Did you get better or worse yesterday? All great players know that they never stay the same—they are constantly improving or diminishing their basketball skills. Each day that you don’t work on your basketball skills, you will get a little worse. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to forget how to shoot or dribble. You definitely need to take some time off now and then.
What you do need to worry about are the days when you do practice, but don’t get any better. Practice without improvement is a waste of time.
So, how do you know if your basketball skills are getting better or worse when you practice your skills? You are about to find out how to measure yourself each time you do a skills workout.
1. Measure everything that you do. Keep a chart of your shooting percentages on all of the different shots that you practice. The more specific you can be, the more you will learn about yourself and whether you are improving or not.
For example, don’t just keep track of 3 point shots attempted and made. Categorize the side of the floor. Keep a percentage from the right, middle, and left sides of the floor. Each day, compare them against your previous scores to see if you are moving up or moving down. When you do dribbling drills, time yourself on how long it takes to dribble a certain distance around the court, or to do a certain number of repetitions on ball handling drills.
2. The phrase that pays is… “Improvement begins where your comfort zone ends.” If you don’t push yourself beyond where you are comfortable, you won’t get better. When you do your shooting drills, make sure to time them as well as count your makes and misses.
Every day try to go faster than yesterday so that you are not only making more shots, but attempting more shots. Developing shooting and dribbling skills only makes you a better player if you can execute them in a game where you need to go full speed to avoid the defense.
3. Keep it real. You have a limited amount of time during your day to practice basketball. Make sure that you are practicing skills that you will use in games. Spending time practicing shots that you will never shoot in a game, or making dribble moves that you will never use is no better than not practicing at all.
This brings me to my next point about improving your basketball skills. Everyone practices shooting and dribbling in their skills workouts. Here are three things that you need to use in games, but yet most players don’t practice. These are very useful skills to have in your bag of tricks. So practice them!
1. Back Dribble When two defensive players trap you, use a back dribble to quickly get away from them. Keep your eyes up for an opportunity to pass to a teammate and dribble the ball by your back foot as you slide backwards to get away from the trap. Correct execution of the back dribble will save your team a turnover or two each game which means more scoring opportunities.
2. Faking. Faking is an underutilized skill. Most players don’t give any thought to when or how to fake. Shot fakes and pass fakes force the defense to react. Skilled fakes on your part will allow you to get the defense to move where you want them to move to open up shot or pass opportunities for you. If you practice them, not only will you get better at making them believable in order to fool the defense, but you eventually will start using them in games without even having to think about it.
3. Getting open. All players cut, usually because their coaches tell them to. No matter whether you are a post player or a perimeter player, the skill of getting open is a skill that few players do well. The biggest reason that they don’t do it well is that they don’t practice it enough.
Even if you are by yourself, you can imagine a defense and the kind of moves and cuts that you need to use to get open. In a game, you might need to cut for 10 to 15 seconds at the most to get open. So, double that in practice and when you work on it, always go for no less than 20 seconds.
So now you know some things that not every player knows. You know that every day, your skills are improving or declining. You know that when you do work out, focus on things that you either do now or that you want to add to your game, push yourself harder than you do in games, and hold yourself accountable by timing, counting, and recording all of your work. Now, take your knowledge and go out and turn it into action!