Shooting over Dribbling by Clay Kallam
As the (overlong) summer season winds down, families often turn to local trainers to hone the skills of their daughters … but just because someone calls himself a trainer, and runs big camps, doesn’t mean he’s going to really help a girl get significantly better. Or, to put it another way, her improvement a) might also happen if she just goes to the park and plays pickup; and/or b) isn’t nearly enough to justify the time and expense.
So first, families should think about specifically what skills they want their daughter to acquire, and then ask for a specific plan on how that might happen. By far the most important skill in the game is shooting, and shooting is best taught by repetition of correct form under close supervision. (This, by the way, is pretty boring for all concerned, which is why you don’t see it that much.) The next most important skill is either rebounding or defense, neither of which can be learned in a player-to- trainer setting. Both require some basic drills and then repetition under close supervision in three-on-three, four-on-four or full-court games.
But the default for trainers is ball handling, which though necessary, is way down on the list of mission- critical skills, especially since only a few players will really ever need to show off those And-1 moves in a
game. But some ball handling is worthwhile, granted, though any trainer who spends more than 10% of the time on ball handling is like a teacher spending more than 10% of her time on a detailed analysis of subjunctive clauses when, what the student really needs to do is to learn how to write a coherent essay.
So this week’s Three Points:
1) Conditioning. If a trainer promises that your daughter will get a serious workout, seriously consider leaving right away. You don’t need to pay someone $50 or $75 an hour to get your daughter to break a sweat; Dad can do that down at the local high school by having her run sprints in the August twilight.
In fact, getting a kid tired is only going to stand in the way of acquiring new physical skills. (Sure, running them a little to make sure they’ll pay attention makes sense, but the object isn’t to get a girl in shape – it’s to improve her basketball.) A young player needs to be able to focus on what’s being taught, and transfer verbal and visual instruction into precise physical activity, and being so exhausted you can barely breathe is hardly going to further that process.
And doing all of this in a hot gym while drenched in sweat is even more pointless. If you want your daughter to work out, go to 24-Hour Fitness and hire a trainer. If you want her to get better at basketball, hire someone who can teach her to shoot, defend and rebound at a higher level.
2) Dribbling two basketballs. Quick question: How many times are there two basketballs on the court at the same time?
So what is the value in being able to dribble two balls at once? Well, actually the value is that it kills some time or the trainer, which I happen to have done more than a few times in group and individual sessions. Kids get bored if you focus on shooting form for 45 minutes (which is of course what they really need), and bored kids don’t come back to camp, sign up for more sessions or generate positive word-of- mouth for future income sources.
OK, dribbling two balls helps with overall coordination, and that’s great, but so does juggling tennis balls at home, which is a whole lot cheaper. Yes, it is important to be able to handle with both the left and right hands, but in basketball – the sport we’re talking about – you only do so one hand at a time. Being able to handle competently with each hand is crucial, no doubt, but learn to do so one hand at a time. The two-ball drills have zero relevance to basketball …
And don’t even get me started adding a tennis ball. I will grant you that being able to dribble while looking at something else is a valuable skill, but you want to be looking at basketball situations (who’s open, where’s the double coming from), not whether somebody hit a tennis ball onto the court during a game.
3) Dribbling while sitting down. If you see this drill, quietly slip out of the gym and move along. Nothing to see here…
The first among many reasons: If you’re sitting down on the court during a game, you’ve got more serious things to worry about than figuring out how to dribble.