How to make players care more about practice

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“We talkin’ about practice, man. What are we talking about – practice? We talkin’ about practice.”

The infamous press conference where Allen Iverson rants about practice may have occurred almost 20 years ago, but that type of attitude in basketball players still carries on to this day.

As coaches, we don’t want our players to take on this mentality that minimizes the importance of  basketball practice. So how do we get players to really value practice?

Well, I think it starts with us.

I’ve seen coaches, parents and leaders demand things of others that they don’t even do themselves. I’ve even caught myself doing it.

Self-awareness is the first step in helping your players. So before you think about the pillars of your program and what you value most from your players, ask yourself the tough questions:

Do you show up prepared?

Do you get there early?

Do you bring high energy, focus and attention to detail the way you desire it from your players?

What is your body language saying?

Now answer this: do you really value practice? As a coach, you have to back up your words with actions. There’s no value in lip service.

Here are three actionable steps you can take as a coach to put a greater value on practice:

1) Measure everything in practice – Chart shots; chart winners and losers in competitive games and in sprints; chart communication, hustle and other traditional “intangible” qualities.

2) Communicate expectations and standards early and often. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Coaches often think they are clear in their communication, but in reality, very few are. Ask your players what they think you value in practice. Then tell them why you value practice.

3) Give specific roles to players in drills and segments of practice. This will make them feel more a part of the process and give them a greater sense of autonomy.

For example, give your team three drills to choose from in a segment. All three will accomplish what you want to get done in that segment but by giving your players the choice, they feel empowered and now you have more buy-in.

You can also give your players “Captain” roles: Captain of Communication, Captain of Spirit, Captain of Hustle, etc.

Implementing strategies that maximize the importance of practice increases effectiveness and better prepares players and teams for games.

Yes, we’re talking about practice!

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