I want to dive deep into a topic that I've always been about and fundamental to our basketball technology startup, Swish Hoop. We all know that practice is the foundation of success in any sport, but have you ever considered the vital role that competition plays in your practice sessions?
Competition is a Powerful Tool
Competition shouldn't just be reserved for game days; it's a powerful tool that can propel your skills and elevate your performance to new heights. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of competition in practice and how it can help you unleash your full basketball potential.
Raising the Intensity
Practices are where champions are made, and one of the best ways to elevate the intensity is through competition. By introducing competitive elements into your drills and scrimmages, you create an environment that simulates the pressure and adrenaline of real game situations.
This heightened intensity not only pushes you to give your best effort, but also improves your ability to perform under pressure. Embracing competition in practice prepares you mentally and physically for the challenges you'll face on game day.
How I Implement into My Training
One type of drill we do in my training sessions is Contested Shooting.
Here are the rules to one variation of this that we run:
- There are two players in the drill at a time, one offense, one defense
- The drill starts with the defender holding the basketball, in position about 8-10 feet away from the offensive player
- The defender will throw the ball to the offense and then run to close out on their shot
- If the offense scores, they stay on offense for the next turn and the defender has to get back in line. However, if the defender gets a stop, they go on offense and the shooter goes to the back of the line.
You can imagine how competitive it gets when somebody is at game point, one point away from winning.
Shooting With Pressure
All the other players in the session start talking smack and doing anything they can to throw the offensive player off. That's pressure.
It's a lot different shooting with that type of pressure, knowing you can literally "win the game" with a made shot, versus taking spot shots with no competition.
Embracing the Growth Mindset
Competition in practice fosters a growth mindset—a belief that your skills and abilities can continually improve with effort and practice. When you compete against teammates who are on a similar skill level or even slightly better, it challenges you to rise to their level.
By embracing this mindset, you open yourself up to learning from your peers, studying their techniques, and incorporating their strategies into your own game. As a result, you become a more well-rounded player with an expanded skill set.
Basketball is a game of ups and downs, and competition in practice prepares you for those inevitable challenges. By facing opponents who push you to your limits, you develop mental toughness and resilience. You learn to bounce back from failures and setbacks, constantly striving to improve.
This resilience is not only crucial for success on the court but also translates to other aspects of life, equipping you with the tools to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals.
You Will Lose
Back to that Contested Shooting drill. I'll often see one player miss that game-winning shot, only to have the next player who also had game point sink it and win.
That first player had their opportunity to win, but because they missed, they lost. They gave an opportunity to another player and that player capitalized.
I always watch their body language to see how they respond to that loss. Do they pout and let it affect the rest of their training? Or do they use it as fuel and bounce back? These losses happen to everybody I train. It's the ones that take those losses in stride and just move on to the next rep that I know are resilient and well-equipped to handle the ups and downs of the game.
Enhancing Decision-Making Skills:
In the heat of competition, split-second decisions can make or break a play. By incorporating competition into your practice sessions, you sharpen your decision-making skills. You learn to assess the situation quickly, anticipate your opponents' moves, and make strategic choices under pressure. Where else do we do that?
That's right - in the game.
These skills translate directly to game situations, where making the right decision in a crucial moment can be the difference between making a play and making a turnover.
Creating a Team Bond
While competition can be intense, it also has the power to unite teammates and forge strong bonds.
When you compete against one another, you push each other to excel, and a level of respect is built.
For those that you compete with, for example in 3v3. In that given moment, you rely upon each other to win. That too is powerful in that you learn to celebrate each other's successes.
And you learn how to still be a great teammate even when you lose.
This camaraderie strengthens the overall team dynamic, fosters trust, and fuels collective growth. By embracing competition in practice, you create a cohesive unit that's ready to conquer any challenge that comes your way.
Not Always True
This isn't always immediately true though. I've seen plenty of 3v3 teams in my training sessions that don't work well together at all. The players on those teams don't collectively seek to work together, and as a result, don't build any level of trust or respect for one another.
In training, we'll run 3v3 at the end of our sessions. The teams that don't share the ball, communicate infrequently if at all, don't work as hard as the others, don't defend, etc. always end up losing and losing hard.
While in the moment I let it happen, it becomes a great teaching lesson after the session for reflection as to why some teams performed well and why some teams performed poorly. This is a major lesson that can only be learned by putting athletes in the fire and having them engage in competition.
Utilizing Swish Hoop® Technology
Now you're not always going to train with other athletes. You will inevitably spend a lot of time working on your game by yourself, and that's totally fine. At Swish Hoop, we realized that the biggest development players will make is in the time they spend working on their own.
So we aimed to solve some of these questions:
- "how can athletes compete even when they're by themselves?"
- "how can athletes still feel pressure in their training by themselves?"
- "how can athletes be intentional about their shooting when they're by themselves?"
When You're By Yourself
We created features and functionality of our product to answer these questions so that when you're by yourself...
You can still compete, whether with yourself to perform better than last time or with other athletes around the world in challenge mode.
You can still feel that pressure of being 14/24, knowing that you need to make the 15th shot to reach your goal of 15/25.
You can still be intentional with your shooting as you know every shot that you're taking is being tracked and counts towards your overall stats. Every shot literally counts.
With real-time data and insights at your fingertips, you can compete against yourself, teammates, or even players worldwide. Swish Hoop® technology brings a new level of excitement and competitiveness to your practice, accelerating your progress and transforming you into a more formidable player.
You Need to Spar in Practice
Competition in practice is not just about honing your skills; it's about unlocking your true basketball potential. To train without ever implementing some level of competition is like practicing your jabs and hooks, but never actually sparring against somebody. When it comes time to get in the ring, or get in the game, you will be ill-equipped to handle the pressure and randomness that comes with the sport.
Competition will teach you a lot - embrace it.