Originally published in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter, Volume 7.
I met a player who visited local universities in an attempt to earn a scholarship. No offer was forthcoming, and she signed with my junior-college program. I told her she attempted too many long two-point shots and had to shoot three-pointers this season (I recruited her as a 4, and she plays 2-5). When she arrived, she attempted three-point shots, but threw the ball rather than shooting. She used a long forward step with her right (shooting) foot and flung the ball at the basket with a flat trajectory.
I initially directed her to shoot the ball higher, as I hoped this cue would encourage her to shoot up rather than out and lead to a technique shift. This did not help, as her lower body and upper body attempted to do different things; the lower body moved horizontally as the upper body moved vertically. The cue did not disrupt her long step. She regressed to her previous, comfortable technique after a few shots.
Next, I asked her to jump into her shot rather than attempt other minor modifications. She jumped in different directions in one workout. She shot off hops and leaps onto one foot to prevent the long step-in footwork. She adopted the jump into her shot after a few workouts. The upper body essentially fixed itself.
In October, she made her first five three-pointers and dominated a scrimmage with several NCAA DI programs in the gym.
Our assistant coach often yelled or mumbled that she was traveling as she made these changes. She did. She often caught the ball flat-footed, jumped into the air, landed, and jumped again to shoot. I rarely said anything through August and September, only occasionally instructing her to catch with feet in the air or to get her feet there more quickly. I was not concerned with her traveling; I was concerned with her shooting. We discussed the traveling once she was comfortable with her new shooting technique.
Now, she often leaps into a one-two step, but her footwork is closer to a jump stop or one-count than the elongated step she used in August. She plays four positions, likely will shoot > 35% from the three-point line this season, and has committed to an NCAA DII program with a full scholarship for next year.
Improving one skill was the difference between no scholarship offers and a full scholarship offer. Her improvement derived from one change, from my perspective. I perturbed her skill performance by requiring her to jump into the shot rather than step in to the shot. To amplify these perturbations, she jumped from different directions (90-degrees, 180-degrees, lateral, backward, etc.), and included hops and leaps and shots off of one foot. These perturbations differentiated the desired shooting technique from the habitual shooting technique, and she made significant changes, and improvements, in a matter of weeks at an age (20) when many coaches believe it is impossible to change one’s shooting technique.
The lesson is not that a one-count is better than a two-count. The jump corrected a problem quicker and more permanently than attempting to alter the length of her step. Now that her new shot is somewhat habitual, she occasionally steps in to her shot or leaps into her shot with a one-two step with both feet off the ground on the catch and a left-right landing. She is able to vary her shooting footwork without reverting to her previous (flawed) shooting technique. She has learned a new shooting technique and demonstrated improvement, retention, adaptability, and transfer.
Note: These ideas and more are included in Evolution of 180 Shooter: A 21st Century Guide.