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Loose Balls - Winning the 50/50 Battle

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

How can we secure extra possessions in a game? Winning the 50/50 battles, winning the hidden possessions. These hidden possessions are loose balls, rebounds, taking charges, limiting turnovers and end of quarter/half tactics. This week we will be diving into each of these categories, because the team with the most possessions has a great chance at winning the game.

Today we start with winning the 50/50 ball. Loose ball on the floor, who’s going to be the first team to get after it? Of course we want our team to win that battle. We want our team to be the first on the floor, diving for that loose ball before the opponent even gets a chance at it. But how do we get to that point with our players?

First, we have to love it. We have to preach it as coaches and honor it. If someone dives for a loose ball in practice, we need to acknowledge and praise it. If someone dives for a loose ball in a game, show that clip to the team. What gets praised, rewarded and stressed often gets done. However words are rarely enough for a task to become second nature. And if there is even the slightest hesitation when that ball is rolling on the ground, our chances of winning the battle go down fast.

Lee Deforest said it best, “Toughness needs to be a habit, and often, players don’t realize how tough their bodies really are.” Our players need to make diving for a loose ball a habit play, not a hero play. We need to make it instinctual with repetition. I like to incorporate it into our daily warmup foot-fire drill - were the whole team works on slides, dives and charges. And early on in the season we will even incorporate a continuous loose ball drill shown below:

This way diving on the ball starts to become a habit, something we just do. The players learn that their bodies can handle it no problem and the allure of “sacrificing your body” starts to become overblown.

Now when a loose ball happens in the game your players feel no hesitation. This is something they practice and do every day. This is a habit, an instinct. Win the battle, be the first to the floor and secure the ball.

As seen above in the video, we also stress importance points of not traveling when securing the loose ball and we prefer the repetitious drills to the competitive ones to limit injures and save those battles for the other teams.

Winning a 50/50 can save a broken play in the middle of the 1st half, or it can be the defining play to end the game and secure a victory. Either way, we want our habits to show through; securing an extra possession and winning the hidden battles.

Full toughness clinic available here:

See you next time!

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