Shot Talk: A Conversation About Shooting the Basketball

  1. This isn’t a “how to shoot” or a “how to teach shooting” video. I’m trying to answer this question: when watch these shooters, what do I notice?
  2. What shooters did I watch? Steph Curry, Sue Bird, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, and JJ Redick.
  3. Who are some of my influences when it comes to teaching shooting? Indiana HS Coach Sam Alford, his son Steve’s workout videos, Dick Baumgartner, Dave Love and Drew Hanlon.
  4. When I have questions about shooting–for example, where should the guide hand be placed?–I try to watch video of great shooters and look for the answers.
  5. I think of this video and post as a sort of video remix about shooting. Yes, I am using short screen grabs from other people’s YouTube posts the way I might use a quote from a writer’s article writing my own research paper. As a kind of Works Cited, I will link you to each video I screen grab for this project. I hope you will check out some of those YouTube channels and that my linking to them sparks some great conversation / content about shooting.
  6. A belief I have about shooting: good shooters don’t shoot the same way. There are multiple ways to be a good shooter. By the way, I believe the same thing about writing.
  7. For this video analysis, I looked for mostly catch and shoot situations. Great shooters don’t shoot the ball the same way every time. Sometimes the situation–off the dribble or sprinting off a screen–demand the shooter do something different when it comes to footwork, balance, or the path the ball takes from catch to release.

Here’s the screen capture from my study of Steph Curry, Sue Bird, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, and JJ Redick.

image of Steph Shooting from SC30.com

After watching the shooters in the above video, what did you see worth bringing to this discussion?

Here are some of my thoughts after watching those shooters:

  1. A consistent shooting motion can overcome minor mechanical flaws related to some idea of an ideal shot. I need to chill out about some more minor things I see with the players I work with.
  2. Left / right footwork for a right handed shooter is a good starting place. Step toward the ball on the pass with the left foot and put the right foot down on the catch.
  3. The pocket is where the ball is taken on the catch. Teach the pocket as a ball width away from the stomach and slightly toward the side of the body of the shooting hand. I first heard the pocket described that way by Dave Love.
  4. Rather than keep the ball close to the body as it travels from the pocket to the release, the ball travels away from the body to the set point in what looks like a half circle. The upper arms, forearms, and hands can move together as one to the set point. See examples in video above.
  5. I teach what I call rhythm shooting. This rhythm includes taking the ball down to the pocket as needed, (if the ball wasn’t caught there) flexing the legs, and then the ball starts to rise toward the set point just ahead of the legs starting to push and extend. The timing of that process, which is one fluid motion with no stops, is what I mean by rhythm. The word tempo also comes to mind.
  6. I prefer the shooter and the ball go up and toward the basket. Many players have something (hand, jump, footprint) that goes somewhere not toward the hoops. A very common flaw is for a player to drift a lot if they are catching on the move. Some twist of the body is fine and this can become more pronounced depending on what kind of shot is being taken. Of course as players’ skill evolves, they will make use of fade aways, step backs, and drifting in a direction to get away from the defense.

When I finished this project, I wondered where the players I work with look when they shoot. I think they can watch the flight of the ball, the front of the rim, or the back of the rim, but I realized I had not talked much about that to the players I work with.

I do have a routine I use when I start working with a player on their shot. Perhaps that is a future post.

Here is a list of the videos I used in making the video on this page. Again, I am thinking of these videos in my video as quotes I would use in writing a research paper.

Image of Steph Curry on right from SC30.com

I’d love to hear from you in the comments section or on Twitter about what you noticed when you watched these shooters shoot.

5 Lemov Inspired Questions for Coaches

Doug Lemov’s book The Coach’s Guide to Teaching was probably one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read about coaching. There’s a lot in the book that I want to immediately apply to the way I coach basketball.

I read the book on my Kindle and highlighted or took a note on over 200 passages in the book. I read through those and typed up seven pages of reflections in a Google Doc. Now, in hopes of facilitating some conversation with you all, I’ve come up with some questions for discussion. I’d also love to hear from you in the comments section about some of what you found most interesting in the book.

Lemov often references videos in his book of coaches and teachers practicing their craft. Those videos are helpfully collected here.

In what I write below, I will often use a phrase such as “Lemov argues,” when what he actually does is quote a lot of teachers and coaches he’s talked to. He also takes the time to situate the idea within scholarship on teaching and how the brain works. For this post, I just say “Lemov” instead of all of the different coaches he quotes.

So, here are the questions I’ve come up with for you that I hope will spark some conversation among us:

