Did you ever watch the Detroit Pistons back in the late 1980s? If so, you got a great look at one of the toughest teams in NBA history. I remember being a young kid and watching the “Bad Boys” Pistons teams from 1988 to 1990.
I was in complete awe at how those Pistons teams played with reckless abandon and how they displayed a higher level of toughness than any other team in the league. Toughness, tenacity, and fearlessness were what led those Pistons teams to greatness.
Some teams can withstand the pressure of highly competitive games, playing with poise and composure, while others fall apart. Discover how to build your team’s basketball toughness through the three following drills. With the proper habits, any basketball player can increase their level of toughness.
1. Taking A Charge Drill
Perhaps no play in the game of basketball exemplifies toughness more than taking a charge. A player that is willing to take a charge shows his team that he’ll sacrifice his body to help the team win. All of those “Bad Boys” Pistons players were great at taking charges, none more so than Dennis Rodman.
This charge drill will help your players develop toughness. It will also teach your team the proper way to take a charge so that they’ll avoid getting injured. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how the drill works.
- Put four players on the floor (three on offense, one on defense)
- Line up one offensive player at the free-throw line, one near the baseline on the left, and one near the baseline on the right
- Line up the one defensive player underneath the basket
- The coach throws the ball to one of the offensive players
- The offensive player tucks his arm and dribbles fiercely towards the hoop (Side note: to prevent injury, he’s not allowed to jump)
- The defensive player must quickly get into a set position and take a charge as the player runs into him
- Make sure the defensive player practices grunting loudly as contact is made. This extra dramatic effect will increase the chances of the referee calling a charge
- Have the defensive player take one charge from each of the three offensive players
- After three charges have been successfully taken, rotate one of the offensive players into the defensive player role and bring in a new player from the sidelines
- Continue the drill until every player on your team has taken at least three charges
This charge drill is a great way to start or end a practice because it boosts team morale. It gets the players used to absorbing hard contact. Despite what some people think, basketball is a full impact sport. There is an art to taking a charge and this drill allows each player to practice the proper technique.
2. Continuous Loose Ball Drill
Fighting for loose balls is the trademark of an extremely tough basketball team. This drill will help your players develop a mindset of toughness. If you work on this drill quite a bit during your practices, your players will be poised and ready to dive for a loose ball during crucial game situations.
Be sure to explain to your players that the outcome of some games is decided by one or two possessions. Getting loose balls can be a key to victory in tight games. Here’s how the drill works.
- Break your team up into groups of two
- Have the two players stand only a few feet apart, one with a ball and one without
- At the sound of the coach’s whistle, the player with the ball slowly rolls it on the floor
- The other player dives on the ball as quick as he possibly can
- After gathering the ball, the player passes it back to his partner
- As soon as the partner receives the pass, he again rolls the ball on the floor
- The other player must dive for the ball again
- After one player dives for three loose balls, it is the opposite player’s turn to dive
This drill is effective because it gets your players used to diving for loose balls. By diving for loose balls continuously during this drill, your players will realize that diving on the floor is not a big deal.
Diving for a loose ball doesn’t even hurt that much when done correctly. Reiterate to your players that the first one to the floor usually gains possession of the loose ball. This drill will help your players react quickly when they see a loose ball during games.
3. War Rebounding Drill
This is one of my favorite toughness drills because it increases toughness while also improving each player’s close-out technique, block-out technique, and rebounding skills. It’s also a great way to increase your players’ conditioning levels since it’s a full-court drill.
Legendary Michigan State head basketball coach Tom Izzo is a huge fan of this drill. It has definitely paid dividends for his teams in the past. Here’s a closer look at the War Rebounding Drill.
- Put four defensive players in the paint
- Put four offensive players outside the three-point line
- The coach shoots the first shot
- All four offensive players crash the boards hard in hopes of bringing down an offensive rebound
- If a defensive player gets the rebound, they now get to start their fast-break offense
- Play only stops if a coach calls a foul
- The first team to 10 points wins and gets a breather
- Rotate in the next group of four players
Most players love the War Rebounding Drill because they get to work on game situations. This drill creates a new level of fearlessness when it comes to getting offensive rebounds. Another positive aspect of this drill is that it lets each team practice their transition game, both on offense and defense.
Here’s the scoring system for the drill:
- Offensive Rebound: 2 points
- Three Pointer: 3 points
- Two Pointer: 2 points
- Drawing a Foul: 1 point