This is something I have been thinking about a lot over the last few days, the tendency for coaches to try to simplify just about everything regarding the game, and specifically training. To give a few examples, the 10,000 hour rule (not true), "just get reps", "shoot the same shot every time, "Never do this in a game". The list goes on. Taking very complex systems or movements and trying to simplify them to its most basic form. While I totally get this logic, it seriously undermines the complexity of the game and all that goes into training.
Let's start with the 10000 hour rule and "just get your reps up everyday. So yes, this is the simplest way to look at it. If we want to develop players, just telling them to workout for X amount of hours or shoot this amount of shots per day is very simple. It also gives no context for how those workouts are being done or how to shoot those shots. This is great until it doesn't work. Until that player didn't actually reach their goal after working so hard for all those years. Mostly because we tried to simplify the process. There is so much more that goes into the process than trying to make it a few simply rules like that.
Next up, "shoot the same shot every time". This is again trying to simplify a complex movement. Teaching players to shoot the same way every time is simply and easy to repeat as coaches. Except for in reality the best players in the world don't shoot the same shot every time, even if it looks like it, there is a bunch of factors that go into making EVERY shot slightly different. With that said, we should really be teaching them to shoot a slightly different shot each time and still be able to make it. In sessions we shouldn't be teaching them to fit into one "simple" technique over and over again but being adaptable to fit the situation. But that's too "complex" so as coaches let's keep it simple and have them do the "correct technique over and over again".
Last quick example is a lot of the footwork I see coaches preaching in workouts. "Always go inside-outside on your shot", "this is the correct foot to jump off of", the list goes on and on. They tend to make rules to make it more simple, when in reality there is a time and place for all these aspects in a game. I recently heard a trainer say a player should NEVER step into an off the dribble jumper going outside-inside. This sounds good, except for the fact that a player will inevitably be in a situation when this is the BEST option for them. I see this done ALL the time in a game, yet some players don't get the opportunity to work on it because it's against the training rules of that trainer... These are just a few basic examples I commonly see that I am bringing up to remind us all the game is not that simple, neither is training. The more I learn the more I realize how complex it is IF we want to maximize development. This is just something to think about, be careful of making certain rules or simplified statements.
To throw out a violent overgeneralization, the court and weight room have always had completely opposite goals.
On the court, we look to build our software. Elevating our skills. The robustness and complexity of our brain. Expanding our movement options.
In the weight room, we build the hardware. The structure. Boosting our strength, mobility, and, elasticity, for instance.
Then, we arm the hardware with the software.
With better hardware comes the opportunity for higher level software. We can’t run the latest Mac iOS software on the oldest, most rudimentary computer we can find. We can’t put an insane amount of horsepower in a 2001 Civic. In the same way, our brain won’t allow us too arm ourselves with elite-level skill and speed if we lack the hardware, or physical qualities.
But right now, what most players receive is a hardware and software updates that go in completely random directions relative to each other. Especially when strength and conditioning trainers and skills coaches have limited communication, it’s all a guessing game. The S&C coach updates the hardware in a few ways he see fits, and the skills coach updates the software in, for the most part completely different ways. So we only see marginal gains many times—the two must be working in the same direction to see these exponential gains. Because how much room for growth is there if the other is the limiting factor?
My goal is to perfectly unite the two. When I know that we’ll be upgrading an athlete’s hardware in a certain way, such as training their raw ankle stiffness and dynamic soleus strength, we update the software on the court to follow, as we work on the movement skill of a first step. Better hardware, with better software to follow.
And here’s another layer, too: movement is movement. Training is training. Our brain and body don’t differentiate between the court and the weight room.
So, although the traditional weight room focus is structural (hardware), and the traditional on-court focus is neurological (software), we have the potential to affect both in each of the two environments.
Every movement we do in the weight room is also a skill, and thus has a neurological focus. So we can build software in the weight room! For instance, when we learn a controlled lunge in a weight room environment, we get better at that skill and start to favor and use it more effectively when we decelerate. And obviously, we could jump into qualities such as rate of force development (RFD) which are primarily built in the brain.
And every movement we do on the court is also stressing our body structurally, so we also create a physiological adaptation. In other words, we inevitably train our hardware on the court! When you shoot 500 jumpers, that’s a high volume of low-level plyometrics, so chances are we’ll get a good tissue adaptation in the lower leg.
