X & O Series | How “10 Straight Passing” can help coaches get players focused in practice

The “10 Straight Passing” drill is a simple team activity that helps players get focused and ready ahead of practice. It gets players moving, communicating and making passes under pressure.

Skill development is made up of three separate and distinct stages – movement mechanics, perceptual elements, and conceptual elements. Coaches mostly see the movement mechanics (commonly referred to as technical ability) as the most important part of a skill.

We disagree with this notion.

The conceptual elements are the principles or concepts that teams employ. An example for us would be that any time a pass is made from the slot to the wing, the player who made the pass would cut through and fill opposite.

The perceptual elements refer to the scanning of the environment, processing information and deciding on an action.

Therefore, in order to execute a skill, one needs the conceptual elements to inform their perceptions, which ultimately allow them to execute the movement mechanics needed.

All of this happens in a fraction of a second.

The reason that we’ve shared the above is to provide a rationale for how most of our “drills” or “games” are set up.

[Sidenote: I’m not happy with both terms, (drills or games), as they don’t convey what I want them to. I am looking for an alternative term to help me make peace with this]

The 10 Straight passing “drill” provides the opportunities to our players to develop all three elements that are needed in the acquisition of a skill.

Here’s how it is set up.

The blue team is on offense and attempts to make 10 passes in a row, whilst the red team is playing defense. There is no dribbling or shooting allowed in the activity.

If red gets a steal, they immediately start making passes. The sidelines, baseline and halfway line are the boundaries of the activity.

The first team that makes ten passes in a row wins.

When introducing a drill or an activity initially, the priority for us is that the players know the movement patterns and rotations.

  • What happens when the opposite team get the ball?
  • What happens when the ball goes out of bounds?
  • What happens if someone dribbles?

The actual movement mechanics (technical skills) aren’t the priority. Once the players get the hang of rotations, now we begin to introduce constraints to help us get closer to what we’re looking for.

(Not all these constraints are used in a single practice)

  • Player who makes the pass cannot receive it straight back
  • Player who passes must get in the charge circel before getting the ball back
  • No passes allowed in the paint
  • No passes allowed inside the three point line
  • After passing the ball, set an off ball screen
  • Defense must double always double the ball
  • offense has three dribbles (together) per possession
  • Each player on offense has only one dribble
  • Offense can only make one handed push passes
  • Offense must make a 1 second pass

By introducing different constraints, we are able to take one activity and use it to work on different parts of our offense and defense. In addition, this gets our players:

  • moving in a game like manner
  • passing under pressure
  • staying engaged and focused in the warm-up
  • learning the conceptual elements
  • working on developing a complete skill (perceptual, conceptual and movement mechanics)

This activity is the foundation for all other 4/4 activities that come next, including:

  • 4/4 Motion
  • 4/4 Cutthroat
  • 4/4 Celtic
  • 4/4 Perfection
  • 4/4 Duke
  • 4/4 Tennessee
  • 4/4 Concepts

The above activities have similarities (they are all working on all three elements of a skill). Yet, there is enough of a difference in each that we don’t have to explain to our players each time that the conceptual element has changed. Once we yell out what activity we are doing next, our players know what the objective and point of emphasis are, so we’re able to speed up our transition into that.

That’s all for this week. I hope you guys enjoy seeing what we do within our practices. If there is a specific action or drill that you would like us to share, just drop us a message and we’ll be happy to do so.

We’ll be breaking down more of the drills and activities that we do in practice, as well as sharing some of our practice plans. I’m currently working on our transition defense concept post, so that should be out next week.

Until next week.

Coach Nabil Murad

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