Is Curry a great shooter because he practices these shots or is he able to make these shots because he is a great shooter?
Furthermore, how would a high-school coach react to a high-school player warming up like this before a practice or game?
I imagine, based on conversations with numerous coaches, that the most common answers are that Curry can shoot these shots because he’s an amazing shooter, so he can do whatever he wants, but a high-school player should not shoot like this because he or she needs to improve.
Why can’t we look at these shots as a path to improvement?
Do we want players who can make shots only when everything is perfect?
I coached a player years ago who attempted shots like this during our shooting drills. Everyone else focused on making their shot, as we shot until the group made 10 or 15 shots. He tried something new on every shot. He frustrated some players; some thought that he would be a better shooter if he took his practice more seriously. However, most considered him among the top shooters on the team, and we had four other players shoot over 38% from 3 on the season; this was a team that succeeded largely because of shooting.
Initially, his shots frustrated me. But, when I stepped back, and I thought of Curry, my feelings changed. Adding variability into shooting drills likely improves shooting. These shots create a greater range through which he can shoot, whereas most approaches limit players to a mythical ideal or perfect shooting technique.
Therefore, I’d suggest that practicing these shots is one reason that Curry is elite, and I’d encourage high-school players to explore more with their shooting. That does not mean that shots like these are the only practice in which one should engage, but spending a few minutes exploring different shots will improve a player’s overall shooting, not detract from it.
“If you want to be a great shooter from 25 feet, you better be a great shooter from 4 feet first”— Coach Mac 🏀 (@BballCoachMac) April 12, 2020
– Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr is one of the NBA’s best all-time shooters, and he has won an NBA championship as a head coach. With such a reputation, this comment will get shared and liked and retweeted for weeks, as it reinforces the importance of form shooting, and even more so, the fundamentals that many purists believe are missing from today’s game. None of this makes the statement accurate.
The argument, of course, will be that any great shooter from 25′ will be a great shooter from 4′. I imagine that Curry, Lillard, Young, Harden, Gordon, etc. can stand in front of the basket at 4′ and make shots forever. No disagreement.
Therefore, because we believe that improvement is linear, we believe that shooting well at 4′ causes or at least is a prerequisite for the ability to shoot well at 25′. One comes before the other. Because we practice close to the basket in order to shoot far from the basket, successful shooting far from the basket must be because of the successful shooting close to the basket. We believe this is why we practice, and the results confirm our beliefs.
What if we look at it from the other direction? Does every great shooter at 4′ shoot well from 25′? Very clearly, the answer is no.
Curry, Lillard, etc. shooting well from 4′ and 25′ is correlation, not causation. Correlation describes a relationship; in this case, every great shooter from 25′ shoots well from 4′: These two things are related. Of course, few players who shoot well from 4′ are great shooters from 25′; in that sense, these are unrelated. Causation describes a cause and effect; one causes the other. In this case, does shooting well at 4′ cause great shooting at 25′? We know this is untrue.
Shooting from 25′ is more complex than shooting from 4′. Watch players shoot from 4′: Most use only their upper bodies. Players stand flat-footed and use only shoulder flexion, elbow extension and wrist flexion to shoot.
When shooting from 25′, players coordinate their entire bodies.
Shooting well from 25′ requires total body coordination, rhythm, timing, control and strength. Shooting well from 4′ places far fewer demands on these abilities. I can make dozens and dozens of shots in a row from 4′ without having shot in weeks, but not from 25′. Without practicing, I have lost the coordination, rhythm, timing and strength that once allowed me to make deep shots.
Form shooting and deep three-point shooting are two different skills, which is why I have greatly decreased form shooting in the players who I coach now compared to when I started as a shooting coach. Form shooting is minimally related to game shooting. Ignore the missing game constraints — defense, decisions, pre-shot movement — and the skill of deep shooting differs substantially from typical flat-footed close to the basket form shooting.
Does this mean that players should not do form shooting or shoot close to the basket? No.
However, I’d suggest using the entire body when form shooting. When young players shoot on a 10′ basket, they cannot do a true form shooting drill because of their strength deficits. They use their whole bodies:
Therefore, young players shoot start close to the basket with their shooting, whether we call this form shooting or just jump shots close to the basket. Essentially, they are the same thing when players lack strength.
Because I believe that coordination forms the foundation for skill, players should use their full bodies in every shot. I also believe that form shooting drills should be variable — shoot from different distances or locations rather than only shooting directly in front of the basket.
The more important points, to me, are:
(1) Correlation does not equal causation. Because things are related, does not mean that one caused the other. We cannot assume that one thing causes another just because that fits our perception of practice or development.
(2) Skill development is nonlinear. We believe that things build from simple to hard or from day 1 to day 2, but there is no linear development. The reality is not the straight line on the left, but the swirly line on the right.
.Credit: William Penn University Wilcox Library
Shooting coaches are specialists, focusing on one specific area of the game. As specialists, there is a tendency to fall back toward traditional coaching.
