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Make Your NJ Summer Basketball Training Purposeful and Fun

The Evolution of Basketball

I was having a conversation yesterday with a high level collegiate basketball player after one of our basketball skill development workouts at our Red Bank location in New Jersey. We were talking about the evolution of the game of basketball, in particular the jump shot, and how players and coaches need to evolve with the game. Unfortunately, some get lost in the time and do not, but that is another story for another time. The player’s father brought up how lifting weights for basketball used to be sacrilege and now look at how many of today’s Elite Basketball players are involved in basketball related sports performance programs. This got me thinking about my summer training regimen when I was a player back in high school. I used to love summer training. In fact, I still do. To this day (although I don’t play competitive hoops anymore) I still wake up early and get all of my training in before most people even start their day. I attribute this drive to the summer training regimen that I put into place back when I was a young basketball player.

My New Jersey Summer Basketball Training

When I was a high school basketball player growing up in New Jersey, my summers were devoted to becoming the best basketball player that I could be. I was cut from my middle school team twice and there was just no way that that was going to happen again to me in high school. I knew that I had to put in work and that the summer afforded me the time to do so. That being said, I would wake up early, get in a nutritious breakfast and head off the the gym to develop my body. Performance training was an integral part of my basketball training program and would include some sort of aerobic activity (sprints, running, agility work, etc) and basketball related strength training. This combination insured that I was covering all facets of my body that was necessary for the game of basketball. Once I finished at the gym, I headed back home for a quick protein shake and then outside to work on skill development. These skill development sessions were intense and included a variety of ball handling, dribbling, and shooting drills. Each one of these drills were game related and varied to make sure that I was getting a variety of reps from all angles and spots on the court. One of the keys to my success in summer training was that I charted every rep and make. This gave me a record of what I accomplished that day and a goal to focus on for the following day. Back then, I used a pencil and a notebook but with today’s technology, like the Wilson X Ball, this has become so much easier. Once the morning’s training activities were done, I was free to do what I wanted until the next phase of my training came…the evening’s pickup basketball games.

The Benefits of Pick up Basketball

Pickup basketball in the summer was the best part of my summer training plans. There is nothing like getting a bunch of your basketball buddies and heading to different parks in the Monmouth county area to test your skills against some of the best playground basketball players there were. I was fortunate enough that one of the parks with the best local games was about two blocks from my house. The best players would start filtering in around 6 pm and we’d play for hours under the lights. Often times the opposing players were men and were bigger and more physical than I was as a high school player. This was great though! Playing against these guys toughened me up and turned me into a physical basketball player, able to take a hit and still finish. The other added benefit of playing at the park was that it taught you how to make free throws and most importantly…win. On any given night, there would be 50 guys waiting to play on two courts. However, everybody wanted to be on the main court since that one got the best run. How did you get on that court? You shoot free throws, and the first five to make theirs were on. Once you were on, you needed to win to stay on. If you lost, you went back into the pool of players that was usually about a five game wait. Waiting could take and hour or more so losing was not an option. You needed to win, so you learned how to make shots under pressure. Nowadays in the world of AAU basketball, there is no premium place on winning. Teams are guaranteed three games or more at each tournament. Sure they’d like to win but it doesn’t really matter if they do or not since they’ll automatically be playing a few more games. One other component of playground hoops that I loved was when there were not players at the park to play a full court or even a half court game yet, we would play 21. I’m not sure if players play this anymore, but once again, the benefits are similar. You need to make free throws, and you need to learn how to score against one, two, or sometimes three or more players at once. This adds to your level of creativity as a player but also to your decision making against a defense that is geared at stopping you.

Summer Basketball League, NJ Basketball Camps, and NJ Basketball Trainers

The final components of my summer training included summer league with my high school team and camps or training programs with a trainer. Summer league was also a ton of fun. It afforded you the opportunity to play in a competitive environment with your teammates, under the supervision of your coach. It was a little looser than the regular season and it gave you the opportunity to show your coach that you would be the best option for the upcoming season. Even in the summer, you are always competing for minutes for the regular season. Playing with passion even when the games don’t matter as much shows your coach that you have a vested interest in the program. Basketball camps and/or basketball training was also quite valuable. Obviously, you get the input of professional coaches and trainers while at the camp or in a workout, but you also get constant feedback throughout the workout and at the end (or at least that is what happens in our New Jersey based workouts at Elite Basketball Training ;). This feedback as well as the drills that the coach uses are useful while there, but even more so when you are on your own working on the skills prior to meeting again with your basketball trainer.

