I have always believed in experimenting with something new in basketball practice a couple of times a week for no more than 10 minutes of practice time. Early in the season we usually try something new every day. I am not suggesting that you experiment with revamping your philosophies and core values of your program, but am suggesting to think about experimenting with your personnel early in the season to be able to get the right players in the right situations, and as a way to add some variety to keep the players interest and attention late in the season.
Even during the years where we have had “everyone back” I still felt that the were not the same players that they were last year. At least I hoped that they weren’t because I wanted to improve on last year’s record not repeat it. So, I spent some time learning where they had grown and where they still needed to get better.
When I pick up new drills during the off-season or improvements to our offensive and defense systems, I like to put them in early season practices to see if they do fit with our personnel. I certainly believe in constantly working to improve as a coach, but regardless of how well something works for another program, it might not work for you, so I think it is good to put something in and work on it a few times before deciding if it is for us. It is possible that I did not get the whole story of how something works if I saw it at a clinic or on a DVD.
For example, a few years ago, I saw a very successful coach who always produced great shooters say at a clinic that they did their shooting drills at the end of practice so that they could shoot when they were tired. That made a lot of sense to me. We tried it in our early practices and our players did not like it. They liked our shooting progression early in the practice and felt that it helped them to “groove” their shots for the rest of the practice. So, we tweaked it and did our shooting fundamentals early and did some game pace drills late to try and get the best of both worlds. That team ended up being the highest field goal percentage team that I have coached, so I am glad that I experimented with it, told them what and why I was giving it a test run, and then listened to their input.
Early in the season, I think it is important to do some experimenting with what spots you put players in against presses and traps, who inbounds the ball, who inbounds the ball for a game winning shot, who takes the shots at the end of quarters, what shots each player can make in a scrimmage, and any other crucial personnel decisions that we need to make. Usually, I don’t change my mind as to who needs to fill each role and what they can do, but there are times when I have made some decisions that I feel have made us better by putting players in different positions. Many times it is not the new role that you put someone in, but it becomes how that trickles down to filling their previous spot and what role changes would take place for the rest of our players that is the deciding factor in to change or not to change.
We have always been a motion program with a handful of set plays that we feel fit our players for that year. Early in the year we experiment with our plays to see what works for this group and what doesn’t so that we can pare down the number that we will use. As the season wears on, we also tweak what we run as we see how we are being defended and if our personnel changes do to injuries or adjustments in our lineup.
Since basketball is a long season, I like to look for new drills that drill the same concepts as the season moves into January and February. Not major complex changes, but something that can be explained quickly and doesn’t eat up a lot of practice time. I think it helps maintain the attention of the players as they have something new to think about rather than going through the same things in the same way time after time.
I will conclude by saying that I do not believe in taking major portions of the practice to experiment. Ten minutes max every day the first couple weeks of practice and then ten minutes once or twice a week after that. I don’t want change for change sake, but I also want to always be looking for new ideas and new ways to do things better that will improve our program.
As practice starts, if you haven’t seen the first twelve ideas from our e-book “130 Great Ideas to Get a Lot More Accomplished in Practice, you can see them by clicking here: