How Risk, Reward, Expectations and Feedback Impact Development


September 19th, 2017 – One of the most valuable and least understood skills in basketball is the ability to shoot. By shoot, I don’t mean just throw the ball at the basket and hope it goes in, but instead to really be a shooter. Just because you made a deep pull-up three in your last game does not mean you have NBA range. Often times, in addition to shooting, it is misunderstood how good you have to be at a skill in order for that skill to be game ready. In fact, what I found is that low percentage three that you made and your parent’s/coach’s/teammate’s reaction is most often the exact blockage that prevents players from becoming great shooters and/or highly skilled player. To understand what I am talking about and where I am going, we have to understand risk/reward and how it relates to range.

Understanding Risk/Reward

When a young player takes a shot that an athlete feels like he/she/coaches/parents “should” make, like a layup or a close range shot, and they miss, it is met with disappointment. When this same shot is made, there is typically no to little response, creating a high risk/low reward situation as it relates to feedback. On the contrary, when a young player makes a shot that they have no business trying like a half court shot or hucking up a three, when it is missed, there is typically little to no response. If it is made, the crowd goes crazy, creating a low risk/high reward situation. This creates a mindset in players early on where they develop an attitude contradictory to where their focus should be.

First thing, there are no shots that you “should” make without consistent practice. In developing into a great shooter and developing range, you or anyone else should only have expectations that you have proven to yourself through repetitions. Secondly, if you want to become a great shooter, you have to be willing to practice where you cannot get bored with making shots. One of the things that I hear from players both young and old is that this is “too easy,” when easy is actually the objective. Don’t get me wrong by the term “easy,” the correct term here is “automatic.” You want to become automatic at shooting or any other skill you hope to develop for game sake. The secret to becoming automatic is to work the skill, whether it be shooting or anything else, until you can’t/don’t miss. Only then do you take a step back to increase your range (if it’s shooting), or add a degree of difficulty if it’s a different skill. At the end of the day, if you’re training or working with kids that are training, when they’re working on the right things, whether they’re succeeding or failing, give them feedback that is positive. That way they will continue to work until things are automatic and progress from there. And when you see them working beyond their ability and getting lucky, salute them for trying, but encourage them to work on the right things and reward them for that work.

In the spirit of this conversation, there are three levels of development that I will expand on in an upcoming blog: the cognitive/thinking phase, the fluid phase and the automatic phase.



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