Executing Proper Footwork around the Basket

I played volleyball today. It is easy to tell the volleyball players from the basketball players who play volleyball by watching people’s approach to hit. Most right-handed basketball players primarily stop with a left-right stop; however, a right-handed outside hitter stops right-left on his approach to hit a volleyball. When basketball players play volleyball, this left-right habit carries over and often makes guys who should be outstanding hitters average because they hit with their arm and not with their entire body working together as one unit.

Ironically, the only time basketball players appear to stop right-left naturally is when they approach to dunk. [Edit: New dunks] Here is former volleyball player turned NBA Dunk Contest participant Chase Budinger. The approach is the same approach as a right-handed outside hitter.

Now, when I initially instruct players to stop right-left on a lay-up attempt, they have all kinds of difficulty because they have been trained and practiced the left-right stop for so long. They struggle to change their footwork.

This is where conscious thinking and cognitive effort affect skill development. In a game environment, one does not want to think consciously about his actions. It takes too long. However, when re-learning a skill, the player must invest cognitive effort to overwrite his learned behavior.

Now, why would a player want to stop outside foot-inside foot? First, it sets up “The Rondo.”

Second, an outside-in stop keeps the shoulders parallel to the baseline, not the basket, allowing the player to protect the ball from the defender better. It is the same reason that a right-handed outside hitter stops with his left foot forward, so he can use the force from his rotating torso to power his swing, rather than relying solely on his arm (it’s also the basic throwing motion to step with your contralateral foot).

From a young age, we should teach players to use both feet just as we teach them to use both hands. The ambidexterity of the feet is overlooked in development, but in many ways, it complements the ambidexterity of the hands. Players who can stop on either foot have an advantage over other players and are more difficult to guard, just like players who can use either hand.

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