By Vic Pruden. Learning how to play in games is the primary purpose of pre-competition team practices. For these sessions to be the most effective, practice conditions should, as closely as possible, duplicate game conditions. Consequently, each exercise or drill should simulate game conditions. Players should practice not only the array of skills and play options which they will be expected to execute during a game, but also the decisions which they will be required to make.

Except when doing a "walk-through", all the exercises, whether team, one-on-one, or individual skills should be performed at game speed.

Also, both offensive and defensive exercises should involve direct interaction between opposing players. For example, the most effective way to learn to score when closely guarded is to practice shooting while closely guarded.

The only way to learn how to make decisions effectively is to practice making them against opponents.

Each drill should reinforce how your players execute individual and one-on-one skills and how they play as a team; not ensuring this will likely result in negative transfer. For example, over the years I have seen many teams include a three-player weave drill in their practices. This drill is a perfect example of negative transfer, particularly when there is no defense.

In the weave drill, the player with the ball usually looks at the player who is receiving the pass. Doing this reinforces bad play. Looking at the receiver is fine when one is playing catch, but not when playing team basketball. In team basketball, the passer should know where the receiver is and what that receiver is likely to do, so that he/she can concentrate on what the opponent guarding the receiver is doing. What the defender does should determine whether or not the player with the ball executes the pass. How can the passer do this, if he/she is so focused on the receiver that he/she does not "see" the defender?

Vic Pruden

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