Skill Development Pyramid

Overview

1.  Practice TimeSkill Development Pyramid

The longest Practice Time line is on Technique. The Technique is to make the movement instinctual or automatic based upon the opponent’s strategy. The shortest Practice Time line is on the Will level, when you as the player are calm but determined to win. Seeing the opponent’s intentions, the player’s mind and body react naturally and instinctively, thus winning in the “void” where there is no opposition.

2.  Skill Level Development

The greatest increase of skill is at the Will level, where every step below the Will level has been accomplished. The player reacts instinctively, and is calm but determined to win. Winning is the sole purpose of any move or movement. When the player’s strategy is solely “void” of opposition to his winning he exists in “the zone!”

The lowest skill level is at the Technique level, where the player thinks about each component of his technique or movement, making sure the movement is correct with what the player has determined is the proper form.

The individual player and coach must know which level the player is operating from in order to help the player move up the Skill Development Pyramid. The worst thing the player or coach could do is to take a player who is operating on one of the higher skill levels and change his technique or rhythm during the middle of the season. This will automatically throw the player back to the lower skill levels and a significant drop in his total skill performance will occur. That is why many professional baseball players don’t try to change their technique until the off-season when they have time to move up the Skill Development Pyramid with the new technique.

 Technique

1.  Triple Threat

In learning any new technique you should be able to pass, dribble, or shoot from any particular move or movement, especially at the Pro level where the opportunity to win comes and goes quickly. Players like Allen Iverson, Pistol Pete Maravich, and Steve Nash make their game difficult for opponents because they can pass, dribble or shoot using the same technique options.

2.  3 x 3 Rule

You need three scoring options off of each “move” and you need three counter “moves” to the opponent’s counter “move.” Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon, center for the Houston Rockets, kept his opponents guessing and off balance by his many different options from their counter moves. Kobe Bryant from the Los Angeles Lakers also uses this 3 x 3 Rule to make it extremely difficult for the opponents to defend his scoring moves.

3.  The “Any Time-Any Place” Rule

A move you need to develop is one that is practically impossible to defend, such as Lew Alcindor’s skyhook, George Gervin’s finder roll, Shaquille O’Neal’s inside power dunk, Dirk Nowitzki’s one-leg fade away. The important question for you to answer is, “what move can you possess that you can score on any opponent, any time, any place?”

4.  Every-Movement Practice

The more natural the movement in everyday normal living, the easier it is to perfect. Allen Iverson’s dribbling techniques are much the same as his normal walking movement. After you have assessed your natural strengths and weaknesses and have evaluated the other Pro players as to their techniques, you assess their technique considering how the technique applies to you. With extensive repetition you can make their technique instinctive and natural to you.

5.  Efficiency of Movement

Regardless of technique, the more straight the force is from your entire body – legs, stomach, back, arms and wrists – the easier it is to perfect the movement. However you cut it, LeBron James, Kevin Durrant, and Kobe Bryant, all have efficient movements in their shots. Any weaknesses in technique can be overcome by perfecting other areas of the Skill Development Pyramid; but it’s nice to start with as good a foundation as possible, especially at the professional level when there is little room for error. The main point is that any technique must become easy to perform.

 Rhythm

The Rhythm level is probably the most misunderstood and underappreciated skill level.

1.  Shots

Make no mistake, you use your entire body to shoot the basketball, with the wrist and fingers being the final release point of the shot. Ray Allen has developed such efficiency that on his free-throw attempts the wrist and fingers take the most obvious part of the movement where, on his 3s, he shoots with extreme efficiency using his entire body, culminating in the wrist and fingers’ release point in a one-beat, one-stroke style of shooting.

2.  Style: One-Beat or Two-Beat

If you are an Allen Iverson, Derrick Rose, or Chris Paul, you use a one-beat, catch-and-shoot, explosive-power type of style. This style is dependent on speed and quickness. If you are a Greg Anthony or Paul Pierce-type of position “bully ball” player, then you use a two-beat style where strength and body position is your primary advantage.

