Finding the Right Balance of Skill Development in Your Practices

By Kyle Ohman, Basketball HQ
August 25th, 2020

In a perfect world, you would be able to work on everything that you wanted to in practice. You wouldn't have to weigh out what is more important and what areas can be pushed off till a later date. Unfortunately, though, this is not the case, and time budgeting is a huge part of the practice planning process.

When this process happens, player development seems to drop further and further down the list. It seems like there is always something else that is more urgent, or is higher on the priority chart. Before you know it, skill development takes a back seat. This can be a very easy trap to fall into as a basketball coach, but it should be one that you do your best to avoid.

It is vital that your players are staying sharp and can work on their skills regularly. If not, you will end up having great basketball plays, but won't have players with the confidence to knock down the shot, handle the ball under pressure, finish at the basket, and so on. On the flip side, if you are consistently investing in your player's skill development, you will find yourself surprised at the plays that they are able to make as the season progresses.

So take advantage of these five ways that will allow you to find the right balance of skill development in your practices.

Have Your Players Get Loose Before Practice Starts

A great way to immediately get back 8-10 minutes of practice time is to have your players stretch on their own before practice starts. Give them a stretching routine that they can do, and then have the captains run them through it before practice starts. Some static stretches are okay, but typically you want this stretching routine to be a dynamic stretch that is going to allow your players to get warm and loose.

That way, instead of spending the first 10 minutes of your budgeted practice time stretching, you can get right into what you want to work on. You could even replace that first ten minutes of stretching with ten minutes of skill development.

Use Basketball Drills that Incorporate the Whole Team

An excellent way to maximize your skill development time is by using basketball drills that incorporate the whole team. You don't want half of your players standing around waiting in lines.

You want all of your players to be able to be involved and to get as many quality repetitions as they can in the allotted time.

Finding the right team basketball drills will allow you to be able to do this. The 20 minutes that you budgeted for shooting will be much more valuable, knowing that all of your players will be able to get up quality shots.

A great way to do this as well is by having your team work on specific actions within your offense. For example, if you run a post flash and then handoff action, have your post players on the elbow and guards on the perimeter, and then run through it. To get even more repetitions, you could break your team up into two groups and have one on each side of the court as well.

Whatever actions you run, the more you can get quality repetitions working on them, the higher the likelihood is that they will succeed in a game.

Whatever team drills you decide on, make sure that your players are locking in on the details of the drill. If it is a shooting drill, make sure that they are down ready for the shot, holding their follow-through, and so on. Don't allow your players to practice any bad habits.

Break Up Into Position Groups

This will take multiple coaches, but if you do have this luxury, break your team up into groups by position. You could have forwards and posts on one end, while guards could be on the other. Or if you have three coaches, you could do posts players on a hoop, wings on a hoop, and point guards in the middle working on ball handling.

Being able to break up into position groups, though, will allow players to work on specific skills for them. It will also allow for a lot more repetitions in a short period. Both of which will help to maximize your practice time, and the benefits of skill development.

Use Basketball Drills that Fit Your System

When I work with my clients at Tampa Basketball Training, I do my best to work on game-specific shots, moves, etc. I want everything that they do to be able to translate to a game. This should be the same strategy you use as a coach, but even more so as you have specific plays and actions that you can be working on.

A great way to incorporate skill development into your practice is by breaking down your plays or offensive system and then allowing your players to work on the shots that they would get within it. This will allow your players to work on specific types of shots that they will get, but it will also give them a better understanding of your offense.

Encourage Your Players to Show Up Early and Stay After

Whether you are able to incorporate a significant amount of time for skill development in your practice or not, having your players show up early to practice and stay after is still very valuable. Even if you are not able to be in the gym with them before or after, give them some drills that they can do on their own. Maybe even have your team captains lead them through some different shooting drills or ball handling.

Most of your players are already going to be in the gym. But now instead of them talking or goofing around, they will be able to work on their game. It is up to you to start and grow this culture with your team.

Finding the Right Balance of Skill Development in Your Practices Conclusion

Coaching comes with many challenges, and figuring out where to put your time in practice is just one more of them. Whether it is skill development or one of the many other areas of the game, there are only so many minutes available.

Hopefully, from this article, though, you have a few ideas as to how you can better implement skill development into your practices. Whether it is using team basketball drills, breaking up into groups, working on specific actions, etc. there are several options for your team.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below. We would love to get your feedback and help in any way that we can.

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