How do you prepare your team to handle pressure situations?

Is your team ready for the pressure?

Every game comes with its own unique set of pressure situations.  How are you preparing your team to be successful when it matters most?  Do you simulate these end-of-game situations in practice?  Do you present opportunities with consequences during practice?  In the #CJJblog this week, which will be the final part of my Coaching Tactics mini-series, I give you some tips on how you can prepare your team for crunch time.  Enjoy.

  • Focus drill.  We started off every practice with a focus drill to get everyone in the proper mindset to maximize our time together.  Ten makes in a row, no mistakes with a 3-man weave, or make all layups in a full court drill are all good examples of ways you can set the tone.
  • Competition.  Make drills in practice harder than a game.  You can give an advantage to one side in order for your team to prepare for the hard in-game situations that may come.
  • Shooting drills.  Make them competitive and game-like.  Whether you are pairing up, or involving the whole team, offensive skill drills must be completed while under duress.
  • Special situations.  Do you practice special game situations?  How will your team respond when the bright lights are on?  Practice end of game situations (ex: down two with 22 seconds left), so they are prepared.
  • Pressure free throws.  We all know how difficult free throws can be in the wrong headspace.  Put the pressure on in practice any number of ways: 1) In front of whole team, 2) Individual with sprints as consequence, 3) Team free throws with goals to accomplish (ex: end practice), 4) Morning free throw competition on game days, and 5) Help to develop a comfortable free throw routine.
  • Practice timeouts.  This may seem insignificant, but having structure and working on how a timeout should go during the game (both discussion and operationally), will be very beneficial to keep everyone calm.
  • Team wraparound.  Have discussions both before and after practices discussing our performance in these pressure situations.
  • Mental imagery.  Have your players thinking about and envisioning a successful performance in crunch time.
  • Unique situations.  Create unfair advantages for players during practice (ex: 2-on-1, 3-on-2, etc.).  This can make practices seem more difficult than the game.
  • Efficiency.  During practice, have players hustle in between drills and use a clock at all times to keep efficiency high.
  • Ballhandling.  Blindfolded ballhandling drills during practice help to increase their feel for the ball.
  • Quiz.  Make sure your players know your plays, scouting reports, defensive tactics, etc. by quizzing them periodically.
  • Sound.  During a game, the sound is much louder than that of an empty practice gym.  You can simulate this by turning the music up very high during practice to try and create some confusion.

Did You Know?  Coach Jim Johnson recently had the East High Superintendent, Dr. Shaun Nelms, on his podcast to discuss bringing up young leaders and the challenges for school.  You can listen to the episode HERE.

Life Tip #83: Be a team builder.  Develop a process to build a team and stick with it.

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