Basketball Shooting Coaches

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The difference between winning and losing, and anonymity and stardom, can come down to shooting.

Some teams don’t even have a dedicated shooting coach. “I think some teams don’t because it’s such a new concept,” says Philadelphia 76ers shooting coach John Townsend. “There was a time not every team had a strength and conditioning coach, and it’s just grown and now most teams have at least two. I think eventually it’ll continue to grow for shooting coaches. I try to get to know all the shooting coaches. You have to root for them. The more teams that have shooting coaches, the more likely it’ll be that it’ll continue to grow.

It is fashionable in some circles to deride developing higher-level fundamental skills. The claim that working on basic, fundamental shooting skills in isolation won’t prepare their use when needed in a particular context. This is the opposite of how effective training actually works. Basketball is a fluid game with players constantly moving and shots taken quickly from varying, unknown-in-advance places and situations.

Practice in context would require scrimmaging with nine other players. Yet, even players good enough to make it to the NBA find dedicated work on specific shooting skills in isolation outside of the applied context is improving their overall results. Because that is how skill development works.

The full article:

The Lie Against Competition Shooting


“Not long ago, I supervised a standoff situation where our officers were placed in positions to engage a dangerous suspect. Several officers were armed with M4s. Bystanders were thickly mixed-in! Range to suspect was between 10 and 30m. Happily, our situation was resolved without our officers having to shoot.

As a precaution, I asked all officers to report, with their red-dot-equipped M4s, to the range the following week. I set-up a situation with parer targets that exactly duplicated the situation with which were confronted a week earlier.

Given generous time, stable, braced firing positions, and stationary targets, not one of our officers was able to deliver required shots, even after several attempts! When asked about sight settings and zeros, most officers were not prepared to answer definitively. Some didn’t even understand the question! An examination of the M4s present revealed that, in most cases, the red dot and the back-up iron sights did not agree. Some were not even close!”

This episode echoes many similar episodes I’ve experienced in the military as well. It isn’t unusual to find personnel in an instructor capacity (drill sergeants, etc.) just as confused.

You know a demographic in the gun world that intimately understands this and doesn’t have this problem? High Power competitors. Smallbore competitors. Pretty much any competitor in any rifle shooting discipline requiring a degree of precision will have a handle on this. It’s the reason such events were created in the first place.

I use this episode specifically because it comes by way of John Farnam, a “name” instructor of the Modern Technique camp that has poo-pooed competitive shooting in the past.

We’re sometimes warned about the “dangers” of competition, even though there is not a single documented incident where competition shooting experience ever caused a problem.

Competitive shooters possess a commodity concerning firearms skill that is rare among public-sector personnel: GAS. It’s a guarantee that a competitive shooter, someone making an effort to obtain improved scores and achieving that result, really does Give A Shit about their skill because they’re motivated to spend free time and money doing it. Hell, they do it for fun!

I worked ranges for over 30,000 deploying military personnel from 2003-2009. My peers were involved in range activity for nearly every service personnel deploying through the Department of Defense during that time. There was not a single problem or concern caused by someone arriving having prior competition experience. Not one.

Personnel having competitive experience are routinely better performers and more knowledgeable than their peers lacking such experience. They had the same tactical/military/police training as everyone else in the unit but performed better by having a heightened capability developed via competitive experience. The same is true concerning physical fitness and those pursuing other sports. Amazingly enough, competitive runners have better run times during unit fitness tests and competitive lifters are notably stronger.

This improved capability happens when one genuinely does Give A Shit and does something beyond required, minimum qualifications and standards. In contrast, every person requiring remedial training was someone lacking competition shooting experience.

Published regulation backs this up. There are many references in military and police policy describing competition shooting as beneficial. There is not a single published regulation, order, doctrine, or policy in any military or police organization suggesting competition shooting is bad or harmful with personnel recommended or ordered to avoid it. None. Not one. Plenty of examples advocating its use as beneficial, but not one saying otherwise.

Competition Shooter, Real World Encounter

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This is yet another example of how competition shooting causes bad habits during real world encounters. Oh, wait…

Man Who Shot Crossroads Mall Terrorist Is USPSA Competitor, 3-Gun Shooter

USPSA Shooter,  3-Gunner, and NRA-certified firearms instructor Jason Falconer has been identified as the man who shot and killed a 22-year-old Somali immigrant who went on a stabbing rampage inside a St. Cloud, (MN) Mall on Saturday.

The apparent terrorist—who apparently asked victims if they were Muslims before stabbing them—was engaged by Falconer inside the mall.

