This is the most common question I get asked on social media… especially from young players.
“Coach, I can’t get (body part) to (description). What can I do?”
They will talk about how they can’t get their feet wide, or they can’t get their guide hand off the ball, or they can’t get their shooting hand elbow above their eyes.
The concerning part of this question isn’t the habit they believe they can’t form. The concerning part is how little they seem to understand how to build a new habit.
Let’s make sure we understand.
THE STARTING POINT
It’s great that a player has identified a weakness. The problem is that they think that identifying the weakness is all they need to do to fix the problem.
I’ll usually point out to players that they ARE in fact capable of getting their feet wider, guide hand off the ball, or elbow above their eyes.
I’ll ask them to just stand there with their feet wider, and say, “See, you can do that.” Or have them hold the ball at their set point with their guide hand off and point out “hmmm, looks like you are capable of that.”
SO WHAT REALLY IS THE PROBLEM?
The player will usually roll their eyes at me at this point and say “well, yeah, I mean I can do it, just not in games.”
I’ve pointed out something so obvious to them that they can’t even see it. The problem isn’t that they can’t get their feet wider, or guide hand off the ball, or elbow above their eyes.
The problem is they can’t do it in a game setting!
If I make the environment really simple (just stand here with your feet wider) they can execute a new habit. So the problem isn’t the habit, the problem is the environment.
They can get their feet wide enough when they can dedicate a lot of their mental energy to it, but not when they are distracted by the speed of a game and all the things they have to think about in that situation.
SIMPLIFY THE SITUATION
In order to help players improve, they first need to be in a situation where they can get comfortable with, and good at, the new position.
They need to experiment with really simple environments so that their brain can give enough attention to getting into different positions.
If they try to jump from the simple situation that they are starting to improve in, right to a game situation, there will be too big a jump and their body will go back to old habits. Without the time and experience, they won’t have the mental bandwidth to change the sequence the muscles fire in.
SEARCH FOR THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF CHALLENGE
Doing something in a simple situation will help you learn how to do it – in that simple situation. Now players need to learn to APPLY what they are learning.
With every drill I do I’m challenging players to APPLY the new habit into the most realistic situation they are capable of. That might not be a true game situation, it might be slower, or more deliberate, or segmented into chunks, but as soon as I see progress I’ll challenge them “Ok, now make it harder.”
I’ll challenge them to complicate the situation a small amount, make it more like a game, but still execute the new habit.
This process takes time, but it works if you give it time.
Sure, you can try to skip steps and just make the jump from an idea to game speed. If you could do that, it would be faster. BUT IT DOESN’T OFTEN WORK. And your time has been wasted.
Constantly be searching for the appropriate level of challenge for the new skill. Make the environment more challenging with the skill is improving, and dial it back slightly when having trouble applying.
This is exactly what I do with my ONLINE WORKOUT PROGRAMS to improve Balance, Guide Hand and Arc. I give drills to isolate a new habit, then layer drills to search for the appropriate challenge. As the skill improves, the challenge becomes more difficult.
I’ve had players all over the world use these programs at use this method to improve their results, and their own knowledge of their shot. Players that had been fighting for years to improve a habit, and making significant improvement in just a few weeks.
And coaches at purchasing the programs so they can use the progressions with their teams, and help dozens of players improve.
If you haven’t already, you should check out my ONLINE WORKOUT PROGRAMS.
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