CHAPTER 7: Practice Tasks or Drills

This is a chapter from my e-book Complex Basketball Coaching – How to make basketbll practices more effective. It’s also available here on coachtube.com.

7.1 Scrimmage

7.2 Full Court 1v1 Plus Extras

7.3 Full Speed Attack 1v1 / 2v2

7.4 Six Trips

7.5 Two-Line Lay-ups With Two Extras

7.6 Mimic the Lay-up

7.7 Five Close-outs 1v1 / 2v2

7.8 One Plus One Is Four

7.9 Zero One Two Three Four Plus

7.10 Five Arches, Six Baskets

7.11 Seven Baskets

7.12 Coast to Coast on Demand

7.13 Trampoline Alley-oops

CHAPTER 7: Practice Tasks or Drills

These practice tasks – often referred to as drills – are designed to add variability to practicing. Put in other terms, coach should consider enhancing the degree of novelty and the degree of creativity of her team’s actions. (Chapter 5.4)

The drills have a lot  to offer even if you don’t the theoretical assumptions behind them. But as mentioned in the foreword, improving coaching is more effective if those assumptions discussed and corrected if that’s in order.

This is not a comprehensive list of drill that a basketball coach needs. Rather, these are examples of drills and their variations that are in accordance with the complex basketball coaching paradigm.

Also, the idea is to share drills and their variations that may not be all familiar. 

Under any circumstances, coach should limit the number of drills he uses. That is because we don’t want spend time teaching drills to the players. Rather, we want to spend our time teaching them basketball.

To do that, it’s more efficient to have few drills and many variations rather than many drills.  

The drill descriptions demonstrate how I interpret the theory of CBC. Insert name here, feel free to make your interpretations. The idea of CBC is still newish, and we are just beginning to realise how basketball could be coached and played.

7.1 Scrimmage

  • Playing 5v5 competitively – or scrimmaging – full court is the default practice task. (Chapter 6.1)
  • There are numerous ways to add to the variability of scrimmaging. These are some examples below.
  • The same variations may be applied to small-sided games.
  • In any case, it is important that coach will not stop the action in the middle of a possession even if things don’t go as planned.
  • That is because when things don’t go as planned, emergence happens. And emergence is exactly what we want to prepare for. (Chapter 6.7)
  1. Shorten the shot clock to emphasise transition offense and defense.
  2. Give the ball back to the scoring team to emphasise half-court play.
  3. Use a rim deductor at one end of the floor to create an advantage for the other team.
  4. Use rim deductors at both ends of the floor to emphasise rebounding and the accuracy of shooting.
  5. Use the game clock and scoreboard to create different end-of-game situations.
  6. Give four points for a three-point shot to emphasise three-point shooting on both offense and defense.
  7. After a score, allow the defensive team to transit to offense as after a rebound, or without inbounding the ball. This should quicken the pace.

7.2 Full Court 1v1 Plus Two Extras

  • There’s an offensive player, a defender, an offensive extra and a defensive extra.
  • The offensive extra inbounds the ball baseline out-of-bounds.
  • The offensive player attacks full speed end to end.
  • The offensive extra moves randomly around the floor. Anytime she raises her hands, the offensive player must pass to her.
  • The defensive extra provides help and protects the basket and may double the ball anytime she chooses to.
  • The play ends is the defender gets a steal.
  • To end the play, the offensive player tries to score.
  • Variations to the drill:
  1. Use a shot clock of for example 12 seconds.
  2. End with a 2v1 or 2v2 pick-and-roll play.
  3. The pick-and-roll action may only start after the ball handler has brought the ball to a certain spot on the floor and made a pre-determined play call.
  4. Follow with another possession where the defender gets the ball and attacks the other way.

7.3 Full Speed Attack 1v1 / 2v2

  • Transition drill played full court 1v1 or 2v2.
  • Offensive player and defender start at a designated spot.
  • The action starts when coach throws the ball to the offensive player.
  • She has eight seconds to score.
  • The starting spots are changed continuously to vary the action.
  • May be played 2v2.
  • The drill may be varied in multiple ways:
  1. Add extra passer to help the offensive player(s).
  2. Add weak side defender to contest lay-ups. 
  3. Shorten the shot clock to six seconds.
  4. Add a second possession: when the defense gets the ball, they attack the other way.
  5. The number of passes and/or dribbles may be limited.

