My junior season in high school ended in misery. With a trip to the state championship on the line, we coughed up a 19 point lead and lost on a buzzer beater (check out this post for how I used the worst loss of my career as motivation).
That offseason, I was more fired up than I had ever been. I was out for vengeance and my willingness to work out reflected that. I went to the gym 6 days a week with the pain of losing injecting a maniacal energy into my workouts.
That loss marked a turning point in my career. From that moment on, I was serious about the game of basketball. For the next year and half (until I went off to college), I worked out on my own whenever I could.
But it wasn't as perfect as you might think. My workout habits lagged far behind my motivation to improve. Despite the fact that I was incredibly driven, I wasn’t truly training, I was just “shooting around.” Here’s the difference:
Training vs. “Shooting Around”
Training is disciplined and purposeful. It’s when you have a plan for your entire workout with your end goal in mind and a clear understanding of the steps you need to take to get there.
“Shooting around” is the exact opposite. It’s when you perform drills aimlessly and aren’t intentional in your efforts to improve.
I’d guess that 90% of most players' workouts fall into the “shooting around” category. Unfortunately, I know how that feels. I’ve spent more hours than I’d like to admit just “shooting around.”
Where I Went Wrong
Looking back on it now, the workouts that I did during that year and a half were complete garbage. The problem wasn’t a lack of dedication or motivation. I was well intentioned and I worked my tail off. But my workouts were terrible.
I’m not going to lie, I still made significant improvements that offseason. But, a large part of those gains were due to physical maturation (I hit puberty and grew 3 inches) and sheer effort (I was in the gym every day and worked my tail off).
It was like driving a car with a 6 cylinder engine but only using 3 cylinders. It didn’t matter how far I pushed down on the gas, I would never be utilizing my engine's full capacity. I can only imagine the improvements I would’ve made if I knew how to engage all 6 cylinders.
What was the problem? I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t know how to structure a workout. I didn’t know that you should write down your workouts beforehand. I didn’t know you had to consciously commit to doing a drill for a certain amount of reps. I didn’t know the importance of practicing mental toughness. I didn’t know the level of dedication it takes to push past fatigue on every drill. Most importantly, I didn’t know the level of discipline and rigor that was required to train rather than simply “shoot around.”
During those workouts, I was never intentional about what I was doing. I never consciously assessed what skills I needed to improve and therefore never designed workouts to address those holes in my game. I relied on sheer willpower to push myself. Obviously it’s great to have strong willpower, but it’s not enough (see my posts on cultivating effective habits and designing your workout plans).
“Shooting Around” is an Epidemic
The “shooting around” phenomenon is one of the reasons why I started this blog. I never want to see anyone waste their efforts for lack of knowledge. It kills me to think about all the players that believe they’re training but are really “shooting around.”
What really makes my heart sink is that there are players with a dream and motivation who aren’t going to reach their goal simply because they aren’t training effectively. They may spend hours every day on the court, but they won’t see the results they’re capable of. It’s a difficult reality to face, but it’s true.
So take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself this question: are your training habits truly in line with your future goals? (Related post: 7 questions to ask yourself this offseason). Think about it for a second. If your goal is to get a Division I scholarship, are you training at a level that will get you there? For a long time I thought I was, but I really wasn’t. It was only once I began to train with discipline, a purpose, and a plan that my game skyrocketed.
Even if you think that you train really hard, I guarantee you that there are ways to exponentially improve your development. I’m proud to say that every year I’ve worked harder and smarter than the year before. In constantly striving to improve, I’m always discovering new tools and tricks to implement into my own practice.*
There are always new ways to improve. I’ve been playing basketball for about 15 years and I still feel like I have huge improvements to be made. Not only in my game, but in my training methods as well. Since I’m constantly critiquing myself and my methods, I’m always discovering new things that lead to improvements on the court and in my personal life.
As I uncover new tools and continue my journey to become the best basketball player I can be, I’m going to pass everything I learn along to you. My hope is that, with the help of this blog, you’ll learn from my mistakes and reach your full potential.
*Literally just yesterday (at the time of this post) I uncovered research that suggests that randomizing your shots during a drill can dramatically improve game performance. Without getting too deep into the science, a research study conducted by Landin, Herbert & Fairweather (1993), showed that variable practice (that is, shooting each shot from a different spot on the floor rather than 10 shots in a row from the same spot), dramatically improved performance on a free throw shooting test administered 3 days later. This study supports the notion that variable practice (rather than block practice) leads to greater retention of a motor skill. This will significantly change how I structure my workouts.
I’ve never been a fan of block practice when I can avoid it. But sometimes, when I’m trying to get a lot of shots up, I fall into the typical “10 makes from each spot” drill. But this research shows that any time you’re doing a shooting drill, your time and effort is much better spent if you vary the location and distance of your shot. The same goes for ball handling. Rather than doing 10 of the same moves in a row, mix it up.*