This post started as a text thread with a coach that was prompted by a tweet of a video similar to the one above, which suggested turning form shooting drills into competitive games or challenges. This is a popular approach, as seen in our practice above.
However, it begs the question: Why do form shooting drills?
[In the example above, it was the day before a game, and I wanted something new, as we have practiced together 3-4 times per week for 7 straight months. I don’t view these shots as “form shooting”, nor do I see as “skill development”. Instead, the purpose was to get their rhythm and confidence on the day before a game].
I believe form shooting drills should practice something specific with concentration. The intention changes when the coach makes the drill competitive. These players are competing to make shots quickly; they are not focused on changing their rhythm, their hand placement, their footwork, or whatever else they need to change to improve their overall shooting.
Drills like the video above fit within the reps, reps, reps approach to skill development that values quantity over quality. To me, this drill lacks sufficient concentration on a specific aspect of shooting to be Specific Shooting Practice, nor is there a decision and defense to make the drill Game-Like Shooting Practice. Therefore, this is General Shooting Practice (see Evolution of 180 Shooter for more on the drill breakdowns)
I believe most drills fall into this category…everything is in the middle, not enough actual game shots and not enough specific intent in non-game shots. Just drills for reps…That does not mean these drills are wrong or not to use them. Very few things are inherently wrong. It becomes wrong, or a fake fundamental, when the activity does not align with the coach’s purpose. We spend too much time on general drills — mindless reps — at the expense of focused change/improvement and actual game shooting. It’s like speed development. A criticism of speed programs is the intense days are not intense enough and the recovery days are too intense. We spend too much time in the 70-80% zone, and not enough time in the >90% (actual speed work) or <30% (recovery) zones. But the argument is we need to build a base, just as basketball coaches argue we need more reps.
There are many reasons to use a drill like the one above: Fun, competition, confidence, and more. I would not call this skill development. I do not believe these shots directly improve one’s shooting. It’s possible players see the ball go through the net and feel more confident, which improves one’s shooting in the next game, but that is performance; performance is temporary.
To improve, there needs to be some change that persists over time and transfers to different environments and situations. Making a technical change to one’s shooting is one path to improvement: Fixing one’s hand placement or coordination or follow-through. This is typically what we associate with “skill development” as it relates to shooting, and the purpose of form shooting.
Another path to improvement is extending one’s range or getting more comfortable shooting against defenders or making the decision to shoot more quickly and accurately. This requires more game-like and competitive shooting practice.
Most shooting practice, then, should fall within these types of practice. Instead, we focus on reps and general shooting drills like the one above. But, what’s the purpose? What’s the mechanism to improve their shooting?