How to Get Your Team to Play Hard

Practice Drill

From Coach Battenberg’s book: You Can Run With Anyone

Getting Players to Practice Hard

I was often asked how I got the players to go hard all the time.  The answer is, it’s part of the culture I instilled in our program.  I was always preaching: “If you practice half-speed, you get really good at going half-speed.”  The point I was making to the players is that if you want to be good in the games, then practice at game speed.  So, what happens when they aren’t going hard in practice?  First, it is the Captains’ and Senior Leaders’ jobs to not let this happen. The first year at a new job, I had to deal with this quite often on my own though, until player ownership and leadership had been established.  It was a continuing project, started during fall conditioning, into tryouts, and then right on through the season.

When the team was dragging in practice, unmotivated, or lacking focus, I sometimes got just a little frustrated with them.  That’s when whatever drill we were doing stopped and I had everyone get on the baseline.  Boy, did that wake them up!  They sensed my frustration and usually feared the worst – sprints.  But, I just expressed my disappointment in a few words and gave them what I called a “reminder”.  A reminder is just a group jog (never a sprint) from the baseline to mid court and back.  It is called a reminder because its purpose is to remind everyone to practice hard.  From there, it was the leadership’s job to get everyone together, focused, and back on track. This gave me a minute or so to calm down, check my notes, and adjust my practice plan if needed.  I usually gave them a short version of  the “half speed” speech again and then we were hopefully back at practice with renewed vigor.  In most cases, especially after culture was established, there were no more letdowns that day.  But occasionally, especially early in the season, things still just didn’t go well yet.  So, they went back to the baseline, only this time they ran up and back – hard, full court.  This was followed by my short speech saying, “If you aren’t going to get in shape playing basketball, we are going to have to just run to get in shape.”  Then it was one more up and back for them.  Now, they got together and motivated one another because they would much rather play the game of basketball then just run.  I seldom had to do more than that to get my players motivated to practice hard.  Usually the first half court up and back (reminder) run with a short meeting took care of things for the rest of the day and days ahead.

I also found that a key to avoiding letdowns was to stay positive with them and praise them at the end of practices when they had worked hard.  Also, continually praising them during practice for their efforts too.  We made it a team-pride-thing that they were going to be able to play harder than any opponent because they were always practicing with great effort and establishing good habits.  It was part of our Culture.

Key Teaching Points:

  1.  Keep your drills short (5-10 minutes each) and ask for full effort.

2.  Run a simple Set Offense so you don’t spend too much time working on it.

3.  Work more on your fast break and Early Offense then the Set Offense because the first two will occur more often in your Speed Game.

4.  Suicides (Line Drills) are a waste of time for conditioning.  Put the effort into Fast Break Drills and Transition Drills that are game-like.

5.  Playing hard in blocks of 10 minute increments is more productive than 30 minutes of scrimmaging in “cruise control.”

6.  Make your Captains and/or Seniors responsible for the practice effort.

7.  Always try to end drills and practice on a good play – a high note.

If you want to learn more about Playing Hard and refining your Fast Break Attack, check out Coach Battenberg’s book and order it below:

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