All-Access Practice: Behind the Scenes with Pat Summitt and Tennessee Women’s Basketball

In this week’s edition of All-Access, we take you to Knoxville, Tennessee for a behind-the-scenes look at a University of Tennessee women’s basketball practice. Watch as head coach Pat Summitt – an eight-time NCAA national champion – walks through a variety of team drills for you and details specific roles, player movements, overall strategies and general tips.

First, Summitt leads the team through “toss back” shooting drills before implementing various defensive warm-up drills. Be sure to pick up some new ideas from Summitt and her national championship program and see how incorporating them can benefit your own squad. But as Coach Summitt likes to say: “There’s no substitute for working hard and playing together as a team.”

Toss Back Shooting

The drill commences when a player makes a pass to a coach or teammate in the paint from the corner and behind the 3-point line. The player that passed the ball will then cut toward the elbow and receive a quick pass back before taking a jumper and following through on the shot. Remember, players should get their feet set early and hips low at all times.

Teams can easily change the toss back drills to focus on different areas around the court depending on which types of players are involved (i.e. guards, forwards, centers). You can change up the drill to incorporate no dribbling, hand off toss backs, passes to the baseline, pump fakes, drives to the hoop, pull-up jumpers after a dribble, and even getting coaches involved by acting as a defender and getting a hand up in the face of the shooters. Remember, keep the drills fast-paced and always moving briskly.


Defensive Warm-up

The Tennessee women’s basketball team prefers to feature a lot of variety in their drills, particularly at the defensive end. First, players begin a defensive warm-up with a 3-on-3 drill above the 3-point arc. The players on offense will dribble to one side of the arc and then dish off to a teammate before replacing one another. The only movement offensively happens above the arc. Meanwhile, the defenders must communicate and work together effectively, switching on screens and keeping up with the offensive players’ movements.

On the other end of the practice floor, players work on a 1-on-1 drill in the low post. The drill pits together one offensive and one defensive player at a time. The ball will then move around the perimeter, and as it does, the offensive player in the paint looks to move and adjust her positioning based on where the ball is located on the floor. All the while, the defensive player must react and establish her own positioning down low to prevent easy entry passes and layups. The offensive player is always working to get open as the defender is denying and using frequent pivots to force a poor entry pass.

Another effective defensive warm-up is the “caught dead” drill. Here, an offensive player dribbles hard in one direction before picking up her dribble abruptly. Now, the defender must play tight defense and swarm their counterpart, hopefully forcing a turnover in the process.

A final defensive warm-up finds players working on their deny defense and moving their feet as an offensive player works some backdoor cuts. The goal is to maintain proper form and footwork while denying any passes down the backside for an easy layup.


The previous drills can be seen in Championship Productions’ exclusive DVD “All-Access Basketball Practice” with Pat Summitt. Check out our entire All-Access catalog by clicking here.

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