One of the many challenges we face as basketball coaches is to create an environment and develop systems in practice that lead to constant improvement in both team execution and individual development. I have always subscribed to Chuck Knox’s philosophy that “Practice without improvement is meaningless.”
One way to emphasize specific points of execution is to make special rules in practice. Each year, revisit your special rules and make adjustments and adaptations that fit your current team. The rules should force players to develop the habits that you want in your drills and scrimmages that will carry over to the game.
The idea is to put the players’ focus on the execution (the process) and not on the results or outcome of the play.
You can also use them to create more competition between your first and second teams. With their implementation, the second team gains the opportunity to score more points and possibly win the scrimmage on the scoreboard, which forces the starters to compete. This serves to make your practice much more competitive which is crucial to the improvement of your team.
Your players must understand the purpose of the rules. It must make sense how your rules will develop practice habits that will carry over to games. Players don’t have to agree with everything, but if they understand the reasons by the practice rules, there is a much higher likelihood that your system will produce the intended improvement.
The rules should be simple to implement and easy to track. They should not interfere with the flow of the scrimmage if they are confusing and take time to think through and score.
Run the clock and the scoreboard like a game when you scrimmage in practice. Make every special rules violation either result in a turnover, adding points to the score of the other team, or both. It is too difficult for the individual who is keeping score to take points away from a team. If you just yell, “Two points for the red team because the white team did not chin the defensive rebound,” the players know why the points were lost and the scoreboard operator can just add them to the score of the second team. The point differential is the same regardless of whether you add to the second team’s score or subtract from the first team, so it makes sense to make it easier on your scorekeeper.
If you have enough managers or assistant coaches, keep a possession chart and record what violation resulted in the points so that you can analyze what rules you are violating the most frequently and then work to improve those areas. If you don’t have access to a scoreboard, you can still designate a coach or manager to keep a possession chart on a clipboard and call out the score.
Here are some suggestions for special practice rules. The key is to keep them pertinent to how your team plays and to make practice scrimmages competitive.
In my opinion, it would be too big of a distraction to use all of them at once. Too many extra rules disrupts the flow of the scrimmage when you award points. Pick no more than 3 at most each day that fit the way you play. It could be a different group of rules the next day.
Here are some ideas for special practice rules, but the most effective special rules will be the ones that you create that encourage your players to play the way you want and need them to play.
- 2 points to second unit for a shot that isn’t contested by the first team, regardless of whether it goes in or not. You can still award the points if the shot goes in, putting even more emphasis on the need to challenge every shooter.
- Regular rotation players cannot dribble to encourage players who don’t have the ball to screnn and cut to get open.
- Any foul by first team is automatic 2 points for second team to emphasize the need to stay out of foul trouble and to keep your opponent off the free throw line and out of the bonus.
- Every turnover by 1st team is 2 points for the 2nd team
- Anyone on the first team not chinning a rebound is a turnover—loss of possession and the two points that are the result of every turnover.
- If a player takes what you define as a bad shot, award two points to the defense.
- 2 points to the offense for every player not sprinting back when converting to defense.
- 2 points for the defense for an offensive player dribbling without a purpose
The most meaningful special rules for you will be the ones you create to fit your systems and areas of emphasis.
The purpose of the rules—to make practices competitive–must be understood by all of your players. Most second units can’t match the first team in size, skill, and experience the way that the other schools you play will. It keeps them from getting away with mistakes that will cost them on game night and allows your reserves some hope of winning your practice scrimmages.
This is one of the ideas in our 130 Great Ideas Practice e-book.
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“130 Great Ideas to Get a Lot More Accomplished in Practice”