Too Successful Training

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The rookie is “obeying” the commands he so often got at basic; also the TEAM training: when one goes down, all go down.

I remember one recruit in the rifle shoot house that did a nice job of clearing all the rooms and hitting the targets high center mass…one of which was UC with a clean 223 hole through the badge round his neck.

I suspect “training scar” issues like this occur more from novice skill levels rather than learning a “bad” habit. When academy/basic training remains the totality of formal learning a person has, they’re more likely to repeat such things because it’s the only response available in a rather limited playbook, especially when there is little to no history of performing under pressure where the results truly matter to them.

Example. We shot a series of surprise courses at CAFSAC in the shoot houses at Connaught, Ottawa. Despite shooting these after the fixed, square range courses (the sort that allegedly cause “training scars”) not a single competitor displayed any such mistake. None of the range officers reported anyone inadvertently remaining flat footed when they should have been moving, failing to use cover, unloading before finding and engaging targets, etc. It’s almost as if being more skillful and being used to performing at a higher level while under pressure where the results matter helps people perform better while under pressure. And they could perform appropriately according to the given context/situation at hand. Amazing!

From John Tate:
You speak of a “limited playbook.” My phrase is tool box/tool bag. And I fully agree.

Once upon a time, LONG, LONG ago, I played guitar and 5-string banjo. The fingering is vastly different. But one learns to change “playbooks.”

Your square range vs. shoot house example illustrates identical adaptation to the environment.

The one quasi-counterexample I would give is a person reacting to an instantaneous and severe stimulus where either instinct or habit takes over before conscious thought. I liken these to “brake pedal moments.” BUT – as you said, “[B]eing more skillful and being used to performing at a higher level while under pressure where the results matter helps people perform better while under pressure. And they could perform appropriately according to the given context/situation at hand.”

All of which goes back to the “train to die” model of only shooting the standard, flat-foot, stationary target qual course.

Competition and the Novice

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The value of competition is that it encourages training, that is, the organization and measurement of incremental skill development. You don’t have to compete for this to occur, but this rarely does outside of competition.

Most people that don’t participate in formal competition claiming to only be interested in personal development almost never develop beyond a novice level. Police, military, CCW, hunters, and tactical school students rarely develop beyond a novice-level introduction. There are rare exceptions of course. Those exceptions end up training in a similar manner as competitors because that is how every skilled human ultimately develops higher level skill.

Harsh Reality: Police Are Not Highly Trained Firearms Experts


This article applies equally to military, probably more so.

Training Approach

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Training is on-going, programmed work designed to increase skill and/or capability. A critical component of training is measurement. Activity that fails to periodically measure skill and/or capability is not training.

Practice is skill or context-specific rehearsal. There is a component of practice in all training.

Instruction is receiving formally-organized information via a class or other means. This is very useful to anyone new to an idea or skill but ceases to be training when it fails to measurably improve skills.

Dictionaries do us a bit of disservice by sometimes listing these as synonyms but there is overlap. Receiving information via a formal class or similar means (instruction) might be the best training option, especially for a novice or someone new to a skill. For more skillful people, one-on-one skill consulting (coaching) is likely better. They don’t need new information about a skill (instruction), they need a knowledgeable person with a sharp eye for skill to observe what they already know and can do, and then offer an intelligent, organized path towards improvement. Rote repetitive rehearsal (practice) may be what’s needed to drive skill improvement. Much of this is best done by yourself and with a local peer group in regular, on-going sessions.

Instruction classes will likely involve some hands-on repetition (practice) of skills/techniques presented. A good instructor will also be able to work in a bit of one-on-one coaching during a class. There may also be an effort to establish an initial baseline of skills with the means to measure that. Besides presenting solid information, along with demonstrations and hands-on learning, the best thing a good class can offer a student is a clear path on what to do after the class is over. If the instructor didn’t hand you a program on what to do after the class along with a goal to work toward and the means to get there, the class and instructor is suspect.

Handgun presentation from a ready position, such as a holster, is a gun handling fundamental. This fundamental skill applies to any context where getting a firearm from ready to up and on target in a time-efficient manner is useful. Using this fundamental to win Steel Challenge events is a specific context and preparing properly for that specific context requires practice. Using this fundamental in a military environment is a different context but the skill remains the same.

Champion practical pistol competitor Doug Koenig discusses this here. Even when setting up to practice for a specific event, he continues to work base fundamental skills.

Hint: If a long-time national-level champion feels the need to continue working simple, fundamental skills as a primary component of his regimen, it is even more important for those of us with lesser skill to do so as well.