Making Basketball Training Purposeful and Fun

Yes, summer basketball was some of the most fun and memorable aspects of my playing days. It was hard work but also rewarding to see success on the playgrounds, summer league games and eventually during the regular season. It is the work that you put in when the lights are off that will lead to your success when the lights are on. What will your summer basketball training look like this summer? Whether it is with us at one of our many Elite Basketball Training programs in New Jersey or on your own, make it challenging, purposeful, and, most importantly, fun.

Why Steph Curry is Ruining Your Jump Shot

Steph Curry is Ruining Your Jump Shot

This past week, Steph Curry was named the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. That’s a pretty impressive feat when you consider all the previous league MVP’s (Lebron James, Michael Jordan) never won unanimously. I am merely speculating, but I have to think that Steph winning unanimously has something to do with the 402 three pointers that he made this past season. This mark is by itself incredible but the fact that he nearly doubled his previous record setting total makes it even more impressive. Steph Curry is by far the most skilled basketball player that I have ever watched and is in the conversation for the greatest shooter of all time. He has redefined the game of basketball and made jump shooting cool in a way that Larry Bird never even did. In fact, all any of today’s players want to do anymore is shoot threes. There is one major issue though…today’s youth players cannot in any way shoot like Steph Curry, and, in their attempts to do so, are actually ruining their jump shots. So in actuality, Steph Curry, with all his greatness, is ruining youth basketball, and unless we take the time to reign in the chucking up of threes and teach our younger players how to shoot properly we are in for a rude awakening when it comes to the future jump shooters of America.

The Effect of the Three on Your Jumper

Becoming a successful jump shooter is about learning to shoot the basketball correctly and then shooting the ball a lot. The proper shooting form should be taught to players at an early age so that they learn young and begin putting in the necessary and correct reps early on. The problem with our young players wanting to be like Steph Curry is that they see him shooting threes and then every time they walk on the basketball court, the first place they walk to is the three point line and beyond. Nevermind that these players can’t make three pointers consistently or in many cases even at all. Nonetheless, they continue to chuck the ball at the basket in the hopes that one actually goes in, and, if one shot actually does go in…well then there is no stopping them. It’s like the one miraculous shot you hit in a totally crappy round of golf. That shot is guaranteed to get you back on the course again and again. As a result of their continued poor shooting from long range, our youth basketball players develop really bad habits in an effort just to get the ball to the rim. These habits ultimately stick with them for a long period of time and it also causes misses in close as well. Furthermore, the bad habits become really difficult to break. Change takes time and repetitions, and may cause even more missed jump shots. Honestly, there are not many players who are willing to miss shots to make changes, despite the fact that they are missing shots with their bad form anyway. It’s kind of a funny irony if you think about it. Players aren’t making threes, but won’t make changes to their jumper because at first it will cause them to miss more. Crazy!

The Keys to a Successful Jump Shot

At Elite Basketball Training, we utilize a method of teaching jump shooting that is based on countless hours researching the tendencies of great jump shooters. Our Elite Shooting System is based on breaking down the jump shot into six components. These components include:

  1. The release
  2. The guide hand
  3. The turn
  4. The Dip
  5. Body Position
  6. The Sweep and Sway

Each one of these components plays its own role in the jump shot and when utilized together creates a smooth and effortless jumper. Beyond our six key components, we spend countless hours on footwork. Someone once said a long time ago that, “jumpers are made with your feet.” Although there is more a good jumper than that simplistic phrase, it is hard to argue that having the proper footwork is a crucial part of jump shooting. That being said, there are so many different types of footwork when it comes to the game of basketball that it is necessary to practice it regularly.

Tips to avoid ruining your jump shot:

  1. Learn to shoot correctly
  2. Make adjustments when necessary
  3. Embrace change and your misses, they will result in makes in the long run
  4. Practice your footwork regularly

If you are interested in learning how to shoot the basketball correctly, using our Elite Shooting System then this summer’s Nothin’ But Net program is for you. Don’t hesitate, register today at www.richstoner.com/training-camps-clinics.

