The 5-Step Process to Add a New Move To Your Game

As a basketball trainer for over 15 years, I’ve heard many players express disappointment in their game by explaining that while they feel comfortable performing a move in a training session, during pickup or even at practice, they have trouble executing this same move during a game. I used to feel that I was always a better “pick-up” player than a game player. It was frustrating to outplay starters consistently during pick-up and scrimmages only to not be able to execute the same way when the lights came on. (While I will write a separate article addressing the mental aspect to this situation, I want the focus of this article to be on skill-development.)

All too often I have seen players abandon moves before they put in the necessary practice time to have enough to go on to see if the move in question was actually effective. Through my personal and professional experience, I began to realize that players get frustrated or lose motivation to learn a new move because they don’t approach it with the appropriate step-by-step process that allows them to successfully incorporate this move on the court. If you want to add a new move into your game that will actually stick and make a difference, follow the following Five steps…

1. Introduction/Foundation Phase
When a player is introduced to a new move, it is important that they first learn WHY they are performing the move, WHEN it should be used and WHERE it is most effective on the court before even learning HOW to perform this move. Once the player understands the WHY, WHEN & WHERE, they then will be able to learn HOW to do this move with more purpose and at a faster pace. When a player is learning HOW to do a move, the practice of “WHOLE-PIECE-PART-WHOLE” is a great way to breakdown the handwork, footwork and body angles of the various parts to this move. First, the player should see how the move is done in its entirety (whether watching a video or through a trainer or coach demonstration). Next, the player should break down the different steps (pieces) involved in the move. Within each step/piece there may be many “parts” that need to be executed in order for that step in the move to be effective. Once all of the pieces, and their parts, are broken down and learned correctly, then the athlete is ready to practice this move as a WHOLE. During the introduction/foundation phase of adding a move to your game, it is important that the player go at a speed with which they are performing this move correctly and consistently.

2. Game-Speed Consistency
Once a player is consistently performing a new move with all the minor details correctly executed, it is time for them to begin “speeding” this move up. This does not mean that a player should ONLY practice this move at game-speed once they have learned the move. Often during this phase many of the minor details necessary for this move to be most effective will “unravel”. It is imperative that once a player deviates from these fundamental aspects of the move, they should return to Phase ONE to reinforce good habits and fundamentals. Michael Jordan once said, “The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether its proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.”

3. Consistency Against 1-on-1 Defense
As soon as a player is able to perform a new move consistently at game-speed, they are ready to try this move against a defender during a workout. Having the opportunity to try a new move out against a defender allows the player to receive feedback on this move and how effective it is. Seeing how the defense reacts to different aspects of a move allows a player to go back to the first two phases and make the necessary adjustments. Many moves also include counter moves based on reacting to the defender. Make sure you are practicing these counter moves as much as the initial move during phases ONE and TWO so that you don’t get “stuck” trying to the same move over and over again, which makes it easy for a defender to stop once they know what you are trying to attempt.

4. Consistency During Practices & Controlled Scrimmages
The fourth step to incorporating a new move into your game permanently is to begin trying this move during practices and controlled scrimmages. If you are able to execute and finish this move consistently during scrimmage situations, only THEN are you ready to attempt this move in a real game with refs. Many players are afraid to make mistakes in games but all good coaches know that making mistakes is part of learning. If you make most of your mistakes during workouts and practices, when the result isn’t as crucial, you will have the confidence to execute this move in a game without being afraid that you will make this mistake and cause a turnover or be taken out by your coach. If you are NOT executing this move 75% of the time with success during scrimmages, you should go back through the previous phases to reinforce the details and get more quality reps before attempting this move in a scrimmage situation.

5. Execution During Games
Only when you are able to execute your new move consistently during Half court and Full Court scrimmages should you try this move during a real game with refs. This doesn’t mean that you are going to execute this move perfectly every time you perform it in a game (not even NBA players do that!). But, it will ensure that you have had the appropriate amount of practice to try this move in a game which will lead to a higher level of confidence to execute the move and also a lower chance of making a mistake and turning the ball over.

While there are Five steps to incorporating a new move into your game, these steps are certainly not linear. Often, a player must go back to previous steps to reinforce them in order for their foundation to support this move during game-play. This might occur within one workout or over the course of weeks, months or your entire career. Even when a player has been able to incorporate a new move in their game and it is working, they STILL should revisit ALL phases when they are practicing to reinforce good habits and details. A great example of this is that even the best shooters in the NBA still start their shooting workouts close to the basket performing one- and two-handed form shooting before they progress into game-speed shots. There is also a story that Larry Bird didn’t leave the paint for the first 30 minutes of his shooting workouts (He is known as one of the best THREE-point shooters to ever live). If the most elite athletes in the world approach their development in this manner, why shouldn’t you?