First, coaches must identify what weaknesses opponents have identified and are exploiting during the games.
Next, coaches will have to understand whether this relates to skill or with effort or attitude.This most definitely will change from day to day. This practice focus will come up periodically during practice and should be called out when noticed. This is a great way to hold players accountable in their actions.
Several basic themes or focuses coaches can use are boxing out, sprinting back, turnovers, positive attitude, bad shot selection, lack of high fives, and team support. These are all great themes that will help lead to more wins and better team camaraderie.
It's a great idea to find a motivational or inspirational quote that will go well with the chosen practice focus. This will give the coach at the beginning of practice the opportunity to address the weakness or issue the team faces and give examples on how changing this will lead to a more complete team.
This is also a great way to reiterate the focus throughout the entire practice in a positive way. The quote will stay in the players' minds and they will quickly adjust to what is expected of them. My old college coach used to put these quotes on our practice plan in the locker room before we got started. He requested every player read and be able to say the quote if called on before practiced started. This was a great way for us to digest what the focus of the day would be before we even got started.
Keeping Players Accountable
During practice make sure to have a student manager or assistant coach tallying the amount of times the practice focus is called out whether it be a positive or negative thing.
If it's a positive, a way to reward players is to give players sprints off at the end of practice or during drills. This will motivate players to continue to be positive and have a reason to stay focused in at all times.
If the tallies are for doing some thing negative like not sprinting back on defense, then use that for conditioning after practice or after drills. This is another great way to kill two birds with one stone. Every practice is a great opportunity to make players aware of their behavior, reactions, and camaraderie on the basketball court. Coaches that are the most consistent will see positive habits being developed during practice and most importantly during games.
Practices are meant to help players learn, grow, and also help the team prepare for upcoming games. But it is also an opportunity for coaches to get better themselves.
Taking risks as a coach can sometimes backfire but practice is a great chance for coaches to play around with line-ups and motivational tactics. Every player on a team reacts differently so make sure to adjust accordingly to each player. Practice is a great way to get players out of their comfort zone and a great way for coaches to learn how to reach each player.
There are so many players that never reach their full potential because they are looking for that little extra push or motivation from a coach. This takes time and coaches that have been around a long time and have been successful undertstand this doesn't happen overnight. Each day is an opportunity for coaches to get better at practice and help lead by example. Make sure that if your focus for the practice is being positive, you are leading by example yourself!
The last piece to the practice theme and focus is the goal setting. Every positive focus has a positive outcome at some point.
Examples would be making the extra pass for a bucket or hustling back on defense for a stop. These are positive outcomes focused around effort and unselfishness. It's never a bad idea to promote and bring attention to these things. Players and coaches feed off of positive energy, effort, and communcation. If you can use your practice focus to accomplish these goals, then you will build a solid foundation to build on. This foundation will hold strong whether the season going good or bad.
Make sure to get fired up over the positives in practice because we all know how easy it is to get fired up over the mistakes. If your players know you have their back and that your goals are the same as theirs, then you will have players that would be willing to run through a brick wall for you!
Having a different theme and/or focus for each practice is a great way to keep things fresh throughout the season and gain player buy-in. Give it a shot this season and hold your team accountable and reward them for success.
Have you tried this before? Let us know how it worked for you in the comments below!