Measure Your Success By Your Effort

Footwork Makes You Smarter

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Would you prevent your players from breathing?

Would you prevent your players from breathing? Then why use hydration as a reward or punishment for your players. This blog will not cover the pros and cons of water versus sports specific drinks. It will not cover how much you should drink, or pre, mid and post hydration techniques. I’ll leave that for another blog. It’s more about the mind set of coaches controlling their players’ health by denying them a drink of water. Water accounts for around 70% of your body weight, the loss of even a tiny fraction of this water can significantly reduce your performance, which is why maintaining good hydration is vital for all serious athletes.
I’m old, old enough to remember that in order to get a drink of water during school I would have to raise my hand and ask for permission. Today it is common for students to have a bottle of water on their desk. Which method is more humane and less disruptive? Do you really want that much control? Do you really want to answer the question “can I get a drink of water”? I have three children. Those parents with multiple children know if you have to explain something once, surely you will have to do it for as many children you have. The same holds true if you are the type of coach that needs to grant permission for a drink of water. Don’t you want your players to learn how to manage that, as long as it doesn’t affect or delay your practice?

Need ideas on how to get his done? Well there are probably many ways, but here is one suggestion. In between each drill, I have my players shoot two Free Throws and record their makes and misses. They can also get a sip during this time. They can also take additional Free Throws if they want, as long as they don’t disrupt or delay the practice. Boom! Your players are managing their own water intake, they are recording their own scores, and they are time managing so they can smoothly get into the next drill. As a coach you have the extra bonus of getting game-like Free Throws into your practice. Shooting two Free Throws when your players are tired from a drill is just like a stop in play where you have to shoot two Free Throws in a game.

Mirror Work

Basketball players would do well to learn from boxers and dancers. Both boxers and dancers use mirror work to improve their techniques, footwork, coordination and alignment.

Working in front of a mirror to improve your shooting technique can be a very powerful tool. You should be able to observe your shot from the front and both sides. If you had to mirrors facing each other you could also look at your alignment from the back.

If the mirrors are long enough you can even focus on your footwork, making sure you are shoulder width apart, that you are powering up through both feet etc.

You don’t need to go to a facility that has full length mirrors. You can check out your shooting mechanics in your bathroom with or without a ball. When I was young and working on my game outdoors at the local school, I would practice my form looking at my reflection in the school window. I would also work on my ball-handling doing the same, looking in the window at my reflection. Great way to keep your head up.

Hey if you have a video camera and you have someone willing to shoot you will you work out from front, back and both sides, fantastic. Sometimes you have to use the tools that are all around you.

Do yourself a favour and incorporate mirror work into your daily routine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

There Is a Reason There Is a Nail At The FT Line - Part 4 of 4

11. Finish and Follow Through: On your shooting arm you elbow should be locked out.Your elbow should be higher than your brow on the release.Your guide hand should be above your brow, with fingers pointed at the ceiling or slightly forward but still spread.You should hold your finish till the ball goes in or hits the rim.
If you are not locking out your elbow and you are not holding your finish, you will not have a consistent shot. Locking out your elbow is a consistent end point. You know it’s the same each time.Your elbow should be above your brow to get the proper lift on the ball. Discourage younger players from shooting 3’s. Teach fundamentals of getting to the rack and the mid-range game. I see kids that are younger with good accuracy but I know they will have to change their mechanics as they grow. To gain distance they are chucking the ball with their elbows below their brow, instead of using the upward force of their legs.

If your Guide Hand turns in you will be effecting the rotation of the ball. The ball should be shot out of teh Guide Hand. It's a one hand shot.

Example Of Thumbing The Shot With Guide Hand

12. Determining Dominant Eye: The path of the ball should move through your shot pocket come close to, but not obstructing your dominant eye. You can determine your dominant eye by the following method.

a) Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing away. Bring your hands together, forming a small hole by crossing the thumbs and fore fingers.
b) Choose a small object about 15-20 feet away from you. With both eyes open, focus on the object as you look through the small hole.
c) Close one eye and then the other. When you close one eye, the object will be stationary. When you close the other eye, the object should disappear from the hole or jump to one side.
d)If the object does not move when you cover one eye, then that eye is dominant. The eye that sees the object and does not move is the dominant.

