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10 Basketball Coaching Tips: Running a More Efficient and Effective Practice

Updated on March 31, 2008

Considering basketball coaching or looking for ways to increase your effectiveness as a coach? Here are 10 great tips to help you.

Coaching Basketball Tip #1 – Have a written practice plan for each practice.

Make it detailed and stick to it. If you do this, your practices will flow without wasted time, your players will respect your commitment, and you will be able to monitor what you have covered and what you need to do next. The time you spend thinking about how best to utilize you precious practice time is time very well spent.

Coaching Basketball Tip #2 - Have position-specific break out drills.

Practice time is precious, and you want your players practicing worthwhile skills. You definitely want your post players working on moves, footwork, and shots that are quite different from what you want your perimeter players to work on. Having these break out drills will keep your players more focused, too. You will end up with better prepared players at every position.

Coaching Basketball Tip #3 – Be active and engaged with the drills during practice.

Players need to know that you are watching and that you care about the quality of their effort during practice. If you care enough to include the drill in your practice, you should care enough to monitor the drill, providing encouragement and correction as needed. Insist on intensity and precision.

Coaching Basketball Tip #4 – Communicate your expectations clearly with each player.

Get to know each of your players and help each one establish goals that will fit in with team goals. As the basketball coach, you have a great opportunity to help each player focus on the positive. Your players will play with more confidence and enthusiasm if you give them a clear role and acknowledge them for their contributions and progress.

Coaching Basketball Tip #5 – Keep your instructions clear and short.

Players will tune you out if you drone on and on during a practice. Plus, you want your players to be active and engaged. Break down your drills so that you can get your key points across quickly and clearly, and then provide constant feedback as the players go through the drills. Having this kind of active focus is the best way to get good habits deeply ingrained.

Coaching Basketball Tip #6 – Challenge your players with performance goals during practice.

Instead of just doing the drill without any sort of standard, establish definite goals for various drills. For instance, if you’re doing a full court passing and lay-up drill, establish the goal of continuing the drill until there have been ten perfect repetitions. Once the goal has been met, set the standard slightly higher for the next go around. Point out to your players how having concentration and focus improves their performance! Doing this also prepares your team to perform under a little pressure. If you’re in the group going for the tenth perfect repetition, you can bet the rest of the players are counting on you to come through!

Coaching Basketball Tip #7 – Include some drills that are competitive.

There are lots of drills that lend themselves to a competitive framework, and using them is one way to keep your players engaged and focused. Not only that, but they will be learning to perform under a certain amount of pressure, and that will help them in game situations.

Be careful to keep the rewards and consequences in line with your overall purpose. For instance, having the losers do a few sit-ups or push ups does not really punish them, but having them run several suicides would. A token consequence or reward accomplishes the goal of reinforcing the competitive framework without the negativity that punitive consequences would invite. Friendly competition helps your team stay loose and promotes morale, so try hard to keep things positive!

Coaching Basketball Tip #8 – Practice special situations.

You can’t expect to execute plays and strategies well in the heat of a close game unless you have spent considerable time rehearsing for these moments. You should have a couple of options well rehearsed for last second shots from various in-bounding locations. You need to be prepared for situations in which your go-to guy is injured, has fouled out, or is being double or triple-teamed. Just because you can draw up something on a clipboard during a timeout doesn’t mean that your team can execute it. You definitely want to have a familiar strategy ready on the spot.

You also need to have clear strategies rehearsed from the defensive perspective.. For instance, you might have to give quick fouls, and your players need to know how to do this without getting called for intentional fouls. They also need to be taught strategic considerations for who gives the foul and which player to foul, if possible.

Coaching Basketball Tip #9 – Emphasize defense.

It’s a cliché that you can have defense every night. On offense, your team can hustle and execute to perfection, but still no one can seem to find the range. If you can’t play defense, you have no prayer. Teams that can step it up defensively win more often simply because shooting varies so much. You have to build up this awareness directly and indirectly by your words, by how you allocate playing time, and by how you structure your practices. There are drills that spotlight and reward defensive excellence, and you definitely should use them.

Coaching Basketball Tip #10 – Have a positive perspective, win or lose.

It’s easy to stay positive when winning, and it’s all too easy to get negative in a loss. As the basketball coach, you can help your players develop great sportsmanship and emotional resilience by keeping them focused on what they did right during a loss. If the game is only rewarding during wins, then there is a lot of wasted energy being devoted to this activity. First of all, you need to be sure that you have a solid attitude about competition. Do you maintain your composure after a loss? If not, you are hurting your players and setting them up for disappointment and dissension, sooner or later. Very few teams go undefeated. Of course, you won’t like losing, but you can still find ways to keep morale high.

Looking for a great place to find specific help for each of these general basketball coaching tips?

You can find great drills and advice in abundance from experienced and successful coaches at


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      Jason Roatan  7 years ago

      Thanks for the tips. Starting out coaching is harder than most people think, and it's great that there are resources like this online to help out.

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      how to increase vertical 9 years ago

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