week, with our first game set for december. My question is what do I work on and how do get them ready to play? I want them to have fun, but to be competative also. Is this to much? thanks Scott Lindberg


Jeff says:
11/13/2007 at 4:18:35 PM


With kids at that age and ability, you should work almost 100% on skill development.

I know you don't want to hear this but do NOT worry about winning!! Even if you practiced 2 hours every day, you still don't have enough time for skills which is what these kids need in the long run.

Instead of worrying about winning, put them in a position where they can experience other successes…

For example, if you work on shooting form, you can chart their progress and show their improvement in shooting percentage during practice. Celebrate these small successes!

Maybe you can also measure things like turnovers, rebounds, and celebrate improving in those areas. Show them how they are improving!

Kids want to be successful and have fun. But unfortunately not everyone can win.

And let's face it. There are just too many youth coaches that teach presses and traps to take advantage of young kids that aren't strong enough to throw out of a trap.

These kids aren't learning "situational" basketball. They just trap to take advantage of kids that aren't developed yet.

Those kids would be much better off learning fundamentals, skills, situational basketball, and half court execution. Those traps and bad habits they are developing now (learning from pressing and shooting 3's) won't work when they get into high school and above. The fundamentally sound kids will kick their butts.

Teach your players the right thing now, and know that in 4 years, when you watch them play high school ball, you'll be the person that helped them succeed at that level. That's much more fun and fulfilling than winning a few more games in 6th grade.

Here are some important skills to work on:
- Shooting form and footwork
- Jump stops
- Pivots and situational footwork (back pivots, front pivots, sweeps, drop step, step through)
- Offensive fundamentals (basics of reading screen and cutting)
- Ballhandling
- Lay ups
- Passing
- Basic man-to-man defense

For offense, show the basic spacing and show a 2 or 3 simple cuts and movements. Let them play and have fun from there. You won't have time to teach an offense. If the parents don't like it, give him this link and tell them this is even what NBA and college coaches recommend.

Here's a few links you might like:

Good luck!

Jeff Haefner

  1 person liked this.  

willis laster says:
5/19/2008 at 12:55:20 PM

I have a question. I coach a 12u team. what kind of common offense and defense questions can I ask them in practice. For example. If you don't have any tmeouts and you get trapped by any out of bounds line. What should you do. answer throw the ball off the other team leg


irishman says:
8/26/2008 at 10:15:44 AM

i have a half court and only an hour to train my kids, what drills would you suggest and do u have any NEW drills


Ray says:
10/25/2008 at 5:34:35 AM

Hello am a coach in a secondary school in Ghana, West Africa. I needed to learn some new drills and wanted to inquire if i can get help in a any way to improve this lovely game in my school and if possible my community cos we are less previlaged. thank you.


Joe Haefner says:
10/26/2008 at 11:23:33 AM

Hi Ray,

You can find all of our drills available on this website at this link:

You can also find an additional 72 FREE drills by signing up for our free ebook, if you have not done so:

That should be a good start.

For help in your community, I would contact people at Hoops 4 Hope:


Tonya Harrison says:
11/6/2009 at 8:54:04 PM

I have begun to coach a youth basketball league that consists of 5-6 year old boys and girls. We are limited to about 1 hour a week practice, and I need some help on how to most effectively teach them the fundamental skills that they will need, in such a small time frame.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Jeff Haefner says:
11/7/2009 at 7:06:24 AM

Tonya - Check out this article for some ideas:

You'll need to take the above ideas and apply to your own age group. 5-6 year olds are very young and you're not going to teach them an offense. You just want them to have fun, dribble around, play a few passing games. Kids that age level don't have the strength to do anything properly, so it's more of an exercise session. In reality, they are too young to play basketball. But parents want them to play so we have to make the best of it. Here are a few links to help:


Makayla Barton says:
1/17/2010 at 12:33:40 PM

Could you let me know how it is possible to deal with an 1 hour practice and still get the drills done they need to know by time practice is over with? Thank you and hope to here back from you!!!!!


Cody says:
3/6/2010 at 11:58:21 PM

OK, I have a 2 teams. A 9th-10th grade boys and 11th-12th boys. We get 2 practices a week and they cant be over 1 hr 10 mins. Should I focus 1 practice on Defense and 1 on Offense? Or split Offense and Defense up and have both in each practice?
Also On both teams I dont have height but alot of speed and shooters, so I was wondering if focusing on my Defense more or close to completly and letting it turn into my offense as in fast breaks, turnovers, steals?
Thax for this website it has been and is a great deal of help. Would love to hear back if possible. Thx Cody


Josh Levy says:
11/1/2010 at 12:13:38 PM

I am a first year coach for girl's basketball 7th-8th grade basketball. I am interested in knowing several things.

1) what is the best way to gain immediate trust from my girls?

2) what is the best way to allow them to have fun in a strenuous environment?

3) what are the most important drills, concepts and fundamentals to focus on for success?


Ken Sartini says:
11/1/2010 at 2:34:23 PM


The first thing kids need to know (boys or girls) is that you care about them as people.. forget the Bball part. IF they feel you care you can get a lot accomplished.

