Game-like drills and the endgame


The picture above shows the scene of Lionel Messi’s goal against Atletico Madrid over the weekend.

During the warmups before the soccer games that I refereed this spring, I never saw a scene such as this in the pregame drills. Most teams start with Rondos which incorporate defenders into a simple passing drill. In these drills, the goal is to possess the ball; there is no goal, shots on goal, or attempts to score.

After the Rondos, teams shoot on goal. Their drills tend to be similar to the drill below: Players shoot with no pressure at an open goal or occasionally against a goalie.

The drills appear nothing like the situation from the game above. In game after game, players shoot wide of or over the goal, and coaches yell at the players to shoot at the goal. However, why not practice these shots?

I only see the pregame warmups. These teams may spend their entire practices working on what I called the endgame in SABA: The Antifragile Offense. However, why are passing drills with defense separated from shooting drills? Why not increase the contextual interference in shooting drills? Why not make the shooting drills more representative of the situations in the game?

The same happens in basketball. Why do most pregame warmups in basketball involve mostly uncontested layups and jump shots? Why not practice situations more representative of the endgame?

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

3 thoughts on “Game-like drills and the endgame

  • I have incorporated small sided play into our warmups with a 2v1 drill we do in the last two minutes before the horn. Before that, we do layup lines because I think it’s a ritual, similar to meditation, that allows players to clear their head and lock in. But then I want to activate their brains, so we flow right into the 2v1. I can see why some would be wary of doing it, as a player could get hurt right before the game starts, which not only hurts the team but makes the coach look bad. Some might say the risk is greater than the reward.

  • I agree that coaches fear an injury, and people would think that a coach is crazy if a player was injured. However, you cannot bubble-wrap players. I’ve seen players get injured before a game doing a regular layup drill.

    When I coached JV girls, I told them that we did not practice enough so every pregame warmup would be treated like a practice. I played 12 players so I was not worried about tiring out anyone. When our opponent went into the locker room, we played full-court transition games. We scrimmaged 5v5 at half-time of some games. We played 3v3. We did contested layup drills. Nobody was injured.

    I generally take the opposite approach as you mentioned. I do a lot of contested/competitive type drills, and then right before players go to the bench, we do a regular uncontested layup drill to see the ball go into the basket right before the game starts. It’s a European thing; well, maybe Scandinavian. Every team ends their warmup with the same drill.

    Another thing that I have thought about this season: The warmup should mimic the pre-practice warmup to create conditions as normal as possible. I’ve tried to structure practice and games a little closer together. I start practice with a shooting drill (after my dynamic warmup) and we start our pre-game warmups the same way. I also have shortened the scripted warmups to get closer to the pre-practice scenario (not a problem in most youth/HS situations, but with an hour before college/pro games, a definite consideration).

  • We run a simple 2 vs 2 game towards the end of our pre-game warmup. 2 players at the 3 point line at our 4-out guard positions. 2 players underneath the basket with the ball: Pass, sprint to closeout/deny position, then quick 2 vs 2 game that must be initiated with a pass/cut action.
    This sets the tone for our motion offense, which is based upon the idea of constant motion via pass/cut/fill. Slow game starts like we used to have them before have so far been a thing of the past as well…

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