Passing drills and game context

Last weekend, I conducted a two-day coaching clinic in Montreal. At one point, I was asked about fake fundamentals, and showed the three-man weave. I followed up with drills that I would use instead of the three-mean weave, and showed 5-6 keep away drills. 

(I demonstrated other drills, but the comment occurred after one of these two drills)

After one drill, a coach raised his hand and asked if I would go back to a form passing drill, such as the three-mean weave, after the keep-away drill because the passing during the keep away drill was not perfect. In fact, I don’t remember a single chest pass during the drill. Essentially, the coach believed the lack of the chest pass was due to the lack of skill of the players, and more remedial drills would improve their ability to throw a chest pass, which is the proper pass.

I disagreed. I suggested that the lack of a chest pass was the reason that I use keep-away games as my passing drills rather than three-mean weaves and other form passing drills. In games, passes are defended. These players needed to do a better job creating passing windows, rather than floating passes over their defender’s heads, but chest passes are not used nearly as much as they are emphasized in practice. When the passer is defended, a chest pass is almost impossible to throw.

Therefore, the keep-away drills practice the skill with a context similar to the game, whereas the three-mean weave removes the context. In the three-mean weave, you practice a single type of pass, and this pass is rarely available when the passer is defended. In keep away, players practice a variety of passes; they solve movement problems. They have to create a pass based on the defense and their teammate’s location. This is the same thing that happens during games.

Could these players have improved their passing? Yes. Would three-mean weaves be the correct drill to elicit this improvement? No. They needed more practice, and some feedback, centered on creating better passing angles rather than drills and feedback focused on technique. Technique changes based on the defense and location of teammates. The ability to adapt the technique based on these constraints is the important skill to develop.

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

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