St. Anthony’s (NJ) head coach Bob Hurley is widely recognized as one of the nation’s most respected and top overall high school basketball coaches. The two-time National Coach of the Year and winner of 25 state titles was a recent inductee to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In this exclusive look, learn eight tips and strategies for practice planning from Coach Hurley. The segment covers everything from drills to time management and to practice organization. Finally, we’ll reveal one of Coach Hurley’s favorite warm-up drills that gets players thinking and playing sharp early in practice.
Practice Planning Strategies
1. At all times, you must get your practice plan on paper and stick to the schedule. Difficult things (like rebounding drills and screening drills) must be short in duration so the kids can follow and pick them up.
If a drill didn’t work, like a blockout drill, it’s up to the coach to come back the next day with a different drill. Don’t come back and be stubborn and try the same exact thing. In terms of drills, variety is really important for successful practices.
2. Alternate hard and easy drills/segments. We go four minutes with a particular segment. For instance, we got the explanation in the beginning and validation at the end (Coach Hurley picked this up from Vance Walberg).
With validation, pick a person at the end of the drill to shoot a free throw. If he makes it, move on to the next drill. But if he misses it, the team must run a sprint, do crunches or pushups. Do this for every segment. It incorporates pressure free throws. Plus, winning and losing is involved, some conditioning/running, and pressure situations.
3. Use the clock daily. Make use of your managers. One can do the clock and the other can help with drills. This is helpful for keeping time of drills, rebounding, and keeping track of makes.
4. Make practice competitive and fun. Competition lends to game speed. End practice each day with something challenging but fun.
5. When the team comes in to stretch, they do dynamic stretching now. After stretching, the team does a 30-second meeting and something to motivate the kids right before breaking. The team meets before, during and after practice. Coach Hurley blows the whistle, and everything stops in the drills. Kids must respond to the drill. If Coach Hurley points to the circle, that means the squad must come together for a quick meeting. The last kid that arrives must do 10 pushups. The team might do this 4-5 times a day.
6. In the first 15 minutes of practice, every coach must say something positive about every player. It’s not hard to do. As practice goes on and gets more intense, Coaches tend to get pickier. At the end of practice, the squad will get together again and have a 30-second meeting. John Wooden once said, “Always leave practice on a positive note.” We try to do this every day, even if it was a tough practice.
7. Win and lose starting jobs at practice. Make this happen every single day. Don’t allow guys to become “game-day players.” This will motivate players every day of the season.
8. Implement something new every day. It’s never too early to make the kids think.
Warm-Up Drill: “Fire”
Here’s a terrific warm-up drill to get players thinking and making quick decisions early in practice.
Start at the baseline with two players spaced out about 5-7 feet. First, there’s a pass from the inside player to the outside player. The inside player then cuts to the elbow. Note: Use only chest passes right now and focus on catching and moving. That elbow player gets the ball back. Next, that same player passes to a third player up at mid-court. The player from the corner now comes to the top of the circle. We hit him with a pass. That passer now follows him and heads to the end of the line.
The player with the ball now passes to yet another player up on the right side of the mid-court line. He then follows behind. The ball then goes back to the player at the top of the circle, then on to a player in the far corner/three-point area. Now, this player hits a different player cutting to the hoop for a layup.
The passer and the layup player are then immediately off and the next two players on the baseline start again. Start with layups and then mix in some jumpers. You can also get up to three balls going at once, that is if players aren’t daydreaming.