First, it does take a little longer than I prefer, initially, to teach drills and system concepts, so our practices are going a little longer right now: about 1:45 to 1:50, vs. 1:35 which is typical this time of year with a veteran system team. Coach A prefers 1:15, but as I said yesterday we feel there are some fundamentals that we need to work on each day so we are taking a little more time.
Another thing we like to do is break practice into "periods." I don't like reinventing the wheel every day, but do want to provide variety in our plan. As a compromise, we have several practice periods in the same daily sequence, and we change the drills day to day to keep things interesting and to make sure we are working on all aspects of our style. Our periods at NCC are
- Warmup Period: A layup drill, followed by dynamic warmups. Some system coaches do full-court passing or dribbling drills here to loosen up
- Shooting Period: Next we shoot 100 threes, using a variety of drills. After they finish shooting we chart the number they made, and plug that into a spreadsheet after practice which calculates our team percentage for that day, and each individual's percentage for the season in this drill. In the beginning of the season, we preceed this shooting with a brief review of shooting technique.
- Transition Period: Here we run drills such at Full Court Figure 8 (3 man weave) down and back, or a half-court 3-line pass & layup drill ("Carloina Break"), or the 6-line shooting drill which we have adapted for our offense. Next we do a 2 on 1, or 3 on 2, or 3 on 3 drill to help polish our execution and reads in transition. 3 on 2 and 3 on 3 also help us master offensive rebound rules. We finish this with one of our three 1 on 1 drills, which I'll talk about in a later blog post. We love 1 on 1 for developing system "finishing" skills.
- Group Period: This is our breakdown period where we work on the parts of our system
- Team Period: Next is teamwork, 5/0 (my abbreviation for "five on five") or 5/5. This is the main period of practice and usually runs 30-40 minutes, less as the season unfolds. We start with full-court live-ball work (teaching transition after a rebound, steal, or score) and finish this period with OB sideline, OB under, FT and other situations.
- Competitive Shooting: We finish with some sort of fun and competitive shooting drill. We will compete vs. ourselves (trying to beat our personal bests), vs. another group or groups, or we will try to beat our team record in some sort of team shooting drill. We often shoot free throws during this period, too. The point is to leave the floor happy!
Two last comments about practice structure. First, I like doing new drills for two days in a row at the beginning of the season. Example: If we are introducing Carolina Break on Wednesday, I'll try to live with the sloppy execution that day, then do the same drill again on Thursday. The drill will be much improved the second day, AND the players will remember it much better when you repeat the drill later in the season.
THE FINAL KEY
Lastly, never forget that LESS IS MORE! We never practice over 1:50, prefer 1:35 or less, and reduce time as the season unfolds. I know some system teams that make a habit of not practicing at all the day after a game. You might think this would hinder your team's development... it won't, unless you have in too much "stuff" to work on (OBs, Quick hitters, multiple presses, etc). That's another reason to keep it simple! This is about effort and intensity and pace, not wowing the basketball world with a variety of Xs and Os.