Teaching skills the non-traditional way

In The 21st Century Basketball Practice (available for kindle, paperback, or downloadable e-book), I contrast the traditional approach to skill development and practice with the 21st Century model. This week, I worked with the perimeter players for a college team, and below is an example of skill development from the 21st Century model, based on ideas from the book.

Initially, I wanted to introduce some ideas of spacing. When I watched the team play, their spacing when they penetrate was poor. I started with 4v4 Canada Rules, a game that I stole from Basketball Canada’s Mike MacKay. This was not a new game for the team, but I wanted to start with the spacing idea.

Next, we played a similar game, but within their offense. When their set required two players to be in the same box, I did not penalize them. I wanted them to see how the general spacing concepts fit with their offensive sets.

From there, I moved to a game (4v4) using their offense to work on the passing skills by their point guards. Rather than do a passing drill, they ran their normal sets, but when the offense ran an on-ball screen, I jumped in as the screener’s defender, and the screener’s actual defender dropped into help to take away a roll to the basket. Essentially, the game moved from 4v4 to 4v5 on any on-ball screens in order to add complexity to the passing out of these situations.

Next, when a ninth player arrived, we did the same drill, except in a 5v5 situation. I defended the screener against both teams so the PGs had to practice passing against a taller, more athletic defender.

Finally, because a lot of teams go under on-ball screens, we returned to 4v4 and worked on options when the defender goes under the screen. I used a cone as the screener, and the defender had to adjust and go under the cone. The team ran its normal sets minus the player who set the on-ball screens. I used this to practice what comes next in their offense. When the defense goes under, what are the ballhandler’s options? When the ballhandler does not create anything with the on-ball screen, what happens next? What do the other players do? Hoes does their spacing fit with the first drill that we did?

This was almost an entire practice session focused strictly on perimeter players and perimeter play. I offered very few specifics, and not a lot of verbal instructions. Instead, the drills did the teaching. When PGs were trapped by a bigger defender and a help defender was there to defend the screener, what are the options? When the defense goes under the screens, what happens next? The players searched for the answers rather than me telling them what to do.

This is just one example of using The 21st Century Basketball Practice as a model for creating a workout or a practice session. Every drill was live. Every drill had an offense and a defense. Every drill had a winner and a loser. Every player was engaged at all times in every drill. To me, that’s what we should be striving for in practice.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development

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