Individual and team defense in basketball has taken a hit over the last couple of decades due to decreased practice time and no focused effort from coaches to teach it. Players do not seem to understand how to guard their man and guarding a man off the ball two or three passes away is almost nonexistent. Defensively, basketball players guarding the ball are content to let their man go by them off the dribble and get to the rim and players off the ball would be better served being a matador in the bull ring with their ¨reach and get out of the way” methods of defending than an actual basketball player. Nonetheless, this lack of defensive ability is not entirely their fault and nor is it the coaches. In fact, it is more a product of gym time or lack there of than anything else.
With the increased number of basketball teams around the country, travel and rec, it has created an issue with gym time. There are just not enough gyms and not enough available time slots to accommodate all of these teams. Furthermore, if there is enough gym time made available, it limits teams to a little over an hour one time a week. Consequently, when coaches do get in the gym with their players the majority of their focus is on their teamś offense and maybe some team defense that is usually in the form of a zone. Why zone? It is believed to be much easier and less time consuming to teach than man to man defense and coaches can get away with giving it some sort of cursory effort. This could not be further from the truth. To play a zone defense correctly and effectively, players must first learn to play man to man defense. In fact, the best zone defenses are actually really great man to man defenses whose players understand how to guard the man in their area as well as be a help defender when off the ball. On the flip side, really great man to man defenses function as a zone with players helping off the ball into an area and then recovering with the movement of the basketball.
To develop this type of successful zone defense, takes a ton of time and practice. When I coached at the high school level, we spent a segment of every practice every day doing defensive breakdown drills for the variety of defenses that we played. That being said, we also had the gym space and the time to. With only one day in the gym each week for some of these travel and recreational basketball teams, that time just does not exist. Therefore, teaching team defense becomes an afterthought. The prevailing thought of, ¨Letś just play zone because all they player has to do is guard an area.” This notion does not take much time or effort and is so far from the truth but the unfortunate reality of the lack of gym time in America today.
Basketball coaches are always looking for the next awesome drill. You know, the one that is going to turn an average ball handler into Kyrie Irving or the average jump shooter into Steph Curry. A lot or these drills merely reinvent the wheel and in too many cases are over the top when it comes to their creativity. I have always subscribed to the K.I.S.S philosophy when it comes to basketball drills, that’s Keep it Simple Stupid and maintained the notion that it is what you do inside the drill that should count more than the overly hokie drill that you ripped off of YouTube. With that in mind, my basketball skill development workouts almost always favor the process over the results. Be damned with the makes and focus on why you are missing.
Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post titled, Do You Work on Form which stressed the importance of form specific basketball drills in your workouts. How many times, do we as coaches run drills where the first to ten wins the game? Or, make 5 and move. Far too often. These results based drills become an issue for basketball players, particularly younger basketball players because all they focus on is getting the basketball in the basket or touching as many cones as they can in a minutes while handling the ball. The result can often be glorified slop. Sure it’s competitive and fun, but is anyone really getting any better?
At our Elite Basketball Training workouts, we spend a ton of time focusing on form but also breaking down the form and teaching the players why bad reps are, in fact, bad reps. If a player is working on two ball stationary ball handling and the goal is to get 20 reps in 30 seconds but can’t seem to get the ball to bounce as well with their weak hand, then they need to know that and know why. This way when they are training on their own, they can make corrections without the aid of a coach. Yesterday, as I worked out a young female basketball player, she kept asking me questions when she missed as to why she missed. The reason, to learn from her mistakes, and it worked because towards the end or the basketball workout, she was telling me not asking me what she was doing wrong.
Basketball is a game of results, there is no doubt about that. That is why we keep score. But, don’t you think that the results would be a little bit better if players and coaches focused a little more time to the process? Keep your drills simple, and teach the game and the skill within the drill. Spend more time on breaking down players’ form and worry less about how many makes or how many speed dribble lines. In the end, this process will produce far better results.
Here in New Jersey, high school basketball season is only eight weeks away. That may seem like a lot of time, but it’s not. It will be here before you know it. Will you be prepared? You can be as long as you dial in your basketball training this fall. You probably spent a little too much time this fall at the beach and now, with the start of school and fall sports, your time is limited. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have any, it just means that you need to make the most of the time that you do have. To do so requires just a few simple tips to stay organized and be efficient with your fall basketball training.