Be firm fair and consistent with them, fair being the key word here. They need to feel that you KNOW the GAME... so make sure your practices are well planned with little down time. TEACH, TEACH and TEACH some more. Girls need to be happy in order to play well, so keep your eyes open for that.

Threre is so much to teach in this game, but it all starts with PASSING and CATCHING the ball, stationary and on the move. Dribbling with both hands and a good solid foundation for shooting... FORM wise. ( I don't know how much experience they have so this can be difficult )

You need to break your practices down by 1-fundamentals 2- defense 3- offense 4- shooting. Make a good practice plan for each day, a weekly plan also. Something that you can follow so you can get in all the things you need and want. This is NOT going to be done in one week... might take you several or more depending on the girls.

Keep all your segments short so they don't get bored and make them competitive, all kids love to compete. END every practice with something that is fun.. so that they WANT to come back the next day. Don't forget that they WILL go home and talk to their parents about you, the practices and the games.

I hope this helps you. Let us know if there is anything specific and we will try to help you.


john says:
11/22/2010 at 2:15:37 PM

i am first year coaching 4th graders, i have played collegiate and professional, but want to know what experienced coaches would reccommend for this age group. Ages 9-10years old


Joe Haefner says:
11/26/2010 at 11:02:11 AM

Hi John,

Here are some helpful pages:

You can find a lot of helpful youth coaching articles on this page as well:


Melissa says:
11/28/2010 at 3:08:28 PM

our daughter plays on a 5th grade traveling basketball team and she loves basketball... however the last few practices she has not had fun, she said the coach yells at them and if they try to ask a question he says no to everything anyone asks. She does not want to go, we are finding out some of the other kids dont want to either... thoughts how we handle this. Thx melissa


Jeff Haefner says:
11/28/2010 at 8:06:54 PM

Melissa - That is a tough question. You know your daughter and the situation the best, so you should trust your instincts.

My initial reaction is to just tell your daughter to stick it out for the season and give it a chance. It might get better. Then if she doesn't like it, she can join a different team. Next time you can do a little research to evaluate a different coach.

I guess it depends on the length of the season, how much your daughter really hates it, etc. I'm sure you'll figure out what is best for your daughter. She is only in 5th grade so it is important for her to have fun.


Melissa says:
11/28/2010 at 10:10:24 PM

Thanks Jeff... we were kind of leaning towards sticking it out this season too and see how it goes. We want her to learn that sometimes life is tough and you have to work through it, but when some of the other parents approached us, we were a little worried. Thanks for responding!


Al says:
12/1/2010 at 12:29:04 AM

I am coaching a biddy basketball team (1st & 2nd graders-all boys).

They have played together last year, so they trust one another and like me as their coach.

What drills can I teach them in a 1 hour, once a week practice?

I have 3 of the kids who are great athletes and want to learn, and the others are there to be with their friends (which is fine , but they like to play too)

Are there EASY plays to run to get every player involved?

Thanks in advance....


Jeff Haefner says:
12/1/2010 at 8:00:36 AM

Al - Don't bother with set plays. They are a waste of time at this age. Here are a few links to help you out with a youth team:


Coach P says:
11/3/2011 at 10:03:57 PM

I need some screening drills?


seeindouble says:
1/17/2012 at 10:56:28 AM

This ain't basketball, BUT most of this stuff is UNIVERSAL. Glean from it what you will:

GREAT for first year coaches:


By: Bud Wilkinson (winner of 47 straight games & 3 National Championships at U. of Oklahoma):

GENERAL COMMENTS: The best coach is the one who makes the fewest mistakes the one who does the best teaching job the one who is the best organizer. Writing the X’s & O’s is not the most important thing. There are 22 variables in a football game. Coach must be a salesman to the extent that when his team loses, they don’t blame him or the offensive and/or defensive system, but rather themselves.

FIRST = FAILURE TO USE TIME EFFICIENTLY. Failure to recognize the time factor available to get the job done. Planning makes for valuable use of time. Too long on any one thing produces boredom. When boredom comes in, learning goes out. Football players have a short attention span. Hold to time schedule.
SECOND = FAILURE TO EXPLAIN THE PURPOSE OF THE DRILL. Tell the boy WHY he is doing what he is trying to accomplish and he will do a better job. Explain WHY, then show HOW.
THIRD = IMPROPER TEACHING PROGRESSION. You can’t teach a boy how to block until he has learned stance. If he hasn’t learned stance, he doesn’t know how to step out of the stance into the block.
FOURTH = TOO MUCH VERBAL INSTRUCTION ON THE FIELD. How much can boy learn from your verbal instruction with his helmet on, he’s breathing hard, he aches, he’s stunned, etc. Do WHO and WHY in chalk talk. Teach assignments before hitting the field. Correct on the field. Teach – no! (HOW is taught on the field – not WHO & WHY).
FIFTH = TOO MUCH DEMONSTRATION BY COACH. How much you know is not important. How much player knows is.
SIXTH = BEING ON THE FIELD TOO LONG. Better to have a team eager to play rather than physically tired. How long to practice is a judgment factor. Cut down as season goes along – not going to change mechanical ability late in season. Only one rule never violated at Oklahoma. If one coach on staff feels practice too long, we must cut it down. More boys play poorly because they practiced too long than boys playing poorly because they didn’t practice long enough.

