Offensive Practice Planning

As promised, I'm forging ahead and talking about how I approach an offensive practice. First off, I'll just say that I do like separating practices with an offensive and defensive emphasis because I think that if your practices are 2 hours or shorter, you cannot go into the kind of detail needed for either offense or defense unless you separate them out. But as you will see, we still work on some component of offense during defensive practices and some defense within offensive practices, but there is a focus on working on offense or defense on a particular day. I also do not like having practices longer than 2 hours. I find that after 1.5 hours, the players' attention spans go sideways, and the law of diminishing returns begins to take into effect.

Before I breakdown the nuts and bolts of the plan (click here to see a PDF version), here is a rough chronological summary of how I organize offensive practices:

1. Dynamic warmup
2. Mental concentration drill
3. Play Insertion/Walkthrough period
4. Early Offense drill with FTs right after
5. Shooting or individual development drills
6. Offensive breakdown drills
7. Team period, controlled scrimmage
8. Team shooting drill

I always have the date and our next opponent listed at the top. It keeps me focused on who we need to beat next and not on anything else. I like to setup who will be the teams for the practice before practice begins, that way I think about which players I want playing with who that day. I also use it to take attendance (I just check them off with a pen).

I like to plan the first 1hr or so of practice in either 5 or 10 minute chunks.  I always use the scoreboard timer to time everything, it really helps to keep practice on time. I think like all of you, there is usually something that goes overtime in practice, and you end up having to skip something, but I try my best to stay on time, and the scoreboard timer really helps. If you can't use a scoreboard, definitely use a pocket timer, I use it as a backup when I have to split the gym or practice in our mini-gym.

Dynamic Warmup:
I give 10 mins for a dynamic warmup. Our dynamic is pretty simple. They do high knees, quad stretch, hammys, groin, etc... If it were up to me, I'd cut it down to 5 mins, but I also use this time to talk to the players, sometimes it is a little bit of a pep talk, other times it is logistical (how are we going to get to the next game). So I don't mind 10 minutes. Also, sometimes our practices start late because of prior games, or the gym needs to be setup (put the wall up), or the previous team went over time which can happen a lot. So, 10 mins, is good as a buffer, when you need to cut time out, you do it here and you can get away with a 5 min dynamic.

Mental Concentration Drill:
Next up, I always like to start practices with some form of drill where the players have to think a little. I think it's important to set the tone where players have to concentrate on something very specific. At the end of a busy school day, a student can have any number of crazy things going on in their head. I need them zero'ed in on basketball so I always start with something that will get them 100% focused on what we're doing. In this case, I have chosen a semi-circle passing drill, where the player in the middle has to really concentrate on 2 balls being thrown at him. Another series I like to do in this period is to do 2-ball dribbling. Not only is it skill development, but the players really have to concentrate with 2 balls in their hands.

Play Insertion/Walkthrough period:
It's not shown in this practice plan, but early in the season, I will use the time right after the first mental concentration drill to do any play insertion. I find that if you are introducing new material to players, especially using the whole-part-whole method, that you introduce it early on in practice. I like it right after the mental concentration drill because that is when you have their greatest attention. I spend no longer than 15 minutes doing install, doing a walkthrough of the new play or continuity, and switching players often so that everyone gets at least 1 rep going through the new play.

Early Offense drill with FTs right after:
I like working some form of early offense drill, like a team fast break or a 3-on-2 2-on-1 drill right after play insertion. I like getting this done early in the practice when their bodies are fresh and I can really push them hard on the break. There is always some goal they are trying to reach (25 layups in 2 min as a team) and if they don't reach it they run, or 2 pushups for every missed layup. Right after the drills, I have them break up individually and shoot FTs. I always have them shoot 10 in a row and start them off trying to make 7. If they make 7, they don't have to run. Then I give them a short water break.

Speaking of water breaks, I always put 45 secs on the clock, as soon as the horn goes, the players know they have to go to the baseline and be ready for the next drill. This way, you cut down on wasted time after they go for water and they mess around shooting, and you get distracted talking to a player. It's 45 secs and we're on to the next thing.

