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  • Jack Fleming

My Favourite Drills, Period — Part 1

During a more recent blog post I wrote called Coaching: Hacking Away at the Unessential I mentioned quite a few of my favourite drills. I was fortunate enough to have quite a few coaches shoot me messages and e-mails asking about various drills, so I thought this might be an easier way to to share with those who are curious. I am a firm believer that while the drill might have some good components, it is what you teach within the drill that brings great value to your players.

As coaches we are all creatures of habit, and consistency within a practice is great. It speeds up the pace, players like to know what is coming and can give you opportunity for more time on task. Variety can be useful to challenge your athletes and keep practice fresh, however I believe if you have some staple “meat and potatoes” drills with the ability to work different concepts within them you can save time.

What are elements of a good drill? Credit this to Mike Dunlap. Use these as a monitor for why you think these drills might be good or bad, or how you can improve them!

  1. Time & Score

  2. Rotation

  3. Elements of Confusion

  4. Advantage/Disadvantage

  5. Language and Cues

  6. Rebounding

Crocs Ball Handling

Credit to Trevor Gleeson, head coach of the Perth Wildcats who used this every day when he was coaching the Townsville Crocodiles. A big believer that it created great competition within practice through peer pressure, used time and score to have personal bests and reduced their turnover count (his claim not mine).

The Drill — grab a partner and stand one metre apart. A ball each. One partner works a skill for 15 seconds (more or less if you choose, the other partner counts repetitions. Swap it over, highest amount of reps is the winner. Loser does push ups or a small penalty.

Why I like it? Time and score, winners and losers. Flexibility: you can work 2 ball passing, ball handling, dribbling, jab steps and different skills within one drill. 5 minutes and you can get a heap of high volume work in. You can also use the partner counting repetitions to build cues in (eg. 1 hand up = retreat dribble, 2 hands = behind the back pass to your partner) if you want some more decisions and stimulus response.

Tight Space Passing

Credit to Mike Dunlap, head coach of Loyola Marymount University. One of his staple drills, as he believes it teaches player to slow down and be tough with your fundamentals. No dribble and tight spaces improves footwork, passing ability and toughness.

The Drill — 3v3, boundaries are using one third of the court for example from the wing to the split line. Players positioned corner, underneath the rim and wing. Offence: must get their eyes to the rim on the catch, no dribble. If you pass you must move. Defence: no switching, climb right into the ball. Call less fouls allow for physicality. First team to 10 passes in a row, or 4 scores. You choose.

Why I like it? I am constantly trying to get my point guard to dribble less, and my bigs to keep the ball high in the paint. Improves the quality of the pass because the stakes are so high. What better way than to make them survive on bread and water, without the bounce. Increases your aggression defensively as there are no consequences, you cannot get beat off the bounce. It’s a tough drill, your soft kids will have to be stronger with their footwork and rip throughs or they will perish. Drill is from 40:00 onwards.

4v4 Tip Drill

Credit to Peter Lonergan, Head of High Performance Coach Development at Basketball Australia. Great drill that begins with some unpredictability. We cannot always foresee everybody to start in their positions when transition begins, the game is not like that. Awesome to teach reaction time, can focus on your defensive transition concepts or your early offence. Naturally, you will work both but I try to decide to emphasise something for the day.

The Drill — 4v4 or 5v5, 6 athletes (3v3) in the tip drill line, unguarded point guard in each corner. On the “GO” command whoever has possession outlets it to the point guard on their team, play 4v4 up and back on a short clock.

Why I like it? Great for full court spacing, the terminology from Australian Rules Football ‘run and spread’ gives guidance to your players to find the sidelines or run the rim. You can work so many concepts out of this one drill, I’m sure there are far better ones but here are mine. Drag screens, wing kick ahead pass, post touches, punch screens, ball pick up and safety and loading to the ball (to name a few). The drill begins at 36:00.

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