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Teaching Basketball Skills and Plays the Right Way

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It's often been said that basketball is the most over coached and under taught sport on the planet. In order to help change that, here are six progressive steps that can be used to teach any offensive skill, play, or offense.

The first step is to simply introduce the particular skill or play in order to demonstrate all the movements, positioning, and timing involved. Help the players begin with the end in mind by having a coach (if he is capable) or a more experienced player demonstrate the skill correctly.

When demonstrating a play or an entire offense use a group of the most experienced players available. If that's not a viable option then find a video clip that clearly shows exactly what you are trying to teach and accomplish. It is vital that your players can forma mental picture of the skill/play being executed perfectly.

Once your players have the seen the skill performed perfectly and have formed a proper mental picture, then it's time for them to start executing it. Start as slow as necessary to ensure that all players have the opportunity to master the required techniques and mechanics before moving on to the next step. Pay close attention to their footwork as that is often the determining factor in a skill's success.

Knowing what a skill or play should look like and the mastering of the necessary techniques involved are generally useless unless the players can execute everything at game speed. At this third stage of the teaching/learning process the goal should be to execute quicker and quicker. The best way to accomplish this is usually through the use of highly specific and well designed breakdown drills.

These drills need to be simple enough to eliminate as much "thinking" as possible. As Jerry Tarkanian used to say "The more they think the slower they get." Being able to execute quickly without making excessive mistakes is what often separates the good from the great.

Now if you are teaching an individual skill the fourth step is simply repetition, repetition, and repetition. However, if you are teaching a play or offense, the next step in the program is a little more involved. This is the time where two or more parts of a play or offense should be combined with the addition of more teammates.

This combination requires both mental and physical quickness along with teamwork in order to be successful. An example of this step would be adding the "picker" when teaching the pick and roll instead of just driving around a stationary cone. Now the driver has to wait for the pick, keep his shoulders lower, be able to pass to a moving target, etc.

The fifth step is where most of the "fun" starts because defense is added to the mix. Since this step does seem more fun to players and coaches alike, many mistakenly skip the first four steps and go directly to this one. However, without the foundation provided in the preceding steps, the fifth step becomes just "playing' and not a vehicle to improve. Obviously the goal in this step is to quickly execute all the individual parts of the process while correctly reading the reactions of the defense.

The sixth and final step of the teaching progression is to incorporate the newly learned skill, play, or offense into actual game situations. Of course this is best accomplished in five on five scenarios where everything is as game like as possible.

It's important to note that this step cannot be overlooked or taken for granted. We all know players who look great in breakdown drills but who have trouble carrying those same skills and actions over into game competition. Anytime this type of game slippage is experienced, it might be wise to go back to step four again.

Even after you have progressed through all six steps don't hesitate to periodically go back and review. Regardless of the skill level involved all players can always execute just a little better and a little quicker.

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