Training Movement For Basketball Players Part 1 — Acceleration

Basketball is a unique sport with demands that are often different from that of other team sports. Because of it’s unique nature, we’d like to take a look at and present some thoughts on how to train some of the necessary traits that athletes will need to be successful on the basketball court. In Part 1, we will discuss training acceleration. Thoughts on change of direction and power will follow in future posts.

In our mind, there are a few things to consider when training acceleration: What position does the athlete start in? What initiates the movement? What does the athlete need to be prepared to do after accelerating? All of these are things that will be somewhat unique to the specific sport, so let’s take a look at all three as it pertains to basketball.

What position is the athlete in when acceleration occurs?

This one is tough for basketball because the list of positions that players will need to be able to accelerate from is probably never ending. Here’s what we do know, however. They definitely won’t be in blocks like a sprinter on the track and more than likely they won’t be in a staggered or three-point stance. They could be facing the direction they need to go or it could be lateral or even behind them. You need to keep all of this in mind when thinking about how you want your athletes to begin in acceleration work. We like to start them out of a parallel stance and have them accelerate in all directions. Give the athletes some freedom and try not to be too peculiar about exactly what they look like getting out of that parallel position. Just cue them to get from A to B as fast as they can. If there’s a ton of wasted movement, correct it, but we believe it’s more helpful to allow each unique athlete to do what’s most comfortable.

What initiates the movement?

Change of possession, loose balls and close outs are among the list of potential reasons that a basketball player will need to accelerate. The list is far lengthier than those three things, but what they will all have in common is that the cue to accelerate will be something the athlete sees, not hears. Thus, you need to consider ways to initiate acceleration that are visual. This doesn’t have to be complicated and it doesn’t have to be specific to the game of basketball, but it’s critical that your athlete’s brain can connect something they see to the task of accelerating. It could be as simple as a point or simulating a pass or shot. It could be reacting to a basketball or other object. You could take it out of your own hands and make it a reaction to another athlete. We don’t believe there’s any right or wrong way to do it as long as you’re taking into consideration the demand of the game.

Another thing to consider here is that the athlete doesn’t always know which direction they will need to go before the cue they have to react to. Therefore, be sure to work in drills that have a visual cue to initiate movement and also the direction of the movement.

What does the athlete need to be prepared to do after accelerating?

Another unique characteristic of basketball is that there is no finish line on the court. When a basketball player accelerates, it rarely ends by finishing through a line. It almost always ends with deceleration, change of direction, taking possession of the ball or jumping to score or prevent a score. This has implications not just on the finish, but on length of the sprint and even on the athlete’s path, which is going to rarely happen in a straight line on the basketball court. Take some time to account for this in your planning. Don’t always finish through a line. Do an AC/DC drill where your athletes accelerate and decelerate. Add a reactive shuffle to the end. It’s also a good idea to incorporate ways to change the athlete’s path on acceleration. This can be done easily by having two athletes competing to get to the same point first. You could just use a cone or you can even use a ball.

Above all else, remember that you are training athletes, not robots. Basketball is not a series of planned and rehearsed movement patterns. If that’s all your athletes get good at, they probably aren’t going to be very competitive on the floor. Athletes win basketball games. Robots do not.

Below I’ve included a series of acceleration drills that we do with basketball players. They aren’t perfect and the athletes performing them aren’t perfect either, but we think they provide great ways for you to address the three considerations above. We have them accelerating different directions, for different distances with different tasks at the end. It’s not a comprehensive list, but there are certainly some good ideas in them.

Tennis Ball Parallel Acceleration

Partner Parallel Chase Drill

Tennis Ball Partner Lateral Acceleration Races

Tennis Ball Partner Lateral Acceleration with Possession

Tennis Ball AC/DC with Reactive Lateral Start

This last drill is an advanced one and involves a change of direction, but it creates a task for the athlete before accelerating (shuffle away) and finishes with another task (getting a hand on the ball).

These thoughts probably didn’t revolutionize the way you look at training acceleration in your basketball athletes, but hopefully you found a thing or two that you can take away that will help you coach it a little better and more importantly help your athletes perform a little better. Check back in the near future for Part 2 and Part 3 that will discuss change of direction and power/explosiveness, respectively.