Basketball Tips - How to practice in the off season

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

off-season practicing

"The image of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat,to the point of exhaustion - when no one else is watching."

Some players practice all summer and never get any better, while others improve dramatically. Why? It's has to do with practicing correctly - those things that you really need to improve upon. All players need to work on (1) ball-handling skills, (2) shooting, (3) finishing under the backboard, (4) offensive moves, (5) free-throw shooting, (6) fingertip tipping and jumping drills.

Practice at home, four or five days a week. Playing in a summer league is fine but won't do a lot to help your fundamentals.


Spend 10 minutes doing standard ball-handling drills, and dribbling drills. See:

Under the Backboard (Mikan Drill)

This old drill is still one of the very best for developing a touch and feel for the ball coming of the backboard. Do this drill under the basket before your shooting practice. Become familiar with how the ball comes off the backboard, and at different angles.

Start by standing right under the basket. Step on the left foot and do a baby hook lay-up on the right side, using the backboard. Catch the rebound and step on the right foot and do the baby hook lay-up on the left side using your left hand. No dribbling is allowed. Repeat this continuously alternating right and left sides for a couple minutes. This will help you with your right and left-handed lay-ups, and give you a better feel for the backboard.

Spot Shooting

See the diagram showing the more common places to shoot on the court. Spend time taking a certain number of shots from each of these spots. Always follow and rebound any missed shots with a lay-up.

Spot shooting drill

Start with the shorter shots, working on good one-handed technique with your shoulders square, your elbow in, proper wrist cock and fingertip release and with a nice follow through, getting back-spin (rotation). Extend your range out to the 3-point range. See Jump Shot and 2-Man Shooting Drills.

Offensive Moves

If you are an outside player, work on the outside moves. Post players work on the post moves. All around players, do them all!

Outside, Perimeter Players

Refer to Guard Moves and Skills.
Do each of these moves five times:
First, from the right side of the court: right-handed players make sure your left foot is the pivot foot, and you jab step with your right foot, and just the opposite for lefties.
1. Jab step- drive - lay-up.
2. Jab step - crossover - lay-up.
3. Jab step - pull back - jump shot.
4. Jab step - drive - jump shot.
5. Jab step - crossover - jump shot.
6. Shot fake - one dribble - jump shot (both right and left).

Then, repeat all six moves from the left side of the court. Shoot all lay-ups from this side, left-handed.

Post Players

Refer to How to Become a Good Post Player. Do each of these moves five times:
1. Drop step to baseline, right side.
2. Drop step to lane, jump hook, right side.
3. Pivot, face defender, jab step, baby jumper, right side
4. Pivot, face defender, fake shot, up and under move, right side.
5. Drop step to baseline, left side.
6. Drop step to lane, jump hook, left side.
7. Pivot, face defender, jab step, baby jumper, left side
8. Pivot, face defender, fake shot, up and under move, left side.
9. Elbow shooting drill (see 2-Man Shooting Drills).

Free Throw Shooting

See How to Become a Good Free-Throw Shooter for fundamentals, attitude, and a practice routine. Shoot 25 free throws. Keep a record of your shooting percentage.

Tipping Drill

Stand under the basket on the right side and throw the ball up on the backboard. Jump as high as you can, and tip the ball with your right hand fingertips 10 times. Try to tip the last one in the basket. Repeat this on the left side, using your left hand. This will help improve your fingertip control and play under the basket, as well as improving your leaping ability.


You must be in excellent physical condition to be a good player. Shooting skills, concentration, and basic fundamentals deteriorate when you are tired. In the off season, don't forget conditioning.

Run a couple miles 3 or 4 days a week. Do some wind sprints, or 100 yard dashes. Jumping rope is also good for developing quick feet, as well as for conditioning. Be ready when the first day of practice arrives. See this: Conditioning.

Be sure to check the video clips of all the moves and drills described above.

See these videos from Tim Springer.