Form Shooting Made Competitive

My daughter Charlotte and I have been trying to get her to shoot the basketball with more arc. If she shoots the ball higher, she increases the room the ball has to go through the hoop.

To shoot the ball higher, she needs to make sure her hand is under the ball, and she needs to lift her elbow. She needs to shoot the ball more up and to the hoop than, say, pushing it out and toward the hoop.

Charlotte needs to build some new habits (especially elbow lift), and so we have added a form shooting segment to our daily workouts to try and build a new habit. Research suggests that she needs to focus on the new habit she is trying to build for approximately thirty days. For the form shooting segment of her workouts, we are thinking pretty much only about arc and elbow lift. The downside of form shooting everyday is that it can get pretty boring.

Sometimes, I think players have to get over being bored when the are trying to create a new habit. However, one way to beat boredom is to create a competition. My kids and I came up with the following “game” for form shooting:

  • 5 shots from short, medium, and long for a total of 15 shots
  • 1 point if the ball has high arc (we look for over the top of the backboard or the roofline of our house)
  • 1 point if the ball goes in
  • 1 point if the ball swishes

As soon as we implemented this point system, the girls started making more shots and showing more enthusiasm for their work. As soon as form shooting became a game, the girls’ focus improved.

Fourteen Things to Do in Your Basketball Practice

Perfect Practice Series Part II

basketball practice list of things to do

  1. Greet the players enthusiastically as they enter the practice space. 
  2. Huddle up for (in non coronavirus times) high fives, fist bumps, and talk about what’s important for the day. 
  3. Encourage players to be positive vocally, physically, and with their body language. 
  4. Get loose by starting slow and facilitate or make space for small talk that builds relationships. 
  5. Handle the ball, pass, and catch. Practice these skills on the move. 
  6. Finish fast break layups, offensive rebounds, post moves, and pay extra attention to the weak hand.  
  7. Teach and practice shooting from a set position, on the move, and off the dribble. 
  8. Teach BBHS offensive tools while practicing defensive situations. BBHS stands for Basket cuts, ball screens, handoffs, and screens off the ball. 
  9. Use dummy (non-live) situations into live play. Drill a concept such as playing a switch in a ball screen until it looks like you want it and then call, “live.” Allow for at least one trip down and back of live play. Much of a basketball game is played by converting from one end to the other. 
  10. Offensive 5 on 5 play with restrictions. The offense must meet a restriction before shooting. An example of a restriction might be three good screens off the ball or a post touch before a shot. Players should always get layups when they can. 
  11. Defensive slides into live play. I’ll take one of our defenses such as man to man, a full court zone press, or a 1-3-1 zone and slide versus an offensive pattern until I call, “live.” Again, I try to convert at least one down and back.  
  12. Practice live out of bounds plays with conversions. 
  13. End the practice on a positive note such as a player scoring, a great pass, or a standout hustle play. 
  14. Huddle up for more fist bumps, slaps, and take time to look back on the practice and look ahead to whatever is next.

The Perfect Basketball Practice: Part I

The Perfect Basketball Practice: My Beliefs About the Game

Part I

This guy Nate and I were supposed to meet to talk about coaching basketball. I didn’t know him very well, but we would soon be friends. It’s one of the best things about sports, that it delivers friends.  Nate and I live in the mountain town of Boone, North Carolina where I can drive twenty-five miles to the north and be in Tennessee and just a little to the east and enter Virginia. My friends back in Indiana where I’m from often refer to me as being an East Coaster. I don’t think they realize I’m pretty much south and just a little east of Columbus, Ohio, and it’s at least a five-hour drive to the beach from here. I used to live in New Canaan, Connecticut and also New York City. Those are the kinds of places I think of when I think of the East Coast. Nate and I were to meet at a coffee place called The Local Lion right across from Appalachian State University where we were both lecturers. Nate has since moved on to a job with a less flexible schedule, and I try to keep my late afternoons clear for working out my girls and coaching their respective teams. 

I arrived to The Lion first and chose a seat at a wooden table where I could see the door and watch for Nate. It’s a place that serves homemade doughnuts with names like “pumpkin apple cider” and posts videos online in which homemade chocolate glaze can be seen poured over one of their latest creations. I pulled out a notebook I call a daybook. I started calling my notebooks daybooks after I read a book called Write to Learn by Donald Murray. Murray was the first book I ever read about writing that I liked. He used the first person, told stories to illustrate his ideas, and he wrote in a conversational style that was easy to understand.  In Write to Learn, Murray wrote this about his daybook: “anything that will stimulate or record my thinking, anything that will move toward writing goes into the daybook.” When I am feeling a little high falutin, I say that I write down intellectual seeds in my daybook that I hope to grow. For my meeting with Nate, I’d written down a bunch of stuff I thought we might teach the girls. Some of the words and phrases included work on weak hand, pivoting, shooting technique, and jump to the ball. I tend toward the belief that it doesn’t do any good to teach kids a bunch of plays if they can’t dribble or pass. It’s a cliche for coaches to say they want to teach kids to play and not a bunch of plays, but it’s another thing entirely to put teaching the fundamentals into regular practice over a long period of time. Besides that, with only 90 or so minutes twice week, which fundamentals will the coach choose to teach? 

