Does Form Shooting Belong in Practice?

One of my favorite takeaways from Coach Jon DeMarco is his take on developing a shot. His current pinned tweet emphasizes the importance of players developing a shot on their own. In an ideal situation, this is what players do. Many coaches are not so fortunate to have players that are committed to developing their shot in the off-season. Coach DeMarco related back to a situation he had early in his coaching tenure where he and his staff had to drill down form shooting in practice for extensive amounts of time.

Make it Measurable and Competitive

In order to help players buy in and communicate the goals of form shooting, Coach DeMarco had certain goals for players. They might have to make ten shots in a row from a certain spot or take 100 shots from the same spot. Initially trying to make the team a better free throw shooting or three-point shooting team was too daunting of a challenge. What the team needed at the time was basic reps of how to shoot.

With form shooting as a huge part of the equation, the players developed over the years. By his last season, the team shooting percentage from the foul line was over 70% and players were making them in critical moments. In my own experiences, my teams have historically been at 50% regardless of what I did. I like the idea of not letting players shoot too many free throws or threes if they are getting reps and instead focusing just on form shooting.

Shot Selection

We had a great discussion about shot selection in the game today. Analytics do not lie about the importance of scoring at the rim and from beyond the arch. Coach DeMarco is an advocate to develop those two shots. If a player is opting for a long open two over a three, the player needs to develop better court awareness. That said, he made an obvious counter-argument. Would you rather have a three-dimensional player or a two-dimensional player? The mid-range is still a big part of the game at every level. As offenses have become more sophisticated, so have defenses. Sometimes the best option is a mid-range shot.

The Mental Part of Shooting and the Game

By the nature of the pace involved in form shooting, players can learn to navigate the mental part of shooting. Very often, he would give direct feedback to players as they went through their shooting form routine. Today, as a trainer, it is critical for him to teach this skill.

When he was coaching at the high school level, he made the Saturday practice entirely about skill work. That meant players were developing, and he had to resist the temptation to game plan. Nutrition and hydration, film work, one to one conversations, weight lifting and of course skill development made these practices an extremely valuable part of their team’s development.

As time has gone on, Coach DeMarco has also realized the importance of rest in helping players be at their peak performance when it matters. Former Washington and current Arkansas Women’s Coach Mike Neighbors once used a one-practice week. Jay Wright believes a day of rest late in the year has greater pay offs than another practice (see takeaway #17). Toward the end of the season, Could DeMarco would make practice forty-five minutes shorter. Players give better focus mentally for the shorter duration of time and physically have more energy.

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