With an academic classroom lesson plan, it would not be strange for the teacher to focus on 1 to 2 skills, concepts, and strategies during that class. We know it helps students learn- when there’s not too much to focus on.
Yet, for some reason, our basketball practice plan is littered with every play, drill, and skill possible. It’s no wonder players can’t remember what to do when asked to run a play or rotate properly on defense- they’re confused.
Practice planning needs to take a page out of learning science. Too much information overwhelms and doesn’t allow attention to be dialed in on any single concept. Coaches spend enough time giving context and variation of skill, technique, and strategy. Too much information has players leave practice not quite sure what they learned.
On the other hand, if too little is done during practice, we often don’t have enough time to cover the various aspects of the game (offenses vs. man and zones, man and zone defenses, press break, pressing, out of bounds, special situations, etc.).
There is an art to designing a practice plan.
Here’s a simple formula that has worked for me well over the years:
At the beginning of any practice, take a few minutes to review what was learned last practice. Share how what was learned yesterday is used in various situations, so players are dialed in.
Introduce the new skill, strategy, or concept of the day. Introduce the skill and give examples of how it’s performed. Demonstrate it or show a video to see how it performed. Give your players time to practice while cuing and give summary feedback.
Take this new skill, strategy, or concept and perform it in a live situation, so your players now have context as to WHY, HOW, and WHEN this new skill, strategy, or concept is used.
It’s essential to have clear starting and ending points to an area of the game you are teaching. For example, if you are finishing up teaching an offensive play and want to move on to a sideline out-of-bounds play, have a clear-cut break in the action. Maybe give a 30-second drink break and reconvene.
This strategy allows you to summarize what was just done, have a “pause”, then move on to a new focus in practice. This falls under a teaching concept called chunking. Even though chunking typically breaks one long area of focus into smaller parts, it can also be used when transitioning within a long practice time period—breaking information down into more manageable portions.
This technique is beneficial for athletes to learn the information by separating one skill, strategy, or concept from previous information and “carve-out” mental space for the new information.
Just remember, you don’t have to build the program in a day. Allow your practices to provide your players with small wins every day. Sometimes learning something new well is a win for the players and builds their confidence in your coaching.
The first specific basketball speed specialist course was created with you in mind. It is for your players to learn more deeply and for coaches, like you, to have a strategy to help this occur. If you want to see tremendous growth in your program, consider becoming a Certified Basketball Speed Specialist.