7.4 Six Trips

  • Put together a long list of different types of lay-up finishes and passes to be used.
  • Lay-up constraints include shooting with the off-hand, shooting only reverse layups, and finishing with an alley-oop. For more constraints, see Appendix 1.
  • Passing constraints include passing behind the back, between the legs or always putting a spin on the bounce pass. For more constraints, see Appendix 2.
  • For one particular practice, choose one type of a lay-up finish and two types of passes (Pass 1 and Pass 2).
  • Only that lay-up finish and those passes will be used in the drill that day.
  • Rotate constraints from day to day.
  • Divide players into pairs.
  • Each pair will go down the floor six times. They will pass the ball back and forth and score.
  • First trip down the floor: No defense. Use exclusively Pass 1.
  • Second trip: Insert defense (assistant coach or player). Use exclusively Pass 1.
  • Third  trip: No defense. Use exclusively Pass 2.
  • Fourth trip: Insert defence. Use exclusively Pass 2.
  • Fifth and sixth trip: Insert defense. Use only Passes 1 and 2. After using one of the two, the player must use the other one.
  • Variations to the drill:
  1. Vary the number of trips down the floor.
  2. Vary the number of the defenders.
  3. Vary the intensity of the defense.
  4. Vary the spacing and the tactics of the defenders.
  5. Vary the number of offensive players in a group.
  6. Vary the number of passes that must be made.

7.5 Two-Line Lay-ups With Two Extras

  • A lay-up finishing drill for 6–12 players at one basket.
  • The drill is run much like the regular two-line lay-up drill.
  • A line of 3–6 players at midcourt on both sides of the floor.
  • The players on the left side have a ball. They are the shooters.
  • The players on the right side don’t have a ball. They’re the rebounders.
  • The first players in the shooter line goes for a lay-up.
  • After shooting a lay-up, the shooter plays defense on the next shooter, and only then goes to the rebounding line.
  • The defense is varied: sometimes trail the driver, sometimes try to take a charge, sometimes go for the steal, and so.
  • The next rebounder in line serves as an extra offensive player. If she raises her both hand, the shooter must pass the ball to her.
  • The pass receiver variates where she is: she may cut to the basket, spot up in the corner and so on.
  • Also vary where the lines are located: in the corner, in the wing, and so on
  • If the skill task will eventually be learned with both hands, start doing it with left hand. [Stöckel et al 2011] 

7.6 Mimic the Lay-up

  • A lay-up drill to add movement variability.
  • Collect clips of variable lay-ups used in games.
  • On the practice floor, show the players a clip of a lay-up.
  • Put in some extra defender(s) and have your players mimic the lay-up.
  • Variations:
  1. Instead of using a clip, have a player demonstrate a lay-up for the others mimic.
  2. Film one round of lay-up attempts and have the players vote who did the best job of mimicking.
  3. Use the same method to any technical aspect of the game (e.g. jump shot).

7.7 Five Close-outs 1v1 / 2v2

  • Scoring and close-out drill at one basket either 1v1 or 2v2.
  • Five shooting spots: two corners, two wings, and the middle.
  • In the 1v1 variation, for the first shot the shooter starts at a corner spot.
  • The defender has the ball under the basket inside the no-charge semi-circle.
  • Also, she may start from the perimeter, one spot away from the shooter. Say, if the shooter is in the right corner, the passer’s in the right wing
  • The defender makes a crisp, direct pass to the shooter, closes out and plays defense. No bounce passes are allowed.
  • The shooter may either take a shot right off the catch or use one dribble and then shoot.
  • A basket gives the shooter two or three points, depending. So does a shooting foul. And one gives an extra point. All non-shooting are two points.
  • No rebounding takes place. Each play ends after the first shot.
  • For the second shot, the shooter rotates to the next spot, and so on, until she has taken one shot from each of the five spots.
  • Then the shooter and the defender switch parts.
  • Whoever scores the most points per round, is the winner.
  • For the next round, the losers from each basket rotate to the next basket, and the winners stay at the same basket.
  • In the 2v2 variation, the passer is one spot away from the shooter.
  • As the passer passes to the shooter, the shooter’s defender closes out and the play starts.
  • The shooter will either finish the play or pass the ball back to the passer who then must finish the play.
  • There’s a defender on the passer, too.
  • Otherwise the rules are the same as in the 1v1 version.
  • The drill can be varied in multiple ways and combinations of them.
  1. Include rebounding: continue play after the first shot.
  2. Change the defenders’ starting posture. 
  3. Move the passer to the weak side: start with a skip pass.
  4. Include extras: passer and/or help side defender.

7.8 One Plus One Is Four

  • A shooting drill for two players at one basket.
  • There’s a rebounder and a shooter. That’s the “one plus one” part in the name of the drill.
  • You have one or two pairs at each basket.
  • The shooter starts from close to the basket.
  • After making two shots in a row, she moves one step further away.
  • To add variability to the drill, the shooter shoots each and every shot from a different location. In other words, even while keeping the distance basically the same, she changes the angle and the distance a little.
  • After passing the ball to the shooter, the rebounder may raise her hands. That’s a signal to the shooter: instead of taking a shot, she passes the ball back to the rebounder, relocates, receives another pass, and shoots (unless the rebounder raises her hands again).
  • This makes the “one plus one” equal three: the rebounder is a pass target, too.
  • The rebounder may also follow her pass and play defense on the shooter. This makes the “one plus one” equal four.
  • Additionally, you have one or more extra defensive players moving from one basket to another. These extras may be for example coaches or parents.
  • The extra defenders may close out on the shooter and either pressure her shot or make her drive. Or, they may play the passing lane, so that even if the rebounder raises her hands, the shooter shouldn’t pass the ball to her.