The Significance of Ball Handling and Dribbling Drills

Ball Handling and Dribbling Drills, Not Circus Tricks

This summer we are bringing back our popular Elite Ball Handling and Finishing program. I have always found ball handling an important part of basketball. However, I have heard many basketball skill development coaches make the case otherwise, saying that ball handling and dribbling drills are for show and do not directly correlate to the game of basketball. To some extent, I agree with these basketball trainers. There is a line that many basketball skills trainers cross when it comes to their ball handling and dribbling drills. In their efforts to stand out, they turn their drills into circus tricks that relate little to the actual game of basketball. However, if done correctly and if they relate to actual basketball, ball handling and dribbling drills are extremely important to your development as a basketball player.

It is important to note that ball handling drills and dribbling drills, although similar and related, are different skills and serve different purposes. Ball handling drills are done to develop hand strength, coordination, and hand quickness. Dribbling drills, on the other hand, focus on developing changes of direction or moves to get by a defender and create space. Either way, both ball handling and dribbling are fundamental to your development as a basketball player, building skills while developing the confidence you need to be successful on the court.

The Importance of Ball Handling Drills

When it comes to our ball handling drills at Elite Basketball Training in NJ we focus mainly on two key components: hand strength and coordination. To develop hand strength, we encourage our players to dribble the ball hard and pound it close to your body. I always mention to the players that I train, that when I coached and we saw a player who dribbled softly, we immediately trapped, often times cause a turnover. Consequently, we encourage them to put “dents in the floor” when they dribble and extend their elbows and wrists through the floor. Dribble hard enough to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Doing so will help your hand strength grow and the stronger your hands are the quicker and more controlled and coordinated your ball handling and eventually dribbling will be. I often encourage my players to use two ball drills for this in order to train both hands. Never neglect your weak hand, no matter how hard it is for you, it will ultimately make you a weak player.

The Importance of Dribbling Drills

Dribbling drills, although similar to ball handling drills focus more on change of direction moves that will separate you from your defender. However, it is important to see the correlation between the two since the stronger your hands are and the more coordinated you are the quicker your dribble moves will be. When it comes to dribbling drills we often start stationary and then work our way up to moving. Either way, our players are encouraged to keep the ball low and move it quickly while using your off hand to protect the ball. Once again, move the ball so quickly that you take yourself out of your comfort zone. Training a crossover slowly will only make you really good at having a slow crossover. Train quick and you will be quick. Finally, be sure to add movement to your drills. Learning to make your dribble moves stationary is one thing but eventually, you will need to make them on the move at game speed and that is how you need to train.

Tips for Successful Ball Handling and Dribbling

  1. Dribble hard and extend your elbow and wrist through the floor.
  2. Dribble quickly in order to develop quick moves.
  3. Keep your eyes up at all times.
  4. Stay in a low, athletic stance.
  5. Practice with both hands. Use two balls at once for this.

Interested in developing your ball handling and dribbling drills? Elevate your game and become Elite. Register today for the Elite Ball Handling and Finishing at our Training page today.

The Four Stages of Basketball Skill Development

Basketball Skill Development is NOT Just Skills and Drills

I feel like sometimes basketball skill development is viewed simply as skills and drills. A workout where players go out on the court see a drill and do it with little rhyme or reason.  In many poorly orchestrated basketball training situations this is definitely and unfortunately the case. However, if you are looking for a New Jersey based basketball training program that offers a progressive, well-designed approach to basketball skill development, then you need to understand how basketball training should happen. As a long time teacher (15 years) I have always seen myself as a teacher of the game of basketball. When I step on the court with an individual or group at Elite Basketball Training for a basketball skill development workout my classroom changes from a room with desks to a court with lines and a couple of hoops however, the approach does not. My role as a skill development coach is to teach the game and therefore, I follow a four step approach to basketball skill development. This systematic approach insures that basketball players in New Jersey who are training with us are learning the skill, developing the skill, and practicing with a purpose.

The Four Stages of Basketball Skill Development

Our four step approach to basketball skill development includes:

  1. Introducing the skill
  2. Practicing the skill
  3. Practicing the skill against softer defense
  4. Practicing the skill in game-like situations.

