Hard 2 Guard Player Development Newsletter
Practice in Proportion to your Aspirations.
In this Week’s Newsletter…
- A Quick Word: Fake Fundamentals
- Sight or Sound?
- Russell Westbrook’s vs. Derrick Rose’s Finishing
A Quick Word
The term “fundamental” is used frequently to describe different camps, programs, coaches are teaching methodologies. In many of these cases, these use “fake fundamentals” because they pass the look test, but they have little to do with the game.
The step-slide is a fake fundamental. For example, I attended a camp where we sat in a defensive stance and did slow-motion step-slides for 30-minutes. There was the belief that this camp was superior to others because of these stations and this teaching. For parents, these drills look important. They look hard. They look like they teach an important skill in basketball.
Unfortunately, while the step-slide looks like a fundamental skill, it is more like the bastardized version of an important fundamental. Players simply do not move that way, and teaching that method and insisting on its use makes players slower, regardless of what a famous coach says. Time spent on step-slides is wasted time regardless of how fundamental is looks.
There are other drills which I term fake fundamentals or time wasters. Some people like these drills and have a purpose for them. However, when practicing a fundamental skill, we need to be aware of the task constraints for the skill. If the constraints in practice are not the same as those in a game, we risk negative transfer.
“Negative transfer occurs when previous experience hinders or interferes with performance of a skill in a new context or the learning of a new skill,” (Magill, 2011).
The step-slide has a negative transfer effect on learning more appropriate defensive footwork. Other drills that ignore the game’s task constraints can have the same effect. often, these issues occur when we try to practice a skill in isolation or in slow motion, as the speed of movement changes the technique, sometimes significantly.
A college coach, for instance, spends considerable time and effort practicing stationary passing drills. What is the major task constraint for passing in the college game? Is it the proper technique of a chest pass? Doubtful. Instead, task constraints include the passer’s defender, the receiver’s defender, the speed of movement, the distance of the pass and more. The technique is almost incidental compared to the other constraints. If the passer is defended, a chest pass likely will not work anyway, so spending considerable time and effort on stationary passing drills may not cause a negative-transfer effect, but the drills are fake fundamentals. Practicing the passing drills in isolation does not lead to positive transfer or improved passing performance in games.
When designing true fundamental drills or practices, start with the task constraints. What parts of the skill cause the most mistakes? What is the best way to teach the skill in a way that enhances the players’ learning so that they can overcome these common errors?
Sight or Sound?
I read a fantastic article about Daniel Kish, a blind man who uses echolocation to get around as if he can see. Please read the article, as it is pretty phenomenal. From a basketball perspective, I continue to be drawn to the following:
There are two reasons echolocation works. The first is that our ears, conveniently, are located on both sides of our head. When there’s a noise off to one side, the sound reaches the closer ear about a millisecond — a thousandth of a second — before it reaches the farther ear. That’s enough of a gap for the auditory cortex of our brain to process the information. It’s rare that we turn the wrong way when someone calls our name. In fact, we’re able to process, with phenomenal accuracy, sounds just a few degrees off-center. Having two ears, like having two eyes, also gives us the auditory equivalent of depth perception. We hear in stereo 3-D. This allows us, using only our ears, to build a detailed map of our surroundings.
The second reason echolocation works is that humans, on average, have excellent hearing. We hear better than we see. Much better. On the light spectrum, human eyes can perceive only a small sliver of all the varieties of light — no ultraviolet, no infrared. Converting this to sound terminology, we can see less than one octave of frequency. We hear a range of 10 octaves.
We can also hear behind us; we can hear around corners. Sight can’t do this. Human hearing is so good that if you have decent hearing, you will never once in your life experience true silence. Even if you sit completely still in a soundproof room, you will detect the beating of your own heart.
When a player seemingly sees someone behind him and makes a remarkable pass, we use vocabulary related to sight. He has eyes in the back of his head or spectacular peripheral vision or the ability to see the play before it happens. Instead, maybe the player has an advanced sense of sound.
Rather than characterizing this as a visual skill, and therefore teaching players through our words that the skill is vision-dependent, we should characterize the skill as an auditory skill and emphasize learning to listen. Rather than rely strictly on one sense – vision – to gather information from one’s environment, learning to use multiple senses may enable players to have a better sense of the environment and make better, quicker decisions.
Russell Westbrook’s vs. Derrick Rose’s Finishing
During the play-offs, NBA analysts, fans and the media have praised Derrick Rose, while Russell Westbrook has received plenty of criticism. During the regular season, especially at the beginning of the season, the two players were compared favorably, and some suggested Westbrook was the better player or at least had the better start to the season.
Westbrook and Rose are scoring point guards who use quickness and athleticism to attack the rim; neither is a great outside shooter. The real difference, in my opinion, is that Rose is a better finisher in the half court.
During game 3, ESPN analyst Mark Jackson implored Westbrook to take an extra dribble before finishing. He even complimented him on getting to the rim with an extra dribble on one occasion – proving his point and making him look smart – even though the real difference was the lack of defensive rotation to contest the shot, not an extra dribble.
More important than the extra dribble is the way that he protects the ball. In the half court, both players tend to jump off two feet. However, they differ in the way that they collect themselves before the jump.
Rose, typically, gathers on two feet with an outside-inside stride stop: he turns his back or his inside shoulder toward the defender and keeps his body between the ball and the defender (ignore the travel and its discussion; best example that I found):
Westbrook generally gathers with an inside-outside stride stop: he opens his body to the defense and extends his arm away from his body so he is unable to protect the ball (finishes around :25 and :57):
The outside-inside stride stop makes for a stronger finish and enables Rose to take the hit and finish better than Westbrook. There are many other arguments surrounding these two players. However, beyond the better offensive system and ball movement with the Bulls, the biggest difference in terms of individual skill, to me, is Rose’s finishing which comes directly from the way that he gathers before his shot.