In my last post [read Part 1], I discussed 3 ways to put together a skill development workout. In this post I will go more in detail about conducting a skill development workout.
When I first started putting players through workouts I had no idea of how to properly construct a skill workout. Through trial and error and picking up tips from other coaches, I have come up with a system that works for me. Every coach does things a little bit different, but the objective (teach and improve each player’s skills) should be the same.
- Know your material. Don’t teach what you don’t know. Stay in your lane. If you played post and are more comfortable working with post players, then work with post players. If there is an area you are weak in, then do the work and study the game to get better. Talk with other coaches, attend clinics, read books, or buy videos. Websites like HoopsU.com and HoopsUAcademy.com are here for a reason. They are here to help you become a better coach and teacher. I don’t claim to know everything, but what I do know I try to teach to the best of my ability. Players can sense if you don’t know what you are talking about.
- Be prepared. You must know exactly what you are going to teach, what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it.
- Know how to teach.
- Demonstration/Explanation – Show or tell them what to do. If you can’t demonstrate the skill then show them by using another player or through video. Show players pro players they admire. If you are working with a point guard on scoring options off the pick and roll then you can show Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, or Steve Nash working the on ball screen.
- Imitation – After you have shown or explained to the player what you want, have them imitate the skill. They may not do it exactly like how you demonstrated or how Chris Paul does it, but through plenty of feedback and reps they will get to where they can do it efficiently.
- Feedback – This is very, very important. Players can’t see themselves doing certain things. We sometimes picture ourselves doing something one way when actually we are doing it another way. Feedback must come often if we are working with a beginner and in intervals if we are working with a more polished player.
- If correction, reproduction/replication – If the feedback we give warrants the player to reproduce the skill, then we must stop the drill, re-explain or demonstrate, and then have them imitate the skill again.
- Reinforce through repetition – Once the player gets comfortable with the skill they must get plenty of reps. At this stage the skill becomes second nature and they repeat the skill over and over and over again to stay sharp.
- Give proper feedback
- Motivate athletes with support soon after performance. Use the sandwich technique, positive-negative-positive.
- Provide meaningful verbal information that lets the player know exactly what happened. This feedback has to be specific and detailed.
- Use video on skills you want the player to know. This keeps them focused on specific skills you want them to master.
- Use positive reinforcement about their performance. Find something they are doing right and let them know. Touch your players by giving them a pat on the back, a high five, or a fist bump.
- Offer support in intervals instead of after each rep. If you are working on shooting and after each shot you critique the player’s form then they will begin to think too much. This will cause them to believe that after every miss they did something wrong. Instead give short statements with cue words like, “follow through”, “pay attention to your footwork”, or “use your legs”. After the player is finished with the set (shooting set amount of shots) they can then receive more detailed information with a demonstration and/or explanation.
- Put together a good workout
- Make sure the workout has progression – When teaching a player proper footwork out of triple threat don’t just get right into a drill that requires them to perform the skill. Break the skill down to its simplest form and work your way up. You may have to introduce the skill without a ball. Then move to going half speed with a ball before going game speed in the drill you want them execute.
- Short rest period – I want players I train to be able to recover under 60 seconds. I usually allow them to shoot no more than 4 free throws in between each drill. Sometimes it’s shortened depending on if I need to set up any additional equipment for the next drill. This hits on the endurance they need to be able to perform at a high level late in the game.
- Have an objective – What do you want to accomplish? Do you want the player to be able to properly execute footwork out of triple threat? Or do you want to be able to execute some new finishing moves? Know what you want the player to accomplish and then build around that.
- Keep drills short and intense – 5-10 minutes is all you need for each drill. If you stay too long in a drill the player can become disinterested and lose focus. If the player is being introduced to a new skill the drill may take longer, but ideally you want to keep them short and intense. If a player knows the drill or drills won’t last forever, they will give it all they got and not worry about having to try and make it through the drill.
- Combine skills – You don’t want to try to do too much in a short amount of time. If you have a lot of things to cover, then try to combine different skills in the drill. For example, your point guard could work on ball handling, passing, and shooting in the same drill. They could make a change of direction move, get into the lane and make a kick out pass, and then relocate to receive the pass back for the jumper. Another way I like to do it is called continuous action drills. I actually got this idea from another trainer. You have the player perform a skill on one side of the floor (start on block and curl to elbow for jumper) and then perform a completely different skill on the other side (sideline pick and roll).
- Require them to react – Don’t be so predictable with your drills. Mix it up with your player. Make them have to think and react to your voice or actions. If they are doing a change of direction move on the wing at the cone, step in front of them without telling them and see how they react. This mimics game situations and trains them to respond to the unpredictable performance of the opposition.
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