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Basketball requires a great deal of finesse—for the individual as well as the team. Finesse can only be acquired by practice; constant practice. The coaching tips that follow would serve as a useful guide to any basketball coach interested in building a succcessful basketball team.


As a coach, you must emphasize the importance of teamwork to your players; every person need to contribute on both offense and defense. Every player on a basketball team is as much a defensive player as he is an offensive player and vice versa.

The best team is not necessarily the team that can shoot most accurately, nor the team that guards most effectively. It is the team that plays entirely together, that guards together, passes together, shoots together.

Perhaps the best way for a team to develop teamwork is the method employed by nearly every well-coached team. At every practice there is a short scrimmage lasting from ten to fifteen minutes, in which no shots at the goal are attempted, merely getting possession of the ball and keeping it away from the opposing side. A team that can pass the ball around long enough will ultimately exhaust or demoralize their opponents.

This sort of passing, however, does not mean simply tossing the ball from player to player while standing still. Every player is expected to be moving and moving fast the entire game. No matter how well a man can shoot or guard,if he loafs, he had better be out of the game for it is practically the same as having six players on the opposing team; the "loafer" not only slows up his teammates' play but he allows his man to run free.

Every player must always be ready to receive a pass from one of his teamates or to intercept one of his opponents'passes. Besides this, he must be alert enough to pass the ball quickly and accurately to the proper man, to get free himself and to "keep moving" until a fairly easy chance for a basket is offered.

The best way to express it is, "never stand still for a second" during a basketball game.

Handling the Ball

Another thing that coaches should pay particular attention to is the practising of how well their players handle the ball while on the run. In any fast game, practically all of the passes and shots are made by players while running. Help your players practise catching and shooting the ball while in motion. They should be able to pass or shoot accurately while at top speed. Players that have mastered that part of the game are the most dangerous men and the hardest to guard closely.

Playing Defense

Now as far as playing defense is concerned, as the coach, impress upon your team that, every player must be able to play stifling defense when the other team has the ball. At such a time every player — center, forwards, guards, every one — must single out an opponent and try to prevent passing or shooting.

It is a mistake to try to "cover" the same man always during a basketball game. The best plan is for each player to take the opponent nearest him, no matter what position he is supposed to play. Remember that it is a game between two teams, not five separate games between five different pairs of players. Guard as a team.

There is no "I" in "TEAM"

If a certain member of the other team should succeed in scoring a large number of goals, do not necessarily blame the man who played against him. It is very seldom that any one man is entirely responsible for a basket made by the opponents; it is usually due to a number of misplays or mistakes in judgment by the rest of the team.

Similarly the man that scores the largest number of points does not always deserve the greatest share of the credit; before he could shoot, his team had to get the ball and work it down the floor into a position where he could shoot the basket.

When faults are apparent or good points very evident it is the teamwork which is responsible rather than individuals, for it is teamwork, both offensive and defensive, that either wins or loses the game.

Play the Ball

Another fault that coaches should seek to correct in their players is the tendency to play the man rather than the ball. The players cannot seem to realize the time and points they lose in attempting to hold or block their opponents.

Play the ball always. If the man you are playing against has the ball get your hands on the ball. Don't try to spoil his shot or pass by striking his arm or by pushing or tripping him. Besides risking having a foul called, you are wasting time and an opportunity.

Get the ball and If you can't get it entirely away, get one hand on it. By so doing you prevent his making a shot or an accurate pass. If he is dribbling, wait until he starts to bounce the ball and then snatch it or bat it out of his reach.

When your opponent has the ball, and you wish to prevent your man from receiving a pass, do not face him; try to keep one hand touching him, without holding him, of course, and watch the ball. In this way you are able to intercept almost any pass that can be made to him.

Sometimes it happens that a man has a free chance to pass and you are closing in, trying to block the pass. In such a case, it is best to watch the man's eyes as he always looks where he intends passing. The same thing is true where an opponent has the ball out of bounds; any interference or partial blocking of the throw-in helps to break up, or at least slow the opponents' play.

Recovering the Ball

Another point well worth noticing is recovering the ball when a shot for either basket is tried and missed. As their basketball coach, you need to train your players to follow the course of the ball--after a missed shot--and try to foresee on which side of the basket it is going to drop, and how far back into the court it will rebound. Then to be there, and get it. With a little practice this becomes almost second nature to a player and is of great service to his team.

When the opponents are making a foul shot, the man that shoots must be covered as soon as the ball reaches the basket to prevent any possible second shot by him, which would count two points.

Players are beginning to realize that basketball is nine-tenths getting and keeping the ball and one-tenth basket-shooting. Every time you get the ball from the opposing side and start a play that nets a score you are entitled to as much or, perhaps, more credit than the man that shot the goal.

The alert basketball player can, when his opponents least expect it, intercept a pass or snatch the ball away and enable his team to score. It is plays like that that win or lose games and the players who make them most often are and should be the most valuable players.

Preparing for the Season

In the total scheme of things, the coach will find he has relatively little time to teach and drill everything on his game plan for an upcoming ball game. Thus, he must use time very carefully.

The coach must also give some advance thought to what he is going to teach his players. In pre-season and early season—with players of up to high school age—he will need to spend a great deal of time on fundamentals. He will have to teach theory; the offense and defense he plans to use, etc.

