Thursday, October 14, 2010

John Wooden - Practice

From the 1975 Medalist Notebook:

I believe in insisting on punctuality and proper dress for practice, meetings, and on all occasions where specific times are involved. I want my players to practice with their shirt tails in, their socks pulled up and neat, clean appearance. Will that make them better basketball players? Some don't think so, but I do.

If they can discipline themselves in this regard, they surely can do the same when we get down to the fundamentals of basketball.

When you stop to make corrections, insist on strict attention. When I blow the whistle at the beginning of practice, I want the balls rolled to a designated area, and no more dribbling or shooting. I don't want to have to yell at them. I want them ready to listen attentively. I want their strict attention. They shouldn't have to be corrected for something that I just corrected for someone else. Have patience. Praise as well as censure. I never fail, if I have to be critical of a boy, to end with a compliment. Encourage teamwork and unselfishness at every opportunity.

Daily practice plans are very important. I could tell you what we have done at UCLA during each day of practice in all the days I've been there. I could look up any practice session and see what we did on that day, and also see my notations. I learn from these plans. As a coach, I must change and grow, if I expect my players to improve. I can improve with the help of these plans.

The coach should be on the floor early before the boys. The fans should not interrupt you or your players during practice. You are there to teach your boys, even during the individual practice.

Organized practice, generally speaking, will be started with warm-up drills. We'll have running drills, easy at first, then change of pace, change of direction, defensive sliding, one-on-one, jumping, hopping, jumping for height, quickness, distance, and then 5 push-ups every day.

End your practice with organized team drills. Vary the drills from day to day to prevent the monotony. Plan and organize your drills very carefully as to the number participating in the drill in order to get the best results. Explain the purpose of each drill initially, and then supply the little details. Don't continue the drill too long. Change around.

I believe in more drills of shorter duration and being very careful on how we have them spaced. Follow difficult drills (physically or mentally) with easy ones, and vice versa. Use many competitive drills, especially in shooting. Imitate game conditions as much as possible. After the boys have warmed-up, give them new material - to the entire group on the board one day, and then go through it on the next day. Never work n anything the first day, just show it to them.

Even though one drill is emphasizing a specific fundamental, do not neglect the other fundamentals. Stress offense and defense on alternate days, but don't forget that you must be working on both every day. Offense and defense are of equal importance but because of the ball, it takes more time to teach offense. This longer time doesn't mean that offense is more important.

I believe that you should close each day's practice on an optimistic, good note. Never punish your boys at the end of practice. I may run my boys at the end of practice early in the season, but they know that I'm doing it for conditioning. Since you never run long distances in a game, we always work on short sprints. We run as hard as we can to mid-court, and then trot back to the baseline, and then repeat this over and over.

Never get mad at your boys and keep them longer or run them for punishment. You won't build this way and it will leave a bad taste for both you and the boys. You may have a boy who needs chastising in a certain way, but take him aside to do it. But don't punish him at the end of practice with physical punishment.

Expect and get cooperation from your boys. They should be trained to take care of the equipment.

Check the locker room every night. I want the locker room just as clean when we leave as when we came in. If our team played at your school, I don't want you to find any tape or mess in the dressing room we used. Everything should be picked up and the managers can't do it all. I'll do it, if necessary. The players will follow my lead in this matter. I also inspect their lockers regularly.


  1. These skills are always covered in the first season of beginning basketball. Perhaps this is the reason many coaches associate the fundamentals with something only little kids need to work on.

  2. Wouldn't you agree that, although rather elementary, they are skills that transcend age, ability, and experience levels? Without constant refreshment of the basic building blocks, those skills can diminish.