Mansfield High School coach Michael Vaughan refrains from correcting a player’s form from the time they are a sophomore until they graduate. Coach Vaughan believes that if players are serious about fixing their shot, they will approach him. When they do, he reminds them that in order to really fix the shot a conversation is just the beginning. That player needs to repeat the correct act 10,000 times. Most players will not bat an eyelash at this demand. That is because they are clueless as to the amount of physical and mental effort involved in undoing a bad habit. Even the best advice is wasted because players revert back to their old form without the monotony of the reps.
Two Basic Shooting Demands
What Coach Vaughan did say as constructive advice for shooters was really simple. And at the same time extraordinarily helpful for me who never considered these two points. First, players should focus on putting the ball in a straight line. Second, players should shoot it high in the air.
The second point was especially helpful for me as Coach Vaughan elaborated on this common error. He used the analogy of players shooting like they were playing darts. They see the target, so they just fire the ball at the target. The probability of making a shot with the dart mechanics is almost zero. He will suggest to players to get the arch higher. And when the player takes the next shot, he usually remains unsatisfied with the arch. Initially players might need to exaggerate the amount of arch required. The way Coach Vaughan put it was that players were making one percent changes. Demand six percent changes in terms of the arch they put on the shot.
Shooting Cannot Get Monotonous
Very often players will go into funks. It could be in a game or in practice, but without watching the players shoot coaches can tell. The body language tells the whole story. When it happens in practice, Coach Vaughan will tell a player to slow down. The coaches in Mansfield preach making the next shot perfect especially after a player misses three or more in a row. They want the players to get a great follow through as well as shooting the ball high and straight.
Coach Vaughan said that whether it is December or March, players will retreat to the lowest level of perceived effort required for the task. The job of a coach is to hold the bar high and keep it high all season. Do not let the players waste a shot no matter how many they have already taken that day or what their attitude happens to be in that moment.
Coaches Are Not Responsible for Confidence
The final anecdote Coach Vaughan shared with me is that coaches are not responsible for the confidence level of the players. He used a couple of examples to illustrate this point.
Take a player that fills up the stat sheet. He does not commit a turnover and the team wins. What the coach says to the player is not going to impact the player’s psyche in such a condition. Then take the reverse case. A player goes 0 for 9 with 7 turnovers. It does not matter how positive the coach is. They know when they play awful.
Confidence lies in the results of player performance. Struggling is normal over the course of any season or any long-term endeavor in life. When a person expresses that their confidence is low, is that effectively getting them out of the funk? I doubt it. There are other solutions. Coach Vaughan suggests that the player needs to change habits, effort, or even to reflect on their role. Sometimes players just need to know that they are the eighth best player on the team – not the best.