In Part I, I discussed my ideas for building a formal and organized off-season skills training program. For our program to take the next step, especially from an offensive perspective, we need to work on the essential skills of shooting, passing, and ball handling. I, also, outlined our offensive philosophy and the importance of developing a skills training program that reflects the ideal athlete in our program. In this part, I want to develop the idea of our ideal program athlete and discuss drill philosophy as it relates to our off-season skill development program.
If you had the ability to clone an ideal athlete for your program and philosophy who would that athlete be? As a proponent of positionless basketball, I would clone Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis, for one, is super athletic with natural length. That type of athlete would be utilized well in our up-tempo attacking offense and full court man to man run and jump defense. My team of Giannis would be able to guard all 5 positions. Unfortunately, our skills training program will not be able genetically to modify our players to be bigger, faster, and stronger. I don’t even think our strength and conditioning program would be able to create a team of Giannis.
I do believe, though, that we can look at our ideal program athlete to understand the areas and skills that we want to improve in our athletes. From an athletic standpoint, we want to build quickness, agility, and explosion. From a basketball skills point of view, we want positionless players that can guard anyone. We want our players to be able to handle the ball and make plays for teammates. We want our players to stretch the floor with the three-point shot and attack the basket with strength and determination. Understanding our ideal program athlete provides a template for the skills we want to build in our skills training program.
Since visualizing the ideal program athlete I have been busy muddling through the endless black hole of training drills found in publication and the internet. I often wonder about the development of drills. What was the creator’s purpose? For instance, I do not understand three-man weave. I mean I get it that it develops passing, catching, movement, teamwork, etc., but I don’t understand its application to competition. In our society, today time is a serious limitation. Our athletes are involved in other sports, organizations, and hobbies. Anytime I present off-season skill training I get a look of dread. A look of, “I do not have time for that.” Our skills training needs to be efficient. I’m looking at three sessions a week, with each session at or under one hour. I need drills that improve skill in game-like situations.
In other words, I want drills that mimic game situations. So within the shooting, passing, and ball handling framework players need to shoot, pass, and handling the ball like they need to in a game. I’ve seen some great standstill ball handlers that could never get on the floor because standstill ball handling occurs very little in the game. Being able to “spider” dribble in one spot is cool, but I see little application for handling in pressure. In searching for and developing skills training drills, I’m looking for drills that require game like movement. I’ve included a few drills that I like for our philosophy that mimic game-like situations.
Since we really focus on getting to the paint, we want our players to be able to finish at the rim. In our skills training, we want to improve our individual player primary moves and finishing. We use a series of live ball and off the catch primary move attacks and a series of finishes. We like to use football and kick-boxing pads to make contact and have our players initiate contact to simulate game situations. In our finishing drills, players follow the leader and primary attack from different locations to attack the rim. We like to have a coach with a pad on the perimeter and a coach with a pad at the basket. Sometimes we may just move a chair around the perimeter to simulate a defender. We start with a specific primary move and a specific finish. We like all the players to dribble continuously during the drill, working on double moves (crossover to behind the back, etc.)
Live ball passing drills are very similar to the live ball finishing drills. In girls basketball being able to pass off the dribble is a big advantage. It is not a common skill and in our offense it is a necessity and a skill that must be drilled. There are a couple variations of the drill. We can have the players pass to a player to catch and shoot combining shooting with the passing drill. I like to set up a chair or stand up a boxing pad for students to pass at. Doing this gives the players a smaller target and makes them focus on the accuracy of their passes off the dribble. The passers could also pass to a coach and then cut out to the perimeter for a catch and shoot. The players then continue the live ball dribbling to the end of the line. The three passes off the dribble in our offense that we need to work on is hitting the corner drift, the corner lift, and post opposite. We use both the lob and the bounce pass on hitting post opposite.
Similar to the live ball situations we can use the same style of drills mimicking ball screens and off the catch offense, continuing to work on primary moves, finishing, and passing. Using the pads adds a physicality to the drills making players learn to play through contact and use their lower and upper body (specifically hips and shoulders) to shield the defense. It is hopeful that the drills will better prepare the players for real game situations given our offensive philosophy. In Part III I will look specifically at catch and shoot drills related to our offensive philosophy.