What do I do in a first workout with a new player?

What do I do in a first workout with a new player?

I LOVE first workouts.

Personally, they are so fun because of the challenge they represent.

I need to quickly determine what might be the root cause of a players struggles, figure out how to explain it to them, then begin to layer drills to isolate a new habit and help the players apply that habit.

There are so many little, amazing moments that occur in a first workout.  Each players first workout will be a different than another player, but the general concepts will be the same.  That is what I want you to get a feel for here.

I start by encouraging the player just to shoot around.  I want to see what their habits look like, and try to figure out how to help them. I talk to the player, and I talk to the parent or other coaches if they are there.  Everyone will have an idea, and I want to gather as much of the ideas as possible since they have seen the player a lot more than I have.  

But I trust what I see.  

I don’t have players move around or get too dynamic at this point.  I want to see what they do in relatively simple environments.

Start by watching current habits


Once I’ve watched the players for about 5min I’ll usually have a pretty good idea of what I want to work on.  

In a lot of cases (in fact, a HUGE majority of cases), one of the major issues will come from a position at the set point.  With this particular player, his fingers were out of alignment at the set point and he would end up snapping his wrist across the ball.

My goal now becomes to help the player identify his flaw, and learn to feel what the correction feels like.  I’ll be very hands on with a player at this point, making small adjustments to get them to find a better position.

Add variability

Once the player is showing signs of being able to find a better position, whatever part of the body it occurs in, my job is to search for the appropriate level of challenge for their new ability.  Since the habit is new, that level of challenge might be fairly low, but I do want to start to introduce some variability.

Even if it is just a slightly different spot on the floor, or a slight change in distance, I want to avoid trying to repeat exactly the same motion in exactly the same situation.  I want to try to train a small amount of adaptability.  One of the ways I’ll do this is to introduce simple movements.  Just one step in a variety of different directions.

All the while, I’m focussed on accountability to the new habit.  If the player isn’t getting into the better position, then the challenge is too great and I need to simply the situation.

Add DEcisions

Then I will begin to challenge the player to remember the micro-skill that we are working to improve while making decisions.  Too many players a told to repeat the same motor pattern over and over and over, with no thought or decisions being made.  Then they get into a game and can’t read the cues of the game AND execute the micro-skill because they never practiced that way.

In this drill I’m having a player do a version of form shooting while reading the defenders feet.

Add Defenders

In this series, I start to introduce simple variability into form shooting.  

I do want to give them a lot of time to focus on the details we are working on, but avoid the cookie cutter form shooting.  On the first couple of shots, the player is letting the ball bounce as many times as they like, then snatching it away and getting into a shooting position.  As the defender, I’m trying to knock the ball away, but I’m not allowed to touch the ball first.  

Then we move into mirroring.  The shooter must follow my body movements, and react to the pass, while remembering the new micro-skills. 

Play with the layers

Then I start to put layers together.  The player must mirror my movements, then react to my foot position and make a read.

Remember, we are not just shooting it and risking repeating the players current habit.  We are using challenging situations to force a player to remember to execute NEW habits. 

In the last rep, I layer in a boxing series that I use as well.  I put my hand up and the player must upper-cut (head fake) the ball into my hand before reloading and shooting.

Play with layers to find the appropriate level of challenge for the players new habits.  Not so hard that they can’t do it, and not so easy that it won’t apply to a game.

With every workout after the first, I continue to try to build towards game situations.

This is the process that I follow with my ONLINE WORKOUT PROGRAMS designed to help players and coaches all over the world improve their BALANCE, ARC, and GUIDE HAND/RELEASE.  Those programs are the same as taking 7 private lessons with me to improve a very specific habit.  All in video format, with all the same drills I use with my NBA clients.

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