Five Dirty Little Secrets about Instruction

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  1. Almost everybody gets good enough with a little.
  2. Almost everybody can get better regardless of where they are. Way, way, waaay too much attention is given to equipment.
  3. Improvement is an asymptotic curve: if you’re a meatball shooter, two days with Hack and 30 other students will make you a LOT better. If you’re a competitive shooter or a guy who’s in peak training for one of the tougher Agency quals, you will get something out of it, but because you’re nearer the imaginary point of zen perfection, the improvement will naturally be subtle.
  4. A two-day cattle call class is not optimum from a training viewpoint, but it’s what’s possible.
  5. Training without reinforcement and practice is perishable.

Read the full article:

I’ll also add…

Most “training” are really classes offering instruction and are only training for those at a novice-level (“meatball shooters”)

No amount of class attendance or instruction (even if it’s called training) will improve skill and capability unless it is followed with organized, on-going practice and training on your own.

This is the true value of competition shooting. It provides the motivation and means to measure the organized, on-going practice and training. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect for you, regardless of how many lies cowards attempting to hide their lack of skill say otherwise. It exists, is readily available, and is always better than the random plinking you call “practice” (or nothing) you’re doing now.

Surveillance Camera Footage

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From Tamara Reynolds

Surveillance camera footage gets trotted out an awful lot and used as support for “How people naturally react in gunfights.”

We’re then expected to model our training on the actions of convenience store clerks who haul their boss’s pistol (which they’ve never before fired) out from under the counter to repel boarders, because that’s how we’ll “naturally react”. Or maybe using dash camera footage of an officer who hasn’t done a single dry trigger press since his academy days that wasn’t necessary to field strip his G22.

Whole schools of “teaching gunfighting” have sprung up based on watching grainy black and white footage of The Simpsons‘ Apu backpedaling wildly while shooting a pistol one-handed and covering his eyes with his other flipper because obviously that’s what we’ll “naturally” do. Why is that what we’ll “naturally” do? Well, because we saw this guy do it. Was he ever trained, or did he ever practice, to do anything else? *Shrug* Who knows? It’s what he “naturally” did.

There was a car chase in Lafayette not too many years back that ended with a stabbing and two officers “naturally” doing two different things with their pistols.

BTW, we’re still looking for ANY documentation of a competition shooter getting “killed in the streets” because of some bad habit he picked up in competition. To date, all that has surfaced is reaching, third hand (and further) anecdotes, tall tales, flat out lies, and campfire stories.

“Skill Specific” Exercise Considered Harmful

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It has become trendy among the unenlightened to invent novel ways to add resistance to certain skill-specific movements. To the uninformed, this seems like a good idea. The exercise now mimics the skill (sort of) so now we’re simultaneously exercising and improving skill. Good idea, except for the fact it doesn’t work and may be detrimental.

Just as bad, the people promoting this are often doing so out of financial motivation by offering a class or product tie-in. They can’t prove their approach is “better” but it offers the illusion of being scientific and the ad looks good. Operators are standing by! Order now!

Here is why this approach is wrong.

Using artificial resistance as some pseudo skill-specific movement is a bad idea. You’re practicing to overcome resistance that won’t normally be there and this will likely will have a negative influence on skill development. A skill-specific movement needs to be specific to the skill if it is to be trained properly. Swinging an abnormally heavy bat or club interferes with the movement pattern used with the normally weighted one and changes things. Adding tension/resistance straps requires overcoming forces in amounts and directions that aren’t normally there, embedding a motor pattern different from what you need.

Kind of odd that instructors warning against the imagined “dangers” of creating bad habits via competition are suggesting practice/training with a method that has been tested and proven to create actual bad habits.

Here’s a video demonstration of why:

Here’s a segment from Fads and Fallacies lecture from Dr. Mike Israetel in his Advanced Strength and Conditioning Theory course.

An article explaining the same problem:

Another article on this:

And another:

And another:

The better approach (arguably the only effective approach) is to conduct strength and conditioning as general preparation. Squats, presses, pulls, sprints, simple calisthenics, and the like yield general adaptations that aren’t specific to any particular skill or sport. Train and practice specific fundamental skills without making it “functional fitness.” Do the minimum that still allows measurable progress over time. This requires measuring (and having the means to measure) so that it can be determined if/when capabilities and skills are actually improving, by how much, and how quickly.

Those now-improved base capabilities and fundamental skills will yield improved performance in any environment once any particulars needed for that environment are addressed. This context-specific preparation comes on quickly once base capabilities and fundamental skills are well developed.

Jerking around with pseudo skill-specific exercise is great way to avoid developing base capabilities and fundamental skills.

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