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Motor Skill Learning

The Art of Teaching Basketball

What you will discover or recall:

Motor Skill Learning

Whole-Part-Whole Method

The Why, How and When’s

Motor Skill Learning Factors

Moror learning correct mechanics

The learning and perfecting of basketball skills require active and purposeful participation on the part of the players. However, to be effective, these basketball skills and techniques must be learned and practiced at game speed. Many factors affect the rate which basketball players learn the skills of the game. The primary findings derived from research in motor learning are as follows:

  1. Motivation – motivation is probably the single most important factor used in acquisition of basketball skills.
  2. Conditioning – motor learning is directly dependent upon physical conditioning. Superior conditioning does not just happen nor is it acquired quickly. It is the result of a well planned and executed program of exercise, rest, and diet with rest and diet being just as important as exercise.
  3. Progression – motor learning takes place from the general to the specific. Players must master the fundamentals before more complicated skills can be learned.
  4. Specific – motor learning is specific. Skills must be learned at the same speed which they will be performed during a game.
  5. Practice – repetition is a must for motor learning. The greater the number of times nerve impulses are sent over the nervous pathways, the more firmly established they become until what has been practiced becomes automatic or a habit.
  6. Correct Techniques – proper execution is important. Since bad habits can be practiced as well as good ones, it is imperative that players begin building correct habits from the start. Pay attention to detail. Precise execution and footwork are vital.
  7. Tension – learning is best accomplished under conditions of limited stress and emotional pressure. If the tension level is too low players are apt to become lackadaisical. There is also evidence that most properly prepared teams have a high tension level at game time.
  8. Participation – motor learning demands active and purposeful participation on the part of the players. The best way to learn basketball is to practice BASKETBALL.
  9. Mental practice – motor learning also requires visualization and mental practice. Players should think about the skills and intricacies of the game. More learning and improvement takes place if this is done between practice sessions.
  10. Progressive – new techniques replace older ones as motor learning progresses. The highest level of motor learning is that level which learning is related to the individual in such a way that the knowledge enables him to become self-disciplined.

Whole-Part-Whole Method of Teaching Motor Skills

When teaching or refining basketball skills or plays, it is best to employ the “Whole-Part-Whole Method.” This is a basic principle of motor skill learning. The “Whole-Part-Whole” method of teaching involves introducing it, breaking it down into its components, and then executing it in its entirety.

1. The Whole

Introduce and explain the offense or play, using visual means when available. Next, on the court, walk through the offense explaining and demonstrating all of the options along with their basic defensive reads and counters. Then, have the players walk through the reads and their counters. Be sure to answer and clarify any questions players may have.

2. The Part

Motor learning teaching parts

Teaching is the “Part” of the “Whole-Part-Whole” method of motor skill learning. You teach the part so that players can understand and comprehend the Whole. The “Part” is further broken down into “WHY, HOW & WHEN.”

The Why. . .

Sadly, most coaches and personal skill trainers concentrate totally on the “How.” However, the “Why” is more important for players to know and understand than the “How.” If they understand “Why” they will be better prepared learn the “How.”

Basketball is a game of counters, especially on offense. It is called “Read & React.” By understanding the “Why” players will much more readily read a situation and physically react correctly. If they are only taught the “How”, players tend to make mental errors and mistakes because they misread situations.

The How. . .

Break down the offense or play down into its components with the use of breakdown drills. Get your teaching done during breakdown drills, insist on proper footwork and execution. Cover only two or three of the basic reads per practice until all reads and counters have been covered.

Flipping sides of the court

Be sure to demonstrate and practice both sides of the court separately. Flipping sides on offense and skill building requires, not only opposite hand and footwork, but for the entire brain to reverse everything as well.

The When. . .

By combining the intellectual aspect “Why” with the physical ability “How” improved play will definitely become very apparent and noticeable. Once players have working knowledge of the “Why” and “How, the “When” becomes automatic resulting in improved motivation, initiative and confidence on the part of the players.

3. The Whole

Go live, motor skills must be learned at game speed. You want to practice against good defense. Don’t wait until game time. Motivate the defense. For example, have the defense make 5-6 stops (combination of defensive rebounds, offensive turnovers, and steals) before they can go to offense. No dummy defense! The toughest defense you face all season should be in practice. The offense will probably struggle at first. However, players will learn to adapt to the importance of creating leads and attacking defensive pressure.


Five Stars


Coming Next:

Game of Habits


Art of Teaching Basketball Series
#1Coaching, Life Skills, Keys to SuccessTap Here to View
#2Legal LiabilitiesTap Here to View
#3Major Medical EmergenciesTap Here to View
#4Motivation & LearningTap Here to View
#5Player Learning StylesTap Here to View
#6Motor Skill LearningTap Here to View
#7Game of HabitsTap Here to View
#8Changing Bad Habits8/18/2020
#9Goal Setting & Season Review8/25/2020


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