A that separates professional basketball players from amateurs is the frequency and the intensity of individual workouts. They go the gym more, they stay there longer and they sweat like crazy practicing tailor-made drills and exercises designed to emulate the speed and condition of real games.
One thing that we all have in common, though, is our capacity to have fun and our choice to approach each workout with purpose: to get just tiny better today than yesterday. We can set a goal greater than our baseline abilities and have fun going for it. Whether you’re employed by a basketball team or a big corporation, a kaizen mindset pays off. By making small realistic changes and continually improving our habits, we can all experience gradual improvements and the occasional spikes in our performance.
Kaizen is the happy medium, not to be confused with average, between the extreme ends of doing nothing at all and doing way too much. Like whiskey and wine, the tiny enhancements add up over the years, as your habits solidify.
Let’s use everyone’s favorite, and basketball’s most important skill, shooting, as an example of kaizen.
Shooting Sessions versus Shoot-arounds
Shooting sessions are process, goal and fun oriented. Shootarounds are simply fun oriented. Shooting sessions are calibrated. They target a specific area or skill. They emphasize quantity, repetition after repetition. They emphasize quality, game shots only. They develop self-discipline in fundamental details. They measure baselines, performance and results. They require you to try and train with different training equipment.
Workouts x (Challenging conditions + fun) = small positive changes in your habits on and off the court
The more productive workouts you have, the more changes you’ll notice. Even if you don’t notice them, rest assured some changes take place invisibly, and don’t surface until you gain full clarity and perspective.
Shoot-arounds are free style. Most of us have them to pass time, warm up or lightly practice. You can shoot from anywhere on the court, you can shoot any number of shots you want, you don’t have to remain conscientious of your shooting form and mechanics, and you never have to pick up a pen or paper to count your takes, makes and misses.
Shooting sessions, aka intense shooting workouts, are accessible to rare players, good players and most players, equally. You decide your goals and tailor workouts to it, as ridiculously hard or as ridiculously easy as you want.
At first, developing a realistic habit is more important than dominating it. Just getting in the gym more often than you’re used to is the first step. Then, you slowly incorporate fundamental workouts and specific drills.
And like spiking your coffee with an extra espresso, shooters should spike their sessions with training devices and accessories, which aid in developing proper form, correcting improper techniques and understanding the value of boring repetitions.
Use equipment, aides, and apps that suit your shooting habits. Target an area, whether it’s your form, your # of repetitions or your conditioning, and go from there. Try one new tool at a time, then mix and match, till you find the ones you love to use.
Shotloc – I like working on FORM shooting so I use the ShotLoc. It helps train for better arc, strengthens flick of the wrist, improves muscle memory, and develops better control with the follow-through.
FIBA Genuine Leather Official Game Basketball – When I struggle to want to go to the gym, I remember that I have a FIBA basketball that I spent a hundred bucks on, which still needs to be broken in by lots of dribbles pounding the floor and lots of jump shots clanking the rim. I consider the basketball a habit-forming investment that gets me in the gym.
Wilson Evolution Basketball – This basketball too, because anytime I see it rolling around in the backseat of my car, I impulsively go shoot. This $50 investment pays endless dividends…until you lose it or someone jacks it.
Shot Tracker – This new app does something I’ve never done before on paper: tally the number of shots taken, missed and made. I’ve always loved shoot-arounds, during which I’d count numbers in my head. If you want to zone in on proper repetitions during workouts, you need a clear head to focus with; multitasking limits your focus. The ShotTracker does this all for you.
Its a $150, but like the FIBA and Spalding official basketballs, they’re price lies in the value: they keep you going back to the gym. When I set goals on the ST for, let’s say a 500 shots and 50% accuracy, I end up taking about 600 and hitting about 55%. It creates additional motivation.
Foam Roller – Not exactly basketball equipment, but I use it for only basketball purposes. Through back pain injuries, I’ve learned to stretch properly at the beginning and end of every night of basketball games, workouts or shoot-around. Basketball is a game of core, low back and legs. I realize that if I want to play it all the way through life, then I need to keep adjusting to the aging body.
Over the last 20 years, I’ve dabbled with plenty of other training equipment, accessories and aids. Together, I believe they create chains of visits to the gym, allowing you to play for fun and to work out for challenge, keeping you on your toes. If you keep playing basketball only for fun, your time at the gym is temporary. If you play for fun and with purpose though, picking up and shooting a basketball, no matter how (in)frequently, turns into a lifelong habit that generates many tiny learning and growing opportunities along the way.