As I travel to recruit players during their “open ” gym workouts, many of these “open” gyms turn into pick up games. So as I watch these pick up games I started to think of different ways to make the games better, more competitive and more game like.

Here are some ideas that I think will really help improve your pick up games:

1. Start each game with an offensive set or formation. This will force the players to learn the system. It also places a level of importance on execution.

2. Use the scoreboard and shot clock
Limit the games 10 minute running time. Using the clock will make the players aware time and score.

3. Keep track/record of the teams wins and losses. This will give the coaches an idea of the players who play well together. It will also so the players that the coaches value winning.

4. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, go to a free throw shoot out like Soccer. This will put the onus on the importance of making free throws. Ideally this a great way to improve the teams free throw shooting.

5. Validate all wins with a made free throw.  If the player misses the ft, play it as a missed Ft and the game continues. The validation of the win with a ft teaches the players how to close out a win.

6. Wherever the ball goes out of bounds(side or under), inbound the ball from there. Teaches the players that these two locations are scoring opportunities.

7. Treat all “and 1′ situations where the player is fouled while scoring the ball as true And 1’s. The scoring team gets an additional point.  Teaches players how to score through contact.

8. Keep score where 2 points = 1point and 3 pointers = 2. And keep the games played up to 15 pts.

9. Start the game with a 2 minute shooting contest. The coach picks the location(top, rt. wing, Lf corner etc). Keep score of the # of made shots. The game starts with each team having the point value of the shots they made(home team-10 and away team-5). The away team starts with ball down 5 pts. This will place a higher premium on shooting the ball. And teamwork(rebounding and passing) while shooting the ball.

10. 1/2 court rule:
The 1/2 court rule stats that offensive team must have all of their teammates in the front ct when they score. If they do not they get to keep the ball pit don’t get any pts.  If the offense does have their team across half court when they score and the defense does not, the offense gets the point and the ball. This rule is good to teach both teams the importance of running in transition both ways.

11. Play all games to 7 points. If a team scores off of an offensive rebound they get 2 points. This puts a higher premium on going to the offensive glass for offense and blocking out for the defense.

12. Subtract a point from the defense when they start to excessively foul. This makes defense have to learn how to defend without fouling.

I really believe that the implementation of some of these or maybe even all of these suggestions can and will help improve the quality of your pick up games. They will improve your players basketball IQ and competitiveness. They will also demonstrate to your team the aspects of the game that are important to the success of your program.

Kevin Sutton is an Assistant Coach at Rhode Island University. As Head Coach, he built Montverde Academy into an elite program coaching nationally ranked teams that compiled a 186-33 record. Sutton has had stints as an assistant coach at The University of Pittsburgh, James Madison, Old Dominion, George Washington and Georgetown. You can visit coach Sutton’s personal website at:

@CoachSutton on Twitter


Comments are closed.