Teaching the Overlooked Skills

An ESPN ScortsCenter’s top play last night was this goal by FC Bayern’s Thomas Mueller’s goal:

Watch the goal again. Everyone notices the skill of the shot. It is an amazing strike with an incredible degree of difficulty.

However, the goal is only possible because of what Mueller does before beginning his strike while the ball is loose in the box. Rather than run wildly toward the ball or stand and watch, when the ball deflects toward the edge of the box, he quickly backs up into space and prepares his body. When his teammate heads down the ball in his direction, his feet are set and he has space to strike the ball.

While the strike is exceptional, players often practice this skill, just as basketball players practice different shots. However, few people practice moving into the right area to be a bigger threat. In basketball, most movement instructions starts and stops with the movement of specific plays. Therefore, players only learn this type of movement through experience, if they learn it at all.

On the other hand, at the end of the third game of the WNBA Finals, Angel McCoughtry missed a three-pointer. One of the Miller twins rebounded the ball. After she rebounded the ball, the other Miller twin back-pedaled to the three-point line; she received the pass as she moved backward, never set her feet and missed, ending the series. When you need a three-pointer to tie, why stand inside the three-point line? If she had recognized that her sister was close to the rebound a split-second earlier, much like Mueller starting to move before his teammate received the ball, maybe her feet are set when she receives the pass and she makes the shot.

This skill – this awareness – is common to elite players. If our goal is to develop better, more aware players, we need to find ways to cue players so that they move subtly into more dangerous positions, regardless of the play.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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