A few years ago, Bill Barnwell wrote an article on Grantland (R.I.P) about Chip Engelland, the shooting coach for the San Antonio Spurs (Read the original article here, it’s worth your time). In the article, Barnwell shared the following story:
“With Kerr playing reduced minutes in Portland as a 36-year-old during the 2001-02 campaign, he found himself struggling to stay loose for meaningful shooting opportunities. Kerr told Engelland about his problem and the shooting expert flew up and offered a solution: a 30-minute, seven-shot workout. Kerr and Engelland would sit alone on the bench in the Portland practice facility after everybody else had left. Engelland would ask Kerr to tell him what was going on with his kids or even leave him to read a newspaper. After a few minutes, Engelland would shout at Kerr to go, and the two would sprint off the bench and set Kerr up for a single 3-point attempt from the wing before returning to the bench. Repeat six more times and you’ve got the league’s most unlikely — and simultaneously most logical — shooting workout.”
I read this article when it initially came out in 2014, but at the time didn’t think much of it. But I rediscovered it last spring before I came home from my first year playing overseas; this time it struck a chord. I was starting to plan out my offseason training and was struggling with the question, how can I make my workouts more realistic? I knew I had to look beyond the accepted practices of offseason training.
I’ve always placed a high priority on trying to shoot “game shots,” but Engelland’s workout with Kerr took it to a whole new level. I realized that there was a big problem with most shooting workouts, even ones that seemed to prioritize quality over quantity.
The problem is that game shots are always the “first shot.” You don’t get any warm-up shots. Any shooter knows that the feeling of shooting that first shot is different than shooting the second and third.
During drills, you can calibrate your next shots based on the result of the first one but in the game, that’s not possible. Once you shoot a shot, the feeling of that shot fades after a little while. By the time you take your next shot, you’re shooting a “first shot” again.
That’s the genius of England’s drill with Steve Kerr. It’s all “first shots”.
Even drills that focus on shooting realistic “game shots” usually don’t address this problem. They repeat sequences of shots over and over again without much break in between. As a result, only the first rep of each drill actually acts as a true “first shot.”
As I thought about this last spring, I tried to figure out how to structure my workouts to get as many “first shots” as possible. I came up with what I call Kerr Shooting. I used this tactic last summer with my own workouts and most of the players I trained. Here’s how it works:
At any time during the skill session, I can yell out “Kerr!” At that point, whatever the player is doing, they get one game-like shot. I might call “Kerr!” while they’re taking a water break, shooting free throws or even in the middle of a ball handling drill. When I do, they have to stop whatever they’re doing and sprint to where I direct them. From there, I’ll quickly set up a game-like situation and throw them ball as I yell out a command.
For example, a player might be shooting free throws and after the first free throw, I’ll yell “Kerr!” and point to the right wing. I’ll grab the ball and drive baseline from the left wing. They’ll have to drift to the corner, and I’ll pass them the ball yelling “Catch and shoot! or “1 dribble pull up!” For players who use a lot of pick and rolls, I might toss them a ball at half court, and I’ll play defense. They’ll drive me into the imaginary screen, and at the last moment, I’ll call out the type of shot (pull up, floater, etc).
If you want to add even more pressure to the shots, shoot 5 “Kerr” shots per workout (as dictated by your trainer or partner). If you make less than 3, you have to run.
The idea behind Kerr Shooting is to add the benefits of Engelland’s intensely realistic drill while not sacrificing the amount of reps during a workout. Consequently, Kerr Shooting tries to leverage every moment where a player isn’t doing a shooting drill to add a “first shot”. That’s why it’s best to call for a “Kerr!” shot during water breaks or ball handling/passing/defense drills.
Give Kerr Shooting a try this offseason and let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? Message me to let me know what you think – I’d love to hear your feedback.