Developing Good Player Habits in Basketball

Developing Good Player Habits in Basketball

This article was written by Colgate University assistant men’s basketball coach Mike McGarvey. 


Every basketball coach wants to help their players make smart decisions. Nevertheless, many basketball players have bad habits and tendencies that could limit the full potential of a team’s success. Those players and teams need training to develop good player habits. In this basketball article, I discuss some of the more common individual player habits that prevent teams from reaching their full potential on offense and recommend some basketball drills to use in practice that may help remedy these inhibiting habits.



The Basketball Player Who Wastes Their Dribble

We’ve all witnessed it at some point. This player’s first instinct is to dribble the ball as soon as they catch it, which puts him or her at an immediate disadvantage. The defensive player no longer has to wonder what the offensive player plans to do with the ball. Perhaps most importantly, the timing and spacing of the offense have likely been disrupted.

So, as a basketball coach faced with this frustrating tendency with your players, what can you do to break the habit? In addition to emphasizing it verbally within your team, a successful method I’ve found is to practice team basketball drills with imposed dribble limitations: practice 5v5 full-court and half-court with no dribbles. Then add a maximum of one dribble or two dribbles. Take a look at how the offense’s efficiency changes depending on how many dribbles are allowed in the drill.

When conducting off-season workouts, play 1v1, 2v2, and 3v3 basketball competition drills with a three-dribble maximum. If you consistently implement these types of dribble limitations, I think you will notice your players valuing the advantages of keeping the “dribble alive” and becoming more efficient with their use of the bounce.

Basketball Players Who Stand and Watch when the Ball is Entered Into the Post

Most basketball coaches teach their desired action off of a post entry. If you currently do not have a post-entry action, I suggest you think about implementing one to add some focus to your offense when the ball goes down low. Some common post-entry actions include the cut/fill, repost/relocate, and screening the nearside elbow. However, many times, basketball players do not run the post-entry action with the urgency needed to be successful off of a post touch.

My suggestion for enhancing your players’ ability to play off the post is to place a limitation on the offense during practice that prevents a shot from being taken until the ball is entered to the low/high post at least two or three times. This should teach your players to consciously seek post touches and learn how to make good passes and catches to/from the post.

It will also help your players think about executing their movement following the post entry pass. Practicing with these limitations will help you coach whatever your desired actions are and help your team form good habits playing off of post touches.


Basketball Players Lacking Meaningful Dribble Penetration

There is no better way to dissect a defense than with the efficient use of purposeful dribble penetration.  There is a tremendous value that can be realized by a team of players who move the ball as a single unit, attack closeouts, keep good spacing, make hard cuts off drives, and ultimately make smart decisions when penetrating the defense.

My suggestion to help improve your basketball team’s ability to penetrate with purpose is by practicing competitively with points rewarded for driving the ball to desired locations on the floor (i.e., the paint, elbow, or baseline). With an added incentive, your players will look to drive the ball more than usual. Additionally, there will be more opportunities to execute your desired action (player movement) off dribble penetration for baseline and middle drives.

The more you practice it, the more confident your players will be when it happens in in-game situations. Let’s also not forget the improvements we’ve made with over-dribbling in No. 1. Dribble penetration with purpose is typically accomplished with only one, two, or three dribbles!



Developing Good Player Habits in Basketball Conclusion

These are some of the bad habits I see most commonly from basketball players of all ages and skill levels. From youth basketball to the professional-level, there is always room for improvement. I hope these examples and recommendations encourage you to think of unique ways to increase your team’s offensive efficiency moving forward.


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3 Responses

  1. Excellent points, Coach. But I might drill down a bit further, at least for those of us who are coaching younger, more inexperienced players. For example: let’s retreat from the drill a bit and teach our guys how to be as explosive as possible so that they can penetrate to the basket, regardless of their athletic ability or the athletic ability of the player defending them.

  2. You’re absolutely right about the common mistakes in youth basketball. I see it everyday. I will try the post & one or two dribble drill. 🙂

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