Players want it all, now! They want coaches to touch them on the head and make them a great player. They are impatient to find the shortcut, the easy way out, the basketball equivalent of a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme. They want to skip the beginner stuff and get to the advanced skills, the elite strategies, and the pro-level drills.
As coaches, we want to impress players with our knowledge and abilities, and it is very tempting to give it to them all at once. However, every coach needs to learn the progression required to build an advanced level skill. To allow a beginning athlete to jump into advanced skills without first mastering the basics, is to open the door to disaster. Through repeated failure to succeed at a skill, injury at a young age, or burnout from doing too much, too soon, many players are lost from the sport of basketball. Some players are more apt at conquering new skills, and should be challenged according to their learning abilities, others need to try new skills more rarely while the majority of their time is spent on repetition and mastery of old skills. As experience is gained in coaching, the ability to adapt teaching to a specific player’s learning abilities is what separates an average coach from a master coach. Average coaches teach the same thing to every player they meet and expect learning to happen at the same speed and same time for all of them. Those coaches spend a lot of time frustrated, watching players run suicides, instead of coaching practice.
I start every player at the very beginning. I want them to prove to me that they deserve to move on to advanced skills, by demonstrating mastery of the basics. In a few min time I may run through a variety of skills with one player, that may take the player next to him 3-4 sessions to get through. The point is, I follow the same progression regardless of a player’s level of ability, but I adapt the SPEED of the progression to fit the player. Following this pattern with every player, I eventually find a weakness that can be targeted for more in-depth practice. The progression stops while all of our focus is directed at correcting that weakness, which may take several weeks in some cases, before moving to the next skill. Only by systematic evaluation can I assure myself that each player is completely skilled and not missing a large area of knowledge.
Any progression should follow the Basic/ Simple -> Advanced/ Complex pattern, here are a few specific skill progressions:
Ball handling: Stationary ball handling – leg circles – figure 8 – scissors- Stationary dribbling – pound dribble – 1 arm crossover- front crossover – between crossover- behind crossover- combination crossovers – Movement dribbling -sprint dribble – big skip dribble – zig-zag crossover – attack-release-attack – slide dribble – spin.
Shooting: 1 hand form shot 3ft from basket (make 10 in a row to prove mastery) – 2 hand form shot 8ft from basket – stand still jump shot 15 ft from basket – step in catch and shoot 17ft from basket – step in catch and shoot 3pt line – 1 dribble pull up jump shot 15-17ft (dribble right and dribble left)
Finishes: 2 steps no dribble R & L hand push – finger roll – floater – inside reverse – outside reverse – 3 steps 1 dribble R & L hand – 1 crossover, 1 dribble 3 steps
Know your progression, then teach it to every player you coach. Soon you will have well rounded players with a depth of knowledge about every necessary skill for the game of basketball. Just as a student requires a specific level of knowledge in order to graduate high school, players need to have a level of basic knowledge of basketball before moving on to advanced, position specific skills. The most important part to remember, is that every player learns at a different speed. Adapt your progression to fit your player, and coaching becomes easy!