The Value of Teaching With One-On-One Drills

Individual development drills are great tools for learning, but one-on-one drills are better tools. The value of teaching with one-on-one drills is that your players will improve faster within the context of the game.

Practicing out of one-on-one involves constantly pushing players beyond their comfort zone. A coach can use one-on-one drills to develop specific skills and decisions, and use feedback to identify weaknesses and work on them.

If your players just spend time on skills in workouts, they will not improve as effectively as they would if they focused on decisions too. Adding defense creates a more random and variable practice challenge. Just like in a game, the application of a skill in a one-on-one drill is not scripted. The application of a skill requires a player to read the defense and make a decision based on that read.

Too often in skills practice a player will repeat what they have previously done, over and over again without pushing their skills further. With the addition of a defender, not only will the game context be increased, but so will the challenge. Players improve when they struggle. When a player is uncomfortable they have to fight for their learning. Adding a competitive live defender creates struggle. Drills that push players beyond their comfort zone for a specific purpose lead to the greatest improvements.

More Realistic Shooting Drills

The other reason we value one-on-one drills are because the best shooting drills are one-on-one drills. It is important to have our players challenged to create scoring opportunities vs. a live defender. The decision is the hard part to learn, not the skill.

Use to Create Situations Specific

The best drills are the ones you created for the situation you need developed. In this second example, we take an offensive action we run out of the Triangle offense and create a one-on-one drill. The drill is designed to work on the footwork and timing of the backdoor spot action we call a flare cut. It is followed by a one-on-one action involving the passer becoming the defender.

Teaching Out of One-on-One

To teach using one-on-one drills gives your players reasons why a possession is lost. Instead of creating rules or restrictions, create an understanding for why a player loses possession on offense. This helps players learn what specific things you are trying to get them to apply. The reason for a lost possession could be because a specific skill or decision that was not made. The one caution is not to make the one-on-one games too restrictive. The game is played with multiple “right” decisions so restricting possibilities will make your drill less game like.

Here are our reasons why a possession is lost in our one-on-one drills:

Four Reasons A Possession is Lost

In this list we emphasize a behind the back dribble as a counter. Instead of putting a dribble limit on a player, we emphasize a direction limitation. Any time a player takes two dribbles in a direction not towards the basket it is a turnover. We want them to apply the counter if their defender cuts them off or angles them from the basket on their initial dribble. This develops the concept of playing in straight lines and attacking within the context of the game. In a game there are help defenders on the floor, so taking a second dribble not towards the basket is unrealistic. The offensive player would lose space as they dribble closer to the help.

Challenges In Using One-on-One Drills

The Closeout Dilemma: One of the biggest challenges in one-on-one drills is to create realistic closeout situations. Too many 1-on-1 drills make the decision for the offense too easy. The offense catches the ball with too much space and all that is simulated is bad defense.

The Lack of Game Context Dilemma: Another difficulty in using one-on-one drills is that they often don’t work on a game situation. One-on-one drills can put players in decision-making situations. Our challenge as coaches is to make those situations as realistic as possible.

In this video example a traditional roll out one-on-one drill that works on rip attacks vs. a defender is modified to make it more realistic. The drill is done the same way, but the location moves to the wing to create a wing attack. This is a simple change, but any drill you consider using should be evaluated relative to its transfer to game situations. Wing rips are more likely to occur than elbow rips so the game context in increased as are the reads vs. the defender. 

The Friend Dilemma: Too often players don’t push each other in one-on-one drills. The agreement between friends and teammates is often to not make each other look bad. To solve this dilemma you can constantly change the match-ups and pairings. This is also beneficial because going against the same player all the time is much like blocked practice…a player only gets used to competing against one type of player. We mix all types of players in our one-on-one drills and rarely do guard-post pairings.

The Winners and Not Quite Winners Dilemma: Should you keep score in the one-on-one drills? Keeping score creates a mindset that encourages competition but the question is does it discourage creativity? Is a player less likely to try a new move because there is something at stake? It is possible that a player will stick with what they do best to give themselves the best chance to win. There is no simple answer, but balancing competition with creativity is an important part of the art of coaching. We make most drills competitive. We do our best to encourage and reward the application of the new skills we are trying to emphasize. Below are some pros and cons to help you decide what is best for your players.

Keep Score

Teaching with one-on-one drills is an effective player development method. Decisions, skills and competition can be combined to create realistic situations that can help players transfer their learning to games.

To learn more about what we teach and how we teach check out What is Zero Seconds and Basketball Decision Training?

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