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Practice Plans

Reprinted from SNS January 2017

U.S. Paralympic men's and women's wheelchair basketball players and coaches lay out some of their best drills for your wheelchair basketball team

Christina Schwab is uniquely positioned to be on both ends of the player-coach spectrum.

This past summer, Schwab played on the U.S. Paralympic women’s wheelchair basketball team for the third time, and helped the red, white and blue win the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro — Schwab’s third gold medal after leading the team in 2004 and 2008.

But immediately after the Paralympics, Schwab transitioned from player to full-time coach, taking over one of the nation’s powerhouse programs, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Now, instead of following instructions from a coach, Schwab will be the one delivering the practice plans. Schwab, who has coached at the juniors level before, doesn’t expect much difficulty in the transition.

“I think since I was an athlete at such a high level, I got to experience different coaching methods, helping coach with developmental camps with Team USA,” says Schwab, who’s had a T12/ L1 lesion since birth and has spina bifida. “I get both sides of it, where I know what it takes to get to the highest level. I think I can carry that over into my coaching and try to get these girls that I coach to the highest level they can compete at.”

Developing A Practice Plan

It goes without saying that developing a practice plan is instrumental to the coaching process. As Schwab says, the best drills are the ones that the players hate.

From the player’s perspective, which drills are most efficient?

Steve Serio, a co-captain of the USA men’s wheelchair basketball team, says practices are quite different between Team USA and his club team, the New York Rolling Knicks.

Drills for the U.S. are often team-centered, peppered with 5-on-5 drills because, one, the team doesn’t spend much time together, and two, at the international level, the athletes shouldn’t need to work on individual skills in practice.

“Your individual skills are expected to be at a certain level before practice starts,” Serio says. “(Team USA men’s wheelchair basketball coach Ron Lykins) is very tough on us.”

When Serio is training by himself, though, he works through basic chair skills like the power-stop-and-start, half-court throws, basic bounce stops and spins.

The power-stop-and-start is one of the most standard wheelchair basketball drills, designed to develop the first two pushes needed for set picks and play defense. There’s an emphasis on hand speed, explosiveness off the push, coming to a complete stop and speed of recovery to pushing position. In the two-person drill, one partner lines up on the baseline and the other grabs onto the back of other person’s wheelchair. The person in front takes two pushes and then comes to an immediate stop, doing that baseline-to-baseline.

A drill Schwab likes is 2-on-2-touch-the-spot. Against a teammate, the player defends his or her side of the lane. There’s a ball in the middle, and the player defends and doesn’t let anyone get a touch on the ball.

To teach a proper box-out, Schwab uses a fast-break layup drill she calls Celtic modified. The rebounder passes the ball up the court, and the first person in line defends the second person in line.  Then they box out, grab the rebound and take it back up the court.


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