Here’s a quote that I came across recently. It’s from Gray Cook (Gray Cook is practicing physical therapist and orthopedic certified specialist, and is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a kettlebell instructor. He is the founder of Functional Movement Systems, which promotes the concept of movement pattern screening and assessment. His work and ideas are at the forefront of fitness, conditioning, injury prevention and rehabilitation.)
It’s possible for an athlete to perform well even when poor form is used, but eventually the athlete will experience breakdown, inconsistency, fatigue, soreness and even injury. It should be the goal of the training program to create efficient movement in the activity. This will conserve energy, keep the athlete relaxed and allow the athlete to practice more and compete with less stress.
The problem is that poor form may be easier, more familiar and more comfortable and it may even seem to take less energy than proper form. Proper form, however, will take far less energy in the long run. Poor form, even if it leads to some initial success, will eventually rob the athlete and cost far more time and effort than what is required to fix the weak links. Poor form can incorporate less overall muscle activity and therefore seem easier, but don’t confuse this feeling with efficiency. Muscles are accustomed to generating the desired movement and maintaining optimal body position. To be efficient, the athlete must fulfill both criteria and then demonstrate the ability to reproduce the activity without a decline in quality. The athlete who understands this will be more efficient and will develop the muscles that were designed to perform the activity.
This led me to thinking about how we teach kids to shoot. Getting a player of any age to change the way they shoot can be one of the biggest challenges facing any coach (or parent).
Let’s look at some of the reasons why many kids develop poor shooting form to begin with and why the quote from Gray Cook is so applicable to this issue. Many kids first start to shoot the ball at a 10 foot basket. They are 5 years old, shooting at the same basket height as NBA players. In order to get the ball anywhere near the basket form must be sacrificed to achieve the desired result (the ball actually going in the basket!). The problem, of course, is those poor shooting mechanics stay with the player as they grow and develop. A shooting style with poor mechanics that worked at younger ages may not translate as a player moves through the levels of the game.
Once that poor shooting form is in place it becomes problematic to correct because fixing a player’s shooting mechanics requires one step back to move two steps forward. Players will experience a dip in immediate performance and that dip is often too difficult of an obstacle to overcome. It’s possible that a player with poor form IS having success at their current level of play. To convince them they should change is a challenge. It takes determination and grit to stay with a change in mechanics long enough for the new technique to replace the old. Not many young, casual players are willing to make the immediate sacrifice in exchange for improved long-term performance. However, what we need to keep in mind is that eventually the player will reach a level of play where the poor mechanics do not allow them to be effective and efficient as a shooter. If a player has dreams of playing the game at a high level (high school varsity basketball or above) then an investment of time and effort into improved shooting mechanics is critical to their success.
Being good at one level can often be the enemy of eventually being great. Although it may seem that a player can get away with having less than ideal form, in reality as Cook states, “but eventually the athlete will experience breakdown, inconsistency, fatigue, soreness and even injury.”
Here are 3 quick keys to improving your shooting mechanics.
1. Make a commitment to do what it takes to shoot the ball properly. Without a commitment to stick with it through the temporary dip in performance proper form will be difficult to achieve.
2. Making a change to your shot will take time, repetition, and an understanding that you will miss a lot of shots at first.
3. Start by shooting the ball at a wall or landing it on a line rather than shooting at the basket. The more reps the better! When you’re ready to shoot at the basket, stay close and use the proper form that you have started to develop when shooting at a wall. Thousands of shots will be needed to make the change stick, don’t get discouraged!
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