Several features may be displayed by “traditional” coaching: (1) limited performance uncertainty and variability of actions (Passos et al., 2008; Krause et al., 2019); (2) decontextualized movement coordination from the performance environment (Stolz and Pill, 2014); and (3) monotonous and repetitive technical drills in training (Renshaw et al., 2009; Krause et al., 2018).Otte, F. W., Millar, S. K., & Klatt, S. Skill Training Periodization in “Specialist” Sports Coaching—An Introduction of the “PoST” Framework for Skill Development. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 1.
Often, these coaches work individually with players. “The involvement of a limited number of athletes often proves to be a constraint in “specialist coaching” training environments, and so the challenge of full representation of the performance demands may be denied. Thus, informational constraints in these training environments may not invite exploration of action opportunities” (Otte et al., 2019).
What does this mean for the coach?
In order to facilitate an appropriate training environment, there appear to be three key challenges for “specialist coaches” to manage and make decisions on; these include the key concepts of (1) the representativeness of training; (2) stability and instability in training; and (3) the level of information complexity (i.e., as managed by task constraint manipulations and the practice schedule of movement tasks).Otte, F. W., Millar, S. K., & Klatt, S. Skill Training Periodization in “Specialist” Sports Coaching—An Introduction of the “PoST” Framework for Skill Development. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 1.
The old adage “game shots at game speeds from game spots” would seem to suggest that these exercises are representative of the game. When the coach sets out a chair as a screener, and the player sprints off the screen and into the shot from a spot that he shoots during a game, the player practices a game shot. Rebound and repeat. Make a certain number of shots or a certain percentage of shots.
Are these shots representative? No. Most notably, these shots lack a defender and a decision. In a game, I do not run around a chair and catch the ball; I have to get open. I must create space by reading my defender and using the screen appropriately. I may have to alter my cut if my screener’s defender hedges or switches.
Once I create space to receive the pass, I decide whether or not to shoot. There is no designated shooter. Do I catch on balance? Am I open? Did I receive a good pass? Am I in my range? Is a teammate more open?
Traditionally, we view these as three separate skills: (1) Getting open/reading screens; (2) shooting technique; and (3) decision-making. With this traditional viewpoint, a shooting coach can focus individually on the shooting technique.
However, the game does not separate these skills. Reading the defense, creating space, feeling open, and deciding to shoot are part of the shot and affect shooting percentages. The decision to shoot (which is influenced by time and score, play call, teammates, defenders, the pass, and more) is a part of the shot. Therefore, practicing in an environment devoid of these informational cues lacks representation.
Because the practice lacks representation does not mean that one should never shoot without defense or practice individually; however, one must be aware of the practice limitations to maximize the effectiveness of one’s practice time based on the player’s needs.
Similarly, the shooting coach must understand whether the goal for a session or a specific shooter is stability or instability.
While movement stability states the maintenance of a system’s coordinative structure under perturbation, instability represents exploitation of fluctuations, so as to develop a functional response to perturbations caused by uncertainties in the dynamic environment (Conrad, 1983; Seifert et al., 2013).Otte, F. W., Millar, S. K., & Klatt, S. Skill Training Periodization in “Specialist” Sports Coaching—An Introduction of the “PoST” Framework for Skill Development. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, 1.
Generally, younger or less experienced players need greater stability, whereas players with well-learned skills need practice succeeding through instability. Developing stability is creating a repeatable shot; responding to perturbations in the dynamic environment means that a player can change the technique to shoot over a taller defender or to release the ball quicker at the end of the shot clock.
Also, a player with sub-optimal technique needs instability as she attempts to change her technique to a more optimal shooting style. For example, in workouts with the player below, most instructions, cues and drills focused on instability to push her away from her well-learned, but sub-optimal technique. By perturbing this technique, she developed a new technique that improved her results during games.
The information complexity in a gym by oneself does not match that of a game. In an individual session, a coach cannot include the defense and the decision. Therefore, this is the area where specialist coaches need group workouts or team coaches need to supplement the specialist’s work.
Fortunately, I worked simultaneously as our specialist shooting coach and head coach. Therefore, our individual sessions focused on stability or instability, depending on the player, and our team practices included more task representative and complex drills. Players who needed more isolated practice to address a specific issue or flaw signed up for individual workouts.
In many team practices, the shooting drills mimic those that occur during individual workouts, except with players standing in line. If players sprint around the chair to catch and shoot during their individual sessions, they form a line, and take turns running around the chair, catching and shooting during team practices. The drills do not utilize the advantages of the group, and the practice does not add complexity or task representativeness. Instead, the team drills should include a defender and then a defender and a decision; initially, the shooter could read her defender as she runs around the screen (chair) and make the appropriate cut. Next, this could occur in a 2v2 or 3v3 situation where the player using the screen decides whether to shoot, drive or pass. Of course, the specialist coach with individual workouts lacks these opportunities for representativeness and complexity because of the isolated practice environment.
This does not mean that one should not use a specialist coach or that individual training is purposeless. However, the player and coach should be aware of limitations to maximize the individual practice time and purpose.
Rebound, pass, close out; keep moving as partner rebounds the ball; catch and shoot. If closeout is too close (not open), dribble once away from closeout for a pull-up jump shot.