Another thing on FTs. You'll notice throughout, I have bolded FTs for winners. After any competitive drill where there is a winner or loser. I chose a player from the winning team to shoot FTs. They have to hit both of them to avoid the consequence. If the player misses both, their whole team shares the whole consequence with the losing team, if the player makes 1, their team does half the consequence.

Shooting or individual development drills:
After fast break stuff, I like to breakdown and do individual skill development. This is usually some form of a shooting drill or as you can see in the picture above, I have a hustle drill listed. Each practice is different, but I want to focus on 1 or 2 of the following if it is an offensive day:

- effort (hustle drills, rebounding drills, finishing drills)
- execution (3-on-3 breakdown like flex drill or blood drill)
- technique (shooting drills, passing drills, cone drills)

In my opinion, you can't work on everything in one practice. So early on in the season, it is mostly technique or execution. Footwork is really important to me, so I want them using the right steps to get into their shot. Or passing with the outside hand, extending the outside hand to call for the ball. Or how to cut to the basket, how to post up, etc... I also want to work on executing the offense, so this is where the "part" of the whole-part-whole comes in. I break them down into 3-on-3 or even 2-on-2 and they work on the specific components of the offense. This way, the floor is more empty and you can give more focused instruction, if you have assistant coaches this is where they can be invaluable. Later on in the season, I want to keep the intensity up so I focus more on effort and finish. This practice is in mid January, the doldrums, so I want them to stay sharp, so my focus is on diving for loose balls, banging the boards. But we're also doing the blood drills for the DDM stuff, and I also have another fast-break drill, but instead of it being fast-fast-fast, I am teaching in this period, I'm working on specific things that I want them to do in a 2-on-1 situation, how to get the rebound, how to outlet the ball.

The second half of practices is some form of team period. Early in the season we will go 20-30 minutes of team. As we get into mid-season or later, it is less time. As you can see here, I've injected a team conditioner and a high-intensity rebounding/finishing drill in between team scrimmage and team shooting, since we are in mid-Jan and I want them to focus on effort and finishing.

Team period, controlled scrimmage:
Now we get to the team period. There are all kinds of philosophies on scrimmaging. Here is mine. I think in any practice, you have to go 5 on 5 at some point. The players need to be able to put together what they've been learning in a 5 man setup. However, I do not believe in just putting up 8 minutes on the clock, and just having them play. At the same time, I do not believe in going 5 on 5 half-court only, and switching every 3 reps. In offense, you have 2 distinct phases, transition and half-court. Players have to learn how those phases are executed from start to finish, you can't do that in a 5-on-5 half-court only, and you can't do that in 3-on-2 fast break drill. You have to practice the phases together. You need to setup a scenario which is as realistic to the game as possible. I have 2 scenarios I like to setup the players in for a controlled 5-on-5 scrimmage for offensive practices:

1. Circle Setup. Setup 9 players (5 defense and 4 offense) running the circle near one of the baskets, the offensive player inbounding the ball is standing out of bounds. I talk to the players quickly (15 secs) to give them instructions that I want them to execute, like a play call, or defense is going to press, etc... I also name 3 or 2 or 1 players on defense that will have to run back to the baseline before they can play defense. This way, I can control the fast-break situation (either a 5 on 4, 3, or 2). When I throw the ball in to the inbounder, it begins. The players will go down the floor, and then the defense becomes offense and comes back down. So basically each team gets 1 rep on both offense and defense. At the end, I can quickly debrief, then we go again with the same teams or different teams. These are the teams that I have specified on my sheet at the top.

2. FT Setup. Another setup I like to use is a FT setup. So I as the coach will pretend to shoot a FT. The player lineup as either the defense (closest to the hoop) or offense (1 man away). Same as first setup, I can call out instructions, play to use on offense, etc... I lob the ball up, and the defense has to rebound, then run offense going the other way. If offense gets the rebound, they play offense on the same hoop. They go there and back and we run it again.