FIRST = TACTICS AND VICTORY. You get very few victories on tactics. Victories come if you can out block, out tackle, out fundamental your opponent. Red Sanders quote: “Intimidate them physically”! Outmaneuver – no. Defeat – yes.
SECOND = CLEAR CUT PHILOSOPHY A MUST. Decide on an offense and defense that will suit your personnel then stick to it. Depth of morale can be determined by a kid’s reaction to a loss. If morale deep, they’ll blame themselves. If morale shallow, they’ll blame you.
THIRD = TOO MANY PLAYS AND DEFENSES. Subtract the number of different plays used in the game from the total number of plays you practiced. If this number is too large you better get rid of some plays. It is difficult enough to know when to run off- tackle, but if you have four ways to run off-tackle, you will never get the right play. Beauty of Split-T was it’s very limited number of plays

FIRST = BE REALISTIC ABOUT PLAYER’S ABILITY. Don’t just put an X or an O on the board. Put up the boy’s name. Immediately his limitations affect the offense or defense you put up. Whale of a lot of difference between Dick Butkus and Humpty Dumpty.
SECOND = WHEN CHIPS ARE DOWN, BEST PLAYERS ARE IN THE GAME. It is a mistake to be able to play blue chippers only one way. Say best kid you have can only go on offense. Say opponent has ball for 45 minutes. These are 45 minutes he cannot help you.

FIRST = RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER FACULTY MEMBERS. The environment that exists has a lot to do with winning or losing. If they are with you, your job is easier. If they are against you, you’re in trouble. Work on a program of how to win friends and influence faculty members.
SECOND = ORGANIZE A MOTHER’S CLUB. Get mother on your side by pointing out to her what he can get out of football besides winning games.
THIRD = PRESS, TV, AND RADIO. Straight up fact of life that the great majority of people get their impression of you from what they read in the paper, see on TV, or hear on radio. Their jobs depend on info. Get it to them to make their jobs easier. Get these people on your side. Let them know what you’re doing. They will interpret what you’re doing in the way you want it interpreted if they are with you.

FIRST = FOOTBALL BEGINS WITH MORALE! Once you get morale, it is easy to maintain. How to get it is a problem.
SECOND = HOW TO LOSE MORALE. Do what you said you’re going to do. Don’t say we’re going to practice 1 ½ hours and go 2 ½ hours. Training rules – if you’re not going to enforce them, don’t have them.
THIRD = MORALE STEMS FROM DISCIPLINE (ALL Discipline begins by being on time).
FOURTH = TREAT PLAYERS AS A PERSON. If he feels you are interested in him only as a football player, he won’t go all out for you. If you are interested in his academics, his personal problems, etc. and he knows this, he’ll go all out for you. Convince him that football is good for his future.
FIFTH = One year, Notre Dame had 2 competing QB’s. Under great athlete, team failed under mediocre QB, team succeeded. Why? Captain’s reply – “the great athlete is trying to show how good HE is. The TEAM is trying to make the average guy look good”.

FIRST = DON’T COPY! Note clinicians and their personalities. ALL different ways of being successful. Plan carefully in the off season. Can’t take golf lessons between the 8th green and 9th tee.

CONCLUDING REMARKS: The man who is best organized and does the best teaching job, is the best coach.


fella says:
4/20/2012 at 6:34:54 AM

with the few minutes i have read some of your articles, i have been impressed with them. I coach a lower grade school with a little time to spend with them 25-30 minutes. What can i do to make the drill an efficient one? thank you Jeff


Jeff Haefner says:
4/20/2012 at 10:21:57 AM

Practice offense, defense, and skills at the same time.


Lawrence says:
1/14/2014 at 12:45:52 PM

I am a first year coach coaching senior high with no experience playing basketball. The team here did not have a coach and the kids came to me and asked if I will coach them. We only have 1 hour for practice twice a week. My question is what should I focus on during practice. The kids showed me the plays the last coach used. The kids play more for fun than competiveness. There last coach was very focused on winning and gave up on the kids cause of there skill level or lack there of. Some of the kids have good defence and shooting skills.


Ken Sartini says:
1/14/2014 at 1:43:58 PM

Coach -

You don't have a lot of time for practicing so keep things simple. Work A LOT on fundamentals since you are saying that there skill level is low.

I don't know if they are just running plays or what they are using for an offense... but IF you can find time... maybe a 5 out pass and cut offense would work for them.

What type of defense did they play? Try and keep things the same for awhile and you can change it as you get more comfortable with them and learn what they can and cannot do.

You are in a tough position... do the best you can, keep it simple, teach fundamentals and have some fun with them.


coach Charles long says:
3/10/2015 at 11:25:18 PM

Excellent information the new school of carver jv girls can really this information


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