Two Practice Mistakes To Avoid In February
Aaron Rogers – quarterback of Super Bowl Champion, The Green Bay Packers – when asked the reason for their success down the stretch said, “It was all about preparation. We knew exactly what we needed to do to win”.
By mid-February, every team wants to be playing their best basketball as they head into the final stretch of the regular season. Successful coaches know that how they run their practices at this crucial time can have a powerful affect upon performance. Two mistakes to avoid have to do with 1) slippage, and 2) practice time.
Slippage – failing to execute the fundamentals with precise detail (becoming sloppy) – is a natural occurrence for every athlete by mid February. By now they are so “comfortable” with their game and the routine of practice that they begin to lose their FOCUS. It’s at this crucial time that coaches need to remember that it’s always the small stuff that provides the winning edge against quality opponents. The strategy to take then is to 1) DEMAND attention to detail and 2) hold each athlete ACCOUNTABLE with CONSEQUENCES.
To achieve practices where energy is high and execution is precise, here are some ideas:
Vary the routine of practice. People pay attention more when they don’t know what’s about to happen. Everything must be high energy – including the coach.
Shooting drills that challenge EACH player. 1) Count the number of “swishes” for all types of shots – including lay-ins, 2) Shoot against time and report it, 3) FREEZE the follow-through, 4) Fading or not squaring up on spot-up shots = team runs a suicide (always carry a ball). When the entire TEAM is given a consequence, the athletes will start reminding each other to execute better.
Use the clock and scoreboard when feasible. Time creates a challenge.
Competitive drills – EVERY drill has a winner. Losers have a consequence. Athletes work at a higher level of energy when they compete.
Fundamentals with “consequences” for:1) poor angles on screens, 2) poor use of screens, 3) not talking, 4) poor box-outs, 5) not grabbing a loose ball with two hands, 6) slow defensive help, 7) not freezing the follow-through, 8) poor hustle – includes diving for loose balls, 9) etc etc.
Varsity basketball is a long season and it takes on toll on the mind and legs. Both have a negative affect on performance and that includes shooting accuracy. At this point, it is wise to reduce practice time BUT – – – do NOT reduce the emphasis on execution of fundamentals with high energy.
The practice plan needs to be very precise. In truth, it is actually harder to plan an effective “short” practice than a long one. Coaches must know EXACTLY what they want to accomplish. “We want a good practice tonight” is too general. Before each segment of practice, the players need to know the focus of each drill. What does the coach want?
Use the length of practice as a consequence.“If you execute and focus, we’re going home early. We’ll be out of here by ____. But remember, you must execute.” It is surprising how a short statement like that will increase energy and focus.
Summary:All these ideas will create FOCUS & ENERGY without “negative” screaming. Loud praise? Oh yes – that is ABSOLUTELY required.