Practice Structure Ideas – Philosophy 

By Andrew Lacey

As most high school coaches are gearing up to start practice within the next month, I wanted share a list of Top 20 Tips on practice structure. These are personal to our program, so obviously take what you like and adjust it to fit your team.

  1. The emphasis should be on doing the things your team does the most: 20% of the activities bring about 80% of the results. Your practice plan should be planned around the skills needed to perform your system.  Just because you’ve seen a nice drill on the internet or at another practice, that does not mean it fits what you are trying to do. Shooting, ball handling, rebounding, defending and using screens are skills that produce a lot of results in any style of play. Pay close attention to what your players and team needs to improve on, versus what they need to keep sharp.
  2. Emphasize communication in everything that you do. The better a team communicates, the better it plays.
  3. Practice at the pace you want. We use a clock to keep time of our drills to make sure we stay on schedule and cover our entire practice plan. However, if we are not executing the learned skills at a high level, we do not move on – we do the drill until it’s perfect. Our practice is intense with max effort, however teaching and learning is constantly taking place. Process must be one where players learn, so that they can react quickly and properly in games situations.
  4. Taking a charge wipes out a sprint – just something I personally like as it teaches toughness by giving a reward.
  5. Make practice harder than games. Players and coaches must find ways to overcome adversity.
  6. Hold players and coaches accountable to 150 touches (high fives/fist bumps) during each practice. This builds togetherness and shows everyone is invested in each other and the same goals.
  7. Put each player in every spot for at least three reps in all defensive breakdown drills. This develops versatility and understanding of full defensive scheme and how it all comes together.
  8. Repetition with variety: Players can get bored with certain drills that are not exciting, but are incredibly important to success and building correct habits. It’s the coach’s job to find ways to make these fun/explain how critical they are to winning.
  9. Make it competitive. Keep score whenever possible and reward winners.
  10. Pass/dribble with weak hand when there is no pressure.
  11. No sitting in practice. We stress being mentally locked in, whether in the drill or on the sideline. No kneeling or sitting in bleachers once practice starts. Coaches should not coach sitting in chairs, either.
  12. Play and teach basketball, do not just run drills. Goal is to build basketball IQ while teaching good habits: mental + physical.
  13. Play until the whistle at all times, in every drill!
  14. Conditioning. We try not to punish players with running.  With that said, we incorporate conditioning in a variety of ways. After a dynamic warm up, our players run 10 laps in 3:10 each day. We also run sprints at the end, but we call them PRIDES to help build mental toughness and conditioning.
  15. Change baskets/ends to get things moving. Very simple, but players need the change of scenery and helps give a sense of a flow from one drill to the next.
  16. Water as they need it – no full team water breaks. This not only saves time, but teaches players to be responsible for their own rest and recovery.
  17. Make sure every player learns something new each practice.
  18. It’s about skills, conditioning, toughness, program way and schemes. Find ways to incorporate each of these, but not necessarily all in every single practice.
  19. End on a positive note. Plan a drill or activity that makes the players wanting to come back to practice the next day. Very important if you are having a rough season. Great time to celebrate positive moments in practice by, coaches and players can give praise as this builds leadership and unity.
  20. Huddle up to start and end practice. Use this chance to set the tone on both sides. Let the players know what the daily objectives are, and what will be expected of them that day in practice.  Afterward, quick huddle to do some celebrations from practice and make important reminders about upcoming events.
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Andrew Lacey

Head Coach at Richard Bland College of William and Mary
Successful head coach at Richard Bland College of William & Mary in Virginia. Coach Lacey has a proven track record running all aspects of a program. Accomplishing 166 wins coaching at the high school level; with a proven ability in developing basketball programs into playoff caliber teams with an emphasis and focus in preparing student-athletes for college-level competition. Coach Lacey guided Varina HS team to the VHSL Class 5 State Title during the 2018 season, along with the 2019 5B Regional Title and 2018 5B Regional Title. He was named VHSL Class 5 State Coach of the Year. An article of his titled "Using Ball Screens in your Motion Offense" was published in Winning Hoops Magazine in September 2015. Coach Lacey is also the founder of Andrew Lacey Basketball and the host of his on podcast called "It Takes What It Takes."
February 2, 2017 – Minnetonka, MN, USA – Players huddled around Hopkins High School girls basketball coach Brian Cosgriff during a practice. …. .. ] CARLOS GONZALEZ • – February 2, 2017, Minnetonka, MN, Hopkins High School / Prep Girls Basketball Coach Brian Cosgriff (Credit Image: © Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune via ZUMA Wire)

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