This Might Solve The Strong Hand Finish Debate


In this video clip from our Elite Guard Camps, Adam Hepker & Matt Keeley talk about when you should ONLY use your strong hand on finishes.






What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...




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Terry Battenberg says:
7/21/2016 at 5:12:36 PM

I don't see where this is a problem. If left open, 99.9% of kids go to the strong hand. Most even go there when the defense is already there because it is the driver's "strong hand." We probably spend way too much time working on left-hand layups in proportion to how often they are used. But..... it is a good way to balance your game and at least have that threat.

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Larry Griffiths says:
8/25/2016 at 7:31:07 AM

Thank you! This is one of those things that goes against conventional wisdom but makes a ton of sense.

It drives me crazy to see coaches working with young boys and girls on left handed layups, putting so much priority on something that is used so infrequently. And never work on finishing with the right hand on the left side, which is what almost all players will almost always do in game situations.

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insane/lasane says:
8/25/2016 at 9:37:01 AM

The weak hand is used infrequently, because it is weak.
The strong hand should be used if there is some doubt about the weak hand. However if you make the weak hand capable, then you have added a weapon, and you become more effective finishing around the rim. Both hands should be equally capable around the basket. Your jump shot will be weak, as well as your entire game if you don't put time in to get it stronger.

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Joe Haefner says:
8/26/2016 at 9:39:30 AM

Absolutely. Practice practice practice to the point that you have no weak hand.

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Ken Evans says:
8/25/2016 at 11:47:06 AM

I disagree, if the player is alone they will finish on their strong side but to not encourage a young player to work on their left hand is to forever limit their potential ability, what is next - don''''t bother teaching them to dribble left handed? It drives me crazy that the left side of the court is the no man''''s land for players, they get the ball with a clear lane to the left but will constantly pass up the opportunity and pass the ball back.

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Jamie says:
8/26/2016 at 12:04:44 AM

You missed the point. The lesson is this: Learn the weak hand layup - yes. Use it in a game when it's not necessary to do so - no. Do what's comfortable, unless you have no choice but to do the uncomfortable.

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Jim Fox says:
8/26/2016 at 7:28:16 AM

Using when it is not necessary is what will make you comfortable with your weak hand. I have no issue with this at the higher levels with something on the line. But if you read this page, you are teaching kids the game of basketball. Shooting a layup with your outside hand is a basic fundamental of basketball.

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Joe Haefner says:
8/26/2016 at 9:42:02 AM

I went away from that philosophy DURING GAMES because I want players to get used to doing what they're good at.

Also, you build confidence by focusing on their strengths during games.

Don't get me wrong... during practice, we practice everything and make them as uncomfortable as possible. That's the only way to improve.

Not saying that's the right way or the best way, but it's the philosophy that has worked for me.

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Coach T says:
8/25/2016 at 12:42:58 PM

It is a shame that we would even consider not encouraging the left hand lay-up. If you learn to get comfortable with it then you will not hesitate to use it. I can give numerous examples of my players not wanting to use the left hand but after continuous practice and work began to use it without giving it a second thought. You should always strive become a complete player not half of a player.

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Joe Haefner says:
8/26/2016 at 9:37:38 AM

We (Breakthrough) encourage the same.

Practice and strive to get both hands equally skilled.

During games, do what gives you the best chance to score.

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Joe Haefner says:
8/25/2016 at 1:05:16 PM

Based on the previous comments, I'm wondering if there is some misunderstanding.

This is my understanding of it...

Practice both hands. Strive to shoot with both hands equally well.

During games, do what gives you the best chance to score.

That might mean finishing with your strong hand 90% of the time. It might mean 50% of the time. It might mean 30% of the time.

You don't get any points for shooting the ball with either hand. You only get points if the ball goes in the basket.

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Jamie says:
8/26/2016 at 12:08:05 AM

That's how I understand it.

Practicing the weak hand layups is critical to be a well rounded player. But in a game, use the hand which is most comfortable, unless you have no other option; in this instance, use your weak hand.

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Chris says:
8/25/2016 at 2:12:18 PM

In coaching a 1A private High school Girls team, we have players of different abilities. I have players come in that can't make any lay up. I teach them to use their strong hand first. They will be playing in games ,and if the opportunity presents it self, I want them to score, and, they want to score, too. A good try with the off hand doesn't put points on the board or build self-confidence. Older ,more experienced players that may move up to the next level are encouraged to work on both hands. When asked I tell them "I don't care what hand you shoot with... just make it".

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Joe Haefner says:
8/26/2016 at 9:36:22 AM

Growing up in a small town... I can relate!

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SCRnRCoach says:
8/26/2016 at 9:07:33 AM

While I don''t entirely disagree with the video, it is a cop-out to say that you should only practice with your strong hand. The angle of attack on a drive typically lends itself to having a much better angle with the outside hand. In addition, the help defender on a drive comes from the inside most of the time so it is more appropriate to use the outside hand on a lay-up most of the time. Using the inside hand, typically leads to increase in blocked shots, decrease in fouls on the defense, and increase in missed lay-ups due to having a bad angle of attack.

It is never a "waste of time" to teach kids to use both hands to play the game. I guess next thing someone will suggest is that we don''t teach players to dribble with the weak hand either because most turnovers happen with the weaker hand.

Teach the game the right way. A kid that is not taught to use the outside hand on a lay-up is not being taught skills needed to progress in their game. Once they reach an advanced level, they can begin to realize that there are specific times where it may be appropriate to use the inside hand, but that is really an advanced skill that a player that has developed multiple finishes should utilize.

I am rather disappointed to see this post from breakthrough ... I typically use this site as a good resource to share ideas with the youth coaches in my organization. Their views on youth man defense, youth 5-player motion, and fundamental instruction are typically spot on my philosophy. In my opinion though, the mark is being missed here, significantly.

