Offseason Drills

Yesterday, as I worked out with two players, two guys worked out on the other end of the court. At one point, my players wanted to work on ball handling; we started a drill about the same time that the guys started their drill.

For our ball-handling practice, we did triple moves into jump shots or finishes. The smaller guard worked on pull-up jump shots and floaters, and the forward worked on pull-up 3s and different layups. They started from different angles and finished with different shots from different locations on each repetition. They practiced different dribble moves and combinations on each repetition.

On the other hand, they set up chairs to designate where to go. I don’t know their objective, but it looked as though they were using a ball screen (first chair), hesitating to freeze the hedging or switching defender (second chair), and making a crossover into a shot. They did the same exact move in the same direction for the same shot for the entire time.

Their practice appeared to be specific; maybe the guy uses on-ball screens in their offense and has to attack switches better. I don’t know; I am guessing at their objective based on what I saw. It’s possible that the chairs signified nothing more than a spot on the court.

Our practice was general. I like triple move drills to improve dribbling skill because it focuses on the control of the reception of the dribble. Rather than do simple drills or stationary drills to improve control, I prefer drills at close to game speed with actual game-like moves. I also prefer to finish offensive drills with a shot, as the point of any move or pass is to move closer to scoring.

I know that our practice was not game-like. It was a general dribbling drill focused on a specific aspect of dribbling: control on one’s moves.

I fear that many would view their practice as game-like because it resembled a move or a shot that one might take in a game. However, the chair provided no cues and forced no decisions. Without decisions, the drill is not game-like regardless of its specificity to a shot that one may take in a game.

When people walk into the gym, and see these two practices, most gravitate toward the other end. It looks important. It looks like something that happens in a game. The props add an element of organization. They worked at a more rapid pace.

It would be easy to conclude that we were not practicing seriously. I rarely offered feedback unless they asked a question. I choose the triple moves drill because it provides its own feedback. When they mishandle the ball, I do not have to tell them that they lost control – chasing after the ball tells them. We lost control of the ball far more than on the other end; another sign that their practice was better.

Our practice, however, was based largely, although not intentionally, around motor-learning theory. (1) The players had autonomy: They picked the drill, they chose their moves, they started when ready; (2) The task provided relevant and informative feedback; (3) The task challenged the players beyond their current level (as evidenced by mistakes); (4) Delayed feedback controlled by the learner; (5) Random, variable practice that interleaved dribbling and shooting/finishing practice and included different moves from different spots and different finishes on each repetition; (6) Repetition without repetition: We practices for 10 minutes, which provided dozens of repetitions, but they did not practice the same move or same shot twice.

The other end featured block practice and near-constant feedback (could not hear the nature of the feedback).

Despite a theoretical basis on our end, most identify block practice and more feedback as hallmarks of good practice and coaching. This is just an example of the differences between a traditional practice session and how we develop skills. The example above was roughly 10 minutes out of a much longer workout, but these occurred simultaneously and provided a nice contrast for different type of individual practice.

Coaching is more than punishment and yelling “Play harder!”

Passing drills and game context

Last weekend, I conducted a two-day coaching clinic in Montreal. At one point, I was asked about fake fundamentals, and showed the three-man weave. I followed up with drills that I would use instead of the three-mean weave, and showed 5-6 keep away drills.  Read more

Games, drills, and instruction

Since the publication of The 21st Century Basketball Practice, and more specifically Fake Fundamentals: Volume 2, many coaches have questioned the de-emphasis on standard drills. This is predictable, as coaches have used these drills for generations. When not examined critically, they make sense. They are used so frequently that they are otherwise beyond reproach.  Read more

Appropriate time for feedback and criticism

During the State Cup, I was the assistant referee on an u13 boys game. The final was 12-1. The head coach of the losing team spent most of his time venting to an assistant coach directly behind me.  Read more

Parents and post-game feedback

This weekend was State Cup for soccer. Today, I was the assistant referee for an u15 girls soccer game, and I was in front of the parents. I have had both teams several times during the spring league, and I am familiar with the players. Early in the game, the better team scored a soft goal. Read more

Teaching

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Time and the difference between coaching in college and coaching youth basketball

I watched the end of a college basketball practice yesterday and spoke to a college assistant from a different program. At the practice, I saw the team play two one-minute games in the last 20 minutes of practice; the coach spent the rest of the time talking or instructing (I could not hear as I was at the opposite basket). When I spoke to the assistant coach, he emphasized the importance of repetitions and doing things (running the plays) over and over again so that the players learned. Read more

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy and Coaching Behaviors

After watching a team for several games, one can see the effect of the coach’s behaviors on the team and the individual players. One frequent issue is a coach who lacks confidence in his or her post players. I have watched several coaches like this in the last couple years; regardless of what happened, the coach blames the post player.  Read more

Coaching Frosh Basketball – Week 9

We play a Mon/Wed schedule, which is less than ideal. We won our Monday game though we played without four guys who missed Saturday’s practice. We scored one point in our first six possessions even though we shot five wide-open shots and a lay-up which results in the foul and the free throws. Once we started to hit shots, we jumped out to a 20-point lead and eventually pushed the lead to 30. Then it was like we forgot how to play basketball. Read more

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