The Importance of Scrimmaging
Scrimmaging to work on skills
Scrimmage is where you can get live reps in to experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t work. After scrimmaging using what you learn, now you can get in game situations where you catch the ball and know the guy in front of you is cooked. That’s what the guys at the highest level do to work on their game. Ballers like Jamal Crawford, do you think coaches tell him do what he does? What about Steph Curry, do you think coaches tell him what to do? No, both of these players put the time in to work on their game until it just happens and is instinctive. That’s when a coach will say “go for it, you earned it! You have to be coach able but at the same time everything can’t be coached or be instructional. If you are a baller you have to make your game instinctive.
Unstructured play helps you to work on getting out of your box
Unstructured, free play is necessary for players to relax, get outside the structure of playing basketball and use their creativity. As a player during the off-season you have to work on things that the coaches don’t anticipate you have the ability to do. Then you have to go out and prove it to them consistently. You have to fight to get yourself out of the box and expand your box on a consistent basis. You need to increase the expectations that players and coaches have for you. Players have become too coach able because they are coached all the time on what to do and what not to do from the time we start structured basketball play up to college. “When I played at UW I took shots in games coming down the stretch where my coach would say, no! Three games later he would call timeout and tell me “do that” about the same things he told me not to do earlier in the season.” –Donald Watts.
Providing a setting to help connect skills
Scrimmages provide a setting that helps enable your players to connect a skill with a situational game opportunity. For instance, a basketball low post player may understand how to perform a drop-step move to score a basket, but does he or she recognize the moment when the opportunity presents itself? Is he aware that his defender is positioned such that he can seal off the defender with his body? Does he recognize that his point guard is positioned (or will soon be positioned) at the correct angle to make an entry pass? And if defended a certain way, can he or she quickly identify the available options to regain positional advantage? Recognizing these game situations, and instinctively applying an appropriate skill, are most often learned by playing the game.
Gaining game situational reps
Yes, certain competitive drills can simulate a game situation, and may be a steppingstone to learning how to perform and apply a skill. Combined with instruction, these drills may be the necessary first step in this learning process. But most sports are a real-time, interactive experience that often requires split-second decisions and reactions. The constant flow of movement, the opening and closing of space, the fleeting moments that provide opportunities to gain advantage, are best understood when players participate in the game activity itself. And in an age where neighborhood “pickup” games are much diminished, scrimmages in organized sports programs play an essential role in exposing players to game situations—ones that provide an opportunity for the players to learn which of their “moves” work, and how and when to use them.