When playing pick-up basketball whether that be at the local rec center, your school’s open gym, or the playground (becoming rarer every year) how can that time out on the court result in maximum improvement? Here are tips that will help you get more out of pick-up games.
1. Don’t call fouls – ever!
Why shouldn’t you call fouls? It makes you tougher. It makes you go to the basket stronger. It teaches you to finish through contact. You don’t want to be the whiny “foul guy (or girl)” on the court. I never called a foul in a pick-up game after junior high. I even refused fouls when opponents would give them to me (That may have got in their head and made them play me less aggressively, who knows).
2. Play a different position.
If you are a guard, take your opponent inside and work on your post-up game. If you are a big man, spend some time on the perimeter setting your teammates up with nifty passes. If you are a pass-first point guard, be a little selfish and work on creating your own shot for a change. Work on skills that expand your game.
3. Run the floor hard on every possession.
No matter what the level of competition, you can always get something out of a pick-up game by running the floor. Push yourself to run hard on every change of possession. This is a great opportunity to work on your conditioning while playing basketball. Don’t waste it by basket hanging or not getting back on defense. Develop the habit of outrunning the opposition now and during your season you’ll score a couple of easy baskets each game while preventing several easy baskets at the other end. That could be the difference in winning or losing a meaningful game.
4. Work on your weaknesses.
Not a great ballhandler? Bring the ball up court in pick-up games. Need to become a better rebounder? Crash the boards every time a shot goes up. You’re strictly a jump shooter? Look to drive to the basket. You get the idea. Use pick-up games to get better and expand your skill set.
5. Do the opposite.
Use your weak hand as much as possible. Try to dribble with your weak hand while bringing the ball up court. Finish at the rim using only your weak hand. Make passes with your weak hand. Look for chances to use your weak hand whenever possible.
Try these 5 tips the next time you get into a pick-up game and try to improve your skills. These tips are especially important if you are playing in a game where you are one of the best players and the competition is not quite as good as you. If you’re playing against great competition and there’s a long wait to get back on the court, you may have to play to your strengths a little more. Just don’t waste the chance to get better by going through the motions. Be purposeful in your play!