Drills, movement, and the false step

The above is basically an open-court moves drill. I imagine most coaches and skills trainers use something similar at some point during the season. Here is an example of a version that we used:

In our drill, which is an undefended move, we use a reaction to an external stimulus because research has shown the external stimulus to change simple biomechanics, such as the body angle on a cut, which suggests that a preplanned move and a move with reaction differ even at the body level, not to mention the connection between perception and action.

In the first drill, there is no reaction. The presence of a defender has been shown to affect biomechanics on a cut as well, which makes the presence of a person rather than a cone a more effective drill. However, why take three terrible through-the-legs dribbles? What are you practicing? When would you ever make a similar move in a similar manner in a game? The player puts the ball in front of the imaginary defender on each dribble, which defeats the purpose of a through-the-legs dribble.

Now, I use triple-move drills for specific purposes (ball control typically), but these moves were too slow and too long to stress a good player’s ball control. It does not make sense to me because it is not a general dribbling drill, as it should not stress a college player’s handle, and it has nothing to do with a game move. It’s just there.

In the end, the through-the-legs dribbles are inconsequential. The problem is the instruction or the emphasis. The coach says, “On the third one, he’s going to explode.” Maybe the example was in half-speed, but there was no explosion. The coach says that they are working on changing speeds. I suppose going from stationary to half-speed is changing speeds, but I would term a change from stationary to movement as acceleration, not a change in speeds. To me, changing speeds is from slow to fast or fast to slow, but that could be semantics.

Next, the coach says “the one thing we’re looking for is no false step.” To me, this is the incorrect instruction. The coach wants the player to explode like he is shot out of a cannon, but he wants him to start in a stationary, static position with a relatively wide base. This is not a great position of acceleration. You can see the first player’s right foot wanting to move. He has to struggle against his body’s natural movement.

The false step is a misnomer. Rather than a false step, Lee Taft has popularized the plyo-step. In a false step, the player steps back, and his weight moves backward. In a plyo-step, the weight does not shift backward; there is a quick hop to stagger the stance into a good position of acceleration. The plyo-step uses the stretch-shortening cycle to improve acceleration. With the plyo-step, it is easier and more natural for the player to  explode like he is shot out of a cannon.

The coach is correct; we do not want a false step. However, he is inaccurate, as he appears to equate a false step with a plyo-step. Starting from the stationary position, the first player has no rhythm. His acceleration is slow. He’s fighting his body. A plyo-step, or a small hop, gives the move rhythm and improves the acceleration.

When I use a triple move with players in a situation such as this drill, one of the purposes is to change the rhythm from repetition to repetition. One strategy to change the rhythm is to add the hop or plyo-step, and change its location in the sequence. For instance, on repetition 1, I could do three quick through-the-legs dribbles, hop, and explode. On repetition 2, I could do 2 through-the-legs dribbles, hop, and explode as I make my third through-the-legs dribble. By changing rhythm, I challenge the player and increase the demands on his attention, not just his handles. Doing the same repetition over and over of a fairly easy task such as this (again, for a college player) does not engage the player’s attention, and without his attention on the task, improvement is minimal.

NoteI do not mean to pick on Basketball HQ videos. I do not subscribe to their youtube channel or seek out their videos. They happen to have a deal with a web site that I frequent (Hoop Dirt), and their videos are promoted heavily on the front page, so I see them. When I see them, and they demonstrate something that I have stated previously in other places, they provide good examples to demonstrate my thinking. Nothing personal.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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