Practice Planning – Know the Why

By John Leonzo

I recently was listening to a podcast featuring coach TJ Rosene, who is one of the directors of the PGC basketball camp. In the podcast, Coach TJ was discussing how he goes about practice planning and the elements of a practice that he believes are most important. One of the most profound statements that TJ made in this podcast was “do not just know what drill you are going to do, know why you are going to do it.” A very simple truth, yet very it is easy to look over when it comes to planning a practice.

The Two “Why” Questions

The two most important “why” questions that coaches must consider are:

  1. Why do you coach the game of basketball?
  2. Why do you do teach what you teach?

These two “why” questions can be a guiding light to coaches as they prepare to plan their practices.

Why Do I Coach The Game of Basketball?

Coaches need to know the answer to this question. They need to have it written down. They need to have it memorized. The reason for why you coach is the driving force of everything that you do with your team. The reason for why you coach should be one of the most influential factors in why you spend time and in the actions that you take as a coach.

The cliche answer to this question is something along the lines of: “to build quality young men” or “to develop leaders on and off the court” or something to that effect. I think that both of those reasons listed above are fantastic. The issue arises when we do not schedule time in our practices for those things to happen. If the reason why you coach is to “build quality young men”, what are you doing in each and every one of your practices to make that happen? How are you living out your why in the practices that you conduct?

The truth is that we make time for what we value most. Take a step back and examine your practices, check yourself to see if your words and actions are lining up as a coach. It can be very hard, especially in the middle of a season when there is a never-ending list of things to work on, to make time for non-basketball parts of your practice. It may be hard, but it is worthwhile. When you plan your practices and interact with your team, start with why you coach. Let your why provide the foundation for the walls of your practices.

One practical way that Coach TJ shared that he made time for his “why” in practices was by having a theme for each day of the week and then discussing that theme with his players prior to the start of practice. For example, the theme of Tuesday is “Tough Tuesday”. Every Tuesday prior to practice, the team will have a chance to share some of the tough things that they are going through in their personal lives. This allows coach TJ to know what is going on in their lives and then live out his “why” as he tries his best to help them through that time.

Why Do You Teach What You Teach?

This second “why” question has everything to do with what drills you select to implement into practice and how much time you spend on those drills. If there is not a clearly defined objective for why you are doing a drill in practice, do not do that drill. Refuse to give your team’s time to an activity that keeps you busy but doesn’t get you better. John Wooden’s famous quote “do not mistake activity for achievement” automatically comes to mind.

I think too often coaches implement “filler drills” into practice. What I mean by “filler drills” are drills that look good and get the players moving, but that lack any real objective. Drills in and of themselves have no value, rather it is the teaching points and emphasis that the coaches inject that ascribe value to the drill. One example of a drill that can quickly become a “filler drill” is the three-man weave. It looks wonderful, gets the players moving and has been widely accepted as a practice staple for years and years. Why do you do the three-man weave? If you clearly define why you are doing the three-man weave, you can rescue it from falling into the filler drill category. The three-man weave can be a great drill to do all of the following:

  • Get guys communicating early by calling out names
  • Sharp, precise, chest level passes
  • Get players moving and active to start practice

Be sure to know why you are going to do what you are going to do. Communicate the why to the players and assistant coaches. Emphasize the why. Know what you are going to do, know why you are going to do, and emphasize the why as you do it.


Knowing why prevents you from sacrificing what is  important for what is convenient. Knowing your why will help you plan better practices, be more efficient, teach in a way that players can pick up easier, and likely win more games. In order to ensure that I remember “they why” as I plan my workouts, I devote a column to it in my practice plan. As you can see in the screenshot below, I have “what” listed on the far left, “why” listed in the middle, and then “teaching points” listed on the far right. This ensures that I am focused and efficient with my planning. If this format is helpful to you, please feel free to duplicate it or reach out to me for a template.


Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 2.55.29 PM


The following two tabs change content below.

John Leonzo

John Leonzo is the CEO of John Leonzo Basketball where he seeks to provide the highest quality training for both players and coaches. Through on the court training with players and online courses for coaches, John is able to make an impact in all the areas of the game.

Latest posts by John Leonzo (see all)

Sept. 16, 2015 – Sept. 16, 2015 – Spielerkreis FC Bayern Basketball, mit Svetislav Pesic, Cheftrainer (FC Bayern Muenchen Basketball) , FC Bayern Muenchen Basketball, Training, neue Trikots, 16.09.15….Players circle FC Bavaria Basketball with Svetislav Pesic Head coach FC Bavaria Munich Basketball FC Bavaria Munich Basketball Training new Jerseys 16 09 15 (Credit Image: � Imago via ZUMA Press)

Related posts