5 Reasons to Include Scrimmages in Your Training 

Written by Donald Watts

August 26, 2016



What is a Scrimmage, and How It Develops Real Life Skills

Scrimmage, by definition: A place where a group of kids can come together and just play. There should not be a lot of direction and coaching, but let the players learn the strength and weaknesses of themselves and each other. The goal is still to win, but also to create an environment to communicate, put heads together, and develop social basketball skills like competitiveness, accountability.  The only pressure on performance is the pressure from their peers…free of adult pressure…the motivation is on the child to learn and discover without being forced and solidifies their game as their own.  When done right, scrimmages are not only fun, but maybe the most powerful training tool.

Scrimmaging Develops Instincts

Scrimmage is where you can get live reps in to experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t work. After scrimmaging using what you learn, now you can get in game situations where you catch the ball and know the guy in front of you is cooked. That’s what the guys at the highest level do to work on their game. Ballers like Jamal Crawford, do you think coaches tell him do what he does? What about Steph Curry, do you think coaches tell him what to do? No, both of these players put the time in to work on their game until it just happens and is instinctive. That’s when a coach will say “go for it, you earned it! You have to be coach able but at the same time everything can’t be coached or be instructional. If you are a baller you have to make your game instinctive.

Expanding Your Game

Unstructured, free play is necessary for players to relax, get outside the structure of playing basketball and use their creativity. As a player during the off-season you have to work on things that the coaches don’t anticipate you have the ability to do. Then you have to go out and prove it to them consistently. You have to fight to get yourself out of the box and expand your box on a consistent basis. You need to increase the expectations that players and coaches have for you. Players have become too coach able because they are coached all the time on what to do and what not to do from the time we start structured basketball play up to college. “When I played at UW I took shots in games coming down the stretch where my coach would say, no! Three games later he would call timeout and tell me “do that” about the same things he told me not to do earlier in the season.” –Donald Watts.

Apply Skills:  New and Old

Scrimmages provide a setting that helps enable your players to connect a skill with a situational game opportunity.  For instance, a basketball low post player may understand how to perform a drop-step move to score a basket, but does he or she recognize the moment when the opportunity presents itself? Is he aware that his defender is positioned such that he can seal off the defender with his body? Does he recognize that his point guard is positioned (or will soon be positioned) at the correct angle to make an entry pass? And if defended a certain way, can he or she quickly identify the available options to regain positional advantage? Recognizing these game situations, and instinctively applying an appropriate skill, are best learned in a scrimmage setting.

Gaining game situational reps

Yes, certain competitive drills can simulate a game situation, and may be a steppingstone to learning how to perform and apply a skill. Combined with instruction, these drills may be the necessary first step in this learning process. But most sports are a real-time, interactive experience that often requires split-second decisions and reactions. The constant flow of movement, the opening and closing of space, the fleeting moments that provide opportunities to gain advantage, are best understood when players participate in the game activity itself. In an age where neighborhood “pickup” games are much diminished, scrimmages in organized sports programs can minimize the pressure of outside influences like officials, coaches, and parents you give players the opportunity to really learn through game situational play on their own. Scrimmages are an essential role in exposing players to game situations and  provide an opportunity for the players to learn which of their “moves” work, and how and when to use them.

Remember:  “It is not how much you learned, but how much you absorbed in what you learned. The best techniques are simple ones execute right”.-Bruce Lee


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