Originally published in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter, Volume 4.
The brain prefers limb movements to be synchronized: to feel the phenomena, rub your belly and tap your head. When putting together a motor program, movements are rhythmic. For a basketball example, watch a player as he dribbles one ball high and the other ball low, which requires hand asynchrony and a lack of rhythm. The complexity is to dribble without rhythm, as the tendency is to move slowly toward a more rhythmic pattern. Dribbling two balls simultaneously is a less complex task, as there is rhythm, and the hands move synchronously. Dribbling two balls in an alternating pattern is slightly more complex, but the rhythm makes it simpler than the one-high/one-low drill.
Most young players shoot with two hands. Some drop the ball behind their strong-hand shoulder and throw the ball, whereas most use two hands in a push shot that looks more like a deep-dish volleyball set. Many believe that children use two hands because of a lack of strength, but the lack of disassociation may explain the two-handed push shot.
I work at an after-school program where I oversee the open gym activities at the junior high school. Many teenagers use a two-handed shot – they are old and strong enough to shoot properly, but have not been taught. They use the least complex strategy, which is synchrony. There are two implications:
- We can look at the two-handed shot and a basketball shot as different skills because they involve different motor programs. Just as walking and running are separate fundamental movement patterns, we can separate the two-handed push shot and the true basketball shot. The two-handed shot is not wrong, especially for beginners, and the one-handed shot does not evolve from the two-handed shot, as running does not evolve from walking. These are separate skills. When a coach decides to teach a player a one-handed shot, rather than tweaking and changing the two-handed shot, he should approach it as a completely different skill. Just as babies crawl before they walk, young players shoot with synchrony before they learn a basketball shot, which is asynchronous.
- We need to practice disassociation generally before we engage in shooting practice. If players cannot disassociate their limbs, they will prefer the two-handed shot. When forced to shoot with one hand, this preference manifests itself as thumbing the ball, as the two hands try to work together temporally. Rather than fight this movement pattern, practice less complex tasks that involve asynchronous movements, such as the high-low dribble or juggling. When players can dissociate their limbs, learning the proper shooting technique becomes easier.
Whereas it appears logical to practice one-hand form shooting to force this disassociation, when the player puts his second hand on the ball, it changes the movement pattern, and his brain returns to the preferred two-handed shot. When using one-handed form shooting, I keep the off-hand next to the ball, about two inches from touching. The left-hand is incorporated into the learning of the movement pattern rather than added as an after-thought. By putting the off-hand near the ultimate position and moving it in a shot-like fashion, players practice the disassociation without concentrating on the off-hand. I believe this leads to a quicker adaptation than trying to “change” a two-handed shot into a one-handed shot or trying to add the off-hand as an after-thought.