- Plan for success. Your basketball training is nothing without a well organized schedule. Remember, your time is limited so wasting it would be a huge detriment to your success. Take the time at the beginning of each week (preferably Sunday) to write out exactly what you will do each day of the week.
- Design efficient basketball workouts. With so many components of basketball training to work on (basketball skill development, basketball specific sports performance training, basketball speed and agility, conditioning, etc.) your workouts need to be on point. To do so, combine as many components of basketball training as you can. Use multi-skill basketball drills that incorporates speed and agility into your skill training. Add pushups, plyos, sprints, in between or during segments. The point is to make sure that you are getting it all in.
- Recover. Nutrition and rest are as important to your fall basketball training as your basketball skill development and basketball performance training. With limited time, homework to be done and efficient but intense basketball workouts, your body needs to recover. Recovery is aided by a solid nutrition plan made up of smaller meals that include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Furthermore, sleep is equally as important. A solid night’s sleep of about eight hours combined with excellent nutrition will do wonders for your body. You’ll feel great and be ready to do it all again the next day.
Prioritze Basketball Training for Form
Form is of the utmost importance whether it is for shooting, finishing, passing or dribbling. Simply stated, the better your form the better you will be at all of those skills. For this reason, I always build segments into our basketball skill development workouts where the players strictly work on their form. These are portions of their training where form is of the utmost priority and every repetition needs to be done a specific way every repetition, every time. I also base this portion of their basketball training on a prescribed number of makes. By forcing them to execute a skill in a certain way and guarantee makes, it will insure that the basketball player maintains a certain degree of focus throughout the entire time period. This type of form training also leans toward going at a much slower pace, say 50% of your game speed in order to concentrate on the form and earn your successful reps.
Tips for Incorporating Form Into Basketball Workouts
- Designate the beginning portion of each skill to form work.
- Train at 50% of your game speed.
- Execute every repetition perfectly every time so that you can build muscle memory.
- When mistakes are made, correct them immediately
Travel Basketball Team Prep Camp
Over the past two weeks, I ran my yearly travel basketball team prep camp for a couple of towns near where I live in New Jersey. The focus of the camp was to prepare these players for their upcoming travel team basketball seasons. To do so, we focused a ton on fundamental basketball skill development in the mornings. Then in the afternoon, we broke down the game into three on three, instructing the players on offense and defense with breakdown drills. Finally, there was game play at the end of each day, in order to let the players showcase their individual basketball skills and incorporate what we learned in the three on three instruction into an actual game. Due to large number of players at the camp and me not wanting anyone to sit too long, we ran the 5 on 5 full court games on the smaller side courts instead of the main court. As I encouraged the players to work on the passing, cutting and screaming skills that we worked on I had one common response in both weeks…” The courts are too small.”
Small Courts Make Better Basketball Players
Clearly these kids have never seen the courts on West 4th NYC dubbed “The Cage” or the famed Rucker Park. Both courts are notoriously small and known for producing and hosting some of the best basketball players that the city has to offer. Learning how to play on a smaller court can only make you a better player. With only tighter spaces to work with, basketball players must learn to move more efficiently without the ball in order to get open. The timing of passes need to be on point or its a dunk at the other end. Ball handling and dribbling moves need to be tight or the ball will get taken. And, you need to learn how to get your jump shot off quickly and accurately and finish at the rim with a variety of finishing moves. Do skills like efficient cutting and screening, well timed passes, a tight handle, and accurate shooting and finishing sound like skills the pros have? You bet they do and they all develop these basketball skills by training in situations that are harder than the game.
Basketball Training in Tight Spaces
Playing on tighter courts is just one “harder than the game” situation that basketball players can put themselves in to hone their skills, but how can one simulate these tight spaces using basketball drills? One such drill that I use with my players at Elite Basketball Training is the tight cones drill. Setting up the cones in a variety of ways but only about two feet or less apart forces the player to make their dribble moves in smaller spaces. Another great drill that we use when there are two or more players at a workout and we did last week at camp was Full Court One on One Tight Spaces. The players are tasked with playing full court one on one but need to stay within the lane lines. If they go out, its a turnover. This drill forces to players to execute their changes of direction and change of speeds in a smaller area against a real defender. It also makes them finish at the rim or with their jumper in a much smaller area forcing them to be efficient in both situations.
There is no doubt that training and playing basketball in tight spaces will make you a quicker, more efficient, and overall better basketball player. Interested in finding out how we train at Elite Basketball Training? Take a look at a list of our fall and year round programs on our training page.