Coaching is Teaching - Part 03 - Teach ball-skills without a ball

Published: Fri, 10/30/15

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Coaching is Teaching - Part 3 - Teach ball-skills without a ball
It seems natural to teach a kid a skill by having them dive right into it, right? If you think about a basketball shot, there is very immediate feedback- if the ball goes through the basket, then my form must be perfect.  We know this is not true, though. To teach skills with proper form we must start with the elemental pieces, which involves body position and footwork.  So get rid of the ball and get the foundation right first.

'Begin lots of drills without a ball – teach them the footwork first, then add in a ball' – Dr. Michael Phillips, Professor of Exercise Science

'Use imagery when teaching a new skill. Have the child picture themself doing the new skill perfectly first, then have them go through the motion without a ball and picture success, then finally add the ball after the first two visualization steps.' – Dr. Lindsey Blom, Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology

'When teaching shooting form, line up in 2 player groups and have the players shoot the ball back and forth to each other without a basket.'– Keith Van Horn, 10 year NBA veteran

'When teaching a new skill try to find a way to make the focus the technique, not the result. So for basketball teach them against a wall to try to work on form and hit a crack on the wall.  Then add steps that eventually progress into actually shooting at the basket. This process builds their confidence and makes the focus perfecting their technique.' – James Leath, Sports Performance and Psychology Coach

'Don’t put young kids in front of a basket when you first start teaching them to shoot! They will immediately gauge their shooting form based on whether the ball goes in the basket or not – and if the ball is not going in – they often will start implementing bad form if it increases how often their shot goes in the basket.' – Rich Czeslawski, Better Basketball CEO

So teach ball skills without a ball.  It seems counter-intuitive, but it will greatly improve how your athletes truly learn the proper form.

Next week we'll dive into using language the kids can relate to.
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Craig Haworth is the founder of Winning Youth Coaching, a site dedicated to helping coaches and parents make youth sports an awesome experience for the the youth and the parents.  He interviews coaches from around the world and posts them on his podcast, which currently has over 60 interviews and has been downloaded over 40,000 times. He writes a weekly note to coaches and parents. He is married to his high-school sweetheart and they share the blessing of 3 children and live in Franklin, TN. You can sign-up for his weekly note here, find him on twitter at @craighaworth1, or visit his website
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men"
- Frederick Douglass