The Director of Hoop Consultants Mike Procopio came on a Fireside chat this week to discuss footwork. Footwork is basketball’s version of financial literacy. Most kids are deprived any education on the subject in favor of skills that are never used. The few kids that do get educated on the subject end up buying the foreclosed houses of those that tend to take off balanced shots and get called for traveling.
Here are 15 takeaways from Procopio’s presentation and the Question & Answer session he delivered for us.
1. Have a Plan.
Most players do not have a plan with their footwork. If they have a plan it is pre-determined and with no regard to how the defense is playing them. Kobe did not pre-determine anything. He read defenders and reacted. For all footwork advice, Procopio told us the level of the player does not matter. These skills – including the ability to read a defender – need to be taught to amateurs and professionals.
2. Mike Procopio digs the 1-2 Step.
Procopio is a huge fan of the 1-2 step. If you are a righty, land on your left and then your right. Vice-versa for lefties. That way your dominant foot is free. The exceptions to this rule are coming off of pin downs or catches in the post.
3. Reduce “Pivot Foot” Language.
Mike Procopio did not use the term “pivot foot.” He used the language “right foot down” or “right foot free” to describe which foot players jabbed with and pivoted on. Procopio did not emphasize terminology, but as a learner I think this is easier. As a coach with a math background, coaches need to start following this example. In my opinion every player on a youth team is taking a guess as to which foot needs to stay on the ground when coaches say make the left foot the pivot foot. It is not much better on a high school team.
4. Ball and Moving Foot.
As a result of working with Tim Grover, Procopio had opportunities to consult Michael Jordan during his career. Defenders are trained to follow only two things. The ball and the moving foot. MJ told Procopio by putting the ball and the moving foot on opposite sides, the defender must make a choice.
5. Free Foot and Dominant Hand Are the Same.
If players are triple threat, the free foot needs to be the same as the dominant hand. Players need to learn to keep the dominant foot free and lock the non-dominant foot down. Watch the NBA players – that is all they ever do. Kobe Bryant used to tell Procopio “show me the film.” If a player or coach disputes this with you, invite them to show you the film of the best in the world jabbing with their weak foot. It simply does not exist.
6. After the drive, survive.
When players use up their dribble, what foot they pivot on does not matter. For instance, if a player takes two dribbles and jump stops on the block. The footwork decision is simply to put yourself in the best position to make the optimal pass or shot.
7. Pull-up shots require consistent footwork.
It does not matter what combination of moves precedes a pull-up shot. If the footwork is never taught, players are missing opportunities. When players drive right, the footwork needs to end with left then right. If players crossover to the left, the footwork needs to end with right, left.
8. Pick a player in the NBA and you’ll find great footwork.
Looking for a model for teaching footwork? As mentioned above, MJ is always a good model. Kobe Bryant is not bad either. Mike Procopio would know given that he was Kobe’s personal video coach for four years. Interestingly, Procopio told us Paul Pierce is the best he has seen when it comes to footwork.
9. Watch Procopio breakdown Pierce’s footwork in detail. Pierce is fun to watch because he often played on the perimeter and his quickness was nowhere near elite. He established a Hall of Fame career on incredible footwork.
10. Provide immediate feedback.
Twice or three times per game a player on our high school team is called for a travel on the transfer from triple threat to the first dribble. The front foot and back foot move in opposite directions simultaneously. Mike Procopio and many other basketball coaches refer to it as “splitting the feet.” There are ways to drill this problem out of players a little. Merrimack College women did grade school pivot drills. Drills are never going to conquer the habits though. To really have a measurable impact though you must catch players in the act in small-sided games and call them on it immediately.
11. Hold yourself to realistic expectations.
Procopio’s last nugget of advice was helpful. “As a coach, the goal is to take a player that is the eleventh best player and give them the skill to become the eighth best player.”
12. Coaches observe.
If you as coach can avoid being a passer in small-sided games and drills, then do it. Procopio argues that you lose focus because of your role in the drill. As a result, you miss opportunities to scrutinize footwork and provide feedback.
13. Head to the library.
I added SprawlBall by Kirk Goldsberry to my reading list. Procopio recommended it for analytics junkies.
14. Good footwork transfers to free throws.
If you take the top 20 scorers in the NBA, 20% of their points come on free throws. Players are seeking contact when they beat their man on straight line drives. Every team has a leading scorer. To what degree are coaches enforcing the idea of getting points off contact?
15. Teach footwork players will use.
Another number statement from Procopio: 95% of what you do in the summer is what you use 1% of the time in the games. In the NBA about 20 percent of players are getting 10 or more shots per game. Personally, I would not waste my time teaching low volume shooters spin moves and step backs. Coaches need to convince players what their role is first. Then, the players need to accept their role and dominate that role.