How to Make Basketball Practice More Productive

There are many definitions of practice, but for basketball this one is perfect:

''Practicing means repeating your actions to improve your skill and knowledge level. It saves time in the future because you know how to perform an action or have acquired the ability to do it more efficiently.''

So, do we really practice the skills that we can use in the game? Or, we are mainly wasting our time doing things that make us feel better as players and coaches!

If we know today, thanks to analytics, that 80% of shots on any game are contested. And on our shooting practices, we rarely have any kind of defense in front of us. Maybe that is the reason many guys didn't improve their percentages?

Back in the days if you wanted to be good you needed to work hard, but in modern basketball, if you want to have some kind of advantage you have to practice SMART.

Here are numerous ideas to help you make your practices more productive and stimulate your thinking.

  • Go into it with a plan

No matter what the subject is, having a plan of action is the key to efficient progress and productivity. Playing basketball is no different.

Keep a record of what the weak areas of your game are. Your primary focus should be on addressing these weak areas until they're no longer weaker. That's an improvement! But take it a step beyond that. If you know what you need to work on, keep a list of the exercises that are going to help you the most, and make a detailed plan every day about what specifically you'll be doing.

  • Be consistent

Consistency is the key to lasting progress. It's much more effective to practice 30 minutes every day rather than 2 hours every other day. This consistency will not only allow you to retain information better but will also keep your technique from dropping below its full potential.



Again, I can't stress enough that consistency is the key. Let me run you through a few scenarios: First, say you have 30 minutes to practice during the week, but two hours on the weekends. Even if that's the case, stick to 30 minutes. Rapidly increasing your practice time, especially by that large of an amount at once, will put a ton of stress on your body and could lead to performance injury. Your mind also won't be used to focusing for that long, and you'll probably have trouble keeping up that high focus for very much of that time.

  • Warm up

If you aren't warming up, you're missing out. Many players reach a point where they choose to forget warming up. However, just like even professional athletes take time to stretch, it's essential that you give your body a stretch prior to heavy activity.


·         Practice mentally in between sessions

In addition to a regular practice routine, start practicing through visualization as well.  it's been scientifically proven that mental practice is actually extremely effective, and really does make you better! You have to have a pretty vivid imagination to make this work, but I encourage you to give it a try!

·         Discipline

Always be disciplined. Give 100% effort during exercises and skills practice. Don't slack off when you're tired, and never miss a workout. If you are going to do something, don't do it halfway.

·         Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Shooting correctly is not a naturally comfortable movement. (Learn proper shooting technique.) Playing as low as you should defensively and offensively is not comfortable. However, as you push yourself and improve at these things, they will get easier and easier.

  • Learn to self evaluate

Be honest with yourself. You have to understand what are your weak points and what you need to do to improve them. Don't wait for coaches to tell you what is wrong, be aware of your own mistakes and learn to correct them. The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself about the skills and effectiveness of your workouts.

  • Shooting

You have to make them game like! That means that if you are shooting thousands of spot ups every day you are not going to improve the percentage during the games. There is no transfer between that kind of shoots and game shoots. So, find a partner and always shoot over it. Sprint to position and try to shot as quickly as possible. You don't have to do some fancy drills, keep it simple but be more effective.

  • Work on fundamentals every day

Best players are on that level because they have mastered fundamentals. They are paying attention to every smallest detail, that is what separates them. There is only one way how you can improve fundamentals, you have to repeat them daily. That is the best way to develop good habits that will help you when you are tired of the game, or when nothing is working for your team.

  • Ask for help

Talk with your coaches/mentors about the things you need to do. Learn how to accept feedback and critics. If you are stuck with any skill or drill you need somebody to support you and help you move forward. You will feel better and your coaches will understand you better. It's a win-win situation that will make you better





To maximize your practice time whenever you go on the court you need to have a plan. You must define what you want to accomplish and write everything down on the paper.

 If you have a goal you want to reach it is crucial to keep tracking your progress. It can be done by simply writing everything in a notebook or by using some of the digital practice organizers. Options are limitless and you just need to find what works for you best.

 Every practice should consist of 3 main parts:

  1. WARM UP ( 25 % of practice time)
  • practice should start with simple drills that can be done at half speed, like that players can warm up and prepare for hard work. But this first drills can include some decision making and challenge players mentally. Together with the body, it is good to prepare your mind and concentrate only on basketball.
  • start simple and after that, you will be able to add more advanced things.
  • after initial drills and before going to the main part you must stretch. Many players think it is boring and because of that they skip it but stretching is very important for injury prevention and because of that, you have to do it seriously. Every stretching drill should last at least 15 sec.

 2.MAIN PART (50-60 % of practice time)

  • the main part is done at full speed, in it, you are trying to reach your goals and that is why every drill is done best you can. Concentrate on details and try to be aware of your own mistakes. Especially if you are working out on your own. It is much better if you have a coach to help you but even if don’t have to try to be realistic and to push yourself to the limits.
  • choose drills carefully and don’t just do the things you like. Go out of your comfort zone because only then you can become better and improve your game.
  • remember that is better to concentrate on one or two things per practice. You can’t improve everything at once. If your main goal is to improve your shooting don’t pay to much attention to your dribbling, there will be other days to focus on it.
  • hydrate yourself after every drill so that your body can stay ready for high intensity work. Best is to use water but also some sports drinks can be helpful.

