A good game of basketball starts with a good warm up and ends with a cool down. To prepare for a game it is essential that the players practice each move until they are well versed in the tactics. We’ve compiled the 63 best basketball drills – by no means a complete list, but a good idea of what is involved in playing a great game.
“Remember that basketball is a game of habits. If you make the other guy deviate from his habits, you’ve got him” – Bill Russell
Table of Contents
- Warm up drills
- Defence drills
- Shooting drills
- Rebounding drills
- Partner drills
- Passing drills
- Offensive drills
- Strength and conditioning drills
- Cool down drills
- Drills for youngsters
- Some reading suggestions
Warm up drills
These drills are a very important part in the whole game of basketball. Without them, there is always a risk of injury and torn muscles. Warm up drills also get the mind in focus on the game. They are a really good idea – not only from a safety point of view – but they are a great way to get the players to be mentally ready and prepared for the upcoming game. This is one area of training that should never be omitted for any reason as to do so may cause an unnecessary injury.
- 1. High knees: running with the addition of bringing your knees up towards your chest. This is quite a fast move and your knees should end up as high if not higher than the waist. Everything should stay facing the direction of travel, there is no twisting used
- 2. Run on toes: This is done without bending the knees
- 3. Butt kicks: Instead of bringing your knees up in front of you, as you run you kick your behind. Try to kick and move at a fairly fast pace. The whole body stays facing the direction of travel
- 4. Ankle hops: With slightly bent knees, gently bounce off the toes. This action looks similar to jumping a rope and going forward at the same time
- 5. Carioca: This is a sideways run and at the same time crossing your right foot in front, and then behind. This involves a good amount of hip rotation and is done fast
- 6. Side step: Feet should be slightly wider than shoulders. This is done slowly. Step with your leading leg and stay low while you bring up the rear leg to within 6 inches. Slowly move, staying in the crouch position
- 7. Glute walk: As you walk you pull up your right knee to your chest with your right hand. Both knee and ankle should be close to your body. Then repeat with the left leg and hand
- 8. Back pedal: Lean a little forward to keep your balance and then run backwards, reaching as far back as you can
- 9. Straight leg march: Keeping one leg straight, kick it up in front as high as you can as you walk. You should try to touch the opposite hand’s fingers as you walk. Then do the same with the opposite leg
- 10. Power skips: Instead of skipping normally you raise your legs as high as you can and thrust your arms up into the air as if to reach for the sky
- 11. Two player pass: Work on ‘pass and catch’. Alternate between bounce and chest passes
There is a well-known phrase that ‘defence wins games’ and if this is true, then it seems logical to spend some time drilling the moves to achieve perfection. It makes sense to work on specific drills for specific areas of the game, and perfect them in order to know the play well and beat the opposition. These drills do not have to be performed in any specific order, they can be mixed around to stop players becoming bored with the same routine.
“The idea is not to block every shot. The idea is to make your opponent believe that you might block every shot” – Bill Russell
“Good basketball always starts with good defence!” – Bob Knight
- 12. Tip drill: Working alternatively with right and left hands, jump and dribble the ball in a fluid movement. This can either be done in movements of ten per hand or in times of 30 second bursts
- 13. Tip and touch: This is exactly the same as the tip drill except that you touch the rim with the other hand
- 14. Blocks: This drill consists of one shot. The coach stands off to the side and throws the ball to one player. The receiving player goes directly to the hoop with one step, while the second player attacks him. The defender tries to get the ball with his inside hand and one step only
- 15. Two blocks: Two offensive players line up, with the defensive player in the middle. The coach is off to the side with two balls. The coach passes to one offensive player who takes just one step to the hoop. Coach now passes to the second offensive player who also goes directly to the hoop. No fakes or dribbles. Defensive player tries to make the block in just one move
- 16. React and block: Two offensive players line up facing the baseline. Defensive player sets up in the middle and coach stands on the base line with the ball. Ball is passed to an offensive player who goes with just one step to the basket. Defensive player tries to block the move, again in just one move. He must try to get the ball while maintaining position and balance
- 17. Top to corner drill: Offensive players are on the foul line and in the corner. Defender guards the high post. Coach stands with two balls and passes to the high post, while defender tries to get the ball. Coach passes to the corner players who go directly to the basket with two dribble at most. Defensive player tries to get the ball with just one step
- 18. Corner to top drill: This is the same drill as the top to corner but the defender now guards the player in the corner. Coach passes to the corner player and defender tries to get the ball. Offensive player goes to the basket with two dribbles at most
- 19. Strongside-weakside drill: Use the same format as the top to corner drill. Coach sets up on the opposite wing. Passes the ball to the high post while the defender tries to get the ball. Coach passes over the heads to the opposite corner who goes to the basket, no fakes and two dribbles at most. Defensive player tries to make the block
It’s a good idea to have a good selection of drills for any aspect of the game so that the players are kept motivated and do not get bored with a drill routine. It will keep players excited about upcoming games and make sure they are motivated to win each game! Shooting drills are probably the most fun drill to do. Everyone wants to shoot a goal! They can be done in any order to be effective. A good point here is from a coach to start small and end tall. Shooting is not only physical, but it also entails a strong mental attitude which these drills seek to strengthen.