It is possible to have a dominant eye opposite to your dominant hand. In fact two of my children are built this way. This means when shooting the ball with their dominant hand the ball can move through their shot pocket closer to the middle of their face. Remember you want to bring the ball close to the dominant eye, but not obstructing it.

13. Eye Contact: As mention in “what are we trying to do” You need to train your eyes on the back of the rim. To read about the math behind a perfect shot click here. A perfect shot is one that drops through, hits the floor, and slowly bounces back to you. Don’t watch the flight of the ball. Keep your eyes on your target.

14. Simple Routine: I tell my players that I don’t care what they do, as long as it’s 1 dribble, 2 dribbles or 3 dribbles. I am a 3 dribble guy. I also tell them I don’t care what routine is, as long as they get a chance to make eye contact for the same amount of time it takes to do their routine. Ok, then with FIBA rules and 5 seconds to shoot the ball. Your routine should be efficient and consistent. You want to kiss your biceps or your wrist or spin it around your waist for each member of your family, that’s fine. If you shoot greater than 90%. Once you are doing that, you have earned the right. Having a routine at the free throw line will ease the tension.

15. Mental Aspect: Once the player has proper shooting mechanics, mental mistakes are the main reason why a player misses free throws. The Free Throw is a unique event in basketball, and therefore, a unique skill. It is the only moment when the action stops, but play continues.

The action stops and waits for the shooter who has, depending on the rules 10 or 5 seconds to concentrate, focus, think and shoot. Since you are shooting the same shot from the same spot, with no defensive pressure, the target if fixed, it is the mental aspect that is responsible for most misses.

If a players begins to think about the importance of the shot or the consequences of a miss they will feel pressure. When players feel pressure, they get tense. Tense muscles fail to perform smoothly and shots are missed. Players need to allow their bodies to do what it has done countless times in practice and games; make the shot! Michael Jordan said: "I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot. Why? Because when you think about the consequences, you always think of a negative result."

The mind cannot focus two things at once. You can not have internal negative thoughts and focus on making your shot. One will replace the other. The focus must be on the target, not on inner doubts, to shoot optimally.

Players should approach the free throw with a positive mindset. For players that become expert in visualization, a good approach is to close one's eyes and visualize a perfect free throw.
Their routine can include a deep breath and a strong exhale. This change in deep breathing can help center and relax the player.
Many players do well with having a mantra or anchor word. For one of my players I had him breathe in deeply through his nose, then exhale through his moth and say the word quotient on the breath out. Certain words can evoke calm. For me, when I played;
a) Deep breath in, with exhale thought the mouth.
b) Internal voice “get in”.
c) Bounce ball three times focusing on the same spot on the floor with each bounce.
d) Focus on the rim, and let my body take over.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

There Is a Reason There Is a Nail At The FT Line - Part 3 of 4

3. Don’t be a slave to the T formation: Depending on your body mechanics this T formation might be a stylized T. It is a term that should not be taken literally, with a perfect 90 degree angle. You’ll find with most players if you make a perfect 90 degree T formation with their thumbs, their guide arm will come up so that it’s parallel to the ground. This creates tension in their guide shoulder. You do not want tension in your shot. You want to be relaxed in your shot. Your guide hand should be upward facing fingers pointed at ceiling OR slightly forward. You should not be able to see your last two digits, and with these two fingers you should be able to balance the ball.
Perfect 90 Degree T Formation With Thumbs

As A Result Tension In Guide Arm,Elbow Pointing To Wall

Stylized T Formation With Thumbs

Relaxed Guide Arm Elbow Pointing At Floor

4. Hand Placement: Your hands should not be flat on the ball. It is a misconception that more surface area touching the ball the better control. If your hands are flat on the ball, you will draw the ball back too far to the crown of your head and catapult the ball. Use finger tips and finger pads on both hands. Also your fingers should be spread on both hands. Since we are at the Charity Stripe, let us gain more control over the ball by making sure our index finger is pointing at the air valve, and it is on the seem of the ball.

