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.