By: Ross Schraeder

Basketball Warm-Up

Dynamic 5 Minute Pre-Game Basketball Warm-Up

“Be ready to go right from the start.” “Play hard above all.” “Let’s get after them on defense from the start.”

As a coach, these are a few of the things that I have said to my team before a game starts in the final huddle. They are all true and necessary, and usually the team that comes out ready to play is the one who prevails in the end. So what are you doing in order to prepare them physically and mentally to come out with the aggression and desire that you want to see as coach? The basketball warm-up is super important for any team to get off to a fast start!

We have all been to AAU tournaments and there are 30 games in a day and your AAU team could potentially be playing 3-4 games. Games start on the hour, and we are pushed to begin games on time, meaning many times you get a 3-5 minute warm-up. What do most teams do with that time? Get in two lines and shoot layups. The two line layups are what we are all taught in our first basketball experience. I have told my team before to do just that to get ready to play. The problem is it fails to address so many other aspects of getting ready to play, such as; sprinting, sliding, game situations, and staying active for more than 2 seconds.

Here is a breakdown of how to handle the 5 minute pre-game warm-up to get your team ready:

5 minutes

5:00 – 3:45: Two line layups – don’t get me wrong, this is still a great way for your basketball team to start their warm-up. If you have a team of 8-10 players, in 1 minute and 15 seconds, everyone should be able to get at least 2-3 layups on both the right and left side. Each player gets to touch the basketball, take a few dribbles, and a get few shots up. Teach your players in the pre-game warm-up to move quickly, attack the basket at a game like speed, and sprint to half-court as they change lines.

3:45 – 2:30: Slides and Sprints – This next minute or so should be dedicated to some kind of defensive mindset – whether it is incorporating zig-zag slides on a third of the court, or having a coach in front of the team directing the them to slide, backpedal, or close-out. You could also use some type of combination slide, backpedal, or sprint warm-up. Have your players start on the baseline corner and slide to the half-court corner, then to the sideline, and then back to the baseline. Here are a few defensive sliding tips:

  • Stay low
  • Butt down
  • Head up
  • Feet shouldn’t touch
  • Be loud…let the other team know you are there

This will get their heart rate going, gets them in a stance, and sets them up with the defensive mindset we want as coaches. It also shows the other team (who is probably spending their 5 minutes doing layups) that your team is ready to play and will make them second-guess what they are getting in to.

2:30 – 1:00: There are two options for the final minute and 30 seconds. First is the 3 on 2! 2 defenders start (one at top of key, other in the lane) with 3 offensive players spread out across half-court. Play 3 on 2. Try to score in 2 passes at most. The Defense should be active, aggressive, and communicate. This is a great way to get your team in a game like situation for a few minutes before the game starts.

The other option for the final minute and 30 seconds is to do another set of layups, but you should mix it up. A good layup drill is the Rainbow layup drill. Start with two lines on the baseline – one at each lane line. One ball on each side with the first person in one line without a ball. Have the coach stand in the middle of the lane, and the person without the ball must round the coach to the other side of the lane, receiving the pass from the baseline and scoring the layup. The passer rounds the coach and then goes to the opposite side to receive a pass for a layup. Make sure your players who are making the pass are ready to deliver the basketball. This just continues…

Rainbow Basketball Layup Drill Video

The player who shot the ball gets their own rebound and passes it to the line from which they received the ball. This puts the players at different angels on their layups. You can also determine how you want them to shoot – off one foot, 2 foot stop, power dribble, etc. If you have an extra minute or two you can have them move up the lane for jump shots using the same drill. This will help your players improve their shooting and confidence by seeing the ball go in to the net before the game starts.

1:00: Final Minute – the final seconds of the pre-game warm-up should be used to bring your team to the bench, say your final words, and send them on the court with a light sweat, eager to play, and fully prepped for the game. If you find that you have more than 5 minutes to warm-up, you can still follow the same routine, just extend the reps for each session. Or if you only have 3 minutes, try to condense it as best as possible. Whatever amount of time you have, getting the kids active and engaged, can quickly determine the amount of success you will have in the game.


This dynamic 5 minute basketball pre-game warm-up is a breakdown of what your team should be doing before the game. This will prepare them to compete with the right mindset from the beginning. This is key to starting the game off right! As a coach, this is one of the most important aspects of the game. Don’t ignore the importance of warming up with energy and focus.

Ross Schraeder is a former UC Irvine and European professional basketball player as well as the Director of Pro Skills Basketball Denver.

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