These concepts came from Coach Mike McNeil with the Comments by Alan Stein.
Some great stuff from Mike McNeil on ideas to make players more competitive in practice which translates into them going harder for longer period of times — really good stuff from Coach McNeill — thanks for sharing!
I (Alan Stein) have put my thoughts after each one in red italics.
Many years ago I had the opportunity to ask Gary Williams, the Head Coach at University of Maryland, what was the most important quality he looked for in the players he was recruiting. I was thinking he was going to say something like size, quickness, shooting ability, or understanding of game, but instead he looked at me like I must be from another planet, and said “they have to be a competitor”. As a coach you want to believe that every contest you go into you know your players will give it everything they have to perform well.
The team may not shoot well, or they may turn the ball over but at least you know they will compete on every possession. While many people believe you cannot make non-competitors into competitors, I disagree to a certain point. I think if you use proven strategies in practice you can improve the competitive fire in all your athletes. Are you going to make an infrequent competitor into a consistent, hard-nosed tough competitor? – I doubt it; but you can improve each of these athletes.
Just like any skill you work to improve you can help each athlete compete harder and more consistently by using some of the strategies described below. It is your responsibility as a coach to help your athletes become the best competitors they can become. Therefore you must create a practice environment where competition is expected and embraced.
A critical aspect of competing is being in the present – not thinking ahead and letting the past go. Coaches must teach, preach, and demand that players focus on the present responsibilities each player has so they will compete better. The following is a list of strategies that can be used to teach your team to play hard and to compete every possession.
1. The coach is the only one to call fouls. The coach can then set the standard of play. While it is important to teach players to play without fouling it is equally important to teach players to play through fouls, to play physically, and to play aggressively. It is also important players not concern themselves with the officials.
Alan’s comment: We do this as well…when scrimmage against our male team; we will let them foul a little more than we allow our team…we want to be aggressive on defense without fouling.
2. There is no out of bounds! If the ball bounces out of the normal boundaries of the court the play is still alive. The players will then hustle after the loose ball to maintain possession. This will keep kids hustling after the ball. There are two arguments I have heard against this concept: 1) kids will get hurt –in 20+ years I have not seen it happen; 2) they will not be aware of where the out of bounds lines are –
again, I have not seen this be a factor.
Alan’s comment: We have several drills where we utilize this principle…we don’t do it all the time because we want them to know the floor as well.
3. Make every scrimmage or drill a competition; all competitions have either a score or a time standard. Examples, you must make so many lay-ups in a 3 player weave in 2 minutes or first team to five baskets. The consequences for losing are severe if the losing team did not compete very hard – set of lines, suicide, 60 seconds. If the losing team did compete hard make it a less severe penalty or no penalty.
Alan’s comment: We are very big believers in this one — hold them accountable and have a penalty for the losing team. We do it in individual drills as well as team drills.
4. Play every drill, scrimmage, and breakdown until the defense gets the ball, i.e. if the offense scores and then recovers the ball from the basket they can score again. Our guideline for this is that we always want to convert as least one time (sometimes twice).
Alan’s comment: We might be working on our half-court offense but we are going to have one transition before resetting. The conversion game is very important to teach and it allows your team to play through all possessions.
5. Use overload situations, 3 vs 4, 4 vs 5, 5 vs 6. This places extra pressure on the out-manned team to concentrate and play harder to compensate for out-numbered situation and it also places pressure on the team with the numerical advantage because the expectation is to win. Give the team with the numerical advantage a slight score disadvantage to start each drill. We refer to these as “Disadvantage Drills.”
Alan’s comment: We may play 5/4 with the offense getting an extra player to overload the work on our defense. We might play 4/4 with no dribble to place our offense in a more difficult setting. There are a variety of ways to “stretch’ your team in competitive situations.
6. Use a rebounding bubble. Because no baskets are scored – score with stops, rating of shots and offensive rebounds. This will increase the hustle to secure the ball.
Alan’s comment: We use the rebounding bubble early in the season quite a bit. It is one of the most physically aggressive things we do. We tend to stay away from it during the season because of the possibility of injuries.
7. Give extra points for offensive rebounds. When you scrimmage or play any drill if a team gets an offensive rebound they get 2 extra points. Offensive rebounding is about desire and hard work – this should be rewarded!
We play “Motion Game” where we use points in a variety of ways. An offensive rebound is worth 1 point. A turnover is worth 2 points to the defense. In fact, you can utilize that drill in a variety of ways. Maybe you want to work on your low post defense so you give the offensive a point for a low post feed. A great imagination can make this type of scrimmage setting very effective.
8. Reward the team with extra points whenever there are hustle plays such as diving on the floor or drawing a charge.
The Coaching Toolbox has hundreds of resources for coaching basketball including basketball practice, basketball plays, basketball drills, basketball quotes, basketball workouts, basketball poems, and more!
Terry Battenberg says
You have made several good points on making practice competitive. Getting kids to “Play Hard” is too often overlooked in coaching basketball. The best way to do it is to demand they “play hard” all the time and give them situations that force this. You have provided some great examples.