I usually will start with the Circle setup and move to the FT setup around mid-way through team period. In 20 minutes, I hope to get about 8 good mini-scrimmages going back and forth. In my opinion, it's as realistic as possible to a real game, but I also get a chance to stop the scrimmage and give my coaching points so that it isn't just 8 mins of free scrimmage. 

Team shooting drill:
Finally, I always like to end every practice with some form of team shooting drill. I always make it competitive, so it's usually Team A vs Team B, and whoever scores the least has to run. If time is running short, the loser has to put all the balls away. I have used the Walberg around the world 3-point shooting drill, or 5 balls 5 lines, or what I call Iowa shooting. You can do whatever you want, but the idea is that they are competing, working on shooting, and building team chemistry. I also use the 5 minutes to gather my thoughts about how practice went, write down some notes, and prepare what I want to say to the players at the very end of practice.

End of Practice:
I try to give the players a short lecture towards the end. Sometimes I come down hard on them, sometimes I pump them up. I also give them an evaluation of the practice, so they have an idea as to my expectations. Finally, I remind them of any important details for our next game or next practice, such as rides, or early dismissals, or forms they need to hand in.

I realize that was a lengthy post, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. I'd be very interested to hear what others do in terms of practice planning and organization. When I go to observe other coaches, I always want to see how they plan and organize practices. I also coach football, so I always look for things that I can incorporate into either sport that I coach. Efficiency is a big one for me, I'm always looking to squeeze as much into a 1.5 or 2 hour timeframe as possible. Next up will be a breakdown of defensive practices.

Practice Planning 101

Yes Allen, we're here to talk about... PRACTICE

One of the things that I really came to enjoy doing this past season was planning practices. After being an assistant the past 5 years, I never really had much input into the practice plan so I just filled in to coach wherever needed. As a head coach, I think it's one of the most important aspects of the job. To me, practice time is sacred, I feel like the best way to evaluate a coach is to observe that coach running a practice. And so I take it extremely seriously as to exactly what I am teaching, why I am teaching it, and what I want the players to be able to do. There really is so much that goes into it, and here are just some of the philosophical questions to answer as you plan your practices:

- How many periods do you have in your practice?
- When do make announcements on housekeeping and logistical items (rides, fundraising, etc..)?
- Do you have an offensive practice and a separate defensive practice? Or do you do both each day?
- How do you setup your teams? Starters vs non-starters, or do you even up the teams?
- When do you do install periods - beginning, middle, or end?
- When do you do conditioning?
- Do you have closed or open practices where parents and other coaches can observe?

I don't think there are any right or wrong answers, but there is a lot that you should think about when preparing for the season, and for each practice. I will make this a 2 or 3 part series of posts (hopefully done over the weekend), and I'll start off by explaining a little bit of how I've structured my practice plan template. Below is the link that I used this past season for planning my practices and the rest of the post explains how it works.

Practice Template in Excel Format

It is an excel worksheet template and I use the same file for all practices in a week (we practice 2 times a week). The last sheet is a drill worksheet that lists all the drills that I use by category (ball-handling, dribbling, shooting, defense, 1v1, team, etc...). The drill worksheet is handy because when I start planning and want to look for drills that I want to use that week, I can just scan it and pick the ones that I want and paste them into the practice plan sheet. The template also includes small court diagrams on the second page when printed. I always print double-sided, so I get the practice plan for the practice on the frontside, then the court diagrams on the backside. That way, I can draw in any X's and O's on the fly on the backside if something comes to me just before practice, during practice, or after practice.

I always print off 2 copies of the practice plan (sometimes 3 if I have an assistant coach working with me). The first copy goes into the binder that I keep, and the second copy I fold up and carry with me in my pocket during practices. I often take notes during practice of what worked, what didn't work, etc.. I then go back to the copy in my binder and record the attendance, and write down any final notes. The folded up copy goes into the recycling bin. In my opinion, you must keep a recorded copy, that way when parents come up with any number of questions and concerns, you can go back to your records and show who was at practices and what they did during practice.

In Part 2, I will upload a copy of an offensive practice, and break down my philosophy of how I break down an offensive practice (and yes, I do believe in having an offensive emphasis practice and a separate defensive emphasis practice).