In a recent issue of Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletters, I wrote about an off-season workout where the strength & conditioning coach allowed players to work with poor movement habits when changing directions.
In the first video (not the same team that I witnessed), after the first vertical jump, you can get an idea of my point:
While I do not doubt that the players are working hard, when they change directions, most of them stand straight up. From experience, they start to slow down around the free throw line, meaning that they slow down over a period of almost 15-feet for a 47-foot run (half-court). That means that they slow down for nearly a third of the run!
In a game, can you play successfully if it takes you that long to slow down and change directions?
This video shows the change of direction a little more clearly. However, is that game speed? Is that change of direction applicable? This is the beginning portion of a standard Beep Test, so the players are warming up and eventually will increase speed. However, will they be able to stop in the same manner while running and changing directions at full speed?
According to Vern Gambetta, basketball players average a change of direction every two seconds. Some of these occur at less than full speed, like those in the videos above. However, there are times when players must change directions at full speed. Imagine an offensive team sprinting in transition when the defense steals the ball. The offensive players must change directions and sprint back on defense as fast as possible to prevent a lay-up. Do the offensive players have time to change directions gradually as in the video above or do they need to change directions as quickly as possible?
Most importantly, why not practice the change of directions as part of the conditioning routine?
Teaching a hockey stop improves acceleration and deceleration in the conditioning drills, which translates to improved performance on the hardwood. Otherwise, what are you conditioning? If players make slow transitions in all the fitness drills, are they prepared for the on-court work when they are expected to change directions quickly?