How many times do your players need to make split second decisions under pressure in a basketball game? Lots. That’s why Coach Oliver has developed a system called basketball decision training and a concept he calls zero seconds that will help develop players in those situations. In this indepth interview we will talk about:
- Basketball decision training (BDT). Why and how you can train your players to make decisions faster
- Zero seconds. What is it and how do you train for it?
What is basketball decision training?
In simple terms, basketball decision training is incorporating signals to make drills different every time and engage the player’s decision making.
Inspired by Joan Vicker’s research and book “Perception, Cognition, and Decision Training”, the book talks about block practice vs random practice. Block practice is where your player keeps repeating the same drill over and over again and random practice is when you add in a variable such as a defender. Research has shown block practice translate poorly to games and random practices are much better.
The first 3 repetitions there’s a little thinking but beyond that it’s basically useless – Chris Oliver
Example of BDT shooting
Take shooting for example, in block practice you have 2 players. 1 shooter and 1 passer, take 10 shots each. How often do you shoot from the same spot 10 times in a row? Never. Both players basically switch off mentally, the shooter and passer both go through the motions.
Using basketball decision training, coach Oliver says you can make the same drill more game like by:
- Moving the feet
- The passer can give signals to disrupt the shooter
3 sample signals that a passer can give are:
- Hands up – Pass back
- Hands down – shoot
- Step towards shooter – Drive
With Coach Oliver, there can be up to 10 different signals a passer can use to make the shooting drill more challenging.
The best drills are what your team does on offense. You can incorporate BDT into your drills to become yours.
What is zero seconds?
If you look at the Warriors and the Spurs, how often do they pause/hold onto the ball or take a jab step? Almost never. They almost always shoot, penetrate or pass the ball, this is zero seconds. They’ve already decided what to do before they even catch the ball. Coach Oliver believes doesn’t believe in triple threat, he believes in single threat.
Too many players catch the ball to pass the ball. Not enough players are ready to shoot or make a decision.
Shoot first mentality
A core tenant in the zero seconds philosophy is that it is never wrong to shoot an open shot. The only thing that prevents a shot is the defense, neither the coach or the player themselves can decided whether to shoot. Every player likes shooting and the freedom to shoot does a couple things:
- Players feel more confident
- There’s more FREEDOM and room for players to make decisions
- Prevents overcoaching from the sidelines
You need to sell the idea of random practice
It takes a leap of faith to try this unorthodox method and you’ll need to sell it to your players and the administration. It’ll look chaotic and sometimes you’ll feel like there’s no progress. It’s easy to feel good if you take 10 shots from the same spot but in the end, you have to believe in the science and that in the long term your players will benefit from it.
Coach Oliver almost exclusively uses 4 on 4 and 5 on 5 for his college team in the past 4 years. If they’re working on wing ball screens, he’ll just start the 4 on 4 in that situation and teach out of the game. His players enjoy it because it challenges them and makes them think.
Approach to practice planning
Coach Oliver says he always starts with WHAT to practice and then how. It’s important that every drill has a purpose and you understand why you are doing it. I’ve made this mistake myself where I’ve used drills just for the sake of it looking great but not tying into my team’s offensive philosophy.
Another point is spending proportional amounts of time on things that happen in a game. For example, if you’re spending 80% of your time on sideline out of bound plays with 3 seconds left then you have to think about how often that happens in a game. Less than 5% of the time?
Coach Oliver also challenges coaches to mix up their practice times. If practice time is fixed, it’ll be easier for players to be clock watchers and that’s not what we want.
As coaches, your job is to make your players uncomfortable
Time on task
How much time are your players actually physically playing basketball? There’s alot of wasted time in most practices. There’s players standing around waiting, cool down, transition from drill to drill and in the end a player might just touch the ball 6 times in 30minutes. Make sure you get a ball in each player’s hand as much as possible and get everyone involved at all times.
Small sided games replacing shell drills
The shell drill is arguably a staple in most practices but Coach Oliver does it differently. Instead of walking through the concepts he’ll let the players dive right into the deep end and from there he’ll pause the drill to teach. Coaches love to talk but talking too much takes away from time on task so he prefers to correct and teach while the players practice.
What not to do in practice
When was the last time you see a weave in an actual game? Never. This topic is so good that we’ve written another blog post on 6 drills that you can improve here.
The best shooting drills are 1 on 1
No magic tricks and focus on best players
What are magic tricks? Those drills that look cool but don’t translate to a real game.
The worst players get coached the most at most practices. Instead, coach Oliver asks what do his best players need to improve. He argues that if you drill to the lowest level, your top players will not be challenged whereas if you coach to the top then everyone will be challenged. So if his players need individual work then he’ll spend more time on individual work.
Coach Oliver says the main lesson is that he starts the season almost right into 5 on 5. Most youth coaches only have a week or just a few practices before their season begins and the best way to prepare for a game is to play 5 on 5 and make corrections as you play.
If you do decide to season plan, here are the themes:
- Out of bound plays
- How to handle pressure or apply pressure
If you’ve enjoyed this interview and would like to try basketball decision training, get these drills inside our app:
Coachbase practice planner app download
You can also watch the full interview here.
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