 3.COOL DOWN (15-25 % of practice time)

  • it is a big myth that you should finish the practice with some sprint or something similar. Same like you prepared for practice before finishing it you need to slow down and give your body a chance to start recover process
  • try to finish with some easy shooting drill or some free throws. Finishing on a positive note will help you feel better about the work you put in and will keep you motivated for the next practice.
  • it is highly recommended that also after practice you stretch and do some foam rolling which helps you recover faster.
  • think positive when you are practicing
  • have the big picture in your head but stay focused on the drill you are doing, present mind is very important for success
  •  between the practice get enough sleep ( at least 7 hours) and take care of your nutrition.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
Michael Jordan

“A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talents, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses these skills to accomplish his goals.”
Larry Bird



There are so many videos showing you how to improve basketball skills but the first thing you need to understand is that none of them is made for you. You are a unique player with a unique skill set and if you want to become somebody else your basketball career will be very short.

To watch others in order to get some ideas is completely fine but if you will just copy them bigger chances are that you will hurt your game than actually improve it.

Steph Curry became the best shooter because he was different than others, not copy of the guys he admired. And, in order to become such a player, he always started with simple basic things. He is still doing the same. If you want to become similar to him you also need to score every lay up first and only after that to move to three point line

Skipping steps and being impatient is a big problem for young players. Try to be smarter than others and take your time to improve and reach a certain level.

There is no need to use fancy drills or for example cons. In the game, you will play against real people and not cons and you need a completely different approach to skills if you want to get better. Cons simply can't teach you to react and read game situations. They are not moving, so they can't teach you at which moment to apply a certain skill...

To make your skills workout more useful you have to work on skills you are actually using in games. No need to practice hooks if never in your life you used them and you are not planning to use them this season. Scoring hooks on practice looks very nice but it doesn't apply to your game so don't work them better just focus on other things that will help you win some games for your team.

Here are some ideas which you can incorporate in your basketball skills workout:






How many times do you hear people talk about footwork? Probably almost, every day! But what does it actually mean and how you work on it. Pivoting is an answer. It is one of the most useful techniques you can develop and it is by far most underrated basketball skill.


If you know how to pivot you will not be easy to guard, you will get many scoring options under the rim and you will become a much better passer.





Most of you are now their heads and thinking how very often they work on their shoot fake. That is very good but there is so much more when we are talking about faking.

Let me give you a simple example. No look pass is skill every coach wants his players to have. Every fan goes crazy when he sees it on the game. And this skill starts with a simple fake with your head, you turn it one side so that defense thinks you will pass it there and then you throw the ball to another side.

Pass fake is one of the best weapons when you play against zone defenses, with it you shift whole defense to the wrong side and create a good shoot for your teammate.

Faking is not only offense, but there is also a huge number of defensive fakes that can help you and your team. Like faking that you will block the shoot and staying on the ground can completely confuse offensive player, or faking that you don't want to steal the pass before it happens and then reacting in the perfect moment to steal it.


Some players made their living with scoring baskets with their weak hand. You become a much better player if you can use both hands equaly for finishing close to the rim, dribbling and passing. Many defenses are based on pushing the player to his weak hand but if you don't have that can be your big advantage.


Most of the time in offense players spend without a ball, so we need to teach them how to cut when to cut and where to cut. Elite players are great with this, no chance they will not punish the defense when somethings happen of the ball.


Half of the time you spend on the court you are playing defense. Do you use half of your workout time to practice it?

Simply find a player who is better than( can be older, or just stronger) and play 1on1 with that person. It will develop your defensive instincts and help you better understand how important is to play on both sides of the court.


To improve your skills sometimes you don't have to do drills. It is enough to analyze things you were doing before. Seeing things is a very effective way to understand how to improve. The video never lies and today it is very easy to make it and learn from it







  • Needs to be age-appropriate

With beginners you need only to make them love the game, that is the first thing if we want to keep them in basketball. Only after we can teach them how to play and how to get better at it.

  • The result doesn't matter

You need to play and practice only to become better. Nobody remembers who won some U15 tournament or championship 2 years ago. Don't put on young kids pressure to win. In the long run that can hurt them and create very bad habits.

  • No early specialization

Before the age of 15 specialization is not recommended. Every player needs to be able to play in every position. That can't hurt them in the future, it can only help them become more complete players.

  • No zone defense

If you play zone in youth basketball you are not helping young players to develop individual techniques and tactics they will need later. They are focused only on beating this defense. In most European countries it is not allowed to play zone defense before age 16.

  • No ball screens

Learn how to play 5on5 and not only 2on2. If three guys are constantly watching how are others playing they will not develop. Sooner or later they will start having fun doing something else and we will lose them

  • Teach concepts, not sets

Young players need to understand how to read the game, how to play without the ball. Where and when to cut...and not only to make screens like robots without any understanding why are they doing what the coach told them to do?

  • Develop players for future

It is not easy but every coach/trainer should predict when will certain players reach some level and how could basketball look at that moment. There is no big value in teaching the players something that was often seen in previous seasons. They will play pro basketball in 10,15 years and the game will change, probably will be even faster and transition oriented. Keep that in mind when you are developing the next generation of players.

  • Focus on every individual

Every kid is different and needs to be treated differently. Some of them need more encouragement while others prefer to touch love. It is up to us as a coaches to find the best approach on how to treat every player and maximize team potential.



Yes, the most important thing in basketball is practice. But, everybody should know that preparation before and rest after the practice is key elements for any young athlete who wants to play NBA one day.

In order to prepare your body for working hard every player should:

  • Improve his diet
  • Understand the importance of rest and recovery
  • Work on your fitness level
  • Find time to go to the gym

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Nov 04, 2019 Coach Chris

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