Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Motor Learning and Basketball with Trevor Ragan

I was lucky enough last week to be able to Skype with Trevor Ragan (@bball_school) of Championship Basketball School. The guy is one of the best in terms of teaching game like basketball skills. I have never been to a camp, but from the video I have seen it's unbelievable what he does. He's great at creating environments for players to grow.  As I've added a lot of small sided games (SSGs) to my tool belt, I've stolen a lot of what Coach Ragan and Coach Brian McCormick have done in terms of using small sided games, making it competitive, making it game like, and so on.  

Trevor and I spent a lot of time talking about motor learning. It's the idea that the real learning of how to play doesn't come from dummy defense or ___ on 0. It comes for a series of scientific steps that help the athlete understand what is going on. Below are the basic motor learning steps that we discussed. 

1. Goal Presentation
     -Start by showing them what you want them to do. Be it
      a skill, offensive action etc. Demonstrate it, show some 
      video of it, just give them a sense of what they should do. 
     -A huge piece of this is creating skill keys. The skill keys 
      are short phrases that strike a cord with the athlete. You 
      should have no more than 3 skill keys for a skill. For 
      shooting it might be as simple as "aim your hip, dip,
      and snap the follow through". Now what you think
      of pro shot is up for debate, but if I was teaching shooting
      there are three things I can tell the player to repeat over 
      and over again. It is also a quick way to check the player. 
    -After you create the skill keys, you demonstrate again
     using the skill keys while they see the demo. 
2. Skill - Doing It
    -Once players have seen the demo, it's now time for them
     to do it on their own. 
    -Use the skill keys when working with them. 
    -Best practice is:
           *10-20 block practice reps on air. 
           *Play game like small sided games for quite some time. 
                 -Monitor games and look for where they are not
                  doing it correctly. 
           *Play a short full game or two. 

3. Feedback
     -This is where you give them knowledge of WHY things
       happened in the small sided and full games. 
     -Explain what they need to do better the next time with that
       skill or piece from the offense/defense. 

You then repeat the cycle after giving the feedback. You can skip the block practice if it's not needed. The feedback might be as simple as stopping for 30 seconds after a game of defensive cutthroat and explaining that the defense needs to do a better job of getting on the help side - or whatever. Remember it's better to teach in bullets, not paragraphs. Also use the skill keys during feed back. 

Understanding of motor learning can be a powerful tool, I know it is for me. One of the things that Coach Ragan said was a big leap for him this year was the feedback. They actually have Apple TVs set up in the gym and after a player is done with a skill he goes to an Apple TV, the coach at that basket beams int he video, and he can get visual feedback on himself. We might not be able to get that cool, but it does make me think about more ways that we can give immediate and visual feedback to our guys during practice. 

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