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“It’s a Shoulders Game…”

Last week as I watched the Iowa vs. Michigan State basketball game, a fantastic game in which Michigan St. came back and won, I could not help but be taken by a phrase that Jay Bilas used early in the game after an Iowa player drove by a Michigan St. defender and put the ball in for a layup.  As the Iowa player got a step on his defender and en route to scoring Jay Bilas exclaimed, “It’s a shoulders game, the low man wins.”   I have a lot of respect for Jay Bilas (despite his Duke playing background and my Carolina blue blood) as one of, if not the best college basketball analysts in the game today.  Bilas’ forthright and intelligent manner of breaking down the game always has me thinking and wanting to hear more.  In this case, it is no different as Bilas hit the nail on the head with his comment.   I loved it and thought of it as a must hear phrase for all of the Elite Basketball Training family.

More often that not, young basketball players play the game of basketball erect and in an elevated state.  That is to say that they stand straight up and down when  in a game or while developing their skills with drills.  There are potentially a number of reasons for this, the three most notable being: they are too lazy to even think about dropping down into a low, athletic position, physical weakness (particularly in the core) prevents them from staying in this lower athletic position for a prolonged period of time, and they do not develop their basketball skills in a way that emphasizes the low position and forces muscle memory.

There is not much I can say on the laziness issue other than kids spending the majority of their time sedentary and inactive.  Then to be thrust into a situation that requires them to be athletic is something they are unaccustomed to and therefore it mentally does not click for them unless there is a constant reminder.

Beyond the mental aspect of it though, the physicality of this position is also something they are not used to.  Basketball training should be a combination of skill development and sports performance training or athletic development.  A well designed sports performance program for basketball will mimic the actions and positions players are in on the basketball court and strive to develop them.  All of these low and athletic positions, require the player to have tremendous core strength thereby enabling the player to maintain this position without fatigue.  I remember a player that I trained at Elite Basketball a Training, once he realized that I was going to require him to be low throughout our workouts, tell me that he was constantly working on his core at home in order to maintain that position.  Trust me,  the improved core strength and  his ability to maintain that low position was noticeable, and led to better performance and improved skills.

Players, particularly when working on skill development, need to be continuously required to focus on staying low while developing their skills.  At Elite Basketball Training we use a variety of drills and tools that force the player to stay low. Drills such as handling a ball and touching a series of 10 inch cones while executing change of direction moves is a prime example of this. Furthermore, use of bands in our skill development drills hold players accountable to a standard that they are not held to without the band. It’s very difficult to move effectively in an upright position when you have the tendon of a band pulling back on you. Consequently, the player must consistently stay low in order to be effective when using the band in a drill thereby reinforcing the low position while developing muscle memory and basketball skills.

“It’s a shoulders game. The low man wins. ” A simple yet genius statement made by Jay Bilas while calling a recent Iowa vs. Michigan State basketball game.  Players todayshould hear   this statement and take it to heart. Too many players play the game up right for reasons that include laziness, weak core strength, and/or not developing their skills while maintaining a low position. Whatever the reason, basketball players who want success must become accustomed to this position and develop it because Jay Bilas is 100% correct….the low man will win every time.


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