It is often difficult in team practice sessions to improve the skills and techniques of each individual athlete and this is often best done in an individual session with the athlete or in small groups of 3 or 4 athletes.

Some coaches will set aside some team practice sessions to focus on individual skills, however unless there are a number of assistant coaches it can still be difficult to provide sufficient feedback to each athlete.

Individual sessions are generally much shorter than a team practice session (45 minutes to one hour) and should include both offensive and defensive techniques. Coaches may use the sessions to introduce new skills or to refine and develop existing skills.

Some guidelines to assist with preparing and conducting individual sessions are:

  1. Make it contested or as “game-like” as possible. The ultimate aim of any practice is for players to transfer the skills practiced into a game environment and this is maximised by the practice having “game-realistic” factors included (for example, having a defender stand in front of a player learning to shoot). These may include:
    • Playing against the coach or other players;
    • Specific game situations (e.g. rather than shooting 10 free throws in a row, players shoot 2 or 3 and then run sprints before shooting another 2 or 3);
    • Having specific consequences at times (e.g. if the third shot is missed the player’s score returns to zero);
    • Have an offensive effort followed by a defensive effort (e.g. player takes a shot, rebounds their shot, passes to another player and “closes out” to pressure that player’s shot);
    • Keep score. This can be done between players or against an imaginary opponent. For example, a player takes the following shots, rebounding their own shot and moving to the next shot. Their opponent scores points every time the player misses. Continue for a set time or until the player (or their opponent) reach a set score:
      • Free throw (opponent gets 4 points if missed)
      • Lay-up (opponent gets 3 points if missed)
      • 2 point shot outside key (opponent gets 2 points if missed)
      • 3 point shot (opponent gets 1 point if missed).
  2. Change what needs to be changed and leave the rest alone. Many athletes will develop technique that is not “textbook” but may well be effective in a game. Changing any habit is difficult and coaches should prioritise the importance of any changes that they are considering.
  3. Repetition. An individual session is the opportunity for the player to develop their skills by executing them many, many times. Coaches should limit how much they talk and focus on ensuring the player gets a lot of repetitions. An individual session is a good time to establish a rapport with a player so coaches should take time before or after the session to speak with the player.
  4. Intensity is more important than time spent. Players should operate at a game-like intensity throughout an individual session. Schedule breaks that are game-realistic (e.g. 1 minute).
  5. Be specific – an individual session is the opportunity to instruct players on correct technique. Coaches must make sure that the players understand the “fine detail” (e.g. foot position, head position). Using video can help the player to understand changes that they need to make.