The difficulty in designing a true game-like shooting drill

The Magic 3 in a Row Shooting Drill (by Basketball HQ via Hoop Dirt) is a good shooting drill similar to others that I have used during my coaching and training. However, it is not a game-like drill.

This is a major component of Fake Fundamentals: Volume 2, as well as one of the errors in practice design recently described by Harri Mannonen, an assistant coach for the Danish national team:

This may sound like a small, theoretical detail but it isn’t. It changes the way players shoot in practice. When you first add a defender and a teammate to drills, you will have doubts about the new set up, because the shooters’ percentage will drop, yet at the same time they can’t seem to pass, either.

In other words, a minimum requirement for game-likeness is the presence of the shooter, at least one teammate, and at least one defender.

The shots in the drill above are similar to the type of shots that one would shoot in a game. Players at all levels shoot catch-and-shoot shots from the three-point line. The demands to make three in a row and to make all of the shots within three minutes requires good shooting and a quick pace. But, shooting in a game requires more than a quick pace and accuracy.

When a player shoots in a game, he decides to shoot. In the drill, there is no decision; it is the sole purpose of the drill. In a game, a defender may affect the decision to shoot, the speed of the shot, the height of the shot, and more. In the drill, there are no defenders.

We ignore these points because we are concerned with repetitions, technique, and success, but these are real aspects of shooting.

Not every drill has to be a game-like shooting drill. However, too often, we confuse intensity with game-like. A drill that is intense or requires speed and/or conditioning is not necessarily a game-like shot because it ignores many of the perceptual components that are a part of the entire shooting skill.

It is easy to ignore these qualities because everyone dies, but then we wonder why a player shoots 80% in practice and 40% in a game. We consider this to be the normal game slippage. Does it have to be? Is the game slippage related to the differences in perceptual demands between practice and game shots?

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

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