Yesterday was day one of a basketball clinic for K-3 graders I’m helping coach at our school. We had five coaches working with about twenty kids, and I spent most of the time working with the second and third grade boys (so we were able to breeze through many of the super basics and get right into skill development games and drills).
One of the skills we worked on was of course the basic Layup. As coaches, we saw lots of things to work on while doing this drill.
They wanted to run through the drill. They wanted to shoot quickly. They wanted to stop and shoot. They forgot to dribble in. Forgot to look before shooting. They wanted to go off the wrong foot.
All things to be expected - especially with kids so young and new to the world of basketball.
The problem is, as a parent or a coach, what do you pick to focus on first?
You can’t simply throw all the information about what they need to fix at the kids at once - they won’t understand it (and in fact you’ll just frustrate and confuse them more, potentially driving them away from the sport before they even get started).
You have to try and pick one main thing, focus on it, and try to make it fun to learn and work on.
The thing I picked, and the thing that I think helps address most of the problems all at once, was pace.
Especially since they are *just* starting out, I wanted the kids to slow down on everything they were doing…give themselves time to think, act, react, and just absorb the flow…but, at the same time, not to stop. Not to over think, or worry too much.
So I had them focus on trying to dribble in with their head up, to look at the box before they shot, and then to try and lift the proper leg and hand for the shot. I told them to dribble slowly, but not to stop at all through the process…and we positioned ourselves as coaches in spots that allowed them to just dribble in front of us so that they were on the right path and in the right spot as they took the shot.
Of course it wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty cool to see such young kids…some that were touching a basketball for the first times in their lives…doing a two line layup drill in a deliberate and controlled pace (and actually making a lot of the shots!).
We only did the drill for maybe 10 or 15 minutes before we moved on to a passing game and other drills…but I was really pleased with the kids ability to adopt a deliberate pace.
And, like so much of sports, I think it really applies to so much more than just one skill, one sport, or one game. It’s a tool for all of life.
Sometimes speed really will matter…but more often than not, it’s deliberate pace that is more important. It’s with deliberate pace that you really learn…where you establish habits and evolve your skills.
Will one ten or fifteen minute layup drill teach them this? Will they adopt it across their lives? No - of course not. But it’s a start…the seed is planted. Now it’s up to us coaches to feed and nurture that seed so that it at least has a *chance* to grow and thrive.
NOTE: This practice was also the first, real practice, that we are ‘dog fooding’ Coach Wizard with. So it held a special place in my heart on many many levels. Early feedback was beyond positive!
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Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.
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