- 20. 23 cones drill: 23 cones are placed at one end of the court. Divide the group into two teams. One ball per team. Players start shooting at the coach’s whistle. The shooter must rebound the ball and pass it to the next person before sprinting down to the end of the floor. The shooter gets only one attempt and if they win they get a cone for their team. Team with the most cones wins
- 21. Hand off drill: Players at the top dribble down towards the wing, while the wing player makes a cut to the baseline. The wing player receives the hand off and plays a shot. Then that player hands off the ball and goes to the back of the line. The shooter also joins the end of that line
- 22. Pressure jump drill: Have 4 lines of players with as many players as you want. Use four balls. The first person on each line has a ball. Coach blows his whistle and the first person in each line takes a shot and then goes to the back of the same line. If they make the shot, they get to move up a line while a missed shot means that they join the same line to try again. This continues until a player has made eight shots
- 23. Speed shooting: Teams of three are best here. Each group has one ball and are spread out evenly along the side. They can shoot a three point or a mid-range shot (their choice). On the call the first players sprint to the opposite end of the court and shoot. They then rebound and sprint to the other end before shooting again. After that they pass the ball to the next person in line. The next person must not move until he has the ball
- Partner shooting drill: Players pair up with someone else and stand about ten feet away from each other in lines. One ball between two layers. Players must shoot the ball to each other for a certain period of time. Coach decided the time on this
- 24. Chase down layups: This is done with two lines of players at each end of the court. The offensive line all have a ball. Coach starts with a whistle. On the call both offensive and defensive players sprint the floor. The offensive player must try to make the layup, while the defence should challenge. After this both players make their way to the end of their respective lines
- 25. Shooting drill: Players should be divided into four even groups and forma line. First person in each line must have a ball. On the whistle the first person in each line takes a shot from a certain point. If they make the shot, the team is awarded three points. Then the player runs outside the key and gets a second shot and if he gets this, it is worth an extra three points. The same player then gets a shot from inside the key and if he gets the shot, it is worth another one point. After this the ball is passed to the next person in the line. The team with the most points wins
Rebounding stats are good indicators of how the game has gone, they are also good indicators of how well the team is playing, and how well they are focused. Rebounding drills will build knowledge, skill and the determination needed to get the points! Rebounding drills tend to be fast and furious so should be done after a warm up and before the players start to lag a little. Anything that you can do to improve your rebounding will help you.
A team which is able to create a rebounding advantage over their opponent, will invariably win a lot of games. Team awareness with rebounding is vitally important and the whole team should understand the implications rebounding has for both winning and losing.
- 26. Run to front of basket at high speed: This is a good drill because it gives the defence no time to get into position for your rebound
- 27. Run to front of rim on a dribble drive: Follow your teammates to the rim all the time as you will be there in case your opponent misses. It allows more offensive rebounds and also more points.
