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Six Keys to Quality Skill Development, Kevin Eastman
by Rick Staudt
With the basketball communityís renewed emphasis on skill development, serious players and coaches are continually looking for drills and concepts to help them reach the next level. This DVD by Kevin Eastman, Director of Player Development for the Boston Celtics and the lead Nike Skills Instructor, does a tremendous job of bridging the gap between theory and practice when it comes to creating a better basketball player.
Eastman has a varied background in the sport. A former coach at Washington State University, he was conducting a clinic in Florida that included Doc Riversí son as a participant. The Boston Celtic coach was so impressed with what he saw that he brought Eastman in to develop players on the pro level. When Nike decided to emphasize skill development and create positional skills academies for elite high school players, he was tabbed to develop the program that they would follow. Shortly into the video, it is obvious he knows his stuff.
Eastman opens up the DVD by emphasizing that the drills and concepts that he uses are as applicable to middle school players as they are to the NBA athletes that he works with. It is important to be creative in designing and choosing the drills you use so your players are both challenged and donít get bored quickly with the drills. For example, every coach has used the Mikan drill to improve a playerís conditioning, footwork, and weak hand. However, Eastman takes it up a notch by only having "swishes" count. This promotes concentration and makes the drill more difficult and therefore the actual game easier.
Lists, lists, lists
Eastman warns you early on that he is big on lists and proceeds to hit you with a variety of concepts that will have you re-evaluate how you train your players. His first list is the title of the video. Of the six, four of the keys involve conditioning. If the player isnít in condition, he can not practice at a speed that will be effective and improve his skill set. Also of interest is Eastmanís Theory of Two: He can show you how to correctly do any skill in 2 minutes. It will take the player 2 weeks to become comfortable executing the new skill. Finally, it will take the coach 2 months before he is comfortable with the player using that new skill in a game.
Coach Eastman believes that every drill must have four things: weak hand development, an emphasis on balance and footwork, playing through contact, and shooting contested shots. The better a playerís balance and footwork, the better his offensive skills will become, thereby forcing the defense to play more physically, get closer to contest shots, and more likely to force him to the off hand. By working on all four of these areas at the same time, a player will develop quicker.
In the next segment, Coach Eastman moves on to his six keys for a quality shooting workout. The biggest waste of a playerís time is to just go out and shoot baskets at a leisurely pace. To get the most out of any shooting workout, Eastman emphasizes that a player must work on game shots from game spots at game speed. He also adds that the player needs to practice a variety of ways to get into his shot. From simple catch and shoot, to shooting on the move, to shooting off the dribble, the more a player strives to cover all the avenues of obtaining a shot, the better he will become.
In his final "theory" segment, Eastman covers nine teaching points when working through drills. The points basically show both coach and player how to most effectively use their body to get an advantage over an opponent regardless of size, speed, or strength. All of these points seem simple, but they are also subtle and they will leave you wondering why you didnít think of them earlier. Such nuggets as use your eyes more to set up your fakes and that you play the game from low to high are noteworthy, especially for younger players.
Drill, Drills, Drills
While the vast majority of the DVD is devoted to concepts, Eastman doesnít leave drills out of the picture. A noted master of using chairs in his drill work, he claims that he is up to over 50 chair drills for perimeter players and another 50 chair drills for post players. He gives only a taste of what can be done using the chairs, but it is certainly enough to make you want to check out his other material that is devoted solely to these type of drills.
On the Perimeter
By setting the ball on the chair, it forces the player to start low right away and then finish high. In this particular video, Eastman sets up the chairs at the elbows and has players perform the drills from this area of the court. He has them use different cuts and moves to get to the ball on the chair and take the shot. Eastman also makes the player do "intensity layups" where the players start at the baseline, run around the chair to get the ball, dribble for a layup, and then repeat the process from the other side.
One non-chair drill that was demonstrated was the Quick Square Drill. The player stands at the top of the key with his back to the basket. As the coach feeds him the ball, the coach yells out which way to pivot. This forces the player to concentrate and not guess, and to square up quickly to get off a quick shot.
In the Post
Many of the post drills shown were similar to the perimeter drills, just the chairs were moved closer to the basket. Two unique drills were the Baseline Touch one-on-one and Circle Block one-on-one. In Baseline Touch, two players one at each elbow, race to the baseline, touch a spot, and then sprint to a ball set on a chair in the middle of the lane. The first one to the ball is on offense. This is a very competitive drill and teaches players to get open and beat the defense to the spot. In Circle Block, two players circles each other on one block, facing the coach who has the ball on the wing. In this way, the players quickly turn from offense to defense. At the coachís discretion, he throws the ball into the post. The player who catches it is on offense and a game of one-on-one begins. This forces players to concentrate and react quickly.
Coach Eastman concludes the video by sharing some personal observations in the area of skill development. He believes it is vital for the coaches to be out there working with the players on skill development. By being out there, the coach shows that he cares about the players and their success. The coach should consistently make comments that relate to what needs to be emphasized on the drill so that the player will understand where to focus his attention.
One of the great things about basketball is that there are a variety of ways to be successful. The creative coach can take the concepts and theories presented by Coach Eastman and apply those drills that he thinks will best teach what he wants to emphasize to the player. While the drills presented in the video are designed for a group session, the concepts presented by Coach Eastman are very useful for the individual as well as the coach. It is certainly a worthy title for coaches at all levels to have in their collection.
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