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Basketball Tips & Strategies – September 2012

HoopTactics Newsletter

Importance of Player Development
Basketball a Game of Habits
Changing a Bad Habit
Team Habits

Coaching Tips:  The Magnitude of Developing Players

Basketball is unique in that it is a game within a game. It is both an individual game and a team game. However, we coaches often have a tendency to spend more time on introducing and refining plays or defenses rather than developing and improving individual player skills and techniques that determines their success or failure. Basketball is not a game of offenses and defenses, but a game of effort and execution. Therefore, coaches must coach their players. The players make the system. The system does not make the players. 

Every player must possess the basic skills of shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding and defending. Players must be taught and drilled in these fundamentals long before they can master the finer points of the game. In mastering these fundamental skills and techniques, players will discover their strengths and weaknessess that will ultimately determine their specific roles on a team.

Coaching Strategies: Basketball is a Game of Habits


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Habits are not instincts. They are conditioned reflexes created by repetitive acts over a period of time. They are embedded in the brain. Since the brain cannot decipher good habits from bad habits, bad habits cannot simply be erased. They must be changed and replaced which is no easy task. It can take years. You cannot achieve success just by thinking about what is correct. A player can listen and read about every aspect of successful shooting. However, the only way for that player to develop good shooting habits is by repeated shooting. “Perfect practice makes perfect.” Since our habits are the result of repetition over time,  following the coach’s instructions, when a player makes their first shot it is probably luck. After repeated practice, if a player makes the thousandth shot and follows it up with the thousandth and one shot, it is a result of a good habit.

The Metamorphous of Changing a Bad Habit

Correcting bad habits is by no means an easy task, and not all efforts will be successful, since it comes down to the individual player’s willpower. In correcting bad habits, players will progress through the following three stages:

Stage 1:

A coach notices the hand of a player, with a pretty good shot, is moving out to one side on their follow through. The coach explains, demonstrates the correct position and tells the player to visualize the follow through. At first the corrected follow through will feel awkward and unnatural to the player. The shot becomes unsuccessful with the player missing almost all of their shots. At this point, despite understanding what’s right, those players without patience and determination,  will revert back to their old habits and comfort zone and continue to shoot the same way as always.

Stage 2:

With repeated practice and determination, the body starts to respond to the brain. The follow through begins to assume the correct positon more readily and the shot becomes more fluid. The shot starts to gradually climb back to the previous level of accuracy. However, the shooter still has to think about the correct follow through movement.

Stage 3:

With stilll more hours of practice, the shooter thinks less and less about the shooting mechanics. Their form adjusts to the new position. Neuro-muscular systems are working together in unison. Shooting has signifiicantly improved and the corrected follow through motion “feels” right. The correction is accomplished.

In the correction of a bad habits, coaches must also persist. Making corrections requires extra hours, days and even years of the part of coaches. They just cannot point out bad habits and assume players have the ability and fortitude to make the changes on their own. However, all of the time and effort spent on player development is well worth it.

Coaching Tip: When correcting mistakes, such as having their head down when dribbling, just asked the player, “Is this a good or bad habit?” No other explaination is needed.

Coaching Strategies: Team Habits


“Habits do not change during a game.”

This is true with team habits as well as individuals. Team habits are fostered and reinforced daily in practice. If a lack of effort, execution and discipline are tolereated or ignored in practice, they become bad habits. Therefore, the importance of paying attention to the smallest details cannot be over emphasized. If missed lay-ups, careless passing and bad shot selection is allowed in practice, it will definitely carry over into games. Coaches must persist and insist on proper execution and effort at all times.

As a coach, you may not reap the immediate rewards of the hours put into player development. Since players develop at different rates and ages, be sure to develop all of your players to the best of their capabilities. One of the greatest players in the history of the game, Michael Jordan, was cut from the team as a high school sophomore.

In helping all your players in developing and refining their individual skills, it will not only provide them with the necessary training and habits that will afford them, along with the team, the best opportunity to be successful, but more importantly, have a great experience in this great game.  Coaching great players is easy. Where great coaches excel is in getting the most out of every player on the squad regardless of physical abilities and skills. Individual player development, on and off the court, is by far the greatest satisfaction of coaching.


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