'Transferability' in Basketball

The concept of transferability first came to me last week at one of my basketball training sessions.  The player that was training had a fantastic workout!  She made significant advances in the areas of ball-handling and attacking off the dribble and the catch over the course of the hour.  Whether she was creating space with a dribble move or with a jab step, her moves were low and aggressive and for the most part, that had not previously been the case.

At the end of the session I challenged her with a game called “Beat the Pro.”  In this game, you are essentially playing one-on-one against a fictitious pro of your choosing.  You must spin the ball to yourself and then make various moves off the catch and the dribble and finish off with a shot (I usually make them take jump shots since layups are easy and they should never lose if they take layups). Score is kept by giving yourself one point for every shot made and giving the pro two points for every miss.  Given how great her workout was, I was really curious to see how she would do in this game. 

This is where everything became interesting.  Over the course of the game, she did not use any of the moves that she had done so well with during that session.  Thus the teachable moment presented itself.  I asked her why she did not use any of the moves that we had been working on over the last hour.  Her response was, “I don’t know.”  So this became the opportunity to explain that the drills that we do were not just drills to kill time and that they all have a purpose.  She was so excited by this revelation that she immediately wanted to play “Beat the Pro” again and correct her mistakes.  I allowed her one point that she executed successfully, and when we played the game again after her next training, she did do much better.  She took all that we had worked on over the hour and transferred it to the game.  This is what I refer to as transferability. 

The concept of transferability had never really crossed my mind too much prior to this.  It was always just assumed that the players would realize that the drills that we worked on over the hour had a purpose that transferred to the game itself.  However, the more that I think about it, the more I realize that players may only see drills as drills and games as games.  This can only limit success. It is imperative that as coaches, we use drills that are a part of the big picture.  So in the case of the girl mentioned above, who is a point guard, this would include drills that allow her to create space off the dribble, attack and finish off the dribble, get into gaps and make successful passes, etc.  For those of you coaching a team, make sure that your drills go along with the offense and defense that you are trying to run.  This will make transferring them to a game situation significantly easier since they at least have a purpose relevant to your game plan.  Then have the players apply those skills and drills that were worked on in practice in a live but controlled situation at the end.  In stoppages explain to the players where the drills that you have used apply.  Make an effort to do this frequently enough to help the players understand the purpose or goal.  In doing so, this will help ensure that your players know that drills have a purpose beyond just killing time.  This will help ensure transferability.

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