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:
Here’s the central problem that surrounds 1-on-1 workouts: there is likely no defense being played. Unless the trainer or coach is willing to exert themselves defensively during all of their workouts each day (which is not scalable or reasonable at all), the player will inherently be playing against air. Again, this is an awesome opportunity to clean up technique, get more shooting reps, and target specific skills. But it’s not very specific to the game, and doesn’t consider the top of my development pyramid: decision making.
Now, let’s consider a small group workout—we’ll say 5 kids with somewhat similar skillsets. The coach can now act as more of an orchestrator than a coach, putting them in situations to compete that will help them learn implicitly, or without the coach preaching it verbally. Of course, there will still be some work against air; usually I’ll challenge the group and rep out challenging finishing variations, shooting reps, or new moves/movements before getting into the competition, where they’ll apply it.
He or she can then use the competition-based drills, small-sided games, and more as a vehicle to teach. For instance, if players are put in a 3v3 pick and roll situation and after eight reps, have still not looked for the weak side hook pass, the coach can point this out. This form of teaching is much more conducive to learning and retention than either repping out this pass on air with no decision or read involved, or telling them to look for the pass before the drill. Such an environment is extremely valuable and is often overlooked and underused.
So, the status quo of most group workouts (players doing the exact same air-defense reps that they’d do in an individual workout, with less specific drills and less overall reps) must change.
It’s tough to find an environment in which a player (1) is able to play against good, challenging competition (2) gets a lot of targeted reps against live defense (3) can be taught through competition by a high-level coach, and (4) can use the other athletes for motivation or learning. Group workouts must be this environment.
Before wrapping up, I want to expand on number four. Dyadic learning (working together to achieve a goal) or group learning (as would be the case in a five-player group workout) breeds two highly fruitful effects:
One, players compete harder when they’re in competition with others. It’s human nature, and considering that many hoopers have high ego’s and drives to win, setting up competitive environments will automatically drive intent without having to remind them to “go hard.”
And two, there is a learning effect. I constantly remind players to not only lock in on your own reps, but the others' in the group, too. It’s instant feedback. If you’re struggling to pick something up and see a mirror image of your partner figuring it out, it gives you more context to learn from. This can be in a verbal form, too! If an athlete figures something out before another in the group, I’ll have them explain how it “clicked” for them. No need for me to talk — they’ll probably learn more from the other player anyways.
All in all, I find myself providing more value in group workouts. Maybe I’m not good enough at individual workouts, or maybe I’m on to something. Either way, I don’t think group workouts should be looked at as the cheaper or more convenient alternative to 1-on-1 workouts. If done right, they may be the single best way to improve as a hooper.
Let me know what you think!