In mid-season he will only review fundamentals from time to time and devote more attention to mistakes made in games and in planning for future games. Toward the tail end of the season he should be able to point every effort at the upcoming game on the assumption that all major aspects of the game have been taught. Regardless of the material chosen, each practice should be planned on a weekly basis. A specified amount of time should be allotted each activity. Practice should take no longer than 2 hours.

Let's take a look at how the coach might organize his work during the early part of the season. He starts by listing the items he wants to cover before a Friday game. Here they are:

1. Team offense. Individual offense.

2. Team defense. Individual defense.

3. Shooting (layups, set shots, jump shots, foul shots).

4. Passing.

5. Out-of-bounds plays.

6. Press and escape from press.

7. Jump ball plays.

8. Situation plays.

9. Review errors of previous game.

After considering the list carefully, the coach plans the time to be given each activity during the upcoming four days of practice. There are a number of factors to weigh in mapping out his program. The review of the previous week's game, for example, should be the first order of business on Monday, so the team can turn its thoughts to the next game, The physical condition of the squad might very well have something to do with the coach's plans.

The following is a suggested 1½ hour routine for a week early in the season.


Review No more than 15 minutes

Passing Drill 5 minutes

Fast Break Drill 10 minutes

Defense Drill 10 minutes

Half-court zone attack

a. Without defense 5 minutes

b. With defense 10 minutes

Half-court man-for-man attack

a. Without defense 5 minutes

b. With defense 10 minutes

Scrimmage 15 minutes

Shooting Balance of session


Passing Drill 5 minutes

Fast Break Drill 10 minutes

Out of Bounds Plays 15 minutes

Half-court Zone attack with and without defense) 15 minutes Half-court man-for-man attack

with and without defense) 15 minutes

Pressing Defense 15 minutes

Scrimmage Balance of session


Passing Drill 5 minutes

Fast Break Drill 5 minutes

Defense Drills 10 minutes

Jump Ball Plays 10 minutes

Escape from Press 10 minutes

Half-court zone attack (without defense) 10 minutes

Half-court man-for-man attack 10 minutes

Scrimmage Balance of session


Passing Drill 5 minutes

Fast Break Drill 5 minutes

Out of Bounds Plays 10 minutes

Jump Ball Plays 10 minutes

Team Defense (special stress) 15 minutes

Team Offense (special stress) 15 minutes

“Situation” Plays 15 minutes

Shooting Balance of session

The preceding schedule was put together with these thoughts in mind: After a hard Friday or Saturday game the preceding week, the team may be just getting over assorted bruises or floor burns. Don't work it too hard, but go through the routines. Cover what happened in the previous game, turn thoughts to upcoming game.

On Tuesday, practice is stepped up. Two new items are introduced. Still, the basic material has to be covered. The Wednesday session is the “heavy” practice. Two new items are taught, a long scrimmage is planned.

The final day, scrimmage is eliminated. It is “polishing up” day. Go through the basic material, review the new things taught, plan for the game.

As practice goes along, the coach must be alert to the mood and physical condition of his team. Occasionally, a team will get too much basketball and go “stale.” If this happens, give the players a day off, lighten the sessions, especially scrimmage.

There will be times, too, when everything will go wrong; a new play being taught won't work, etc. In this situation, be patient. Switch to a new activity, or cut practice altogether. Beware of too much scrimmage. Schedule just enough to whet a team's appetite.

A word about the players who usually ride the bench. Give substitutes as much attention as the regulars. These are the players who will, over a long season, make or break the team.

Situation Practice

The practice session has one weakness: it never completely re-creates game situations and conditions. To help overcome this weakness, the coach should—at least once every week—run a “situation” practice.

The coach invents a situation then tosses the ball into play. In that few moments, the team must decide what to do. The coach, for example, could take the ball and an-nounce to the first and second squads:

“There is one minute left to play. The first team is behind by three points. The second team gets the ball out of bounds under its defensive basket.”

Without another word, the coach tosses the ball out of bounds under the second team's defensive basket.

What will the first team do? What will the team with the ball do? Obviously, the defensive team should put on the press. The other team should keep calm and be prepared to escape.

By establishing these situations, the coach can teach his team to think quickly and adjust quickly. He can almost completely re-create a game situation in practice, where a mistake will not hurt the team and can be corrected.

Practice Before the Game

When a basketball team appears on the floor before game time, it should go through its warmup activity with precision and orderliness. Organization gives a team confidence. It makes the team look smart, efficient and capable. It also makes the best use of limited time.

The warmup should include as much shooting as possible from as many angles as possible. Running should be kept to a minimum. There are many drills that can be used for the shooting of layups as a team prepares for the opening whistle.


Prior to every game, the coach and his players ought to try to gather as much information about their opponents as possible. This information can be used to good advantage in practice sessions.

Here are some of the essential points to cover on any scouting assignment:

1. What kind of offense and defense does the team use? a. Where is the offense strong, or weak? b. Where is the defense strong, or weak?

2. Who are the best individual players? What are their characteristics? Do they shoot well from the outside? From the inside? Do they have stamina? Are they temperamental?

3. Does the team use out-of-bounds plays? If so, what kind?

4. Does the team use jump ball plays? If so, what kind? Whenever possible, the scout should try to diagram important plays; plays that are repeated many times. A shot chart would also be helpful.

Scouting of an opponent can be a great help, especially during the tournament season.

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