If we don’t take all of this into account and at least communicate between S&C and skills coaches, if not purposefully plan this out, it’s like being on a canoe with everyone rowing different ways.
Let’s start building that synergy between the software and hardware.
Having the right amount of balance between studying basketball, and studying everything else that relates to training is extremely important. While the basketball portion is one of the most important aspects of training, it is everything else that will actually drive the results. Communication, movement, psychology, skill acquisition, etc. All of these principles are so important when it comes to player development, but largely go un tapped. Spending huge amounts of time watching film and understanding moves, game actions, reads is without a doubt important, but without those other aspects, the results you help players achieve will be sub par. I've spent thousands of hours watching film, but after a certain point a large majority is just watching the same actions and moves happen over and over again, at a certain point you will start to see a diminishing returns on the film you are watching. On top of that, the majority of players you will work with can't even tap into the value you've gained from thousands of hours of film you've watched. All this to say pay attention to how much time you spend studying all the other aspects of the game and how much time you spend just watching the game. Make sure there is an appropriate balance. If you ONLY study the game, the moves, actions, etc, I hate to say it but you most likely aren't maximizing your knowledge and value you are delivering to your players. Again, this is not to undermine the importance of film, but to emphasize the importance of everything else you can tap into. Shameless plug, our E book we recently launched is a great place to start with all of these aspects.
This morning, I tuned in to Joel Smith's Podcast with Michael Zweifel (highly, highly recommended) about the importance of autonomy, creativity, and freedom in warmups. When we think about our standard dynamic warmup, what does it look like? Everything the whistle? Everyone in lines? Same thing every day?
Keep in mind, they were primarily speaking in the context of warmups, but this can apply to workout, practice, and even game settings as well. If we constantly funnel athletes into what feels like an assembly line of drills, controlled environments, and drills that they're working alone in, the athletes adapt to this. They lose creativity, autonomy. Now, most time it isn't this obvious, but in my opinion, we have to start working more towards the creative and free-flowing end of the spectrum.
Sport isn't a controlled environment. It's chaotic, crazy, and unpredictable. so when training is controlled and predictable, it doesn't truly prepare us for the competitive environment.
How can we do this?
Yes, it's easy to have your athletes memorize a monotonous warmup or set of drills each day, but it's not about our job being easy. Let's all get more creative and put our athletes in engaging environments!
I'm a huge proponent of variable shooting and variable practice in general because of all the research that backs it, but sometimes training is such an art that things go against the science. Today I had one of those epiphanies, realizing that sometimes the old-school "what worked for me" method ways can hold some value at times. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments, and check out our block vs. variable content on the platform!
Over the last couple of years in the training industry and watching what some of the best in the field do, I’ve noticed 3 different traits that make all of them successful. Results, Relationships, and Retention. Regardless of whether you are a coach or a trainer, these three factors remain true. Many do one area well, but the most successful do all 3 at an elite level.
Remember that Spanish class you had (or have) in school? The one where you worked your ass off for 4+ years to get good grades but graduated not being able to hold a real conversation? Me too. What if I told you the exact same thing was happening in basketball?
By KJ Conklin (Olney Central College)
As a college basketball coach, I can tell you with ease what I really want from a player that plays for me:
There’s an obsession in the training culture with individual, 1-on-1 training. Parents and kids will pay a premium to have the full attention of the coach or trainer, ensuring that they target all the small details and needs of the player. This is undoubtedly valuable! In terms of polishing one’s game and technique, these individual workouts are essential. But, with that being said, I’d argue that small group workouts are even more valuable. Hear me out:
This topic is better shown in examples than verbalized, but I’ll do my best to give you the big idea in this article. If you want to check out a ton of ways to do this, head over to our small-sided games area of the platform!
Creating context is one of the absolute best ways we can get our athletes working on a certain skill, technique, or weakness in their game without even mentioning it. And as we talk about in our frequency of cueing video, we’re always aiming to teach more with less words. Although it may take a bit longer for players to improve their performance through implicit learning (the style in which neither us or them explicitly refers to what they're learning), this style helps players retain what they learn. In other words, it become sticky and they’re able to pull it out of their back pocket in a game, which is what actually matters, right?