How to bridge the gap

The Dream

Imagine for a second that you’re playing in the NBA. You’re one of the best shooters in the world and you’re tearing up the league.

What is your game like? How does it feel to move like this? What does your shot look like? Really try to picture and feel what it’s like to score against some of the best players in the world.

The reality is: you’re not there yet. You’ve still got a long way to go.

Bridging the gap

Obviously there is a big gap between what you’re capable of right now and what you just pictured. The multi-million dollar question is how do you bridge this gap? What’s stopping you from performing like this?

There are a couple of things stopping you from shooting the ball like you want, like you need to play at the highest level.

Before I tell you what they are, stop and think about this for a second. What exactly is stopping you from putting the ball in the hoop every time you catch it within your shooting range?

Seriously, what’s stopping you?

The truth is that there are only 2 things stopping you.

  1. Yourself. (your accuracy and consistency)
  2. Your opponents. (defence will physically stop you from releasing the ball by blocking it with their hand)

If you want to reach your dreams, you need to overcome these 2 obstacles. Sounds pretty straight forward right?

If you’re like most players, you decide to work on your own (#1) game first…building accuracy and consistency. You figure that once you become a good enough shooter in the gym alone, you will also be able to do it in games against defence.

You practice hard. You improve. You practice more…and improve more. You become more accurate. You become more consistent. Congratulations, you’re one of the best shooters (dribblers, passers) on your team, when you’re in the gym alone.

But we don’t practice to be great in an empty gym! We want to score in games. We want to be able to shoot against the best defenders and be able to score in the biggest moments.

 And here’s the real problem…!

While all your hard work and practice has improved your shooting when you don’t have a defender on you, it hasn’t helped you overcome the other obstacle #2) that’s stopping you…the defender who’s doing everything he can to stop you from releasing your shot (or pass, lay-up, dribble penetration etc. Although I’m using shooting in this example, the same forces apply to almost all the other offensive skills too).

The defender has read the scouting report and knows you’re a good shooter. He knows that if you have enough time, you’re going to score. So what’s he going to do?

He’s going to rush you. He’s going to swipe at the ball as you bring it up. He’s going to get a hand up to block your release. He’s going to do whatever he can to stop you from getting into your regular shooting rhythm.

The higher level of basketball you get to, the better this defender will be and the less time you’ll have to get your shot off.

In fact, if you watch good college or NBA basketball, you’ll notice that even on so-called “open shots”, there’s only fractions of a second separation between the shot release and a rotating defenders hand.

This strong, quick, long-armed defender who can jump is a major obstacle between you and your ability to score while playing at highest level.

AND unfortunately, the way most players train, they’ll never overcome this obstacle.

The big mistake

Most players think that the main thing stopping them from reaching their dreams is #1, themselves, their accuracy and consistency. So naturally they try to improve this by working on it.
(At the very beginning of a player’s career in basketball this can seem like a logical move because the defence is slow and most shooters are very inconsistent.)

But really this approach is backwards. The main thing stopping you from reaching the highest level isn’t you. It’s that great defender who is going to stop you from shooting, from passing, from penetrating from reaching your dreams!

With enough practice, almost any player can learn to be consistent and accurate, when he is in the gym alone. However, very few are capable of consistently getting off a good shot against great defenders…because they haven’t properly trained themselves to deal with the defence.

The correction

It doesn’t have to be this way…and if you want to reach your dreams, you just need to change the way you think about the game and the way you train for it.

This is worth repeating. “The biggest obstacle stopping you from scoring/executing at the highest level, are the hands of the defence”.

Do you see this mental distinction and why it’s so important? Let me spell it out.

Training Method A = Most players…

spend years practicing thousands/millions of shots building consistency and accuracy. After getting good at this and advancing up the basketball food chain, they realize their main obstacle is actually the great defender getting a hand on the ball. Now they have to spend thousands of hours more trying to release the ball quicker, without rushing…or they just fail to advance any further in the game.

Training Method B = Uncommon exceptions.

recognize that every time they practice, they are training their mind-body connection in a very specific way (more about that next week). They are creating habits that will determine how they execute in games.

Knowing that, at their dream destination (NBA, college), they need to be able to execute a Split Second before a world class defender blocks their shot, they train to be as time-efficient as possible. Even though they are also practicing alone in the gym and don’t have any real time rush, they never practice this way.

They practice their shots by always preparing before the ball hits their hands. They know how important it is to have a clean catch and not bobble the ball or have to readjust it, so they practice for this. They are conscious of eliminating any unnecessary movements in their shot. They focus on being smooth and time-efficient as they practice thousands/millions of shots.

The result is a player who is able to shoot consistently and accurately, whether he is alone in the gym or in a high level game with great defenders determined to stop him.

While the difference between these 2 approaches to training is subtle, the end results are very different.