Whilst elite athleticism and NBA experience are the keys to team USA’s success at the senior level, the same cannot be said for it’s junior U17 team. Despite the narrower gulf in talent, the U17 team has seen no shortage of success, winning its most recent FIBA Championship this July to make it 4 in a row.
At some point the athleticisms are going to catch up with each other and it’s going to be a matter who have the best skill work.
The U17 team’s on court performance is identical to many high school teams- they run a full court press on defense and utilize a ball screen offense. No complex plays or defensive schemes are taught. Instead, what we learned from our interview with their U17 head coach, Don Showalter, is that daily drilling of basketball fundamentals is their key to success.
Today, we’ll breakdown coach Showalter’s 8 key principles to organizing training and show you how they can be applied to a practice plan- ones with drills used by coach Showalter himself. There are 2 complete annotated Practice Plans and 13 drills inside – keep reading to find out more!
The 8 Principles
To sum it up, we garnered 8 key principles from coach Showalter’s interview with regards to organizing practice:
- Drill fundamentals at every practice
- Ask yourself: is this drill related to how I want to play?- Your shooting drills need to give your players the same looks as your offense
- Break your offense down into its most simple form- introduce that to your most junior team and add more complex elements at higher levels
- Build into the season- don’t teach your players the entire offense at the start of the season
- Avoid information overload- place your players in situations and let them figure it out
- Embrace your assistant coaches- for communication, feedback, and in-game decisions
- Repetitions build habits- but those repetitions can be done in different ways
- Build “Face time”- be part of your local coaching community
Now these principles might seem very abstract and difficult to apply in practice- but don’t worry, keep reading and you’ll see an in depth breakdown of how to apply these principles to plan a successful season.
It takes about 20 days to develop a habit, and I think if you want to get good habits, you have to have repetition. But all the repetitions could be done in different ways.
According to coach Showalter, its important for teams to have their own identity on the court. However, its up to the head coach to define and develop this identity throughout the season. Novice coaches often make this significant mistake at the start of the season: choosing systems that are too complex. Trying to teach overtly complex schemes so will only take away from time to teach individual and team skills, which are ultimately more important for your players’ development.
Keep your offense and defense simple. “The ball screen offense is something very simple,” Coach Showalter tells us, “our junior high team uses it, all the way up to our high school team… you get a lot of good out of that ball screen as well at the junior level.” Its most fundamental yet effective element, the ball screen, can be learned quickly by 14 year olds, yet also run with more complex actions at the highest levels.
Don’t always be thinking that you want to be somewhere else. You are at this spot right now, so do a great job
The other thing that you can do in the preseason is begin developing relationship with your fellow coaches. Coach Showalter calls this concept “face time”, and stresses that it is important to gain face time with other coaches in order to improve their craft and develop friendships. Ways that he suggests to do this include:
- Attending summer camps
- Going to a college practice
- Sitting in on other High School practices
If you’re thinking about taking coaching on as a serious profession, then these steps are something that you must do!
Samples of Team USA Practice Plans
In the aftermath of our interview, we worked with coach Showalter to get some of the drills he runs with the team USA U17 team into the practice planner. We’ve put together two 2.5 hours practice plans to teach the ball screen offense and full court press using these drills, one for your junior high team and one for your varsity team. Let’s jump straight into it- and remember, you can download them as two compact 1 page pdfs too!
[alert type=”success” icon-size=”normal”]Note: to save space we’ve put how to run the drills into an appendix below. Simply click on each name to jump straight to an explanation if you don’t know how to run it. If there’s no link to click on, that’s because the drill is already available in our Practice Planner.[/alert]
2.5 Hour Team USA Ball Screen Offense Practice Plan
|USA Layup warm up drill||10 min||Finishing, cutting, passing to cutters, offensive principles||Precede this warm up with a light conditioning drill, stretching and a team talk|
|USA Shooting warm up drill||10 min||Shooting, perimeter passing||Precede this warm up with a light conditioning drill, stretching and a team talk|
|Ball Handling Work||10 min||Dribbling||Coach Showalter believes that fundamental skills should be taught every day to all players, regardless of position|
|5 man weave||10 min||Finishing, transition offense||Make full use of the team to teach fundamental skills- individual skills can be taught out of practice|
|2 balls, 3 shooters||20 min||Shooting, catch and shoot form||Record scores to challenge your players|
|Screening Drill||10 min||Screening, rolling||Although basic, this is the most fundamental part of the offense, so it must be executed perfectly|
|Split into Bigs and Guards||30 min||Splitting into roles can allow coaches to focus and teach skills to players|
|Bigs Drill||Screening, post up, finishing|
|Guards Drill||Cutting, on ball defense, 1 on 1 moves|
|5 on 5 on 5 offense work||20 min||Offensive principles||Coach Showalter encourages players to “figure things out” here. If necessary, replay a scenario and try to get them to work out what they should have done.|
|Break||5 min||Use this break to set the focus for a game- take notes from the offense work and use this in your talk|
|5 on 5 scrimmage||15 min||Offensive principles||Take notes, try not to stop practice, instead use the post game talk for feedback.|
Before we introduce the full court press practice plan- let’s talk about assistant coaches. In his interview with us, coach Showalter told us: “whilst as a head coach you ultimately make the final decision, I give my assistant coaches a lot of freedom… they’re the guys that are keeping an eye on the players every day as well.” In games for example, coach Showalter will allow his assistants to sub players out if they believe that they’re not working hard enough. In practice, here are just some of the many uses for assistant coaches he mentioned:
- Breaking up into small groups to teach specific skills
- Recording notes throughout the practice on players
- Providing valuable feedback after practice on how to improve sessions
- Helping run drills by acting as rebounders, passers and defenders
- Helping communication between coach and player
Coach Showalter highlighted the last points as being particularly important- the head coach has to take responsibility for the entire team. He says: “sometimes the head coach has to go hard on the players, and the assistant coaches need to be right there to pick the players up.” Other times, players may feel more comfortable going to assistant coaches with issues. It takes a few years for assistant coaches and head coaches to know what each other wants, so don’t underestimate the importance in finding the right coach now to join your team.
2.5 Hour Team USA Full Court Press Practice Plan
Mass defensive slides
Precede this warm up with a light conditioning drill, stretching and a team talk
Transition defense, conditioning, transition offense
To run the full court press, the number one skill needed is effort, which this drill tests.
Passing, transition offense
Quick passes are a fundamental skill to turn defense into offense
Fast Break Cycle Work
Passing, transition offense, finishing
Players need to constantly practice fast breaks to run them efficiently
According to Coach Showalter, if you’re a pressing team you want to run more full court than half court drills- your players will need the conditioning
Conditioning, full court press
A great press starts with drilling fundamentals, like sliding and recovering
Full court press,
Emphasize where to trap, demand high energy
2 man close out slides
Half court defense
Basic half court defensive principles also need to be taught
Half court defense
This drill is a good introduction on how to close out on the zone
Zone defense slides
Half court defense, zone principles
Again, encourage players to figure things out over stopping practice- what’s more important is that energy is high
Use this break to set the focus for a game- take notes from the defensive work and use this in your talk
5 on 5 scrimmage
Take notes, try not to stop practice, instead use the post game talk for feedback.
These are the two practice plans we’ve got for you- if you want to see how the specific drills are done, carry on reading into the appendix.
Don Showalter’s entire interview with us is also available online here.