Organizing and planning practice is more than just doing the right drills. I try and focus on the flow of practice as much as I focus on what we are working on.
It’s not as simple as just putting the right drills together. It’s making the drills fit with what you are trying to accomplish in practice and the personnel you need for each segment. Over time, you start to realize which drills flow into each other better.
I always want my practices to be efficient and intense. Every second your guys are standing around waiting for you to tell them what is next, you are losing both efficiency and intensity. If you want them to be locked in for the entire practice, makes sure you don’t give them a reason to lose focus.
I try to break practice into 4 or 5 different segments that I call big buckets. Usually they are the major basketball points of emphasis I want that team focused on – team defense, transition offense/execution, rebounding/toughness, and time & score are usually the mainstays. If you throw in some type of warm-up and shooting drills, that pretty much is going to fill out your entire practice.
Generally our flow went warm-up, defense/rebounding drills, and team defense first. I liked to emphasize the defense so we usually did that before anything else. After that, we’d take a break to shoot – some offensive shooting drills and some free throws, where guys can get a drink and catch their breath a bit. After shooting, we would generally work on our offense and play live, and we would finish practice with time & score.
I like to use that flow because it works with what I want to emphasize, but it also helped build the intensity of practice the way I wanted to. It’s also important to figure out how many teams/players you need for each drill and try not to switch back and forth. If you go from 3 teams to 2 teams and you are constantly trading players, most of your team is standing around and you are losing them. Have the teams figured out for each drill before practice, and keep the switching back and forth to a minimum. I just don’t want my kids standing around.
It’s not that we don’t take breaks or let the kids breathe. That’s important to do. But all of that is worked into the practice plan. We try and give them a break in the middle of practice (free throws, shooting, individuals) where we aren’t competing, but once we get them going at a high level of intensity we want to keep it there. We don’t want to go from a live competitive drill to shooting, and then ask them to come back and go live again. This is all really important to think about when putting together the flow of your practice.
You always have to be ready to adjust as well. Your plan may be laid out perfectly, but if your guys are really struggling with the defensive stuff and you need to stay on it longer, you’ve got to cut something else out. There are plenty of times where I love the competitive edge we have going early in practice and I don’t want to lose it, so we’ll go to live stuff quickly and eliminate some drills.
You have to be ready to be flexible, and have a couple of go-to drills to reset yourself. Put them on the free throw line, or have one of your players shoot a pressure 1&1 for a sprint. Just the 15 seconds it takes will give you a chance to regroup and get the flow of your practice going again. You just want to avoid as much as possible them standing around looking at you, waiting for instruction.
Planning practice takes a lot of time and feel. You have to know your team, and you have to find a format that allows you to emphasize what is important to you. But it’s more than just thinking about what you want to work on that day. Fitting the drills together and creating a flow is really important to your ability to have a good practice.