How taking 51,600 shots made me a worse basketball shooter

How taking 51,600 shots made me a worse basketball shooter

An improvement for basketball shooting drills and training

It was the summer of 1999 and I was going into my senior year of high school. This was the summer when I was going to become a fearless, Ray Allen-esque, nothing-but-cotton, lights-out, shooter.

Our head coach, Rusty Segler, intelligently designed a shooting program based on our offense, and this 50k Shot Club was my path to shooter?s Nirvana.

Image for post50,000 Shot Club Title Page

I say intelligently designed because it addressed many of the points that we are taught as coaches and players: To become a better shooter, you must practice Game Shots from Game Spots.

What was the 50k Shot Club?

Essentially, the 50k Shot Club consisted of shooting 20 shots from 7 different spots, on both sides of the floor, plus 150 free throws. So, 280 spot shots and 150 free throws, for 120 days.

Image for post50,000 Shot Club ? 280 spot shots/day and 150 free throws/day

In addition, there were a few promises made by this program, that I adamantly believed in:

The TIGER BASKETBALL STAFF has put together a shooting program that not only will make you a better shooter but will test your ability to become: more responsible, tougher mentally, more dedicated to a cause, and more goal oriented. If becoming a great shooter is a goal of yours, following this plan exactly as it states, will give you that opportunity?By following this program, you will be helping your teammates by being an offensive threat anywhere on the court.

The program itself had great intentions; however, it didn?t make me a better shooter nor did it make me an offensive threat. Let?s take a look at what it did do.

My Basketball Shooting Practice Results

NOTE: All of my analysis and shooting results were performed on the spot-shooting portions (280 shots/day) and excluded the 150 free throws.

Although, in theory, the program was 120 days (4 months) of shooting, it realistically took me 7 months (March 22nd-October 22nd). After all, I was still 17 years old, and a month-long vacation to my homeland, Poland, did not help maintain my ambitious timeline.

After 7 months of shooting, here?s what my Spot Shooting percentage looked like (with a 10-day rolling average):

Image for post10-day Rolling Average of 50k Shot Club

Some loose patterns that I found in the shooting data:

  1. I had an average of 66.1% after my first 10 days of shooting; however, my last 10 days of shooting were 63.8% (a 2.3% decrease)
  2. Out of 120 days of shooting, my best shooting day was on Day 16, at 77.50%. (this is congruent with the 17-day periodization of activities)
  3. 15% (7 of 48 months) of my high school basketball career was spent shooting this program versus other drills and playing games. Woah, that?s a lot of dedication to something that didn?t end up working

To be more confident in my results, I ran the numbers through linear regression and it confirmed that my percentage got worse over time:

Image for postShooting Percentage getting worse after 120 days of shooting

Shooting Lessons Learned

To become a better shooter, you must use deliberate practice to continuously improve your shot.

Lesson #1: Shoot at Game Speed

If Coach Segler watched me perform one of my workouts, he would have instantly noticed that my shots were not at game speed and could have corrected my mistake. Most young players do not actually understand what game speed means, so it?s up to the coach to teach them.

Moreover, the majority of my workouts were done alone so I had to toss the ball in the air, make my cut, and then shoot. It was difficult to make a game speed cut with a toss-out. Knowing what I know today, I would have started the ball on a chair and made my cut at game speed before grabbing the ball and shooting. Or another alternative would have been to toss the ball out to myself without letting it bounce.

Lesson #2: Stay engaged with Deliberate Practice

In order to constantly keep becoming a better shooter, you need to continue analyzing and improving your shot. One of the most common myths in basketball is that shooting 420 shots per day will improve your shooting form.

If you shoot with wrong form, you?re re-enforcing bad habits and your shot is getting worse with that form.

You need to set a goal of your current shooting percentage plus 4% and then don?t leave the courts until you have hit that %. This goal forces you to focus and implicitly tweak your shot in order for your shot to get better. According to Daniel Coyle, from The Little Book of Talent, it should have been 4% greater than the current skill level. So my goal should have been 70% for the day (if I shot 66% the previous day). I write more about deliberate practice here.

This goal and punishment would have kept my mind engaged and present to become better.