Rebound outside your area: Throw the ball off the back board on the other side of the rim and then retrieve it. This is a good drill to ensure you run far for the ball instead of standing watching it
- 28. Make contact first: try to be the first when it comes to boxing out, before your opponent makes contact with you. This means you must anticipate and always be first. You will find that this gives you an edge in your game
- 29. Move as shooter uncoils: This needs quick reactions. As soon as the shooter uncoils you need to start blocking out. This can also be done on offence, as soon as the shooter uncoils after a rebound. You can work on this with a friend to perfect your speed
Try to have partners pair with same size and abilities, this will be more successful and rewarding. Partnering will also enhance the individual skills at passing and catching and are very quickly worked through so the chance of getting bored is reduced. Partnering can be as fast or slow as the coach decides and in any order which works well.
“A coach must never forget that he is a leader and not merely a person with authority” – John Wooden
- 30. Close out drill: Stand about fifteen feet from each other, with one having a ball. Roll the ball to the other person and then sprint and make a good close-out. Second player one or two dribbles to whichever side he chooses. Then back to fifteen feet apart and the second player has the ball and repeats the drill. This can be repeated for a few minutes before moving on to another drill
- 31. Box out drill: Players stand just a few feet from each other. Neither has a ball. The coach yells ‘shot!’ and the first player boxes out the second player by stepping up and making contact. Normally this is done with a forearm, followed by a quick pivot with feet wide and elbows out. At the coaches second call of ‘shot!’ the second player boxes out the first. Practice for a few minutes and then move on
- 32. One on one drill: Using both ends of the court, the player with the ball starts at the top and attempts to move or shoot and outside shot. The defender needs to stop the offence and get the rebound. Offence will then be awarded one point each for a basket made, an offensive rebound and if the defender fouls. There are no second shots here and each player must keep track of their own score. You should play up to five sets and the loser gets to do 5 – 10 push-ups
- 33. Elbow shooting: First player has the ball. Second player starts at his left elbow, then fakes left and cuts to the right. First player then passes to second player. Second player squares up and then takes a shot. Switch roles and repeat. You can do this for as many sets as you can, getting up to 40 shots for each player
Passing is probably one of the most under taught skills in the game! It is a good idea when coaching passing that the coach not only teaches the skill to pass, but also the mentality that goes with it. Basketball – being a team game – means that all players are involved and therefore passing is a vitally important skill which needs to be drilled regularly, if the team is to succeed.
“Passing is your best weapon against man to man. Dribble penetration is your best weapon against zone” – Bob Knight
- 34. Two player drill: Players pair up and run instead of shuffling up the floor while passing the ball between them. The last pass ends with a lay-up. The pair then go to the end of the line and wait their turn to repeat this
- 35. Two on one drill: This is essentially the same as above except that we add a defender who runs ahead of the passers and tries to defend in this situation. The defender may try to jump between the two players and get the ball if he can. At the end, they all go to the end of the line and wait their turns again
- 36. Two on two drill: Also the same as the first drill but here we add two defenders who should trail the break and not leave the line until offence has cleared the top of the key. Both offence and defence must move quickly and both pairs should be communicating with their partners
- 37. Star drill: For this there should be five lines like the points of a star. Line 1 passes to line 5, line 5 passes to line 3, line 3 passes to line 2, line 2 passes to line 4, who finally pass to line 1 again. This needs to be performed with accurate chest passes and the receiver may move towards the ball a little
- 38. Two-man speed dribble and pass: Form two lines with the left line players each having a ball. The first player in the line dribbles up and passes to the second player who then catches the ball and quickly dribbles it up and back to the first player. The first player gets the rebound and they repeat this drill going in the opposite direction
Drills are used to achieve personal player development as well as teaching team work and skills. Most of these drills can be changed around so that the players never get bored with a set routine. This will help in your team developing the skills and determination they need to win.
