One of the most popular events of Final Four weekend occurs when all four teams hold "open practices" for all interested fans. The so called practices last about an hour and usually include some stretching, some ball handling, a little defense, a little dunking, and a lot of shooting. There's little instruction, no corrective criticism, and all players and coaches are on their very best behavior. It may not be extremely productive in terms of pre game preparation but it's fun and exciting for the fans.

What about your practices? Are they open to anyone and everyone or are they closed to outsiders?

Now I can't tell you what is best for you and your program but I can tell you what we do and why we do it. Simply put, our practices are open to all other coaches, regardless of sport or level of competition, and closed to everyone else.

Why? First of all, I believe that as coaches we should never turn our backs on an opportunity to help another coach. Most of us would not be where we are today without the help or guidance of one of our peers. Since it is practically impossible to adequately repay those who helped us we should instead make a conscious effort to "pay it forward."

Secondly, I don't mind coaches being in attendance because they already know what to expect and are not strangers to what goes on during periods of competitive instruction. As a result, they aren't going to be offended or shocked if players or coaches happen to get loud or emotional.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most parents, friends, and other fans and that's possibly the biggest reason to prohibit them from attending practice. To have the most productive practice possible it is vital that all players and coaches fully concentrate on each and every task at hand. Trying to impress any onlookers or worrying about being on your "best" behavior can often to do much more harm than good. Players shouldn't have to worry about making a mistake or neglect asking a "dumb" question because they have an audience. Coaches shouldn't have to think twice about correcting a certain player because that player's parent or grandparent is in the gym.

In his book "More Than a Game," legendary coach Phil Jackson refers to the practice court as the "team sanctuary" where everyone can be themselves and grow and develop unrestricted. Jackson even banned all team executives from practice - only coaches, players, and the trainer were allowed in the practice gym. Period. No exceptions. He feels that being isolated from all outside influences for a couple hours a day is a tremendous vehicle for team bonding and I must admit that after implementing that rule myself I wholeheartedly agree with him.

Of course, you shouldn't close your practices to all outsiders just because Phil Jackson thought that was best for his teams. Nevertheless, when deciding whether or not to conduct open or closed practices you have to ask yourself, "What is best for the team?" Not what's the most convenient in terms of scheduling the gym or what's the best for parents or fans, but what's best for the team.

In fact, the answer to that question "What's best for the team?" should be the basis of not only the issue of open or closed practices, but of nearly everything else you do as a coach as well.

Author's Bio: 

Dave Stricklin has over 30 years of basketball coaching experience. He has coached at the youth, High School and College level and is known far and wide for his ability to win games. To read more of his helpful basketball coaching advice visit