I remember going to the courts and attempting to shoot a better percentage. ?Alright Kamil, you shot 66% yesterday, let?s try to do better than that.? And when I didn?t reach my goal, I would think to myself ?oh well, I?ll be back tomorrow to beat it.? A mentality like this does not increase confidence and does not force you to adjust your shot to hit the desired percentages.

An optimal challenge is 4% greater than the current skill level

Splash Basketball explains deliberate practice in the 3-A Training Model where you Act, Analyze and Adjust. View more here:

Lesson #3: Stay mindful with a variety of drills

From the beginning, I knew that I was going to shoot 50 thousand shots, and it was just a matter of time. It was actually easy to show up at the park and shoot 430 shots. Often times I was bored, but it was the goal that I had set for myself, so I was following through with it.

My percentage went up and down on a 3-week cycle because my brain would get bored as I was doing my 9-to-5 job of shooting. The program could have been improved if it changed things up every few weeks. For example, adding different spots, different cuts, off the dribble VS off the catch or simply tracking makes vs takes. Again, forcing your workouts to switch every 17 days is ideal. (Naylor, 2010)

Your workouts should switch every 17 days to stay present and avoid boredom. (Naylor, 2010)

After all, basketball shooting requires a variety of footwork, skills, dribbles, moves, and shots. Shooting the same shot 20 times in a row, for 120 days, often caused me to space out and think of girls or what I was going to eat for lunch.

Today, when I shoot alone, I play ?beat the pro? to 7 to stay mindful and maintain variety.

Lesson #4: Prefer random practice over block practice

I first learned about this concept of random practice VS block practice at Breakthrough Basketball and my training would have been better served if it was closer to the spectrum of random VS block. Read more about the #1 workout mistake and random practice on Breakthrough.

During 50k Shot Club, I shot from the same spot 20 times in a row and then I moved to the next spot, this was classical ?block practice.?

As I continue to work on my shot today, random practice is much more beneficial and translates to a game. After all, how often do you get the same shot (from the same spot) in a game? I?ve been playing for 25 years and I don?t think this has happened to me in a game yet.

I feel that I would have been better off if I had shot 1 shot from each spot for 14 shots, and performed 20 sets of this with different variations of dribbles, catches, distance, and footwork. It brings me much more confidence when I can hit many different shots from different spots.

When you?re shooting from the same spot and distance every time then your body adjusts to it, and practice results do not translate to game results as well. This is one of the reasons why 99% of NBA players have a higher percentage make on their second free-throw VS their first, because of that spatial adjustment after their first rep.

99% of NBA players have a higher percentage make on their second free-throw VS their first

Lesson #5: Practice deciding when to shoot

My workout was neglecting the most mental part of shooting: deciding when to shoot.

I realize that I was usually shooting alone so there was no way to fulfill this portion but I have written an entire story of deciding when to shoot

The Final Shot

This Texas A&M Consolidated High School program was a well-designed shooting program and intended to improve me as a player and shooter, but unfortunately fell short of that promise.

Aside from the lessons learned, the biggest thing that I missed out on was not playing more basketball games because I was too busy shooting.

When designing a shooting program or workout, keep the following in mind:

  1. Shoot at game speed
  2. Stay engaged with deliberate practice
  3. Stay mindful with a variety of drills
  4. Prefer random practice over block practice
  5. Practice deciding when to shoot

If you?re going to practice then practice with my lessons learned above. But remember that practice done in isolation, without playing games, can be very misleading. So make sure to do both.

At the end of the day, my bud Steph Curry says it best, you want to become a good shot maker, not a good shot taker.

You want to become a good shot maker, not a good shot taker.

? Steph Curry

My shooting practice matrix

Here is a shooting practice matrix that I like to check off when I am practicing my shooting today.

  • Your Movement (choose one): Stationary, Moving away from the basket, Moving towards the basket
  • Ball Position (choose one): Off the Catch, Off the Dribble
  • Pressure (choose one or many): Make 70% of takes, Make 10 in 1 minute, Make 3 consecutive in 1 minute, add defensive presence, play with no pressure
  • Practicing when to shoot (choose one): Yes, No

If you liked what you read, you can check me out on Twitter @kamilski81


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