I had a workout the other day with a pretty talented player who is lucky enough to get lots of high quality coaching. He told me that he is confused about his footwork and asked me what he should about it. He said that he prefers to catch the ball with a hop on the perimeter but that one of his coaches insists that he uses a stride stop when he catches the ball. I had a few alarm bells go off in my head and my first thought was that coaches must stop confusing players!
What do I mean by that? Well for starters if a coach insists on forcing their players to do things one particular way I just shake my head. That is assuming that they are 100% certain that what they are teaching is the only or best way to teach a particular skill. That to me makes zero sense as there are always multiple ways to teach a skill with good results.
Let’s look at catching the ball on the perimeter as an example for this article.
Here are some ways you could catch the ball on the perimeter:
- inside pivot (most commonly taught way)
- hop catch (what I teach and made popular in New Zealand by Ollie Dudfield)
- reverse pivot (made popular by Tab Baldwin in New Zealand)
- permanent pivot foot (some Pro players use this method)
I am not going over all the pros and cons of either one here, but a good coach would hopefully agree that any one of them has got advantages. The question is which one should you teach?
I think the crucial part for every coach is to work out your own methodology so when you teach it to your players you can back it up with sound reason. I have taught all four ways over the years and have settled on the hop catch for the following reasons:
- allows you to chose your pivot foot
- is the quickest way to get your shot off (I measured the shot release speed of different catches)
- helps create rhythm on your shot
- makes you less predictable
I spend a lot of time watching shooters shoot and I also think about where the game is going in the future and the way I look at is that shooting is going to be more and more important. You look at the increase of 3 point field goal attempts and you can clearly see the direction the game is going in.
The flip side of that is that teams will work harder on defense to take away outside shots and force teams to go inside the 3 point line. My thinking is that to help players be relevant in 5-10 years time I must ensure that they have a really quick release so they can get rid of the ball before the defense can force them to put the ball on the floor or make a pass.
To achieve that goal I think the hop catch is the best option on the perimeter.
However, I always point out that players should be open minded as none of the other options are wrong at all. For example the inside pivot is good as it allows for more balance compared to the hop and the momentum is going to the basket, forcing the defense to retreat straight away. The reverse pivot on the other hand is good as it creates more distance between you and the defender, while the permanent pivot allows for less variation in footwork.
Going back to the example of the confused player I worked with the first thing I told him is that there is no right or wrong way of doing this and that he has to make sure he keeps an open mind.
A player should always follow the coaches instructions to the best of their ability. If one coach teaches one way, work on that technique and if someone else teaches something slightly different work on that as well. A good player will work out over time which technique works best for him and start to drift towards using that predominantly.
The danger is when a coach tells a player that his/her way is the only way. That is confusing to players as that assumes that what he is learning somewhere else is wrong. I think just teaching something a certain way because that is what we were taught or because that is what you did when you played is lazy. Lazy because you are not thinking about the game enough and how the game is changing and you are doing your players a disservice.
Good coaches promote critical thinking in their players so they can make an informed decision and work out what works for them.
We must stop confusing players by using terms such as right or wrong or “only way”.
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