How Often Do You Stop Practice To Teach?

stop signNow that practice is upon us, a timely topic to cover is how often and why we stop practice to teach. Certainly those are two loaded questions because practice gives us the many teaching opportunities that we need to prepare our teams.

In a number of previous articles here on Hoop Coach, we asked coaches where they stood on various spectrums. One such spectrum was the number of players a coach has crashing the offensive boards. If the answer was four, offensive rebounding likely thrived and transition defense likely suffered. If the answer was one player going to the offensive glass, rebounding likely suffered and transition defense was likely good.

So too does a spectrum exist on stopping practice to teach. At one end, you have the coach who rarely stops practice and lets his players play through everything. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the coach who regularly stops practice to correct and teach.

Like all spectrums, where one stands isn’t necessarily a matter of being right or wrong; it simply becomes a matter of philosophy and one’s approach to the game. The advantage of stopping regularly, of course, is a probable increase in execution efficiency. On the flip side, the advantage of letting players play through mistakes is players will learn to play through all the unexpected and unplanned things that happen in games. It simply becomes a matter of WHEN a coach wants to review-at the precise moment of the error or later in a general review.

Obviously, I’m not referencing drill work here as much as I am 5 on 5 play. Personally, I believe I erred on the side of too much stoppage and if I had to do it over, I would stop play less and do more reviewing later.

I’m not advocating one approach over another or even that there should be balance as much as I’m suggesting that coaches should self-evaluate before they get too deep into the season and lose that opportunity. For coaches who aren’t exactly sure where they stand philosophically on this topic, maybe it’s a good time to experiment-emphasizing one approach one day and the other the next day.


  1. My practices are broken into segments: Warmup, Shooting, Skill and Drill, Teach full court (Offense or Defense depending on the emphasis), Play full court, Teach half court, Play half court, Specials and contests, Foul shooting and conditioning. We do not stop when we play. If we need to talk to a player, we substitute. If we need to debrief, we do so at the end of that session. We believe that this allows us a good flow in “game situations” yet allows enough time for instruction and correction.

  2. If I stop to teach, I pull the athlete out of the drill for individual work. If the team needs taught, I will stop and quickly teach. They learn more by doing. It is best to drill everything. I always have a teaching moment half way through practice to make it seem like a game as a half time. I then have an intense drill right after so they practice coming out of half time with intensity.

  3. My players don’t like for me to stop play to teach and/or make corrections. I don’t like a ton of missed assignments and turnovers. Simple solution If they don’t want to stop they need to quit doing what makes me mad! I stop too much early in the development of a given team so I can get on their nerves. If they really want to play they’ll make the necessary adjustments and everybody is happy.

  4. Early on in the season, stopping practice is essential to stress certain focal points and get them to hear the cues and terms that we use. But stopping to correct should be done individually so as not to lose team playing time to correct one players faults, unless it is something that everyone can learn from. I like to stop practice once in a while to point out some good things that players are doing too, so blowing the whistle doesn’t become the “oh no, here we go” moment every time for the players. I have found that teaching can come in the form of whispering in a players ear as you walk by during a natural stoppage like a turnover or a foul shot, with a pat on the back or the wink of an eye. It’s quick and directed and doesn’t take away from the flow. Players don’t want to be singled out all the time and I don’t want to embarrass players in front of their peers and risk damaging our relationship……depending on their age and personality. That works for me…..but not everybody!

  5. When coaching ‘young ‘uns’ I would let the play finish and then blow the whistle and announce ‘a teaching moment’.

    I would explain the topic to be reviewed, letting the errant player know that this is a mistake that happens often in our age group (insuring (s)he did not hang his head), and then recreate the play and have the kids run it back doing it correctly.

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