Player’s Skill Development

We believe great coaches focus on three different basketball elements in practice. Recently we took a look on scheming (plays and sets) and motivating players. Today we want to focus on the least practiced and mentioned component–skill development.

When talking with coaches we are always amazed at how little time in a practice is devoted to improving player’s skills. We believe skill development is probably the most important basketball component and yet, there are coaches that rarely touch on the subject in practice.

How can your player’s improve their skills if they don’t practice these skills. They can’t.

There is a big belief in high school and collegiate basketball that skills are not important or are overrated. That “my team can win on our plays alone.” Once again, this goes right back to the coach that over schemes and probably has 100+ plays in his/her arsenal. Here’s what makes little sense–If you set up plays to get wide open shots (which is a good thing) and you can’t knock down the shots, what difference does it really matter?

Coaches that don’t believe in skill development are usually in love with athletes. Their belief is “get me five athletes and I can win a championship.” Recently we did a survey directed at high school and college basketball coaches and the question was: Would you rather have a player with great skills (including understanding the game) or would you rather have a player with great athleticism? Here were the findings:
HIGH SCHOOL COACHES: Athletes 72% Skills 28%
COLLEGE COACHES: Athletes 45% Skills 55%

At Pro Shot, we will take the skilled player over the athlete any day of the week. Now, we know what you are thinking: “I want both” and who doesn’t? Kobe Bryant is both skilled and a great athlete. So is Maya Moore. But if you had a choice, what would you chose? Skilled athletes can shoot the ball, put it on the floor, understand the game, create, and make good decisions.

So why do so many coaches choose the athlete over the skilled player? Because they have had more athletes in their coaching career and fewer skilled players. Coaches generally choose what they know.

Today really starts March Madness. Unfortunately, the college game is in a decline especially at the mens level. It is hard to watch a D-1 mens game these days because the offensive scores and shooting percentages are so low. You know its bad when one of the main proponents of college basketball, Jay Bilas comes out and says, “College basketball is becoming unwatchable.” It is hard to watch collegiate games with scores in the 40’s and 50’s.

Why is college basketball scoring on a decline? We believe it really starts with focusing too much on athletes and not enough on the recruitment of skilled players. Coaches want the 6-3 athletic point guard now. In a way, everyone wants Russell Westbrook. The point guard that is athletic and will dunk in your face. No one wants the Bobby Hurley, John Stockton, Mark Price any more.

We have a few high school seniors that are skilled that we are trying to get them recruited. They are gym rats, good students and can pass, shoot and dribble. They understand the game. One player shot 50/60/90 this year and led his state in three pointers made. When we approach D-1 and D-2 college coaches they ask first, “Are they athletic.” They never mention the skill level.

Athletes can defend, but they struggle with scoring AND that is the large reason why the NCAA scores are low. If you are going to recruit only athletes, the college practices then need to be 60%+ dedicated to skill development.

If your scores were in the 40’s and 50’s this year, you might want to focus more time on skill development.

We realize that there are some coaches that believe they don’t have time for skill development. Their belief is that the player must spend time outside of practice. Do you really believe this will happen? If you believe this, I have some swamp land to sell you. The majority of your player’s skill work is going to take place in your practice time (especially during the season).

If you ignore skill development, then chances are your team will lack skills. If you lack skills, you will score less points. Less points and your team will have less chance of winning. Pretty simple math.