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Do You Think Too Much?

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I am a huge proponent of leaving your brain at the door when you step on the court. I believe that over-thinking produces the most deadly of all game killers, "Analysis Paralysis."

Just by looking at the words (a good English project for players) "analysis paralysis" means what it says, you are unable to take action because you are examining your action so closely that it forces you to freeze.


I also believe that coaches, in our desire to create the best players that we can, foster analysis paralysis by our teaching coaching methods. Insisting on attention to the minutest detail, focusing on the tiniest minutiae when performing skills, such as shooting, while well intentioned often produces a result that is opposite of what we intend.

When shooting, concentrating on elbows, launch angles, aim, etc. places emphasis on the wrong priorities. Shooting is a skill of kinesthetic sense and feel. Anything that gets in the way of that feel, diminishes results (have you ever tried to aim a shot with a 6' 10" athletic monster with the wing span of a 747 running at you?). When a player misses a shot and goes back to the minutiae for correction, odds are his shot will get worse, not better.

I find analogies in the strangest places but I am easily able to relate them to my teaching. When I find something that I think will support my philosophy, I integrate it into my teaching. My latest discovery comes from watching football player Plaxico Burress.

If you have never seen the TV show "Sport Science," you owe it to yourself to search it out and watch a few episodes. "Sport Science" looks for scientific reasons behind many sports phenomena, it even creates some itself. Some examples of the show include a scientific study of who is more accurate at 25 yards, Drew Brees of the New Oleans Saints in the NFL or an Olympic Gold Medalist in Archery (it was Brees), who has faster hands NBA guard Jared Bayless or a rock and roll drummer (Bayless) or what is the most effective distraction on the foul line (it was not physical distraction of people acting crazy behind the basket or the sound of 20,000 people booing). It is truly fascinating stuff and it might blow away some of your theories behind your playing or teaching.

In the episode featuring Plaxico Burress, former Pittsburgh Steeler and NY Giant Super Bowl winning wide receiver, they were studying the effect of pass patterns and timing on completion rate. They asked Burress to run multiple pass pattern; buttonhooks, in patterns, out patterns, slants; and simulated when the ball would arrive. I don't know how they come up with this stuff, but they scientifically measure things like deviation, probablity, etc.

Here is the payoff. After having Burress run patterns and measure them for accuracy, consistency, speed, etc., they had him run the same patterns blindfolded. BLINDFOLDED! These were the results, When blindfolded, there was LESS variation in his pass patterns then when he could see. In addition, the variation between the patterns with and without the blindfold was less than 1" vertically and less than 2.5" laterally. That means he was able to virtually duplicate his patterns whether he could see or not.

Both Burress and the Sports Science people attribute this to the huge amount of repetition he has had in running these patterns.

I believe that repetition is the key to becoming proficient with any skill. When it becomes an unconscious action, it gets better. If you do the same thing over and over and over, accept the little variations as being human as opposed to being failures, eventually you will get good at what you do. That is not to say that there aren't more efficient ways than others, but the search for efficiency should not overcome the search for effectiveness.

Don't think about what you do, just do it over and over again until it becomes an unconscious action, like walking. You don't think about putting one foot in front of the other when you walk, yet you still get to where you are going. Don't think when you play. You might be surprised at the result.

Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.

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