When and How To Use Drills

When and How to Use Drills

Our obsession with looking good and feeling successful overrides our players’ ability to develop into great players on the court. 

During practice, skill development sessions, or in performance training of basketball players, we so badly want the drills to look perfect. It fills our egos because it makes us look like top-notch coaches. 

Ultimately, it kills our ability to adapt and adopt on the fly. 

Basketball is a game of reading, decision-making, and acting on those decisions until the environment changes. Then we have to read again, make another decision, and act on that decision.

Believe it or not, these actions all occur in seconds. If basketball players are not taught to deal with a fast-moving, quick decision-making environment, they will fail more times than not. 


Let Me Be Clear...

Drills are essential. They are a model of improvement. Ultimately, we must understand how, when, and why we use drills. 

The best time to teach a child to never touch a hot stove is after they just burnt their hand by touching a hot stove. The child now has context with why it’s a bad idea. 

Basketball players are sponges, and they learn every time they compete against opponents. Competition brings out a level of organic learning other strategies can’t bring out. If a player must constantly read and decide what to do next, eventually, they can call on stored experiences from the past. These stored experiences (memories) make reading much faster, decision-making more accurate, and execution much cleaner.

During the live competition period at practice or training sessions, the players will struggle and make mistakes. This time is perfect for “drill” interjection. The player might be a little frustrated because they failed a few times in a row trying a move, pass, or shot. A specifically designed drill focused on the skill they struggled with will help the player with solutions to their current lack of proficiency. 

This timing of the drill and specifically targeted drill allows the player to learn proper skill execution. 



After this short little drill session, get the player back into a live setting. Give them positive feedback on their intentions, effort, and positive reactions. You want to anchor your feedback to these areas because those are controllable, and the player can feel great about those. 

The player might still struggle a little with the skill, but that’s learning in a nutshell. Expose to the environment, ask them to perform a task by reading, making a decision, and acting on that decision. Let them know a failure is a HUGE option, and it will only lead to a solution for them.

Drills are essential, but when, how, and why are more important?

Coaching is about mitigating the frustrations players feel with they fail on a skill. It’s giving them solutions and areas to focus on while learning. If players are put in live environments more often, learning can be measured day to day, week to week, and month to month. 

If you are a coach who wants solutions for their athletes, join the Basketball Speed Certification Movement and be the coach your players want and deserve!



Categories: basketball conditioning, basketball skills