Each stage has its own purpose and needs to be perfected prior to moving onto the next stage. It makes very little sense to introduce a skill and then immediately use it in a game like situation. Please understand that when you see Steph Curry make a dribble move and then pull up from three point range, that is something that he has practiced thousands of times on his own and against dummy defense. It wasn’t learned and then right away executed live.

The Significance of Each Stage

Each stage of basketball skill development has its own purpose in the progressive approach to developing and training skills. The first part of basketball skill development is introducing the skill. I use a whole-part-whole approach when it comes to introducing a skill. That is to say that I explain the skills role in the overall game first. It is important for the players to understand why this skill is important and how it can be used in different situations. Then I break down the skill separately, explaining how to properly execute the move. These explanations should be short and to the point. Don’t drag on for long periods of time, you’ll lose the players’ attention. Finally, restate the role of the specific skill in the nature of the game as a quick review and allow the players to practice at their own speed in order to obtain the motor skills to perform the skill at game speed.

Practicing the skill at game speed is a crucial component of basketball skill development. This stage of practice is most often done on your own and is the stage in which players practice at game speed. I have stated time and time again at my basketball workouts that training slow will only get you good at playing slow. Learning skills at game speed is imperative to your development and can be done with cones, chairs, the lines on the court, etc. Once, you have mastered the skill at game speed, it is time to add guided defense. This stage is where players begin to put it all together. Guided or as I like to say, “dummy defense” can be done in a couple of ways, such as playing up on the offensive player, moving into space as a help defender, or at a higher level, two defenders on one. Either way, guided defense forces the offensive player to use their newly learned skill in a situation that requires them to make decisions. They must read the defense and react to it.

Reading and reacting is vital to the final stage of skill development, where players are asked to execute the skills in game-like situations. This is done live in either 3 on 3, 4 on 4, or 5 on 5. My preferred method is 3 on 3 particularly when it comes to younger players. In short, 3 on 3 offers a situation where there is more space on the court for the players to feel comfortable trying the skill. 3 on 3 also gives the the players more touches and more touches allows for more opportunities to try the skill. Nonetheless, practicing skills is a game like situation goes back to the very beginning and is the final component of the whole-part-whole method of teaching the skill.

Tips for Each Stage of Skill Development

  • Be short and to the point when introducing the skill.
  • Practicing at game speed gets you ready for game speed. Practicing slow makes you ready for slow.
  • Dummy Defense teaches you to read and react. Learn how to make decisions on the court based on reads.
  • Refine your skills in live situations. 3 on 3 is preferred early on for a variety of reasons.

Finishing Off Two Feet

Finishing at the Basket

This summer, I am bringing back one of Elite Basketball Training’s most popular programs, The Elite Ball Handling and Finishing program. This program focuses on exactly what it says it does, ball handling and finishing, by teaching players to use moves and counter moves off the dribble to attack the rim and finish appropriately. I have spoken in the past about how the game is not a layup line and therefore players need to practice different types of layups based on how the defense is playing you.  One type of layup series that is highly effective and we will be teaching at the Elite Ball Handling and Finishing summer program is the two foot finish.

The Two Foot Finishing Series

There are a few varieties to the two foot finishing series that include the 1,2 step, the jump stop, the pro hop, and the drag foot finish. Each one has it’s own purpose based on how the defense is guarding you.

  1. The 1, 2 step finish can be used when you have a defender on your hip going to the same location that you are going. The 1,2 step will allow you to initiate contact and power up to the rim.
  2. The jump stop can also be used with a defender on your hip in order to initiate contact and separate from them. In this situation though, the defender is slightly behind you and you use the jump stop to cover ground and cut the defender off. This will force the defender to either let you go as you separate or foul you.
  3. The Pro Hop is similar to the jump stop in that you are trying to cover ground and get to an open space. However, instead of hopping straight past the defender, you hop across the defender to where the open space is.  As you do this, you turn  your shoulders to protect the ball and finishing on the opposite side.
  4. With the drag foot finish, the defender is playing you tight and physical while going to the same spot you are. You would step and drag your back foot to maintain contact with the defender to help you separate.

These are the four ways you can finish using our two foot series that we teach at Elite Basketball. All are highly effective but once again it requires the offensive player to understand how a defender is guarding them and then reacting appropriately.

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