7.9 Zero One Two Three Four Plus

  • Shooting competition with a shooter and a rebounder. Also for practicing free throws.
  • Coach designates a set of shots that must be made in a row for the win.
  • The codes: 
  • 0 = Close-range two-pointer
  • 1 = Free throw.
  • 2 = Mid-range two-pointer.
  • 3 = Three-pointer.
  • 4 = Long-range three pointer (7.75 meters).
  • For example: 2113 = Mid-range two-pointer, two free throws and a three-pointer.
  • If there’s a miss, the shooter must start from the top.
  • If there’s a plus in the call, the rebounder becomes the shooter after the plus.
  • For example, in 2113+11 the rebounder must make two free throw to win the competition.
  • Whenever possible, it is advisable to do the same or transform drills “from individual to team competitions”. [Cooke et al 2013]
  • This may increase “performance, enjoyment, anxiety, and effort”. [Cooke et al 2013]
  • For variation, you may attach a rim reducer to the rim.

7.10 Five Arches, Six Basket

  • A shooter and a rebounder at a basket.
  • The shooter is to make six baskets using five different arches.
  • The arches have numbers:
  • 1 = As low as possible
  • 2 = Moderately low
  • 3 = Regular
  • 4 = Moderately high
  • 5 = As high as possible.
  • The rebounder calls out a number and the shooter must hit a shot using that type of an arch.
  • So, when the rebounder calls “One” the shooter must shoot using as low an arch as possible.
  • She keeps shooting using a low arch until she makes one. Then the rebounder calls another number.
  • Each set starts and ends with a Three arch.
  • All other numbers are used once, so the total number of makes is six.
  • Set may be for example: 315243.
  • Within each set, stick to about the same distance. That’s because the emphasis should be on varying the arch, not the distance.
  • You may variate the distance from set to set

7.11 Seven Baskets

  • This is a differential learning shooting drill.
  • A pair, a ball and a basket.
  • The shooter shoots from three different distances: from 3 meters, from 5 meters, and last from beyond the 3-point line.
  • Before moving further, she needs to make two differential shots from the spot.
  • From beyond the three-point line, the player must make three shots: first the two differential ones, and then a regular one to finish the game.
  • The two differential shots are different from each other.
  • The coach determines the constraints, or what types of shots are to be made.
  • Both shots may be of the differential kind, or the first one is regular.
  • Before the practice, the coach has picked a constraint or two constraints to be used that day.
  • The constraints may include:
  1. Release late / early
  2. Twist shoulders left / right
  3. Eyes open / closed
  • For more constraints, see Appendix 3.

7.12 Coast to Coast on Demand

  • This is a ball handling and passing drill.
  • All players have a ball and they dribble baseline to baseline.
  • If there are ten players for more, split the group in two.
  • Additionally, there are multiple extras on the floor. They’re assistant coaches or players who take turns as extras.
  • Head coach directs the action by hand signals and verbal calls.
  • Hand signals direct the direction and speed of the dribble.
  • The more fingers are up, the quicker the dribbler dribbles forward.
  • For example, fist means “Stand still”
  • One finger = Walk forward
  • Five fingers = Full steam ahead.
  • If the head coach points one finger at the players, they retreat.
  • The head coach’s verbal calls direct the dribble.
  • For example, “Cross” means that players cross the ball over.
  • Back = Behind the back
  • Legs = Across the legs
  • Spin = Spin
  • Additionally, at any point an extra may call out a player’s name.
  • Right away, the player in question passes to the extra and immediately gets the ball back.
  • Extras also put defensive pressure on the players.
  • Some of the extras may be designated passers, some defenders, or all may do both.
  • Ways to vary the drill:
  1. After passing to an extra, the dribbler cut hard to the basket, gets the give & go pass and scores on a lay-up. The extra follows her pass and rushes to contest the lay-up. 
  2. To utilise differential learning, constrain the passing and have players use a differential way to pass as in drill Six Trips (Chapter 7.4). For constraint options, see Appendix 2.
  3. To utilise differential learning, constrain the dribbling and have players use a differential way to dribble. For constraints, see Appendix 4.

7.13 Trampoline Alley-oops

  • Above we concluded that “only those techniques can be used that can be actualised through the players’ physical capabilities”. (Chapter 4.2)
  • But maybe some missing physical capabilities can be compensated for, for the sake of practice.
  • For example, alley-oop passing and finishing can only be practiced once at least one player can jump high enough to dunk off an alley-oop pass.
  • Lack of jumping ability could be compensated for by jumping off a trampoline.
  • The drill could be a team competition at two ends of the floor.
  • Whichever team finishes most dunks out of ten attempts is the winner.
  • According to the specificity on learning principle, this drill would certainly teach the players to finish trampoline alley-oops and to throw alley-oops passes to dunkers jumping off a trampoline.
  • But would these skills later transfer to actual alley-oops where the dunker jumps off the floor? They just might.

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