Finger Pads and Tips On Both Hands Creates A Gap And Better Control

5. Shooting Arm At 90 Degree: And your arm should be in a 90 degree angle. Watch Nash even on a fade-away J, he doesn’t vary from this 90 degree angle. Too much or too little angle will take away from your arc and harden your shot.

At 90 Degrees A Basketball Will Fit Will Fit Between Your Bicep,Forearm And Hand

6. Elbow Over Knee: Your shooting elbow should be over your shooting knee.

7. Wrinkled Wrist: Your wrist should be bent back so the ball can rest in it. Players that start with their wrist as a straight extension of their forearm will tend to bring the ball back to the crown of their head or further in-order to get their wrist parallel to the floor. The result is a catapult shot that is hard and without arc.

8. Shot Pocket: You should have the ball in your shooting pocket and you should leave from your low stance. Don’t go high-to-low-to-high. Go low-to-high. Again we are trying to give lift to the ball with our bodies, and guide the ball in its flight with are arm and hand. To read more about Shot-pockets read Quick Draw Blog.

9. Power Through Both Feet: transferring your weight to the balls of your feet. Not your toes. You want to remain balanced. Don’t jump; just use the up-force from your lower body to lift the ball. The muscles and joints of your lower body are far less complicated that the muscles and joints of your upper body. We want to minimize variables in motion in your shot. We want to make it efficient.

When a player’s stance is too narrow, you will often see them become unbalanced. With girls we see you often get what I call the squirrel tail. Their guide arm will whip out to their side to maintain their balance much like a squirrel’s tail flips from side to side, while they run across a hydro-line. With boys it’s falling forward or backwards from the line. With your stance shoulder width apart and transferring the force from heels to balls of your feet, you will remain balanced.

Exmple Of Squirrel Tail Guide Arm

10. Break 1 not 4: As stated in the Shot Pocket section, we want to shot the ball with our body, and direct it with our arms and hands. We want to eliminate as much motion in our upper bodies as possible. The joints in your shoulder, elbow and hands are more complicated in their motion then knees and hips. Breaking your knuckles can add a 5 degrees change in your shot per knuckle. The motion in the hand should be a flop motion. Your fingers should be spread and pointing towards the rim. If you watch this action in slow motion, when done properly you will notice a slight bounce. The thumb should be tucked under in this motion to send the ball off the peace sign fingers (index and middle fingers). So we break the wrist (one joint), lets call that breaking one. We do not want to point our fingers to the ground. That would be breaking four joints. 5 degrees times * 12) Avoid using terms like “reach in the cookie jar” or goose neck when teaching. Mimicking these actions will have players breaking 4. Back spin rotation; too much too little. Breaking 4 will surely put too much spin on it making shot harder and deflections off the rim lessen the chance of it sitting up softly and dropping through.

Example Of Breaking One
Fingers on both hands remain spread.

Example Of Breaking 4

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

There Is a Reason There Is a Nail At The FT Line - Part 2 of 4

So what are we trying to do?
Firstly: we are trying to throw the ball in a straight line. I hate the word throw when it comes to basketball. Makes it sound like there is not much to it.
Secondly: we are trying to throw the ball up instead of out; gravity becomes your friend and kills the speed of the ball. You want a slow shot. The more vertical you shoot, the better gravity works to your advantage by slowing the ball down. As it starts to descend toward the target there is only the weight of the ball, approximately 24 ounces, propelling it. This also results in a soft shot that has a better chance to bounce in if slightly off line, or for a close-in rebound. The ball at its peak height should be about 1 meter above the rim (approximately the top of the backboard) when it is about 1 meter away from the rim.
Thirdly: We are trying to change the size of the target, the ball goes through. Although the rim does not actually change size, it will appear differently to the ball depending on the angle it enters the rim and its closeness to the back of the rim.
That’s right the target is close to the back of the rim. Forget what you have been told about the front of the rim or aim for the middle, as if you can aim for the middle of the rim. For the mathematics to prove this click here

Here is the break down on missed shots from the Free Throw Line. You can see that as long as you are shooting in a straight line you have a pretty good chance of putting it in. We can also see the majority of shots missed are short. It’s important that you aim at the back of the rim.

