Shooting game-like shots are not always appropriate. And it's a common mistake even among experienced players and coaches.
The reason I bring this up is that I think there are misconceptions. I hear trainers that work with professional players say things like...
"Every drill needs to be game-like."
"I don't do anything, but game-like drills. If it doesn't happen during a game, I don't do it."
In the past, I happened to have this approach as well.
However, I think there might be a better approach that will get you more results.
What Do I Mean By Game-Like Drills?
First off, we need to get on the same page. From my experiences, traditionally people refer to game-like drills as actions that replicate game-like movements.
In these game-like drills, you are also working on multiple skill sets like cutting, footwork, shooting, dribbling, and even finishing. For decision-making, you can add defenders to dictate decisions or just let them play live.
From a team training perspective, you might incorporate different 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, and 5v5 games.
On a side note, defining what drills should be called game-like drills is another discussion.
Here's an example of 1v1 drill that simulates attacking options off a down screen. In this progression, they either curl or fade.
Now, I certainly use these drills. I'm not saying to dismiss them. That would be a mistake. They have their purpose.
However, your goal shouldn't be to make drills game-like.
When teachers plan a lesson, they have an objective. Then they choose exercises to best achieve that objective.
So first, you need to decide what you need to improve. You need to decide your objective. Then your goal is to find drills or exercises that help you achieve your objective as efficiently as possible.
You might call this objective-based coaching or purpose-based coaching.
Many times, you will use game-like drills to achieve your objective. Other times, you should not.
Here are some examples of what I mean...
Using A Medicine Ball To Improve Coordination, Strength, and Rhythm In Your Jump Shot?
For example... I had an athlete who lacked coordination when shooting a jump shot. They didn't appear to be using their legs properly.
When I had my game-like drills approach, I would just keep doing shooting drills with these coaching cues...
"Drop your hips."
"Sit your butt back."
"Get your heels down a little. Not too much on your toes."
While those cues can help a player improve in a game-like drill, I found that it had been a few months and I wasn't getting the results I hoped for.
While doing some research, I came across an article from Brian McCormick. I really like reading Brian's stuff because he combines athletic development and basketball. And he also thinks outside the box.
He mentioned using a medicine ball to throw a chest pass from a squat. But the goal was to throw the ball vertically and horizontally; a similar path to a shot.
Brian understood that you had to put yourself in an environment where you would be forced to use your legs properly.
By throwing a heavier medicine ball in the mix and tossing it as far you can, you have no choice but to engage your muscles properly and use proper coordination.
In fact, minimal coaching cues were necessary. When you don't want a medicine ball to drop on your foot, your body tends to quickly and automatically come up with solutions.
After a few sessions of doing this exercise, the athlete I was working with learned how to properly use their legs on a jump shot. And because of this, their upper body shooting motion became more fluid and effortless because they were able to properly transfer that energy generated by their lower body. There weren't any energy leaks.
It improved the fluidity, shooting accuracy, and shooting range.
This is an example of objective-based training. You figure out what you want to improve. Then you create or find exercises that best help you with this.
My objective was to improve the use of the lower body when shooting a jump shot.
Had I stuck to the game-like drills approach... I may have never accomplished my goal or it would have taken much longer.
Circus Ball Handling Drills, Training NBA Players, and Motivation
While this isn't a shooting drill, it definitely shows another point of view.
All of you know that I've been harsh on the "circus" drills in the past. However, I've slightly changed my approach.
I was in the gym with Don Kelbick and we were filming drills for Attack & Counter Workouts.
I can't even remember the exact drill that we were doing. It was some two-ball or three-ball dribbling drill like the one below.
A player named Zack turns to Don and says, "Are these the drills you do with your NBA guys?"
Don looks at him and says, "No. They do drills that make them better. I do these for you."
I wish you could have seen the look on Zack's face. It was priceless. You could just see the wheels turning and the state of confusion in his face. It reminded me of interactions between Yoda and Luke Skywalker.
A few years later, Zack still might be confused about it. However, I think I got what Don meant.
Players are human. They like some of these drills whether they're the best for improving game performance or not.
So, Don uses them for a few minutes in a workout to mix things up and keep players motivated. That way, they will work on what players might consider the "boring" stuff. However, we know the "boring" stuff is very important.
Once again, these drills are NOT game-like, but they have a purpose.
I don't want to go too far on a tangent, but I've also come across information in regards to this type of training. There may be other neurological effects that lead to skill enhancement in other areas of the game. Another topic. Another day.
How To Improve Balance and Distance Covered With Jump Shots Off The Dribble
We've all coached players who couldn't separate from the defense off the dribble when their shot is taken away.
This may sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes you might take too long of a first step and this causes you to lose your balance and explosiveness.
Other times, you might be too upright and even lack extension and explosiveness on your driving leg.
This could be a mobility and strength issue.
So what else could you do?
You might find that you need muscle massage in your hips and calves due to tightness. Maybe your hips need to be strengthened. Maybe your shins need to be strengthened to reduce tightness in the calves. Maybe there is something else that you need to address from a strength and mobility standpoint.
Maybe you just need to be placed in an environment where that position is exaggerated. Maybe you just need to feel it. If that's the case, here's an example of some drills I might use.
Drill 1 - Static holds
You get in an exaggerated, low lunge position.
Depending on the situation, your static holds might range from 15 seconds to 120 seconds.
Drill 2 - Lunge position to dribble
Next, you start in an exaggerated, low lunge position again. Then you simply take one dribble and shoot. An alternative would be to hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds before exploding forward.
Drill 3 - Push up position to dribble
You can also start from an upright push up position with the ball under them. Then explode into a one-dribble jump shot.
Drill 4 - Exaggerated low squat
You can also start in an exaggerated low squat position. From that position, they have to take one dribble and shoot a jump shot.
Are these game-like? Not exactly. But they have a specific objective that could lead to better improvements than simply doing more game-like drills.
I'm not saying you shouldn't do game-like drills. You should. But you also need objective based drills to get the results you're looking for. Every drill or exercise should have an objective or purpose.
Hopefully, these ideas and thoughts will better help you design better workouts and practices to maximize your improvement.
In the next article, we're going to talk about how game speed training isn't good enough for serious players. Then we'll show you a little trick that Steph Curry's trainer uses to accomplish this.
Resources for Shooting and Workouts:
What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...