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My Best Kept Secret Drill


by Ed Riley

I know, I know, best drills are a matter of opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? So that's why this is my best drill, not everyone's. Here's the but, but what if I could convince you that it is the best drill? That would be quite a challenge, wouldn't it? So here's my best shot at having fun convincing you.

We do drills to teach players how to do something. We do the same drill every LS because we coaches are a smart breed. We took our inhumane psych 101, and we know that kids learn things by repetition. The more they do it, they better they become at doing it. So we do the same drills every LS.

We, the intelligent adults that we are, and I use that term loosely, also know that if a drill can teach a player more than one thing, it's a great drill. So if a drill can teach your players more than any other drill, that would qualify it for "The Best Drill," right? So let's see what my best drill might accomplish.

  1. What if it teaches your players to move without the ball?
  2. What if it forces your forwards and centers to learn how to dribble?
  3. What if it gets even your guards to learn to block out?
  4. What if it helps teach your players the effectiveness of a screen?
  5. What if it teaches your players competitiveness and how to be more aggressive?

I can hear you all now, "Yeah right, and rats have wings!" I hear you Doubting Thomas's out there, and I would feel the same way if I were you. But what if I'm right? It would one heck of a drill and it would qualify for the Best Drill Hall of Fame. Here are the rules of the "Drill."

  1. Divide your team into 2 relatively equal teams, quality-wise and by equal number of players on each team.
  2. Hopefully you are practicing on a full-sized court with six baskets. If you go sideways and divide the court in 1/2, you have 2 smaller basketball courts.
  3. You now have your 2 teams play each other in a full court 3-on-3 game on one of these shorter courts.
  4. No one is allowed more than 3 dribbles.

After several times of doing this, you will be astounded by the results. First let's talk about conditioning. No one likes to do laps that I know of. 3-on-3 is about 2 to 3 times faster than regular basketball. It's hard to stay in for over 3-4 minutes without signaling to come out for a breather. Your players will get into shape and have fun.

Next, let's talk about moving without the ball. I have yet to meet a coach who hasn't complained about how they wish their players would move to get open. When there are only 3 on a team, and when no player is allowed more than 3 dribbles and then they must pass, everyone learns real quickly to move to get open. Trust me, it just happens!

How about teaching your forwards and centers to handle a ball? In 3-on-3 there are no forwards or centers. There are 3 players on the court who have to play every position. With the 3 dribble rule, forwards and centers must dribble the ball. Guards have to learn to block out. Everyone learns to screen. Everyone has to learn everyone else's position.

Competitiveness? Losers run a suicide, that gets their juices flowing.

If you let them do this the last 15 minutes of every LS, your LS's end on a fun note, and you will see them start to learn right before your very eyes.

Now it's time for me to fess up, and state the obvious = this wasn't a drill I went into, now was it? OK, I cheated just a little. But it is part of our practice routine and over the years, my teams have learned more from this than any drill I have ever shown them.

Sorry this chapter was so short. What's that? You like shorter chapters because they're easier to read? All right, I got the message, or did I?



Copyright 2001-2002, by Ed Riley, Steve Jordan, Darrell Garrison and Steve MacKinney. All rights reserved.



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Excellent video with thoughts and drills on organizing your practices. Learn from one of the greatest coaches of the game, Coach "K".
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