Q&A – Improving vision skills for basketball during self-isolation
How would you recommend a player improve their game while in isolation, where they may not have access to a court or regular training facilities?
We are all dealing with a new norm in isolation, the same thing goes for a basketball player. My biggest recommendation is finding ways to stay active and stay in the best shape you can be. If you can get outside and run sprints, or have an in-home work regiment for strength training, that’s always going to be a great thing to do. It’s not running on a court, but it is increasing your heart rate and simulating basketball activity. I also would recommend doing as much ball handling as possible, whether that’s in an apartment parking lot, a driveway, or just going to a park and doing different ball handling moves, simulating a defender in front of you, while going full speed.
What is the most important key vision skill for a player to develop?
There are multiple key vision skills a player needs to always be working on in their development. Trusting your vision leads to quicker and more decisive decisions, whether that’s in front of you or away from you. These skills come over time with constant repetition. With more reps your mind adjusts and the game will slow down, it becomes more natural. A key vision skill can depend on your position too. For a point guard, it’s the lead pass ahead, or finding a cutter or spot up shooter when pressured. For a big man, it’s recognizing a double team is coming, or being able to see a weak side drive to rotate and protect the rim defensively. These are read and react type of situations that stem from reps. Your mind makes more decisive decisions to see a play, a read, or a counter when your vision processes these decisions more quickly.
How could players develop these skills in the off-season and/or during the lockdown?
During this pandemic, I would urge all players to study the game as much as possible, while studying themselves as much as they can. This is a time where you have time, more time than you’ll ever have. I would look at as an opportunity, you have time to study your game and address areas of your game that need improvement. It’s also a time to watch other teams, and other players, at different levels that you aspire to reach. If you’re an amateur athlete you can watch college players, or pro players, and study them. I know it’s hard for players to not have access to a court or facility, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be studying the game as much as you can. For example, playbacks of NBA Finals series, or NCAA Tournament games, have been happening a lot over this period, I recommend watching old games. It helps you to take a step back and appreciate the game for what it is.
What key vision skills do you look for when evaluating a player for the next level?
In evaluating a player, many traits and skills stem from vision. Things like IQ, decision making, having a feel for the game, and being able to make the right play is so important in an evaluation. Being a great player means being a complete player. Your strengths as a player, as an offensive and defensive player, come from having vision. That vision leads to processing information at a faster rate. You can tell when a player has an edge in processing information quickly, it’s natural and they have an attention to detail that allows them to flourish in high leverage situations. What they see allows them to make quick decisions, also refereed to as motor skills. Talent is one thing, but so many other traits are needed in becoming a complete player.
Do you think vision/recognition skills can be further developed or are they are what they are?
Vision and recognition skills are always being developed, at every level, at any age. Hand eye coordination and visualization is a huge part of the game, more importantly it’s a huge part of the skill development process of a player. When I think of player development it encompasses three levels, the on floor skills training, the strength and conditioning training, and also the mental and intelligence development of a player. Each of these can always be improved with proper training and consistent repetition. None of these get mastered over night. It takes a commitment, and a willingness, to build habits in which all of these areas are constantly being worked on. Even at the pro level, all of these areas are being worked on constantly. That’s the craft, it’s part of it. Growth and improvement begin in the details of the work.
About Jarrett Sutton
Jarrett played at the University of Missouri (’08-’12) and was the Basketball Operations Coordinator for the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors before moving on to join the SEC Network broadcast team, and consulting for both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Brooklyn Nets. He is currently a regional scout for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Follow Jarrett on Twitter @JarrettTSutton