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.

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