“Offense is not equal opportunity” – Bob Knight
- 39. Jump stop drill: All players need to be lined up at the end line, with space between them. They should then jog slowly down the court. When the coach blows the whistle they must all come to a jump stop. When the coach yells “go’ they all begin again. Every time the whistle blows the must make a jump stop. This should be done up and down the court. When the players are used to doing it with a slow jog, they can modify it to a sprint. After that they should all be given a ball and dribble slowly while doing jump stops. Eventually they may work up to a sped dribble combined with a jump stop
- 40. Jump stop and pivot drill: For this players need to be paired up together on a side line. One player dribbles about ten feet and stops with a jump stop, then pivots and passes back to their partner. The second player repeats the routine while the first player returns to the side line
- 41. Dribble baseline drill: This drill is a simple dribble right down to the baseline and then to shoot a mid-range shot. The players each get a turn and then go to the back of the line
- 42. Dribble up, dribble down: Here each player will dribble up to the baseline and the back dribble back down, and take the shot. This is an important drill as going backwards sometimes means a player will lose the ball. This drill teaches them to back dribble and still be able to take the shot
- 43. Corner drill: Here all the players start in the corners, using both sides. They must work through a triple threat and a shot fake, along with a dribble between the corner and the wing and take a mid-range shot
Strength and conditioning drills
The off season is the time when these skills and drills may be put into place. Players need to be strong enough to withstand contact, yet supple and quick enough to change direction in an instant. Off season is the perfect time to work on getting strong, both mentally and physically in order to play the game. Pre-season training for players will only be beneficial.
- 44. Plyo push ups: In a regular push up position but with the ball between both hands. Lower yourself halfway to the ground and then violently explode upwards off the floor to catch and land on the ball on the ground. Hold in this position for a second. Push up and off and replace hands on the floor
- 45. Medicine ball throws: You should be facing a wall with the ball in both hands in front of you at chest height. As hard as you can, hurl the ball at the wall and be sure to catch it again as it bounces. Repeat for either repetitions or time frame
- 46. Medicine ball rotation throws: Have your feet shoulder width apart and face the wall sideways. With both hands holding the ball and arms slightly bent, swing the ball over your hip and against the wall. Keep your hands at the ready to catch the ball as it comes back at you. Make sure to swap sides so both sides are worked
- 47. Medicine ball slams: Have your feet shoulder width apart and the ball tucked behind your head. As hard as you can, slam the ball into the ground, squat down and pick up again. Repeat for any length of time or desired amount of repetitions
- 48. Medicine ball squat throws: Have feet shoulder with apart and the ball at chest height. Quickly squat down to parallel position then jump straight up as fast as you can, pushing the ball above your head as high as you can reach. Let the ball drop, then pick it up and repeat again for a length of time or reps
Cool down drills
After a basketball workout, it is really important that the body slowly returns to normal. It is vital to have a good cool down routine to prevent injury. This should also include stretches. The aim of the cool down is to have the heart rate gradually return to normal, reduce the waste product lactose, and to reduce the risk of sore muscles.
- 49. Walking without shoes on: get those shoes off and walk around with no socks on. Focus on feeling every part of your feet from your heels right up to your toes
- 50. Practise good form: Stand in a relaxed position with feet shoulder width apart and arms t your sides. Slowly lift your shoulders up towards your ears, feel as if you are moving them backwards and then downwards to a relaxed position. Take a deep breath and repeat again
- 51. Single knee cross: Lie on a mat on soft floor with hands at sides and both knees bent, feet on the floor. Lift one foot and place on other knee and gently push down on the lifted knee to stretch hips. Hold for 20 seconds and then change and do the other side
- 52. Ankle rotations: Sit on a chair and lift one leg at a time. Gently rotate ankles one way and then the other direction. Do this nice and slowly. Now change and do the other ankle
- 53. Calves: Find a step where you can support yourself. Stand on the step with your heels off the back and slowly lower your heels as far as is comfortable. Then – again slowly – raise up on your toes till you are as high as you can. Hold again, then relax
- 54. Shoulders and neck: This should be done slowly and smoothly. Stand comfortably and hang arms at sides. Look right and hold, then turn head left and hold. Then return to the front. Now turn slightly to the right and look down to the floor. You will feel your neck muscle stretch. Hold for a bit then turn to the other side and repeat
Drills for youngsters
Every basketball coach who teaches youngsters the game has a huge responsibility placed on their shoulders! It is a great obligation to teach them the right things in life. These young players will look up to a good coach who encourages them and drills them correctly. Drills for youngsters are very important and will set habits that will last a long time. Make sure they are good habits!
