Basketball, like any other sport or musical instrument for that matter, is a progression of skill that is achieved through two primary elements: time and effort. There is no shortcut around skill development, regardless of natural ability–which can help a great deal, but drilling and practice are still essential to improve one’s performance in-game with a team.
This article will present 10 ways in which you can improve your basketball game through physical and mental training and improves your physical and mental capacity to perform.
#1 The 3 Secrets (Practice, Practice, Practice) Of Basketball Training
As mentioned above, there is no shortcut around practice. Making a jump shot can seem entirely second nature, but this is only possible after hundreds of attempts, with the proper instruction. Making a shot with poor form one hundred times is less valuable than making ten shots with proper form.
To engage in practice, it is necessary that you have the requisite conditioning to go through the drills and play the practice games. Pick-up games are fast-paced, and no one wants to be on the team of the player huffing outside the three-point line. Engage in various running-related training drills, jogging for endurance, interval/sprint training to build on your ability to drive faster to the hole.
#3 Drilling Pt. 1 Of 5 – Dribbling 101
Having established the importance of practice, and more practice, and more practice, alongside outside conditioning to improve your performance, we must drill to improve our game. Dribbling is Basketball Training 101, but those without formal training may not be doing it right, and thus be robbing their game of a valuable and very basic weapon.
For dribbling your knees should be shoulder-width, and you should be light on your feet and ready to move. Do not lock your knees, and keep balance to ensure stability. The ball should not go over your waist, and while dribbling use your wrists to keep a strong control over the ball. When in a defensive crouch the ball should stay below your mid-thigh to battle stealing. Basketball training is work, but it pays dividends on what you put into it.
It takes time to become comfortable with dribbling, but in time you’ll begin to respond naturally to the ball, or more so than before. Work on both hands, with a good exercise being to dribble 20 times with one hand, then switch, performing three sets. Stay stationary until you’re comfortable, then incorporate walking, then running, and eventually shooting.
#4 Drilling Pt. 2 Of 5 – Dribbling 201
Upon becoming comfortable running while dribbling with either hand, begin training in the crossover. Alternate hands on the move, forward and backwards, and zig-zag back and forth to varying degrees. Cones can be used to simulate defenders you must switch hands to dribble around, crossing over to gain an opening for your shot.
#5 Drilling Pt. 3 Of 5 – Dribbling 301
Develop your dribbling and sensitivity knowing that quality dribbling comes from your fingers, which maintain maximum reactivity. This will lead to you working on your power dribble through the next level drills. The power dribble is basically the run in a crawl-walk-run format that allows you to burst past your opponent and take a shot opportunity, and is an important aspect of basketball training.
Applying more and more power to become more comfortable with power dribbling will improve your ability to use it offensively. Alternate between normal bounces and higher degrees of power, keeping your arm down to prevent it from bouncing up. Practicing on dirt can help with power as the ground absorbs the impact, requiring you to drive harder. It is at this point that we’ll begin to drill on shooting, understanding that dribbling leads into shooting or passing.
#6 Drilling Pt. 4 Of 5 Shooting 101-201
For shots to achieve success, they must be within range, on balance, and in rhythm. This trinity of a good shot is achieved through the mantra provided throughout: practice in threes. It is first necessary to work on your form. In shooting remember your balance, eyes, elbow, follow, and your awareness.
Balance is achieved by first being balanced, feet placed at shoulder-width, knees flexed, ready to jump. When shooting, as with dribbling, your eye is not on the ball, but the target, in this instance the hoop itself. Envision a ping pong ball on the front rim you’re trying to flick off with your shot as it slides in. To support the points, follow through with your shot, with your shooting hand reaching into the points’ cookie jar. Being concentrated and aware while shooting is essential to take the points.
Shooting one-handed shots will build upon your shooting skills no matter what level you are at. Generally the shooting motion is done largely by your dominant hand, so practice like this. As you shoot while holding the ball in one hand, spin the ball toward the target while rolling it back towards yourself, achieving the ubiquitous “spin.” To improve your ability to “spin,” practice anytime while lying on your back, shooting it straight up into the air, so it returns to your hand.
#7 Drilling Pt. 5 Of 5 – Shooting In Motion
The final aspect of the drilling series presented here is shooting in motion. Practicing your lay-ups from both sides with high repetitions will build upon your endurance and shot percentage. Apply your dribbling skills by beginning with the basket from the three-point line at a diagonal; when you get to the lane line, there are two more steps to the hoop, dribble one last dribble when you step on the lane line, then plant and jump from your opposite foot.
Upon having chosen your side and begun the ascent of your lay-up, bring your hand up with the ball and the knee on the same side with it, lay the ball off the backboard by aiming at the top corner of the box on the side you’re on. There’s not need to apply much force, as the momentum of your speed will sink the ball in if you keep it on target.
