Breakthrough Basketball Newsletter:
Shooting Better In Practice But Not Games?

June 25th, 2021

Editor’s Note: In the part 3 of this educational series, Nate Sanderson tells a story on how his shooting drills were making his players better shooters in practice, but it wasn’t resulting in better shooting during games. Then he shares how he fixed this problem.

In case you missed part 1 & 2, you can read it here and watch the drills (You can find part 3 in this email below or at the link above.)

Shooting Better In Practice... But Not Shooting Better In Games - The Shooting Paradox In Sniper School

- By Nate Sanderson

Ages: Youth, Middle School, High School, College/Pro
Audience: Coaches, Parents, Players

The final straw that propelled me to fully embrace a games-based approach was seven years in the making.

When I took the job at Springville High School, we piloted an off-season shooting program called Sniper School. It was a system developed after reading Daniel Coyle's The Talent Code designed to put players at the edge of their shooting ability.

The workout consisted of players shooting "lines" in practice, for example from the basket to the corner, wing, top of the key, etc.

We dropped floor spots every four feet along that line.

Players started at the One Spot (4') and took ten shots. If they made at least 6/10, they moved to the Two Spot (8') and took ten shots. This process repeated until they got to the Five Spot (3-point line). If a player failed to make 6/10, they repeated the spot.

A typical workout included:

5 Lines x 5 Spots x 10 Shots = 250 Shots

They would achieve a score for the workout based on the last shot they beat (made 6/10) from each line. This allowed us to calculate their "60% range" and score the workouts over time. We use the following formula to calculate their range.

Sample Workout:

Right Baseline - 3 Spots
Right Wing - 4 Spots
Middle - 3 Spots
Left Wing - 5 Spots
Left Baseline - 4 Spots

Total Score: 19 Spots / 5 Lines = 3.8

60% Range: 3.8 (average score) x 4' = 15.2 feet

We used this system heavily in the off-season and tracked our players from 7th-12th grade during open gym workouts and spring shooting sessions.

Over seven years, we charted over 125,000 shots and we found that the more players shot in Sniper School the more their scores and 60% range improved over time.

We even incorporated their Sniper School stats into our shot selection conversations during the season so that their "3-point license" had to be earned in the off-season.

In 2015, we had a senior that was poised for a breakout season. She had toiled in Sniper School since 7th grade, and during the previous off-season shot over 54% from behind the 3-point line during her workouts. She had earned her 3-point license and had high expectations for herself.

Despite her success in Sniper School, she shot only 29.3% (24-82) from behind the 3-point line during her senior season.

These results were a mystery that we quickly dismissed as a statistical aberration.

Surely her lack of success was due to her slow release, subpar athleticism, or an inability to make contested shots in game play. We thought nothing more of it and continued with Sniper School for another off-season.

Then it happened again.

Another senior with six years in the program who shot over 52% from the 3-point line in her workouts shot 13% (3-23) from behind the arc during her senior season!

This caused us to start asking more difficult questions about Sniper School. Why wasn't our success in Sniper School transferring to game competition?

Around the same time, I read Brian McCormick's book The 21st Century Basketball Practice where he discusses some of the variables in training that affect the transfer of skills to actual games.

For the first time, I recognized the differences between the shots we took thousands of times in Sniper School and the shots we were taking in games…

  • Game shots are random
  • Game shots are contested
  • Game shots are never taken from the same spot twice in a row
  • Game shots require players to set their feet before every shot

We simulated none of these things in Sniper School.

Consequently, we got better at the drill... but were no better in games.

And so we started to explore a different way to train.

For the past six years we have been on a journey experimenting with game-based drills - searching for better ways to simulate game-like skill development during our practices and off-season workouts.

That's why we created the Game-Based Training System for Individual Skill Development.

This package includes over six hours of video demonstrating how we teach our players passing, ball-handling, decision-making, and shooting in a game’s context.

It includes an ebook with over 125 pages of diagrams, philosophy, and instruction on how to use these drills with players of all ability levels so that you can provide the appropriate challenge for every player in your program.

This system offers a comprehensive look at how to build your skill development using game-based drills that simulate the same situations, defensive angles, and scoring opportunities that your players will find in games.

We want to equip you to help your players develop skills that will transfer to their in-game performance. Click on the link for more information and sample videos from Game-Based Training System.

All the Best,

- Joe Haefner
Breakthrough Basketball