  1. What’s your feedback like for players? Is it all over the place? Too much of it? Lemov suggests we focus our feedback and keep it short.
    • Let’s say I’m using a 4v4v4 drill because I want players to make better decisions in our screen and roll action. Specifically, I ask players to watch the roll player (players are often looking at the floor) and to watch to see where the help defenders are positioned. In the past, it would be my tendency to stop play and offer feedback on any number of things I see that I’d like for us to do better including footwork on a catch or the way a defender closes out a shooter. I’ve also been the head coach who wraps up a drill by asking all of the coaches if they’ve got any feedback. Lemov suggests this is too much information to be retained and that feedback should be focused on one area of play.
  2. What are your best drills or games for practice? Lemov suggests we choose core games that can be adapted for emphasis. By modifying restrictions during a game or drill, we can change the emphasis of the drill.
    • I’ve wasted time teaching players a lot of different drills and games. I’ve done this, in part, because I’m always learning activities that I’d like to try, and I believe that using a variety of ways of working on the same concept can help to keep players engaged. What I hope to do instead of teaching players lots of new games is to identify some core games and drills that I use again and again. When I encounter a new drill or game, I need to consider if the time it will take to teach it is worth adding it to practice.
    • So as a basketball coach, what do I mean play with restrictions? An example of a core game that many coaches use is a three-quarter court game that could be run with teams ranging from 3v3 to 5v5. I know when I used to watch Knight’s Indiana teams practice, huge sections of practice were devoted to 4v4v4 done three -quarter court. Let’s say I want to work on screening, and so I say that the offense has to either get a lay up or hit the screener two times before they can shoot. We will always take a lay up if we can get it no matter the restriction. We can play the game make it take it, or we can play the game to stops. We can give an extra point for an offensive rebound, but as we add these restrictions, Lemov suggests that we don’t over complicate the scoring system. Just one restriction for what we most need to teach at this point in the players development. By not having to learn a new game, the players can devote all of their attention (working memory) to the concept we want them to learn.
Appalachian State players talk to campers during a stoppage in play. That’s my kid #85

3. How are you managing / coaching play stoppages? Do you stop practice the right amount? For what reason do you stop? What do you say when you stop practice?

One thing that Lemov suggests that I haven’t done is to use the same word every time to stop and then resume play in practice. That might be “freeze” or “pause” or maybe two whistles. Next, I need to coach the players up that we need them to stop moving so that the situation I stopped practice for can quickly be recreated. What I say needs to be very short, probably less than 45 seconds and then I need to give the players a chance to do what I just talked about. The word to resume play also needs to be the same. Maybe it’s, “Let’s play.”

4.Are you individualizing player development?

Lemov suggests that we have at least one thing for each player we are trying to improve. We’d meet with the player to decide on this one thing. We’d develop a plan for improving the one thing. We’d meet regularly to see if we are “moving the needle” on the one thing. In basketball, we get a lot of reps on something we call a stride stop. For some of our players, this is a very new concept. Others have done hundreds of stride stop. As a classroom teacher, we call this differentiating instruction. Lemov suggests that we consider what each player needs when it comes to skill development.

5. How far in advance do you plan what you will teach to your team? Are you always scrambling to get the next practice plan finished? Have you organized your team (in my case basketball) curriculum?

Lemov suggests that we list the concepts we need to teach our team and then prioritize them. The books suggests students probably need three days of instruction to understand a concept such as something like attacking 2-3 zones or trapping in our man to man defense. After we’ve got a concept in such as attacking odd-front zones, we need to circle back once in awhile to make sure our players retain the concept. Remember that last second cramming we might have done as a student before a big test? That’s not good for our teams. Obviously, there’s probably more that we want to teach our players than we can even get done in an entire season. So by listing all that we want to teach, prioritizing what we will teach when, and then looking at what we can fit into our scheduled practices, we can make more educated decisions on how to spend our practice time.

To wrap up…

I see my questions and commentary above as just an opening to a conversation about Lemov’s thought-provoking book on teaching and coaching. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section about what you are most excited to take from this book to your coaching pedagogy.

Thanks for taking the time to read the post!

Basketball Shot Analysis

The video below can be used as a lesson in how to shoot a basketball. I’m definitely not someone who would claim to know THE way to shoot a basketball. If you are someone who already knows a lot about shooting, there should be some information in the video that could make for an interesting discussion.

Lots of times, a player or coach knows that the shot is messed up, but they don’t really know how to start improving. This video contains some questions that should help a coach or player to analyze a shot. The questions are embedded in the video and there is a link to a Google Doc provided below.

For a blank Google Doc template with the questions for analysis, click here.

For my written commentary on my daughter Charlotte’s shot, click here.

Thanks for checking out the post!

All in a Day’s Work Basketball Training

In this post, I’m sharing what my 14-year-old daughter Charlotte does on a typical day of basketball workouts. Perhaps there will be something here that you’ll be able to incorporate into your own workouts. I also mean for this to be an example of how I work with players to develop their skills. I mean for this video and post to be a part of a larger conversation about basketball training.

I’m including a video with examples from the workout. I have taken time in the video to explain some of the philosophy about why we do what we do.

When I watch basketball or strength and agility workouts online, I know I often find myself taking notes. I have to take notes, type up notes, and then print out the workout to take into the weight room or on the court. I have created a Google Doc for this Workout and uploaded a PDF for your convenience.

All in a Day’s Work Handout

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a lot more time on our hands. This has meant that we’ve spent a lot more time working on basketball together. Most days, this work does not feel like a grind but something my daughters and I enjoy doing together. One of the benefits of all of this time we have is that we can space out our workouts during the day. For example, we might do the on-court workout that takes close to 90 minutes, and then we can rest up before we run our hills. On this day there were four sections of the workout:

  1. On Court
  2. Hill Running
  3. In the Weight Room
  4. 100 Free Throws. We like to chart for

If you’re interested in learning about shooting technique, I recommend you go to YouTube and search for “Dave Love” and “Manitoba Basketball.” There are two free clinic sessions you can watch and learn a lot about shooting. Dave’s website is here.

Quite a bit of what we do in the weight room comes from two sources:

  1. Tim Grover’s book Jump Attack. Tim was famously Michael Jordan’s trainer.
  2. An online presentation I heard from Jacob Hiller. Click here to reach his website.

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.