Let me add...I get the point... but to teach a skill and then say, "In a game, don't use this skill, use the other incorrect method because you will score," then you are just telling your players that the skills you are teaching are a waste of time. The players will only truly master the skill when you get them to understand that it is necessary for them to learn. This method of coaching fails to do that. Of course, teach the outside hand. Typically, on a wide open lay-up in a game, the player will do what they are comfortable with anyway. Don't condone the behavior though. Just let them know, "You know that was a great score, but I noticed you used the wrong hand. We need to correct that so you don't end up missing opportunities down the road."

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Joe Haefner says:
8/26/2016 at 9:35:08 AM

Just to reiterate from my previous comment because I think people are misinterpreting what we're trying to convey...


"Practice both hands. Strive to shoot with both hands equally well.

During games, do what gives you the best chance to score.

That might mean finishing with your strong hand 90% of the time. It might mean 50% of the time. It might mean 30% of the time.

You don't get any points for shooting the ball with either hand. You only get points if the ball goes in the basket."


Also, here is something we posted on an article that we send to all youth coaches.. What You Should Teach Youth Players - Level 1
https://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/coaching/teach-youth.html

"You should practice lots of lay ups with both hands. Your goal should be to get all players to make lay ups with their left and right hands equally well!! "


On a side note, coaches at Breakthrough have different philosophies and we will share information that even we don't necessarily agree with. Even Jeff and I (the co-founders) do things differently than each other.

Our intent is to share different ideas and let you decide.

I haven't found two coaches that agree on everything.

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Jeff Haefner says:
8/26/2016 at 12:29:44 PM

Yea to the point of Joe... we have different opinions --and I agree with SCRnRCoach and not my brother. :)

I think we all agree that players should practice both hands and make both strong. Everyone seems to be on board with that.

The question is...

How long do you continue encouraging youth kids to use their weak hand in games?

Here's my current opinion. I'm sure others have different opinion and mine might change too in time...

1 - Beginners. I don't care what hand they use in a game. Just build confidence and be comfortable. Usually beginners (ex: a 6 year old will throw up air ball with weak hand and be lucky to even attempt the lay up). I don't think forcing them to use left in a game really does any good. I just want them to have fun and build a little confidence.

2 - Intermediate players (could potentially be anywhere from 2nd to 9th grade). Use your weak hand in games. I encourage this and I'm OK with players missing and use losing a couple games. Now if the kids has no chance to make the shot because they never make any in practice, I consider them a beginner and frankly I don't think it matters what hand they use. But if they are competent enough to make weak hand lay ups in practice, including drills that give them a little defensive pressure, I want them using their weak hand in games. To me this is the final step in developing the "skill"... practice and succeed with the skill in games.

3 - Advanced players. Now at this point, kids are in high school... fairly advanced... and we are expected to win. There could be exceptions, but for the most part I want kids doing what is taught in the video above. I want them to make the shot. But again, not always. I might have intermediate kids I'm trying to develop at 9th, 10th, or even 11th grade level and might make exceptions.

Curious what others think about this.

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David Pennington says:
8/28/2016 at 10:35:04 PM

I think the best results can be achieved when application is applied in uncomfortable situations and to achieve this it has to be in games.

I coach Miniballer’s (Age 5-6) through to Grade 7 so I haven’t coached any advanced players to date, but I don't see why I'd do things any differently.

I never support the use of the wrong hand. If they use the wrong hand in a game so be it, I don’t have to acknowledge that part of the play, I’ll focus on the ball handling, footwork or positioning instead and leave the left/right hand argument out of the equation. However I will bring it up if they get blocked because they chose to use their strong hand instead on their weak hand. This way they and the team can directly see the effect of not using the correct hand. If they use the correct hand and power over someone and make the shot because they used the correct hand then I’ll acknowledge it so everyone else can learn from the positive example also.

Knowing when to say something or not say something is the hardest part of coaching youth.

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Stepan says:
8/29/2016 at 9:28:17 AM

On top of all things said above, I just don't understand this problem of learning how to use your weak hand around the basket...

I learned it in about two weeks, as far as I remember. When I was 20 or so. Just realized I couldn't do it, did some very basic drills with my weak hand, and the progress was really rapid.

For two weeks I worked on my weak hand extensively. But after that, I've never prioritized my weak hand, just did all the same stuff with both hands in practice. And in games, I used to finish with my weak hand in more than half of cases. Without thinking. It is just so much easier, providing your defender overplays your strong side.

At the same time I've always been much worse as a dribbler with my weak hand than with my strong one. As a passer too. So it's not like I've achieved some wonderful ambidexterity in all aspects of the game. But lay-ups, baby hooks, some other basic stuff... It's really easy unless you start thinking "oh my god, it's my weak hand, I'm not gonna make it".

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Bob says:
10/5/2016 at 1:52:51 PM

Thank you for this, Jeff. Good stuff as always. This is the first time that I have ever heard anyone say to use your strong hand in a game, if you are not yet as good with your weak hand, except me. Glad I'm not alone in this philosophy, although I was prepared to be.
I tell my kids that it is important to practice hitting layups with your off-hand, but until you get to the point of being able to make the layup with the weak hand, use your strong hand in games. We practice off-hand layups all the time, so why force them to use a "work-in-progress" when they have a better chance using the shot they know they can make (in a game). To me, if you force them to use the weak hand all the time until they have mastered the art, you are taking a little bit of the fun out of the game.......i.e. nobody likes to miss shots, especially layups in games!
Stress the importance of developing the skill, but don't force them to use it until it is developed, especially when a developed skill works better.

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