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Basketball Drills - 5-on-5 Scrimmage with a Purpose Drills

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Some coaches say that they never scrimmage in practice, thinking it's a waste of time. However, 5-on-5 scrimmage-type drills can be a good way of teaching so long as the drill is not just random play, and we have a goal(s), and are focused on what we are trying to accomplish. During these drills, the coach can stop play at any time to make a point.

We make these drills competitive with losers either doing pushups or running. Players like these game-like scrimmage drills because they are "playing basketball". Scrimmage drills can also show you which players are your "gamers" - who compete and play better in game situations than they do in drills.

Ordinarily, we do these drills full-court, but if you are sharing the court with another team, you could do them half-court. In the half-court, on a change of possession, the offense has to bring the ball up top above the arc before trying to score.

All of the variations described below start the same. All ten players will form in a circle around the free-throw circle with the coach in the middle with the ball. The players will "circle up" - move around the circle and when the coach tosses the ball up on the backboard or basket, the players go for the rebound and the drill starts. The team that gets the rebound will be using the basket on the opposite end. We usually play to seven, but you can change this based on your time allotment.

Now for the "scrimmage with a purpose" aspects. These are some of the things that we might use as scrimmage rules. We might even combine some of these into the same drill.


We play to seven and losers do five pushups. Have assistants keep track of each team's turnovers and each team must also do an additional pushup for every turnover their team has accrued. Turnovers include a change in possession resulting from a bad pass, or when a player fails to catch a pass, ball-handling/dribbling turnovers, offensive fouls, and illegal screens. We might add taking bad shots, if the coach deems that a shot was a bad, "crappy" shot.


We need to become better rebounders. Play to seven. Add two pushups for each "missed box-out" or when there is an offensive rebound. When the offense gets an offensive rebound, they get to subtract one pushup from their total, while the defense adds two.


If we are having a problem with fouling too much in games, we may do this. Again, play to seven and add two pushups for every foul committed. You could combine this with the turnovers or rebounding scrimmages.

Zone or Man-to-Man Defense

We instruct both teams to play either man-to-man defense, or a zone defense. For example, if our next opponent plays mostly 2-3 zone defense, we have the defenses play 2-3 zone so we can work on our zone offense.

Half-court Defense or Full-court Press

If we are a pressing team, or if our next opponent is a pressing team, we may have the defense full-court press after each made basket or change in possession. One assistant will be watching the defense to make sure press defenders are rotating correctly and following the press rules. Another assistant will watch the offensive team to make sure they are correctly executing our press offense.

Running Set Plays

We may need to work on and reinforce our set plays. Before starting the "circle up", each team huddles up and decides on two set plays that they want to run, calling one "play 1" and the other "play 2". You might assign an assistant to each team (as the coach) to help with this. Defenses are in the half-court only. We could use either zone or man-to-man plays. After each team has run both of their plays, the coach stops play and has each team "huddle up" again to decide on two new plays, and then play resumes.

Huddle up
Huddle up

Special Situations

We will create a certain situation and then start the play. For example, we might say that the red team (on offense) is down by 1 with 20 seconds left. Then we will let the white team try the same situation, before moving on to another situation. There are many situations you can pose. See these basketball special situations.

5-on-5 "scrimmage with a purpose" drills can help your team to accomplish certain things, can help solve problems, and are fun.