Stretching Your Mind and Your Game

As humans, we naturally want to discover newer, better, more fun ways of doing things. We want our minds to stay engaged in what we are doing and allow our creativity to flow. Basketball is no different. I have found that in basketball, while there are 3 ways to practice: Block, Random, and Interleave, only two of these allow you to truly stretch your mind and your game.

Block – A Block practice is a traditional style of practice designed for players to get a high number of reps by repeating the same move.  An example is shooting a one-dribble pull-up jump shot from the same spot for x amount of reps. This type of practice is focused more on the routine of the replicated motion to create muscle memory.

Random – A Random practice is similar to a Block practice by way of the number of repetitions taken.  The difference is no drill is repeated twice – they are randomized.  Let’s take the same example given in the Block practice section of shooting a one-dribble pull-up jump shot. While the number of reps can be the same, the location and distance of the shots will change.  Random practices push you to analyze and adjust in real-time before you get back into action. These practices more closely emulate game situations. 

Interleave – An Interleave practice is when multiple skill-sets are worked on at the same time (dribbling, passing, defense, etc). This type of practice is a hybrid of Block and Random. Let’s take the same example given in the Block and Random practice sections on shooting a pull-up jump shot.  A player can zig-zag push-steps (defense), mix-up dribble combos (dribble), then go into their shooting or progression (shooting). Interleave practices are mentally and physically loaded and will tax you the most as they also incorporate conditioning drills such as line touches.

A study was done in 1969 by two scientists that wanted to measure which practice method produced the best results to convert practiced skills to a game. During the practice phase, the Block group outperformed the Random/Interleave group.  However, when it came time to transfer the learned skills into a game, the Block group lost all of their gains made during practice. On the other hand, the Random/Interleave group retained their skills and surpassed the block group by 40% during the game phase. This is a HUGE difference!!

As you can see, it has been well proven that if you want to stretch your mind and apply your skills during a game performance, Random/Interleave practices are much more effective. These practices push you to the edge, ensuring you are always learning something new without frustrating your brain. Therefore, they allow you to not only unleash your creativity on the basketball court, but also have fun while growing.