practice structure

Be Willing To Adapt

We are about to go on hiatus for a while next week so I really want to emphasize the concept of adaptability before we do. As a coach I have been stubborn early on in my career and tried to stay with things that weren’t working. My unwillingness to adapt cost me a lot of ball games.


If something is not working, change it. Nothing says that just because you spent your entire pre-season implementing something that you cannot change it. This past year, I game planned differently for every single game on my schedule. We were a zone team early on in the year and adapted into a man-to-man team because it was a better fit.

Everyday in practice and with every game look very closely at what you’re doing. If it’s not working then don’t be afraid to change things up.


Coaching Clinics

I am always a great advocate of improving ones knowledge in any field and attending coaching clinics is a great way to learn some new things and also have some fun. This past year I attended a Nike Coaching Clinic in Las Vegas with one of my assistant coaches.


My assistant coach and I learned a great deal from each of the speakers. We attended all but around two of the presentations during the weekend. Additionally, we got to spend some time talking about the upcoming season. Because it was Las Vegas we also spent some time in the casino and also went out for a couple of nice dinners.

I strongly encourage coaches to attend a clinic this year and also take their coaching staff with them.

How Much To Include In Playbook

The other question that I received from a reader was as follows, “Coach Chris, how many plays should I include in my playbook?” First of all, I really appreciate the great questions that I have received from readers this past week. The answer to this question is similar to the one that I gave yesterday.


You have to include a number of plays that your athletes can master and run efficiently. You are better off running four plays well than running twenty plays that are just average.

When I post my series on offenses and other plays after the regular season ends, you will get some ideas of what I might consider implementing but for now I will outline what I have done with two of my teams and how many plays that I had:

When at Esperanza I had players with years of club basketball experience and we ran almost thirty sets out of our playbook. At Ontario we have mostly players who are new to the game so my playbook is limited to around 10 sets.

Choosing Your Plays

Yesterday I received two more questions via e-mail and will answer one today and another tomorrow. The question that came to me was as follows, “Coach, what are the plays that I need to put in my playbook?”


The answer to this is truly dependent on the team that you have. You need to design your playbook based on the personnel that you have. My playbook changes every year based on the players that I have on my roster.

Strong Guard Play But Undersized- In these situations, I will often have a team that plays up-tempo and runs a lot of primary and secondary breaks on offense. We will also trap and get aggressive on defense.

Big Team- These teams are ones were I will slow down the game and try and pound the ball inside. We also will run a-lot of pick-and-roll action to create mismatches.

You can run any combination of the above based on what your team looks like.



Off-Season Structure

I received a question this past week about how I structure my offseason program. It’s the first e-mailed question that I have received to the blog. Here is a post outlining how I spend Spring, Summer, and Fall. First of all, unless your team is extremely talented, don’t schedule more than three tune-up scrimmages during fall. Spend time working on developing your players and learning to play offense and defense.


Here is what I do in each part of the year:


  1. Practices three days a week.
  2. Open gym scrimmages two days a week.
  3. Conditioning during 6th period three days a week.
  4. Weightlifting during 6th period two days a week.


  1. Practices three/four days a week.
  2. Skill Position bonus workouts twice a week.
  3. Weightlifting twice a week.


  1. Practices four days a week.
  2. Conditioning during 6th period three days a week.
  3. A few scrimmages.

Make Your Personnel Better

I spent my first few years at Ontario hoping for transfers and coming up with ways to make our program look more attractive to potential new players. It turns out that I wasted time that could have been spent improving the athletes that I already had at the school.


If you take the action that you want to improve your current roster, it will make you better now. Even if you are to get a transfer, the talent that is around them needs to be at a high level in order to have your team preform at the highest possible level.

Nothing can make your program better than a strong player development program both in the offseason and during the regular season. A great place to start would be to read the fundamental series that I posted over the prior few weeks.

Lead By Example

If you are going to ask your athletes to do something it truly helps to lead by example. I have learned through experience that if your athletes see you as the hardest working member of the team, it makes it hard for them to question what you are doing or complain. This has been a great area of growth for me over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to strength and conditioning. I first want to preface that although it helps if you have been around the game of basketball, it is not crucial that every coach have played the game of basketball growing up.


My first couple of seasons at Ontario, I was horribly out of shape and it was difficult to get my athletes to completely commit to our strength and conditioning program. A couple of years ago I committed to fitness for myself and lost over 150 pounds and am now in the greatest shape of my life (shockingly, diet and exercise actually works). Now when we have conditioning before or during practice, I will get out there and do the workouts with my athletes and I no longer get any complaints and notice a guilty look from students who sit out a conditioning workout that I am doing with the team. This is just one example of a way that I have been able to lead by example.

Another great way to lead by example is make sure that you are at the gym before any of your athletes and you are the last one to leave. I make an effort to be in the gym reviewing game film when my athletes arrive and stay in the gym after practice to meet with my assistant coaches. Athletes notice these things and will respect you more if they see that you are committed to working hard and devoting time to the program. Being knowledgeable about your offense and defense will help them respect your knowledge of the game as well. Whenever a question gets brought up about something we are doing on offense or defense, I make an effort to give a solution or answer that has depth and shows that I am in complete understanding of what we are doing, how we need to do it, and what the expected outcome is.

Overall, it’s a great idea to lead by example because you are a role model to these athletes and it will help you be more successful as a coach. I am always open to suggestions so if you have any ideas, suggestions, or questions, please feel free to comment on this post or send me an e-mail.