As a head coach, I always had a practice plan with an overall course for each day’s season and individual plans.
A practice plan keeps you organized, practices on schedule, and allows you to look back and see what you’ve covered so that you’re prepared for anything the season throws your way.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” – John Wooden
Get Organized and Stay On Schedule
Before the season starts, look over your master plan for the year. This overall plan should build upon the previous season’s strengths and your evaluation of incoming players.
We had 10 days of practice at our high school before the opener, including three for tryouts. My master plan included a schedule of needs and wants before the season began. And I built daily practice plans from there.
When you have practice budgeted to the minute, you don’t waste time.
As a coach, I expected my girls to be on the court warming up before practice officially started. And then when we’re scheduled to practice, it’s full go.
We relied on drills with a ball for warm-up purposes before diving into the real work.
Go into every practice with a detailed plan for the session so that you can take advantage of every second on the court.
Gym time is precious. Use all the time you’re allotted.
With your master schedule, you know what offenses, defenses, inbounds plays, presses, and breakers you’ll be running.
Now, look at what drills will prepare your players to run plays with success.
Each year I pulled out a giant folder that held drills used over the years, and ones that I found online or picked up from coaching clinics. Many coaches keep their information on a computer.
Everyone has their method; make sure you develop one and use it.
Have A Detailed Practice Plan
When I was in college, our coach leaned on a detailed, written practice plan and a manager with a timer to keep us on schedule.
As an assistant basketball coach at Blanchet High School, our head coach had a detailed practice plan written on notebook paper that he kept folding in his shorts’ waistband.
And when I became a head coach, I did that same thing. I was often tucking and pulling that paper from my sweat pants as I stepped into drills to demonstrate, but my practice plan was never far away.
Eventually, I made a practice plan template just for me.
At the top, there was a spot to list the day’s focus or things that I wanted to emphasize. I recorded the date and practice number so I could draw on it easily.
I included columns for every activity or drill and a place for notes. There was a column for the time on the clock, and minutes to be spent on any specific portion of practice.
There was a spot for final notes at the bottom of the page for reminders to the players. And last, there was a place to put a quote or notes about an inspirational story that I wanted to share with the team.
Having my practice written out this way helped me to take advantage of every practice.
Of course, not every practice goes perfectly. Be a better coach with a practice plan.
Be Prepared And Be Flexible
Schedule your drills down to the minute and balance being flexible.
Suppose you’re coaching a team that you’ve had for a while; you know what to expect and where you can go. If the team is new or young, you may have to be more flexible, and though you need to be prepared, you need to adjust depending on how practice unfolds.
For example, when working on our basic 2-3 zone defense for the first time that season, I would have already worked on a basic defensive stance, prepared defensive slides, and other skill drills.
And I would have used a 4-on-4 shell drill to focus on defensive shifting daily. And the same day I installed the 2-3 zone, my practice plan and notes might look like this:
- 3:22 pm Wing/Post Pass – Notes: with ¾ post defense (man D)
- 3:28 pm Wing/Post Pass – Notes: add wing defender (man D)
- 3:36 pm Wing/Post Pass – Notes: front post demo/work (2-3 zone) no wing defense
- 3:44 pm Shell Drill – Notes: emphasize help-side D
- 3:54 pm 2-3 Zone – Notes: demonstrate shifts with former players. Middle start high, drop to the front low post. No wing deny. Talk the cutters.
- 4:00 pm 2-3 Zone Notes: 5 on 5 half-court. TALK!
I may adjust times depending on how practice goes. It’s all feel sometimes.
After practice, take notes on what the team needs more work with and write down other thoughts about the day.
My practice plans started clean and crisp, but by the time that I added the papers to my practice folder at the end, they were wrinkled, tattered, and splattered with notes.
It’s said that John Wooden, who is considered the greatest college basketball coach of all time, spent more time planning a practice than conducting the practice itself.
This is where the magic begins. This is when you really put the practice plans to work. Take what you learn from each practice, add and adjust to future practices and your team will be on their way to a successful season.