The Basketball Podcast: EP317 with Chris Oliver on Practice Framework

RELEASE DATE : 24/04/2024

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, the creative mind behind Basketball Immersion, Chris Oliver, joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on his practice framework for player and team development. 

For a decade, Chris Oliver, founder of Basketball Immersion, has been revolutionizing basketball coach education with his experiential and evidence-based approach. Chris has traveled the world, and worked with NBA organizations, National Federations and NCAA programs, along with youth basketball players and coaches around the world.

 In this special solo podcast episode, Chris dives deep into his Practice Framework – a blueprint for maximizing player and team development. Listen in as the veteran coach unveils strategies to go beyond rote memorization and empower players to understand the “why” behind the drills. This episode includes an audio clip from a 10-13 year old mixed youth basketball development session, and is a must-listen for any coach who wants to build winning teams and create a truly impactful practice experience. 

Learn more about this podcast and Basketball Immersion at

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Chris Oliver Quotes:

“Coaches, if they dive in, will get it all figured out and have great success and great experience, and particularly the players will have great satisfaction around applying some of these experiential and evidence-based ideas that I share. But a lot of the challenges for coaches who are maybe a little unsure about what I’m talking about when I’m talking about coaching the game while they [the players] are playing the game is, ‘What does it actually look like?’”

“We don’t need to be critical of others, but we do need to be educational and we do need to be open-minded . .  to get beyond some of these historical and cultural norms in coaching . .  The way that our players consume information is completely differently than the way they did 40 years or 20 years ago when they [coaches] played. All those things are factors in this.”

“My number one goal in starting with 5-on-5 is that I want to teach the game as a whole. I don’t want to disconnect the game yet. Later in the learning process, later in the development process, I will break down a lot of the concepts that they heard. Now, I’ll primarily only break them down in terms of offense versus defense.”

“Homework is something at the end of the session where I get the parents on the floor or engage the parents along with the players, and I give them some things [individual ball handling or shooting drills] and I talk to them about the fact that this is something they can do in player-led development – something they can go home with. They can work on it on their own, that’s player led development.”

“I spend a lot of time engaging with the parents before and after, explaining what they’re going to see and educating them about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I feel that, in terms of development, the biggest ally for improving youth basketball development is the parent.”

“I want to constantly find those things and things aren’t helping players individually improve and aren’t leading towards team improvement or team success, then I don’t want to do those things anymore.”

“If one of our main principles of play is spacing, then we need to teach players how to create double gaps, to be able to create advantages and hopefully big advantages, to be able to attack and play basketball.”

“The first thing I do is I teach the drill before I teach the tactics and the technique . . I want them to be able to devote cognitive effort to learning the things, whether it’s tactics or techniques, that I want to shape, rather than worry about the drill at the same time.”

“After they understood the small-sided game or drill, then we brought them in and we taught the principles of play that we wanted to have appear.”

“Players learn by doing. They learn by physically practicing, connecting perception and decision and skill execution, and feedback on results. That process is what leads to learning through retrieval practice and retention. That is the most important part of the process. Throughout a two hour practice, I want to maximize the number of repetitions my players get with physical practice, especially with new learning, perceptual repetitions, where it may be slower learning, but it connects skills and decisions because they are seeing things in the context of that.”

“My thing in basketball practice is to create an environment for learning, an environment where they [players] can reach beyond their current level by feeling safe and by feeling challenged . . One of the biggest things that you could add to your practices is just increasing the challenge.”

“Many of us, as coaches, give incredible feedback, really knowledgeable, brief, specific information to players. But then we move on and they never get a chance to apply it.

“Basketball is a game of opposites, so there’s a benefit to . . connecting offense at the same time we’re connecting defense. That’s why I always like to teach with offense and defense on the floor. We tend to do this defensively, we almost never teach a defensive situation without the offense being on the floor. But for some reason, when I watch practices, I see almost all offensive situations being first taught on air without the defense.”

“Basketball decisions supersede basketball plays . . If a player has an advantage, and they are a player that is capable of taking advantage of that advantage, then we want them to break the play, because the basketball decision supersedes the basketball play.”

“You either score or you draw two. That’s the goal of every offensive player. We want offensive players to drive to score, catch to score, and cut to score. In all those situations, you can draw two . . It’s our constant framework of decision making. Off the dribble, did you draw one? Then you should be a scorer. If you draw two, then you are a passer. [We want players] to be able to make those decisions.”

“We created this really simple mantra for them to constantly understand this framework. All we would say to them is shoot when you’re open, which is defined by in range and capable of making the shot for them. Pass when someone else is open and drive when no one else is open . . The idea of this is that we can always provide them with a solution based on what they perceive and decide and execute.”

“Hunting a matchup is a version of trying to create an advantage. We know we have an advantage. Either we have a mouse, which means we have a size advantage, or we have a turtle, which is some type of speed attack advantage. A turtle is someone we can attack in space, and a mouse is someone we can attack at the rim.”

“Most behavior change has to do with, ‘It just doesn’t help you.’  Why are you doing this behavior? It doesn’t help you and bringing it back to them in a selfish way and saying, ‘You want to be a good player, then why are you doing something that doesn’t help you?’ Because I’m not trying to hurt you, I’m just trying to help you understand . . we’re just trying to help you be more effective and more efficient.”

“I will not run any type of youth practice or youth development situation where every single time we don’t rotate who plays point and who plays different positions. If we’re really talking about developing a holistic basketball player, then we want them to do that . . We really try to conceptualize for all players that you are a basketball player, not a position, and that we want every single one of you to think of yourselves as someone who can shoot, pass and handle.”

“We want to make sure that we positively reinforce the things we want to have happen again and again . . There’s a behavior that we want to have happen, so I’m going to make sure that I notice it, so the players replicate it. And then I want to normalize it as saying, ‘Hey, this is normal.’”

“Their responsibility is the ball relative to their teammate. We always highlight to players that the ball scores. The ball scores. Your check without the ball, does not score. Now, that can lead to a score, and that can lead to a big advantage. But we initially want players to understand that if you’re two passes away, then your responsibility is to support your teammate in stopping the ball.

Chris Oliver Breakdown:

1:00 – Focus on Player Development

11:00 – Player Development and Parent Involvement

15:30 – Creating Double Gaps for Spacing

18:00 – Classroom Management Strategies

26:30 – Improving Player Performance

32:00 – Offense and Defense Concepts

34:30 – Spacing, Passing and Driving

42:30 – Player Development and Problem-Solving

48:30 – Player Responsibility

51:30 – Defensive Strategies and Techniques

57:00 – Open-Ended Questions

59:30 – Coaching Philosophies and Practice Strategies

Chris Oliver Selected Links from the Podcast:

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