Up to a point, variability enhances the efficiency of motor skill practice, and differential learning enhances the variability. Thus the differential learning method should be utilized in basketball training.
However, in praxis you can’t just start doing differential learning even if you wanted to. Rather you need to run drills where the method is utilized. Traditionally, such drills are not a part of a basketball coach’s repertoire.
Another practical problem is that the variability needs to take place day in and day out. Thus, coaches need to plan it daily. That is why differential learning drills should be such that varying them they day to day does not take much time.
Here are two such drills – one with the emphasis on passing, the other with the emphasis on shooting. The key is that the variability in both is achieved by drawing different variations from a list put together beforehand, maybe over several years.
- Put together a list of different types of passes and constraints to be used.
- The list may include:
- Behind-the-back passes.
- Passing without bending elbows.
- Passing with a sideways spin.
- Hook pass off the dribble.
- Between-the-legs passes.
- For one particular practice, choose two types of passes to be used (Pass 1 and Pass 2).
- Divide players into pairs.
- Each group will go down the floor six times. They will pass the ball back and forth and score.
- First trip down the floor: No defense. Use exclusively Pass 1. Each player needs to pass at least twice. If it’s an asymmetrical pass (e.g. behind the back), both players need to use both hands at least once.
- Second trip: Dummy defense (one group of two players, or coaches, or both). Use exclusively Pass 1.
- Third trip: No defense. Use exclusively Pass 2.
- Fourth trip: Dummy defense. Use exclusively Pass 2.
- Fifth and sixth trip: Dummy defense. Use only Passes 1 and 2. After using one of the two, the player must use the other one.
- Ways to vary the drill include:
- Vary the number of trips down the floor.
- Constrain how the play is finished (what type of a lay-up or a jumper etc.).
- Vary the number of the defenders.
- Vary the intensity of the defense.
- Vary the spacing and the tactics of the defenders.
- Vary the number of offensive players in a group.
- Vary the number of passes that must be made.
- Write a list of different types of shots and constraints to be used.
- Divide players into pairs.
- One or two pairs at each basket.
- The shooter shoots from three different distances: first from 3 meters, then from 5 meters, and last from beyond the 3-point line.
- Before moving further, he needs to make two shots from the spot.
- The two shots need to be different from each other. The coach determines what types of shots are to made.
- Both shots may be varied, or the first one is regular and the second one is varied.
- From beyond the 3-point line, the player must make three shots: first the two different ones, and then a regular one to finish the game.
- There are plenty of ways to vary the shot, including:
- Shooting hand elbow flying / squeezed
- Kneel on left / right knee
- Extremely flat / high arch
- The ball must touch the front / back rim
- Regular jumper / Move downwards when releasing the ball