Coaches: Do you Have Time For Skills in Practice?

We have spoken before that there are three main aspects in coaching basketball in a practice: scheming (plays, sets etc), motivation (getting your players to play with intensity which includes defense, rebounding, loose balls etc) and skill development. If you are a coach reading this, ask yourself what areas do you focus on the most in a normal practice?


This weekend I had a lengthy dinner with Eric Viukola , the head varsity coach from West Linn, Oregon. Eric has won three Oregon State Championships in a row and is a big believer in Pro Shot (they shoot the ball very well). He told me that his program focuses an hour of every practice on skill development. His youth teams all do the same. Eric believes the key to winning is to have skilled players.

John Wooden would take an hour of practice to focus on skills as well. Forty minutes of this would be concentrated around shooting. He won a few championships.

Doc Scheppler is the girls basketball coach at Pinewood High School in Northern California and they spend an hour as well working on skills. He has won six California State Titles.

As Pro Shot travels the highways and the byways of America we watch many practices and talk to hundreds of coaches each year. We see coaches that spend an hour from each practice on developing better skills and we see other coaches that spend no time on skill development.

Skills will not happen by thinking about them. If you want a skilled team, you must shoot, pass, dribble every day. We always find it amusing when coaches say, “I just don’t know why we are not more skilled. Why we can’t shoot.” Could it come down to the notion that they don’t work on it? Of course that’s the answer.

There are really three components to a successful team: height, athleticism and skills. Height is something that few teams have and its usually luck of the draw. You might have it one year and the next year your front line looks like oompa loompas. Some high schools are more athletic than others, but sometimes that is luck of the draw as well. But skills is something you can have every year. It’s not about genetics. Its about putting in the time and doing the skills correctly.

If you lack skills, height and athleticism, good luck. You will need it. It may be a bumpy ride.

We have actually heard college and high school coaches say, “My players are too old to learn skills. Too old to learn to shoot or dribble.” It’s an amazing statement, but we hear it. If you translate this the coach is really saying, “We don’t have time to teach skills. We don’t have time to develop players.”

We realize you have limited time before your first game and you need to put in your sets, plays, and defenses. But try to squeeze in some time for skill development. You will see results by league and that is when you really need to see results the most.