Spend the Offseason #Grinding or Developing Skills

Yesterday, I commented on a video of college basketball players:

Not everyone was happy with the critique.

Challenge accepted.

via GIPHY

What would you tell this coach/program to better use their time and replace this with?

Without knowing the quality that they attempted to improve, it is difficult to suggest alternatives. Based on the feedback, they cared about effort. If that is the goal, mission accomplished, I suppose. The players appeared to give effort. The drill appeared to be hard. If that was the only goal, I have no real alternatives. It is fairly easy to make anything hard.

The tweet said “getting better every day”, which prompted my question. Getting better at giving effort? Okay. Getting better at basketball? Debatable.

To clear up the misconceptions, this is not agility, nor does it have anything to do with playing defense. Looking only at the movements, this is training a slow change of direction. First, they touch the ground, which changes one’s posture compared to that which a player uses in a game. Second, many reach outside their base of support; they reach toward their outside leg. If I move to my right, and need to change directions to go left, I do not want to reach outside my base of support to my right. This slows down my movement. Notice how they stop on nearly every change of direction.

This is not exactly how I do lateral movement training with bands, but it just popped up on Twitter and is close:

Again, depending on goals, this is an alternative, if the goal is to improve acceleration, change of direction speed, lateral movement, movement quality, etc.

I have commented on this previously with regards to a college strength & conditioning coach. Previously, the team ran to a line, turned, and ran back, much like a baseline to baseline sprint in a game. As with this video, there was no feedback, instruction, or corrections for technique, and the players changed directions slowly. Why do you want to use conditioning work to reinforce patterns that slow down players in a sport predicated by speed?

Before we condition players, we instruct a hockey stop for change directions. Therefore, when we condition, we (hopefully) practice the correct technique and develop this pattern. Why invest time training a movement pattern that ultimately has to be corrected in order to move well during a game?

Again, this comes back to my presentation to Boston Sports Medicine and Performance Group in 2011. Strength and conditioning coaches (I am assuming this is an S&C workout, not a basketball workout) should be concerned with skill development too, not just putting up numbers. The S&C workout should complement the basketball skill workout, and vice versa. If players train a slow movement here because the goal is to be hard, it fails to complement the basketball-specific movements on the court.

Is this harmful?

Probably not, depending on volume and preparation. However, is that the standard that we set for workouts? It’s not harmful; therefore, it is good?

On the other hand, it may cause negative transfer. If players use these patterns on the court, and consequently move slower, there is negative transfer. The training made players worse. In that sense, one may view it as harmful.

Doesn’t have any value to explosiveness, core, etc.?

I do not see much value in explosiveness or core because their posture and positions are poor. Is that because of fatigue, not the drill? Is it because it is their first time doing this? I don’t know.

However, I know that college coaches constantly complain about the lack of time with their players during the offseason. Consequently, why use that time for an exercise that probably isn’t harmful? Why not maximize the value of the time?

Honestly, the biggest positive to me is that it works on lateral movement because I believe that there is a sagittal bias in training, and basketball is a multidirectional sport.

However, if one wants to improve lateral movement, why not lateral plyometrics? Here is a link to a paper on the benefits of frontal-plane plyometrics. Below are the exercises; consider those additional alternatives.

Learning to relax to improve sports performance

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, May/June 2016

Coaches constantly encourage athletes to relax (often by yelling, which seems contradictory), but rarely does a coach explain or demonstrate relaxation or a process to relax. Encouraging players to relax becomes a throw away; something that everyone says, and everyone assumes the other person understands, but which has virtually no practical meaning.  Read more

Winning more games with a better warmup

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Dynamic warmups, injury prevention, and bad habits

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Searching for elite athletic talent

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, January/February 2016.

During a recent u14 girls soccer game, I watched the younger brothers play 3v3 tackle football between the fields. The parents were invested in the soccer game, and they never bothered the boys who ranged from 8 to 12 years old. The pickup football game was more interesting. There were no parents shouting directions or intervening when there was an argument or an injury. The boys figured it out on their own.  Read more

When part practice goes wrong

Over the last few weekends, I refereed the end of the season tournaments for youth soccer; most teams were club teams, whatever that means, and some have professional (i.e. paid) coaches. These teams dutifully performed the FIBA11+ warmup or something similar prior to their first game of the day (rarely do they perform the same warmup prior to their second game, as they typically warmed up with passing or dribbling drills between fields). Read more

Drills, movement, and the false step

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Movement Skills and Games

Every day P.E. activities for 4th-6th graders

Originally published in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletters, Volume 6.

A physical education teacher asked for help in designing his curriculum. He asked for the three to five exercises that I would do in every class with 4th-6th graders. Without knowing about available equipment, class size, teacher experience, and other important programing variables, I would play tag, crawl, sprint, and do some form of dexterity/coordination exercise such as juggling in every class. Read more

Natural and Unnatural Movements in Basketball

In an old video, Kevin Cantwell said “it is very important to teach that the front foot moves first. Natural movement would be the back foot pushes the front foot forward. You cannot play defense like that because you will get beat. Alright, it’s not a natural movement so you’re working on that.” Read more

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