3 Keys to In Season Player Development

By Jordan Petersen

Player development is often the focus during the off season as players work on improving weaknesses and overall game. In season, practice time is heavily focused on team concepts, and understandably so. However, it is just as important to include player development work so players maintain skills that were enhanced during the off season, and even improve in other areas as well.


When it comes to including player development into practice, it needs to be done consistently. It can be incorporated every practice, every other practice, or twice a week – but it needs to be consistent to be able to see the benefits. As far as the amount of time that it takes up in practice can vary and be anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. As coaches, we only get so much time with our players, and when the season gets going practice time becomes more and more valuable as a full team. There often is not enough time to always fit everything we want into each practice. Practice plans need to be well thought out and focused on what is important to the team.

Another area that you must be consistent with is what you are emphasizing. What you emphasize during skill development, must be emphasized in all games, drills and reps. During shooting, if you emphasize shot prep or follow through, then demand it from your players in all reps even during a drill or game not specifically about shooting. Another example is with footwork. If you emphasize stride stopping or jump stopping, then it must be emphasized throughout practice. Every rep matters, and players must have a clear understanding of this so that the expectation is consistent at all times.

Game Specific Reps

After consistency, the most important thing to remember about in season player development is game specific reps. The shots, actions, post ups, drives, cuts, passing and anything else players work on need to mimic exactly how players will be performing them in real games. For example, if a team frequently utilizes down screens in its offense, players should get up plenty of shots coming off a down screen, with focus on footwork, balance, reads, etc. Let’s say, as another example, a team is heavy on spread ball screens, it should put screeners in drills where they will be setting numerous ball screens to practice rolling, popping, short roll, roll and seal, and any other type of action that is necessary. Drilling the effective use of ball screens will be important for not only this player’s development, but also the entire team.

A great part of working on skill development in season is being able to incorporate your offense into the drills. Breaking down an offense into parts and focusing on specific actions will help players with footwork, shooting and understanding the action. This type of skill development will translate better to the game, and the results will be immediate and help the overall team offense. Examples of offensive actions to use within an offense and incorporate into skill development are:

  • Dribble at backdoor while focusing on finishing at the rim
  • Pass and cut while focusing on ball handling, footwork, finishing or shooting
  • Pass and screen away while focusing on down screen reads
  • Spacing off of a drive while focusing on shooting
  • Transition offense while focusing on ball handling, shooting, finishing

The possibilities are truly endless on how to incorporate offense into skill development. The key is to break down the offense into parts or actions, and emphasize the specific skill (finishing, shooting, passing) associated with the highlighted offensive action. 

Below are two example drills:

Arc Shooting

Motion Shooting

Build in Decision Making

The final key is to build in decision making to the skill development routine. Incorporate decision making immediately, or progress towards it as players improve and become more comfortable with the drills. Decisions are truly what decide every game, and it is extremely important to provide players with opportunities to practice making decisions, and even fail at them, to prepare them for meaningful game situations. Variety is crucial, and making a drill more random by constantly moving players to different areas where they are shooting from, driving from and finishing from, or throwing in new elements to drills, will train players to adapt quickly and fine tune their decision making skills in the heat of the moment.

More articles on Player Development:

Using Ball Screens Effectively

Keys to Using Down Screens

Changing Pace with the Dribble

Finishing at the Rim

Training Guards and Posts Together

Purposeful 1v1 Games

Off Season Player Development

Game Based Shooting Drills Playbook

Visit the FastModel Sports PlayBank for a complete library of drills to add to your player development and skill training program.

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Jordan Petersen is a former collegiate player and coach. He currently runs Positionless Basketball, which provides elite level basketball training and camps for youth players all the way to college and professional. It's mission is to provide student-athletes with a unique experience that develops players' minds and athletic performance.
September 29, 2017 – Minneapolis, MN, U.S.A – Amir Coffey dribbles during a drill. ] LEILA NAVIDI • leila.navidi@startribune.com ….BACKGROUND INFORMATION: University of Minnesota mens basketball practice with new coach Richard Pitino at their first practice on Friday, September 29, 2017 at Williams Arena. ORG XMIT: MIN1709291622530139 (Credit Image: © Leila Navidi/Minneapolis Star Tribune via ZUMA Wire)

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