IMG_0269

That’s Nate on the left and me on the right with the team.

Nate arrived and came over to shake my hand. He’s a couple inches taller than me, probably 6’4 or so, and is an incredibly energetic and enthusiastic guy. We each had some experience with coaching basketball. Nate was a manager at Arizona when Lute Olsen was the coach, and he’d been a high school head boys coach in Maryland. I’d been a graduate assistant at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois where I’d played and then over the course of two decades had been a head coach and an assistant for boys and girls in both North Carolina and Indiana. The most impressive highlight I can share about my coaching career was that I was an assistant coach for Vance High School in Charlotte when that team beat a Chris Paul team on its way to the North Carolina 4A state championship. Nate had worked with the fifth graders the year before, and I had started working with girls through the YMCA in Connecticut back when my oldest was a second grader. We’d both learned that all of our high school and college experiences didn’t necessarily translate into planning effective and fun practices for the girls we would coach. After a trip to the counter for coffee and doughnuts, Nate and I sat down to talk.

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 12.42.30 PM

Nate’s iPad notes from the day we met to talk hoops.

For Nate’s notes, he came armed with an iPad the size of a standard piece of notebook paper. As I watched him pull out the pen that had come with the device, I remembered about how I’d read Steve Jobs always took a stand against the pen. He’d hold up his hand and wiggle his fingers demonstrating that people are born with natural pens for the iPad. With Jobs having passed away, the pen came to Apple. After some chit chat, we got down to the business at hand. 

“What’s your ideal practice,” Nate asked, “for these kids we are about to start working with?” I loved that Nate sat down ready to fire off questions. It’s certainly my style too, to be constantly asking questions of others and trying to learn. I’m going to use Nate’s question in the coming posts to try and get down some of what I’ve come believe about ideal workouts and practices. 

 

Life Without Sport

It used to be, before the COVID-19 caused lots of cancellations, that my days were full of sport. Some days, I wrote out practice plans for the sixth and eighth grade girls travel teams I coach, strength training plans, or a workout for my girls to be held in the Quinn Center on the campus of Appalachian State University where I teach. Six days a week, I was used to meeting my daughters for a travel team practice or one of our workouts. Many nights, we’d get home after 9:00 p.m. and the girls would still have homework to complete. Days were long. There didn’t seem to be quite enough time for everything.

Peak Basketball, Laura Barry, Bill Torgerson, Boone, North Carolina, Watauga High School

The travel basketball seasons of the two teams I coach were suspended indefinitely.

Every weekend for the foreseeable future was filled with a basketball tournament. Now, even though there are online courses for me to teach and homework for the girls to do via remote learning, the day’s schedule has a lot more free time in it. 

Not only are the sports we participate in cancelled, but so are the ones we are used to watching on television. I am not a passionate fan of a sports team I watch regularly on television, but I do live with two such people. My side of the family is from Indiana, and my mom and dad are Indiana Hoosier basketball fans first, the Big Ten second, and then they come up with connections such as rooting for the team that beat a Big Ten Team in the tournament or perhaps paying attention to a school such as Baylor because Scott Drew is the coach, and he is from Valparaiso, Indiana. With the loss of March Madness, my parents lose one of their favorite times of the year, and I lose the pleasure of hearing my mother shout at the television for the players on TV to rebound. 

While I’m not a big fan of sports teams, I do regularly watch games on television. I am a fan of Golden State Warriors’ Coach Steve Kerr, and the way he has helped his players organically find random double staggered screens in a motion offense I see at least in the same family of the Bob Knight motion offenses I grew up with in Indiana. During the course of this basketball season, I became interested in what Carolina Coach Roy Williams would say after the next loss, and I thought I saw ingredients of possibility that the team might get things turned around for a late winning streak. Following an 81-53 loss to Syracuse in the ACC tournament, the Carolina’s men’s basketball season ended with a sense of closure unavailable to many teams. I think of teams such as Gonzaga who will have to wonder if this year would have finally been the year or all of those high school players and coaches I know whose seasons were cancelled or put on hold after a couple of wins in the state tournament. 

