"From players, to coaches to parents – everybody wants to know HOW many shots it takes to become a great shooter? What’s the timeline in seeing improvement? The answer may surprise you."
Stop Counting the Costs
From the age of 10 and on I was absolutely obsessed with basketball. My Dad painted the half
court lines in our driveway, hooked up an industrial parking lot light to the side of our house and set me
up to 100% drive my neighbors crazy for days and nights to come. I don’t care if it was 80 degrees or 30
degrees. If the driveway was dry you could count on me being out there getting up shots. Eventually I
graduated to having gym access and the hours spent outside were now replaced by hours spent inside.
Countless hours. Way too many hours. Shooting, shooting, shooting. Do I believe this is what led me to
being able to shoot the basketball? Absolutely. Knowing what I know now would I do it all over again?
Absolutely not. The thousands of jump shots I took each summer could have been drastically reduced
had I known HOW to practice. While the results were everything I was looking for, my process was
aimless. The question of “How many shots does it take to become a great shooter?” may need to be
rephrased. “What are you willing to do to become a great shooter?” may be more appropriate.
The moment I hear a player ask how long something will take is the moment I know I have to
redirect the conversation. “How long will this take? How good do you want to be?” “I want to be
good.” “Ok – then don’t’ ask how long this is going to take.” There’s no set amount of makes, time
spent in the gym, or work with a trainer that’s going to guarantee that in this particular time frame with
this output of work that you or your player is going to suddenly be designated as a great shooter. It’s
not about the time as much as it is about the ability to be fully aware of what you’re trying to
accomplish. Read any books that cater to those individuals that have achieved great things in their
fields and you will undoubtedly come across a phrase known as “deep practice”. Deep practice occurs
when there is a plan in place and the individual who is following that plan is completely immersed in the
work they are doing. Time becomes irrelevant, process becomes paramount. When you’re in a state of
deep practice you can achieve more in an hour than you would mindlessly shooting around for hours at
a time with little to no structure. Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote about the 10,000-hour rule –
highlighting uber successful people and their roundabout ways of achieving 10,000 hours of work
leading up to what was eventually deemed to be their expertise. What he did not happen to mention
was that it was all deep practice that got them there. There’s a big difference between hours spent in
concentration and hours spent with no direction. Acquiring a skill such as shooting the basketball is no
different. I don’t think you NEED 10,000 hours, but I do believe you need to take direct aim at what
you’re trying to accomplish and cater your workouts and progressions to that goal.
We’re all at different stages in our development. Some pros are still trying to figure it out while
there’s undoubtedly a middle schooler right now that’s gearing up to shoot 48% from 3 this upcoming
season. The amount of makes per day is not necessarily indicative of how great of a shooter that player
is going to be. It all comes down to the concentrated work that’s being put in each day. You do not
necessarily need to shoot 1,000 shots or spend 6 hours per day in the gym, but you do have to be fully
invested mentally in what you’re trying to become. How good do you really want to be?