As a beginning coach, I ignored warm-ups and used half-speed two-ball dribbling drills as a warm-up for more intense activities during practice. When I moved to Sweden to coach a professional women’s basketball team, the players were married to their warm-ups and could not function without an extended warm-up period. When I practiced with the club’s men’s team, I felt like more than half the practice was a warm-up. I acquiesced, in a sense, with my team: we arrived before our practice time and players jumped rope for 5-10 minutes above the bleachers as our warm-up and then we did one sub-maximal drill on the court before moving into our practice.
In our first game, our opponent spent 25 of the allotted 30 minutes of pre-game warm-up using a basketball. Later in the season, I watched another player go through an extensive plyometric pre-game warm-up. While Americans criticize European players for their defensive deficiencies, the Swedish players’ defensive footwork impressed me. We generally assume that a foreign-born player with adept footwork developed her footwork by playing soccer, but as I reflected on my experience coaching abroad, it appeared as though their pre-game and practice routines focused on footwork and led to its development.
The following season, as I prepared workouts and practice routines, I implemented a series of warm-ups to begin practice: drills to focus on footwork and jumping ability. Coaching women, the pre-practice jumping and agility program is an attempt to increase performance and reduce injuries, as researchers believe women can reduce the risk of ACL injury through a small plyometric routine.
I use three general warm-up routines: (1) jump rope’ (2) stations or (3) full court dynamic warm-up (carioca, running backwards, bounding, lateral bounding, high knees, butt kicks and high/power skips). Our warm-up now lasts 10-15 minutes.
When we do our station warm-up, we jog, backpedal and carioca. Since we have 10 players, we work in pairs. Our focus is to teach quick changes of direction and first-step quickness.
Station 1: Mirror Drill (15 seconds on, rest for 15 seconds, 15 seconds on)
We teach most of our on-ball defensive stance and movement through this drill and later in 1v1 drills. The players face each other and one player starts as the offensive player and one as the defender. The offensive player leads, moving laterally, and the defensive player tries to remain face to face. The offensive player’s goal is to create space between the two of them, while the defender tries to stay within the width of the offensive player’s body.
Station 2: Mikan Drill
The first player goes for 30 seconds and then the second player goes. Drill practices baby-hook shots. Start under the basket and step out with the left foot on the right side to shoot with the right hand; grab the ball from the net, keeping the ball above your shoulders and step to the left side of the rim with your right foot, shooting with the left hand. Continue.
Station 3: Jump Squats
Squat and jump as high as possible, swinging arms high into the air. Focus on a soft landing so they land properly from a vertical jump and absorb the force of the impact throughout the muscles of their legs, not just in the quadriceps and knee joint. Squat to a half-squat, with the bottom of the thighs parallel to the ground before jumping.
Station 4: X-Lay-ups
Make as many lay-ups in 30 seconds and then switch. Start at one elbow, dribble and attempt a lay-up. Rebound and run to the other elbow; dribble and attempt a lay-up from the other side. Continue for 30 seconds.
Station 5: Partner Shooting
Player 1 passes to Player 2 and closes out. P2 catches, shoots and follows her shot. P1 contests the shot and relocates, moving continuously and calling for the ball. P2 passes to P1 and contests shot. Partners shoot for one minute.
Station 6: McHale Drill
Left hand tips ball continuously against the backboard while the right hand grabs the net (rim). Do six and switch to the right hand side. Right hand tips ball against backboard while left hand grabs the net (rim). Repeat on the left hand side for a total of 18 tips. Switch partners.
Station 7: T-Drill with 2 Ball Dribbling
Set up the T-Drill with cones 5-7 feet apart in the shape of a T. Start at the base of the T and sprint forward while dribbling two balls. Shuffle to the left cone, then to the right cone and finally back to the intersection. Back pedal to the base of the T. Go three times and rotate. The other player practices stationary two-ball drills while resting.
These quick drills provide a fast-paced warm-up that needs little instruction and insures the players break a sweat. Our focus is getting through the drills quickly: players sprint from station to station and practice with intensity in each drill. The warm-up focuses on ball control (6 and 7), quick changes of direction (1 and 7), jumping (3 and 6) and shooting (2, 4 and 5), training a variety of skills in a short amount of time.