Two common problems have arisen repeatedly this season as I worked with players and attempted to improve players’ shooting.
First, players mentioned coaches trying to change their techniques.
Second, players rarely have goals for their workouts.
I worked with a player who clearly had lost confidence. He frequently asked “Does it look alright?” after he shot. I finally asked about his questions. He explained that every coach tried to change his shot, and every coach had a different change to make. For a player who played on two teams, one of which had a midseason coaching change, in a club that employed a separate skill development coach, and spent the offseason with the national team, he worked with numerous coaches. When each one has his own ideas on shooting, and wants to teach a player his way, what is the player supposed to do? How can a player function when 3-4 coaches within the span of months have attempted to change a player’s shot?
This was not isolated to a single player. At least three players have related the same story. One player, in a meeting with his club, said, “Every coach wants to change my shot; except Brian.” When the player told me about coaches wanting to change his shot, I stopped him. I asked what he thought. He thought his shot was okay. I agreed. I think his problem is mental, not physical. He clearly had a coach instruct him not to dip the ball, and another who focused on his elbow. On shots, you can see him try to adjust his elbow to the “correct” position. I tried to get him to ignore all these instructions and just shoot. Stop trying to be correct and focus on making shots.
Another player was advised to work with me. I was told to ask him about his plan that he had created with his coach. He started to explain all the technical changes that the coach wanted to make. I stopped the explanation and asked him about his thoughts on his shooting. We agreed, mostly. His problem was not anything truly technical, but a lack of balance that was partially due to recurrent ankle injuries during the season, and an elongated shooting motion (I’d call it a sweep rather than a dip). So, we focused on those two things: Balance, and especially a slightly wider base, and a shorter, quicker dip.
Certainly some players need to change things about their shots. However, constant explicit instructions with the same type of practice rarely leads to improvement.
The other issue is even more frequent: A lack of attention. I touched on this already. Today, I worked with a player on his shooting, while another player used a shooting machine on the other basket. We progressed through a series of drills. Every drill had a purpose centered around the player’s balance and/or shortening his shooting motion.
On the other end, the player attempted a lot of shots (similar to below). When I asked him what he was working on, he said “nothing really; just getting up shots.” This is common; we believe repetitions solve problems without giving thought to the problems that we are trying to solve. How many more repetitions are needed? How many are enough?
When I asked what he thought he needed to improve, he responded, “Maybe catch and shoot 3-pointers because I have not been making them lately.” I followed up by asking why he thought he was missing. I had 3 ideas in my head. He nailed one: balance/narrow base. I suggested that when he’s working out on his own, that’s what he should be focused on improving.
Just getting up shots does not lead to improvement. There needs to be a focus to the practice to make improvements; the drills need to be designed to elicit these improvements. Just moving around the 3-point line taking shots or trying to make a certain number of shots does not insure improvement. For a great shooter who simply wants to maintain rhythm and confidence, this practice works. For a shooter who needs to improve, this practice falls short.
Changing one’s technique requires time and concentration. Consequently, I rarely start from the beginning with a player. Instead, I design practice and provide feedback to force minor adjustments. As an example, when the player jump stopped, as opposed to using a 1-2 step, he used a wider base. We incorporated more shooting off the one-count to practice with the wider base, and as it became more habitual, added back in the 1-2 step in certain situations that were more like game shots, for instance shots off a curl cut or shots off a pick and pop. To reduce the elongated sweeping motion, we used a simple cue: Keep the ball in front of your logo/number (depending on what he wore to work out that day). This does not prevent a dip on the catch or during drills, but does limit the big sweeping movement. As we worked through different drills, I simply had to remind him to keep the ball in front of the logo. Not much else was needed.
Drills designed to elicit specific adaptations and simple cues to remind players of the goal. This is skill development.