• 5 % left, 5% right, 5% long 85% short

1. Feet Shoulder Width Apart: Your feet should be staggered and shoulder width apart
• Your feet fit like a puzzle. The curved ball of the inside of one foot fits into the insole of the other foot. This is a good way to judge how staggered you stance should be. Your shooting foot should be forward but no more than 6 inches ahead.

• Line your shooting foot up with the nail in the FT Line. It’s directly in front of the rim, and you want to shoot directly towards the rim. We are trying to shoot with our body’s up-force and guide the flight of the ball with our arm and hand. If you straddle the line, then your arm has to move across your body to shoot the ball towards the rim.

Some prefer perfect feet where all ten toes point at the rim. This is a good approach,

But if you find you have tension in your upper body, as a result of perfect feet open your stance so that your guide foot is angled outward slightly.

2. Athletic Stance: Everything you do in basketball should start with an athletic stance.
o Stance shoulder width apart
o Back straight, leaning slightly forward
o Hips low
o Legs at a less than 90 degree angle

There Is a Reason There Is a Nail At The FT Line - Part 1 of 4

Building Your Shot From The Ground Up – Part 1

Watching March Madness how many times have I seen a player at the FT line fall back? Where are they going? Stick your feet and get the task done. There is a reason they call them free, and there is a reason there is a nail at the Free Throw line. Maybe some of these players should drive the nail through their shoe.
How important are Free Throws? Check out these stats.
• 67 % of all points scored in the last minute by the winning team are at the free throw line
• 35% of points scored in the last 5 minutes are at the FT line
• 25 % of all points scored in a game are from the FT line
Still need convincing? If you are not working on your Free Throws, you just won’t improve much. Here is the break down of Free Throw averages from high school to NBA.
• 66% high school
• 68% college
• 71% NBA
Still need convincing. Did you see Duke beat Baylor? That happened at the Free Throw Line.

For this exercise we will concentrate on shooting from the Free Throw Line. It’s the only time in basketball you get to shoot the ball uncontested from the same place each time. So stand in the same place each time! Coaches this is the best place to help correct your players shots. Correct only 1 or 2 things at a time. Have your players concentrate on those things for 5 shots or so each and then move to the next player. Make the loop back and if they have corrected the things you had them change on the first set of corrections, add a new correction. This takes time, but well worth it. From experience, you can correct the bulk of a player’s mechanics by correcting their footwork. I’ve seen players with their feet pointed in the same direction but not at the hoop, making all sorts of compensations in their upper body including:
• Tilting their head
• Powering through one foot more than the other
• Crossing their body with the ball
• Bringing the ball back to the crown of their head and giving it the catapult action.
So let us start building the shot from the floor up. Stay tuned for Parts 2 - 4

Playing Like A Goose - A Lesson In Teamwork

One of my favorite examples of teamwork comes from nature. There is much we can learn from Geese. By flying in a “V” formation each goose flapping it’s wings creates uplift for the birds that follow in that formation. The flock gains 71% greater flying range than if the birds flew alone. How significant is this? Is this not an example for teams to pull together with common goals and benefit the team by helping each other? Players who share common goals can reach them much quicker and easier if they trust one another and play like a team.

When flying alone, a goose will experience the drag and resistance and return to the formation. The goose understands the power of being helped. It’s important for coaches and players to offer help to each other, but equally important for players to check their egos and accept that help.

The lead position in the “V” is often shared. When the lead goose tires it drops back in the formation and another goose will take that spot. Great teamwork involves sharing of hard tasks and sharing leadership.

When geese are flying in formation you can hear them honky. This honky is a form of encouragement. Great teamwork includes encouragement from within the team. Coaches foster and environment where your players cheer for each other. If your drill is competitive and some are doing a consequence for the loss in that drill have the rest of your team clap them in and use positive talk during consequences, during drills, during game warm-ups and during games.

When geese are wounded or sick and need to drop out of formation. Two other geese will follow it down on its landing and stay to help protect it. The guardian geese stay until the wounded goose is able to fly again. Those geese then re-join the flock or fly in formation themselves on their journey. Great teamwork includes players that stand by each other in difficult times. They value all members of the team.