Every trainer or coach has a slightly different theory on when and if we should change players’ shots. Some think we should push every player more towards the perfect form, and some are big believers in letting repetition do the work for them. In reality, it’s a very individual subject (as usual, it depends!), and most situations will fall right in the middle.
Here’s why: any player can become a solid shooter with a ton of practice (providing that it's done the right way). However, some players reach ceilings due to inefficiencies in their mechanics. Yes, different technical models work for different athletes, but at the end of the day, there are some mechanical qualities that objectively help put the ball in the rim more than others. To me, we should change a motor pattern (or in this case, shot) if one or both of the two conditions are true:
(1) The motor pattern will cause injury. This can be the case in other basketball-related movements, but unless your shot is an remarkably broke, there is normally not enough load to cause an injury.
Note: I’m partially kidding here. Some players do have restrictions due to poor shoulder mobility or past injury history that may make tweaking your shot a good thing health-wise. Also, many players’ form lead to them landing on one leg disproportionately, which could start to chip away at an overuse injury. So, it’s rare, but not out of the question.
(2) Does this technique significantly hinder their shooting ability or set a ceiling for them? This form may “work” for now (in that they may make shots—although many players can make shots without consistency and high levels of confidence), but could become a problem in the future as they reach higher levels. Maybe it’s too slow to get off with faster closeouts at the next level. Maybe they can’t get it into from their dribble quick enough, so it’s hurting their ability to shoot off the dribble. Maybe it takes too much energy to shoot, and they need to be more economical at higher levels to resist fatigue and shoot from further distances as they climb the ranks.
All of these and more must be considered, not just “is it working now?”
But, remember that this is a process that consumes much of a player’s time, effort, and attention. Changing an automatized movement pattern is HARD. So we have to make sure it’s worth it, and we’re getting a good return on our investment. Let’s say a player shoots 40% from three with a very good technique already, but you see a “thumb flick” that COULD be hindering their accuracy a tiny bit, but is very engrained into their automatic motor pattern. Is it worth the effort to spend weeks and maybe even months tweaking this? Not to mention, if the player is not fully bought into the process, there won’t be much change at all.
Players only have a certain amount of “attentional currency,” an overly complex term I use to mean “how long can they focus on training before they start saying ‘screw it.” If we spend 50% of our currency on this minor fix, we could be neglecting training other skills that could give us a much higher return on our investment.
But, sometimes these changes are undoubtedly necessary. So as usual, it’s on a case-to-case basis.
Summed up, my theory is “tweak before you change.” I would never ever approach a player and say, “oh yeah, we’re about to change your entire shot.” One, as a player, I’d be unbelievable overwhelmed, and two, it may not be needed. Spend as little time and effort as possible to get the maximum result possible.
So, how do we attack this tweak when we decide we’re ready? Check out the full video on the platform.