Outside of lay-ups, it is important to practice your free throws until they’re perfect, and to work on your dribbling then posting up and shooting. Once you get into the higher levels, you’ll begin focusing on fade-aways, hook-shots, and other more advanced shots. Practice them until you improve your shot percentage and feel capable of taking a variety of shots in a variety of circumstances.
Train with a partner to start to work on being defended. Solo practicing and drilling will improve your shot percentage and comfort level with particular moves, but training with a partner who applies the pressure of a defender will improve your in-game performance. The quality defender, which you must insist on receiving and also provide to ensure your training is productive, hurries you while keeping close, trying to block or steal shots.
Practicing fade-aways with a defender is useful to help train you to effectively over-correct with your arm for going backwards. The fade-away denies you the strength of your legs as well, forcing you to achieve a higher proficiency with your shots. The pressure of the defender can be overcome through the fade-away, and will help you with your situational awareness in your drilling.
#8 Playing The Game
Once the individual pieces of your game are assembled–the components of basketball training that we’ve covered of conditioning, drilling in dribbling and shooting, and partner practice–it is essential that you play the game, and often. Ongoing individual training will give you the pieces, but playing the game is how you figure out how they fit together. Like a musician learning the notes, it is through playing that you can exhibit your ability.
If you’re playing on a team and getting into ongoing practice, that is outstanding, and keep it up. To help keep your playing fresh and developing, seek out opportunities to play with different people as well, especially those who are better than you. Training with your peers is valuable and builds skill and conditioning, but training with individuals whose skills are on an another, the higher level is how you can also take your game there.
When you play, be aware of your performance, and keep an open channel of communication with your teammates. The key difference between solo practice and team play is the presence of others, and they are there to help, and to help them do so, tell them how. A well-coordinated team of moderately skilled players can dominate a group of highly skilled yet individualistic players who aren’t in synch.
Figure out what works for you and what your teammates are capable of, and cater to them. If you’re not hitting threes, but your teammate is, feed them the ball when they’re at the line. If driving inside is your thing, invite the ball from teammates to give you a chance to shine. Whatever your preferred playing style, incorporate it into how you work with your team, and don’t slack on defense. Shot percentage is important, but a teammate who hustles and pushes hard on defense is less hated on for missing the occasional shot.
#9 Eyes On The Prize
Beyond your conditioning and skill achieved through the mantra of practice times three, it is your in-game sensitivity that will determine how you play. You must assess your environment carefully to maintain ball control and seize points, and to do this; it is important that you keep your eyes up. A part of your dribbling drills is to keep your eyes off the ball, as this is not golf.
Being aware is being able to dribble and maintain maximum mobility while keeping your eyes on the hoop and the defenders attempting to block it from you. Situational awareness is how a double-team can be turned into a game-changing breakaway. Keeping your eyes on the prize and not on the ball is essential, with in-game awareness developing with time and experience.
# 10 Awareness
Awareness is an essential asset for a basketball player, and is an essential element in basketball training. The first element of awareness that is important is situational awareness. Recognizing when to shoot, when to pass, when to reset and drive on again, is essential to success. Understanding how your teammates and your opponents move in the game will enable you to work better with and around them.
Outside of situational awareness, there is an awareness of self. As you begin to develop your game and improve upon your skills, you’ll begin to learn what you’re good at. Figure out what shots you are likely to make, and keep in mind those you may not be able to sink. Use this knowledge to inform your decision of whether to shoot or pass, as “better” shooters simply make more of their shots, so don’t take shots that your training and drilling tell you are less likely to seize points. If you get tired, sub out, then work on your conditioning between games.
The key to improving upon your basketball game is basketball training, achieved through practice, time, reflection, and more practice. If your dribbling and shooting aren’t up to par, your in-game performance will slack. Solo training can vastly improve upon your dribbling and shooting, whether it’s the simple lay-up or the fade-away. Perfecting your ball handling skills will open the door to focusing upon more specific areas of your performance in game situations.
Conditioning is an outside effort that you have to maintain to keep your cardio endurance up to the game. Once you’re conditioned and your skills are drilled and sharpened, playing the game with others is essential. Whether one-on-one half-court pick-up games at the park or organized athletics playing the full-court in coordinated team colors going for glory in your town or city, you have to be able to play with your team.
Magnify your shot percentage by only taking the shots you’re comfortable with. Feed your teammates the shots you know they’ll make. Hustle hard on defense. Reflect after the game and drill on what you know you can improve. Basketball training is ongoing, and practicing in pursuit of perfection is how you can play your best game. Keep up with Basketball Fundamentals to learn more on how to sharpen your game.