At my house, life is not yet without sport. My daughters and I just completed six days in a row that included a ball handling routine, strength training, and basketball skill workouts on our pretty-narrow but still adequate backyard court.

Screen Shot 2020-03-21 at 10.49.43 AM

Screenshot of Durant in Big 12 Champtionship

When we’re in our little weight room, my girls and I put on House of Highlights, watch one of the fifty or so games I have recorded, or dig into some of the content on ESPN+. Just this week we watched Kevin Durant drop 37 points and snag 10 ten rebounds during an overtime loss versus Kansas during the 2007 Big 12 Conference Championship. That’s what’s on television now. 

I wonder how long my girls and I can keep up the workouts and watch old basketball games without losing enthusiasm for the work. We can definitely make it until next November when we hope middle and high school basketball in North Carolina will resume, but what if there aren’t any sports for the 2020-2021 season? I’ve read about the possibility that new infections of the virus might decline in the summer but make a strong comeback during the fall. For now, I try not to think too far ahead. For both sports and the rest of life, there’s a lot to be said for enjoying each day while keeping in mind what could happen in the coming weeks and months. I try to have a plan for the future while focusing on today and this week. It’s a way of thinking I already tried to operate under before I ever heard of COVID=19. It’s also, by the way, how I think about death. I know death is coming, but rather than dwell on it too much, I try to use that knowledge to keep myself aware of savoring what it is I will do today. 

 

Fav Basketball Books on Torg Stories Pod

What are your favorite books

about basketball?

The Jordan Rules Sam Smith Pat Conroy Rick Pitino Wooden Sprawlball A Season on the Brink

Torg Fav Basketball Books

Kent Chezem and I list and discuss our favorite hoops books in this episode of the Torg Stories Podcast, March 8, 2020 edition.

In preparing for this pod, I realized that I have read a lot more basketball books than I previously thought, probably at least 100.

I came up with nineteen books I thought were worth mentioning.

First, a commercial. My book, The Coach’s Wife has a lot of basketball in it and is on sale via Amazon for less than ten bucks.

  1. Season on the Brink by John Feinstein. 1986.
  2. The Losing Season by Pat Conroy
  3. Born to Coach by Rick Pitino 
  4. The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
  5. Sprawlball by Kirk Goldsberry
  6. Wooden, A Coach’s Life by Seth Davis
  7. The 21st Century Basketball Practice by Brian McCormick
  8. Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem  (I met Kareem in the St. John’s locker room at Madison Square Garden)  AND Becoming Kareem by Obstfeld 
  9. When the Game was Ours by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson with Jackie MacMullan (appears on ESPN’s show Around the Horn)
  10. The Legends Club by Feinstein
  11. The Last Amateurs by Feinstein
  12. My Life on a Napkin by Rick Majerus
  13. Sum it Up by Sally Jenkins 
  14. The Last Seasonby Phil Jackson
  15. I just bought Seven Seconds or Less about the Suns by Jack McCallum. 
  16. Lebron INCby Brian Windhorst. He also wrote Return of the King. 
  17. Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
  18. Basketball, A Love Story. 
  19. The Book of Basketballby Bill Simmons

In doing this work, here are the books I’m going to look into reading: 

  1. Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection
  2. Assisted by John Stockton
  3. How Lucky Can You Be (Meyer) by Buster Olney
  4. Bleed Orange about Boheim
  5. The Pistol 
  6. Fab Five 
  7. Boys Among Men by Abrams 
  8. Seven Seconds or Less Jack MaCullum 
  9. Basketball on Paper Dean Oliver 
  10. A Coach’s Life by Dean Smith with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Which of my favs overlaps with yours?
  2. How did you rank these books?
  3. What do we get out of reading these books?
  4. What are these books about that we can talk about? Three point line. 21st Century Basketball. How would we describe our college basketball practices? How have we departed?
  5. Which of these coaches have we met? How at all, have these books or the coaches influenced us?
  6. I mostly left out technical X and O books like these:
  • Knight and Newell’s pair of books, Tex Winter’s Triangle Offense, Wooten’s Coaching Basketball Successfully, Dean Smith’s Multiple Offenses and Defenses, Tim Grover’s Jump Attack

I counted 42 books on Amazon written by John Feinstein:

  • The Back Roads to March, Where Nobody Knows Your Name (baseball), The First Major, A Good Walk Spoiled, The Legends Club, Season on the Brink, Quarterback, The Last Amateurs, A Season Inside, The Last Dance, The Punch (about the Rockets), Forever’s Team about Duke 78, A March to Madness about ACC

What are your favorites? Which ones are we wrong about? We hope you’ll join the conversation!