The First 5-15 Minutes of Practice

What is your philosophy regarding the first 5-15 minutes of practice? 

In this short blog, I share 3 ideas regarding the first few minutes of practice. In every blog post, I risk coming across as telling you what to do or as if I'm some genius. Please understand that is not where I'm coming from. Basketball is pretty simple and I'm far from a genius. Instead, I'm just sharing a few simple ideas that I believe are worthwhile for our consideration as coaches. These ideas are not perfect, as every proposal has its' tradeoffs. But these might be helpful or bring up something you haven't thought about lately. More than that, I hope to hear from other coaches and learn from them in terms of early practice philosophy in response to this article. 

What do you do in the first 5-15 minutes of practice? What do you NOT do? What do you emphasize? What drills do you run on a daily basis? Let me offer 3 ideas that respond to this question. 

1) Begin with your biggest emphases/or most fundamental habits. Packline teams most important fundamental is defensive positioning. Fast paced teams most important fundamental is advancing the ball down the floor. Motion teams most important fundamental might be cutting and moving without the basketball. 

The first few minutes of a practice might be well utilized when consistently devoted to a team's most important fundamentals or emphases. 

(If you emphasize defense, check out THIS article for 7 variations of shell drill)

2) Differentiate with skillsets. Most players have one particular skill or skillset that, if improved upon, will pay massive dividends. This may be one skill a player needs to improve upon because opponents can really manipulate that weakness. It might be an skillset in which a player can go from good to elite. Or, it might be one skill that the team desperately needs that player to excel in to be successful. 

Whatever that one skill or skillset is, it might be beneficial to differentiating those first 5-10 minutes of practice for each player. If you have 6 baskets, working on a different skill at each basket for 5-10 minutes could be productive. In other words, your post player who has an ineffective weak hand will work on weak hand finishes and weak hand ballhandling for 5-10 minutes. At another basket, your guard is working on a particular aspect of their shot mechanics in a shooting drill. At another basket is the post player who needs to work on their face up game. 

Because we all have more players than we do baskets, we can group certain players depending on their skillset, role, and skill weaknesses. Or, we can place two players at one basket and create a drill that works on their respective skills that most need improvement. 

3) Get every player moving simultaneously. Early practice drills that get everyone moving at once get players engaged and warmed up faster. Drills that only get 1-2 players moving at a time delay the length of time it takes for the whole team to get warm. Drills like the one below can be helpful in achieving that.

"4 cone continuous" is a great drill that gets most players moving simultaneously. Within this drill, a team can practice individual moves of shooting or finishing AND team actions such as cuts, DHOs, screens, etc. This drill is found my full drill book HERE



These are just three ideas that I consider when I think of early practice philosophy. What do you do? What is your philosophy?

Mason Waters

Other Articles: 

7 Shell Drill Variations (Defensive Drills)


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  • Coach

    Just purchased your drills and small sided games package . I pick out several drills to be run at the next practice. It looks like the players will like and get something out of it.

    Can you tell me where I can find more small sided games . I have a few in my bag but need more to change up the practices.

    Your help would be appreciated.

    Coach John S.

    John Sobolewski
  • Love this! Exactly what we will be doing Saturday


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