“You never realize the value of coaching until your children play for a coach” – Don Meyer
- 55. No hands drill: This can be done 1 on 1, 2 on 2 and so on. The ball is passed back and forth but the only time a player may use their hands is to grab a rebound
- 56. Fast: Each person has their own ball and a small circle is formed with the coach in the middle. The coach calls the name of one player and throws a soft ball in the air. The player must run to get the softball. While he does that all the other players dribble away from the person as fast as they can. When the player catches the ball and yells ‘stop!’ everyone sets their balls down beside them. The player with the soft ball is allowed to take three steps towards the nearest person and throw the ball at them. It he hits the person he gets to take the basketball. The person who has been hit then ends up in the centre of the court. All the players return to the middle and it starts all over again
- 57. Pair passing: For this drill players should be paired up and stand about eight feet apart. They must pass the ball back and forth, but must make sure that they step forward to pass and retrieve. The coach calls out which type of pass is to be made. As pairs become more accurate, they may move further apart. After a few minutes, players may go from baseline to baseline, passing between them. Speed should be determined by the pair’s ability. Again, the coach specifies the type of pass to be made
- 58. Flat ball drill: Here players should play 3 on 3 with no dribble. Receivers should try to deny the pass
- 59. Chair change drill: a sturdy chair should be placed about 21 feet from the basket. Player should dribble from about 8 – 10 feet away from the chair and go beyond the chair to make his lay-up. The idea is to get to the chair with only one dribble. Additional chairs may be used if you need more of a challenge
- 60. Rapid fire drill: A sturdy chair should be placed on either sides in the low post position, approximately 5 feet outside the lane. Another chair should be placed in the middle of the lane. Place a ball on each chair. The player should start under the basket
- 61. Locomotion drill: The ream should be divided into four equal groups. The first groups starts near the basket in a rebounding position and the rest must zig zag down the court
- 62. Diamond drill: Here the players must start underneath the basket. On the whistle they must sprint to half court. The pick and roll is one of the primary moves and players should memorise this move. Basically one offensive player tries to block another offensive players defence so he can get the shot without hindrance. Make sure both feet are set before doing this otherwise it is a foul
- 63. Stack drill: An inbounder needs to stand out of bounds with the ball. The rest of the players line up behind each other about 5 feet away from the inbounder. At the signal (usually a slap on the ball) three players closest run across in the opposite direction from the ball. The player who is furthest away gets to the inbounder so that he can pass to him for a shot at a goal
Some reading suggestions
Below are a few book selections that you will want to get your hands on and keep for referencing. They are all well illustrated and clearly laid out. Each of them make very good points about various areas of the game. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced player, you will find some points that will help you in your game.
“Discover your gift, develop your gift, and then give it away every day” – Don Meyer
Stephen Curry Inspiring Basketballs: A truly inspiring book by a great shooter.
Basketball Anatomy by Brian Cole: A great book to help maximise your power and strength.
Basketballs Greatest Players Step Reading: An excellent read about Basketball’s greatest!
Everything Kids Basketball Book: This would make an excellent gift for a young kid!
Smart Texas Basketball Jonny Brashear: This is a good read about the Texas Longhorn fan base.
The World Association of Basketball Coaches has just one goal in mind and that goal is to ‘improve the standard of the game through improving the standard of those teaching the game.’ This organisation dedicates itself to the development of coaches throughout the world. They organise many coaching clinics and produce coaching resources in many different languages. Every basketball coach must have certain standards that they work to and achieve when coaching players.
The coach needs to have an end result in mind with every drill he asks his players to work on. It is his job to identify players with certain skill sets and abilities and to encourage them to perfect these skills. Not every player will be able to do every drill and some will be more relevant to some players than to others. A good coach will spot these differences and build on them. He will not push his players to do drills which are beyond their capabilities or are too advanced for them.
A good rule of thumb is to have a selection of drills, many of which are fairly simple. A few should however be a little more complex and require thought before attempting. Every player should be given the opportunity to show their skill level and develop at their own pace.
Being in shape for the game season begins long before the season actually starts and a good coach will have his players begin to condition early. Not only does this give him an idea of how the players handle the exercise routines, but it also shows him their attitude and eagerness to be a part of the team.
Drills therefore, play a very important part in the game of basketball throughout the whole year, and not just during the playing season.
“You have to earn your right to win the game with effort and togetherness” – Brad Stevens