As a general rule the #1, #2, and #3 position players are more of the speed players (one-beat). The #4 and #5 players are more the position players (two-beat). The main point is once you determine your Rhythm style, you must perfect that style. In my opinion, 90% of all traveling calls are a result of mixing the one-beat and the two-beat Rhythm styles, thus causing you to turn the ball over to the opposition. However, there are some professionals that use both the one-beat and two-beat styles successfully, but most professionals use only one or the other style. Once you determine your natural style, you should perfect that natural Rhythm style before attempting to add parts of the other Rhythm style.

3.  Game Rhythm – Team Will vs. Team Will

If you have mainly speed players (one-beat) then a fast open court, up-tempo, one-beat style of play is your preference. If you have position style players (two-beat) then a two-beat, more deliberate, half-court style of play is your preference. The team that gets the other team out of its rhythm usually has many opportunities to win the game.

 Squeeze

Squeeze is like a capstone to the lower two levels (Rhythm and Technique) and a foundation to the upper two levels (Focus and Will). It locks and holds everything in place. Squeeze is that part of the movement where power or control is exerted. The first part is the launching pad, the preparation for the shot or rebound. It’s the gathering for the explosive push. The second part is the wrist and fingers on the release point of the shot. While the first part is the explosive capstone for the lower two levels (Rhythm and Technique), the second part is the foundation for the upper two levels (Focus and Will).

In Squeeze practicing you focus only on the gathering, explosion part of the movement and then only on the release part of the movement, making the Rhythm and Technique automatic and instinctual. Your practice should be at from three-fourths to full speed, this seems to be sufficient when repeated movement is being performed in practice. Again the idea is to cap the Rhythm and Technique levels and establish the foundation for the Focus and Will parts of skill development.

 Focus

There are two types of focus: one is peripheral vision, the other is target vision. At the professional level you must see the whole court using peripheral vision. You not only must know where your own players are at on the court, but also where the opposing players are at on the court. Why is this so important? You must be able to look through your own players’ and the opposing players’ strategies in order to anticipate the next moves. This is called the “void” – when there is no opposition. The opposition becomes like your own players, where you can move them around seemingly at will.

The target vision is the instant you decide to score. It is where you look at only the center of the basket and feel your Squeeze, wrist and fingers’ stroke. This is perfecting the eye-hand coordination scoring system. Diana Taurasi, Magic Johnson, and Pistol Pete Maravich, were all experts at moving from peripheral vision to target vision in an instant. Some opposing players have commented that Diana Taurasi never looks at the basket except for a last seeming glance just before she shoots and scores against you.

Will or “Void”

So you, as a rookie, want to be as good as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, or LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, or Diana Taurasi and Chris Paul. Simply put, play in the “void” where there is no opposition, and be a step ahead in the void to maintain your advantage.

For example, when at the free-throw line where the Focus level on down is instinctual and automatic, you anticipate your opponent’s move after you make your free-throw shot. You want your stroke to be instinctual and automatic. Thus, if you anticipate your next move, then your Focus will be natural and instinctive with the highest possibility of success. However, if you focus on the Focus level on down you will inevitably revert back to the lesser levels and the natural instinct and automatic stroke will not be natural to you, thus your opportunity to score will be substantially less. Many coaches for the opposing team will, at critical parts of the game, call time out to try to shake you out of the “void,” and instead make you think about your shot. Whereas your own coach tells you “after you make the shot, this is what we’re going to do.” Their whole effort is to either get you out of your automatic natural instinctive stroke or to keep you in your natural and instinctive stroke.

As a side note, some players close their eyes to practice instinctual and automatic strokes; some players even shoot with their opposite hand to practice the Will level performance. Each player needs to assess his own ways and means of making theWill level a capstone of his entire Skill Development Pyramid.

Conclusion

Be calm but determined to win. Think only of winning, and play in the “void.”

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