How to coach layups

Q: I am a middle school girls basketball coach. I was a shooting guard back in my day, I played for Towson Catholic under the most amazing coach, Gus Grason. I also played for Curry College. I am having a problem teaching lay ups is there any advice you could give?

A: I'm sorry, but my specialty is with coaching jump shots and free throws, not layups, hooks, jump hooks, etc.

I could suggest that you use awareness with your kids. If you get them to observe what they do, what foot they take off, how they shoot, where the ball hits the backboard, how hard or softly they shoot, then they will learn. If it's just about performance (good if it goes in, bad if it doesn't), then there is usually little learning.

Just break down the shot as you know it, convey that to the kids, and then find ways for them to give you feedback as to what happens.

There's nothing mysterious about the layup. I would imagine most misses are caused by anxiety and fear or doubt. Along with the physical awareness I was getting at above, you could ask the girls to rate their "fear" or "self doubt" on a scale of 1 to 10 each time they shoot a layup. With patience and practice, I'll bet the number gets lower and lower. It's an easy shot. They know that, and they've shot and made hundreds or thousands of them. But fear of failure can be huge at that age (and any age). The observation and reporting of the fear or doubt will lead to its disappearance.

Awareness, from what I've learned in my life, is "developmental," and, in fact, it's the ONLY THING that's developmental in a physical activity. The more the awareness, the more the learning. When you have a specific intention (way of shooting), that gives focus for the awareness.