Planning a successful basketball practices

As a basketball coach it is important to be organized as this will optimize the time spent in practice. Competition is fierce and preparation can be the difference between winning or losing. Raw talent is great but even the most talented professional athlete needs to have good practice habits in order to maintain performance and improve on any weaknesses. The members of FIBA and NBA plan weekly and sometimes daily personal and team practices which not only hone their skills but assists them in building cardiovascular health, muscle strength and tone.

The most important thing to remember in planning a successful practice is to make a list of the things that you want to cover with your players. Go over this list weekly and keep it up to date. Verbal and written communication between yourself, your coaching staff as well as your players is important.

Everyone learns differently. Enlisting different styles of communication during practices will help you to communicate effectively. This will ensure that everyone on the team understands your instructions. This will also develop your team and open the door to greater effectiveness on court.

The basic styles of learning are:

  • Visual –This person needs to learn through images, charts, and to be taught through spatial understanding.
  • Aural – This person needs to learn through sound and music.
  • Verbal –This person need to learn using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical- This person needs to learn using their body, hands and sense of touch.
  • Logical-This person needs to learn through logic, reasoning and systems.
  • Social- This person needs to learn in groups or with other people.
  • Solitary- This person needs to learn through working alone and use self-study.

Plan to incorporate all methods of learning in your practices. If you have players who are solitary learners then make sure to give them space to learn on their own. By building their confidence through acknowledging their own learning style you gain the student’s trust. Allowing each student to master skills using their own learning style will encourage their confidence to grow. This will create an atmosphere of confidence and assist in the next step of incorporating teamwork.

If the player’s skills develop then they can trust themselves to be successful and so can their teammates. It is important that your players know what their own learning styles are and encourage them to use this knowledge to help them in practice. Explain to the player what it means to them if they are an aural learner. Let them know that if graphs or pictures are confusing to them that they need to listen more careful to your verbal instruction.

Have music at practice for them so that your aural learners have the part of the brain that makes them learn activated. Classical music has been shown in studies to assist in making lesson plans more intelligible for many students. Music causes both sides of the brain to engage when new things are being learned. Make sure that you provide constructive criticism in a positive manner to your players and staff. At every practice let your players know what they are doing correctly. Positive reinforcement always reaps better results. If you find yourself repeating the same lessons to a player you should reevaluate their learning style as some people learn using a combination of the methods listed above.

A player may learn one skill in the logical learning style but another skill in the social style. An athlete may learn defensive skills using visuals but when it comes to free throws the athlete may need to learn in the solitary style. Below is a sample of planning a successful practice. To learn about each individual’s learning style you can obtain a book on-line at places such as or Each player can take the questionnaire that you obtained from the book; their answers will help you to evaluate their learning styles. Keep individual files for each player on your team with their learning style evaluations, their skills, goals, and comments on their progress.

Here is a sample of the layout of a practice. Incorporated in the sample you will find organizational steps a coach can take to create successful practice and enhance their player’s performances on court and even in the classroom. You will need to obtain a bound journal, file folders, software where you can make graphs/charts, and visuals for certain learning styles. You may also want to have a portable cd player for music.

  1. Make a list of goals for your team and for each individual player. Write them down.
  2. Keep a journal where you can take notes during games and practices. Something where you can jot down quick notes in one place. You can then go back and incorporate this information into your players’ profiles.
  3. Incorporate a variety of learning styles into your lesson plans and curriculum.
  4. Make a file for each player. This is where you will organize the information about your players and keep such items as practice notes, their learning styles, goals and accomplishments.
  5. Make a timeline of each drill and exercise that you want the team to accomplish.
  6. Set a time for a team meeting to go over the goals.
  7. Plan for warm up exercises. Make visuals of the warm- ups and pass it out. This is so that your players can practice on their own time too. The warmer a player’s muscles are for practice and games the better their body’s flexibility. This will make for excellent habits and less injuries. The warm up exercises can be used during the athlete’s strength and conditioning sessions as well. Set a goal for a twenty minute warm up.
  8. Organize several drills to work on skill sets. Have the team work together. If one player is weak in one area have them drill with a more dominant player. Make sure that you explain the purpose and have the dominant player assist with progression. Time varies on drills because all skills are learned at different paces. Spend more time on problem areas. Most drills should last at least 10 minutes unless you have very young athletes.
  9. Plan scrimmage time to use your acquired skills. Practice of skills is necessary for competition.
  10. Be sure to be positive. Even when delivering constructive criticism. Always follow up with a positive on what the player is doing correctly.
  11. Always plan for a cool down. Take at least 10 minutes to cool down with stretches and breathing exercises.
  12. Ensure that your players stay hydrated during and after practice.
  13. Have a 2 minute round up after practice to go over what you think of the practice session and the goals you have accomplished. Briefly suggest something to have in the minds of your players for the next practice or game. Use your journal to takes notes, write down questions, and comments from the team and yourself during your roundup. That way you can refer back to one place when you update your player’s files and your goal lists.
  14. Go over your list and add and update the needs of each player. Use your player’s files and learning profiles to plan the next practice.

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