Last month I spoke with Coach Jon DeMarco about one to one individual basketball workouts. Coach DeMarco is a skills trainer and works with a diverse group of players from the collegiate level down to the youth level. He spoke on a variety of important aspects of one to one individual basketball workouts including expectations, getting player buy-in, and the structure of workouts.
Assess the Player First
Very often coaches go into a workout without knowing anything about the player. Even for coaches that are already familiar with the player they will be working with, it is necessary to view the player from an individual lens in addition to how that individual can optimally fit in the team structure.
Younger players need to prepare for boring workouts initially. A huge component of these workouts is developing a shot. Many young players form bad habits in their form to compensate for a lack of strength. Coach DeMarco uses a wall with these players at first in lieu of a hoop in order to keep the process of how to shoot as the central focus instead of the result of the shot.
Involve the Player from the Outset
The basketball trainer needs to consult the player before the first workout. What the player wants to get out of the individual workouts is essential to a successful experience. Players are often vague in what they desire, so try to get them to be as specific as possible. The more that the players use numbers to make it measurable and talk in specifics within the aspects of the game to hold them accountable, the better.
Coach DeMarco likes to ask players where they struggle to get them to buy into the individual workout. If a player is coming to the workout because a family member or coach pushed them into it, the result will only be a modest gain. If the player is there because he or she wants to improve, the player’s growth is accelerated. Once you both have a clear idea of what the player wants to improve, you can cater some or most of the workout toward those needs.
It may be beneficial before any work is done on a court to view film of the player if it exists. This will help a coach make a developmentally appropriate plan. From the player’s perspective, film never lies. Once again their buy in is likely to follow when they see evidence that a component in their game can be improved.
Common Needs: Weak Hand, Finishing, and Shooting
After getting a general overview of what the player wants and what the player looks like, it is time to develop a plan for the workouts. Regardless of the player, one on ones are generally built around developing skills off the dribble, at the rim, and as a shooter (off the dribble or catch and shoot).
Anyone who watches a game for ten minutes can spot a player that is resistant to driving or finishing with their weak hand. Not surprisingly, players tell Coach DeMarco they struggle with their weak hand when he asks where they can grow. To combat this challenge, Coach DeMarco keeps things pretty simple from a workout perspective.
One solution he uses is a two-ball dribble 150 sequence.
Since there are two balls, players might use a sequence of pounds, taps, in and outs, windshield wipers, in front and at the toes, and pistons. He also will take a fraction of a workout and prohibit players from using their weak hand. For instance in a one hour workout, there might be a full ten minutes in which players shoot lefty floaters, lefty lay-ups, lefty reverses, do lefty micans, etc. Sometimes he keeps the ten minute period structured. As players grow familiar with the expectations though he releases the control to them. Coach DeMarco learned from former NBA footwork guru Mike Procopio that it is ok to let the players experiment at times.
The ten minutes is compounded when players do it over the course of multiple workouts both with a coach and independently.
Structure of the Workout
Similar to a weight lifting workout, Coach DeMarco believes in players doing supersets. For instance, they might dribble with two balls for three to five minutes and then transition into some type of finishing move for five minutes. After that, players take a couple of free throws and then work on shooting off of a screening action. Then he will challenge them again with two-ball dribbling. Each segment offers the opportunity for making the moves a little more challenging or a little less challenging depending on the skill of the player. It is essential for him to be concise with each segment of time to keep players engaged and challenged.
The length of a workout really depends on the athlete. Coach DeMarco has run workouts for 30 minutes with high effectiveness. NBA trainer Drew Hanlon offers ideas that take players as little as five minutes. The workouts of course can and often do run longer if it is mutually agreeable. Personally, I like the idea of 30 to 45 minutes. Research shows that when people are engaged in deliberate practice anything beyond 45 minutes is counterproductive because we innately need to see positive results. Often players do not see positive results until well after the workout or several workouts.
Moves and Counter Moves
There are too many sequences of moves to teach players that you can adequately get players to practice in the span of one workout. Coach DeMarco focuses on one move and then a counter to that move. For instance, a player features an in and out dribble into a drive. From there, Coach DeMarco might have the player add a crossover into the sequence. Keep the number of targets small and build off the player’s base.
Progression in Teaching
Coach DeMarco teaches in three progressions. First, he has players do a move on air. He is looking for the player to do a move on their own without any defense. Players gain confidence to eventually try versus live competition when they can do it on their own. Of course, once the player is doing it against live competition, making a move on air is no longer necessary.
Coach DeMarco plays defense in the second progression. He might just be a glorified cone, but it gives the player a more realistic look.
In the third progression, he forces players to read and/or finish under challenging constraints. He might react in a way that forces them to go to their counter move or employ a football pad so that they finish through contact. In these instances, if you are training two or three players they can be employed as defenders as well.
Coach DeMarco told me of all the players that he works with the ones that grow the most are those that are intrinsically motivated. These are the players that are working on their weak hand or form shooting before the training session officially commences. These players ask unsolicited questions. They know exactly what they want at the beginning and end of the training sessions.
Inevitably players that do two workouts with a coach one on one are going to improve. The amount of growth that happens really depends on what the player does independently between these sessions. Most players intentions are great, but execution is another matter. Coach DeMarco reminds players that there are 10,080 minutes in a week. By giving only ten minutes per day, they still have over 10,000 minutes on their own. Players that are giving up time to work with a trainer need to work without a trainer too.
Some players skip the extra work. If necessary, Coach DeMarco reviews the schedule of a player in a given week. The amount of time that is thrown away to video games and social media is not immediately apparent to the player. They need to recognize the sacrifices that go into reaching your true potential.
Ending a 1 on 1 Individual Workout
Ask players what they want to accomplish next time and what they feel better about after that day’s workout. That way they leave with a positive and enter the next opportunity with an area of focus. As a coach, you can offer one or two tips to help them continue to improve these in areas independent of the workouts.
Jon DeMarco is the #GBetBBChat founder and very active on social media. You can follow him @Coach_DeMarco on Twitter. Coach DeMarco meets with coaches every Wednesday at 8 P.M. to uncover literally every topic you can think of in the game of basketball.