Sunday, October 18, 2015

How I "magically" improved my 3 pointers / Growth Hacking

Today I made 10 3-pointers in 2 minutes 3 seconds!! I don't keep track of my percentage, I just timed myself how long it takes because it is easier. Just 4 weeks ago, it took me 10min 40sec to hit 10 3-pointers. Next week, it was 9 minutes. Then 7 minutes. Then 6 minutes. Now it is 2 minutes.

This is my blog post about how I methodically and deliberately practiced to get this 5x improvement. I used techniques I learned from learning piano and dance (and a little body building).. Harnessing muscle memory, technique and incrementally building speed.

Drills - hitting the edge of the backboard to practice accuracy/ alignment

good form - cock that wrist for good spin

Practicing "perfect" form 
(form is VERY important in dance and especially TENNIS)
Even though I kind of suck at basketball, my friends say that I have good "form."  It's a habit for me. I think form is super important because form is super important in Tennis - hitting top spin, back spin, different types of serves. When I was practice piano - my piano teacher made me spend 8 weeks doing boring exercises - to properly "reset" my form into my muscle memory. I want to start with good form, cuz it's harder to correct bad habits.

In basketball, somethings I exercise I did to get form include...
- hitting the side of the backboard. Making sure your alignment is correct.
- also.. standing beneath the basketball, and spinning the ball up to get good arc.
- also.. cocking your wrist. (Similar to tennis.) By doing so you get more spin.
Tim Ferris 3 pointer video

Practice fine motor control + power separately
(Spartan Run spear throwing video - )
I wasn't just practicing good form, I also wanted to get power. When I was learning how to throw spears in spartan run - I practiced power and control separately.  After I got the hang of both - I combined them together.

In basketball - I originally wanted to shoot 3-pointers, so I could shoot better free-throws. I honestly had trouble making free throws - believe it or not. lol  I thought -  if I practiced using my legs and having explosive power with my long distance shots - that would also translate into my mid-range shots.  (The idea is also to over practice - like in cross country. My coach would have us train 8-mile runs, even though our races were only 3 miles.)

Video Documentation
(youtube and dance)
Sometimes, you think you are doing great. but when you look at the video - you realize you are shit.
you can use videos to track yourself and and make progress. This is a video of my shooting free-throws. It took me 7 minutes to make 10 shots. I wasn't that good. I was still working on my "sweep and sway" technique to generate power, and I wasn't squaring up my shoulders. By recording yourself - you can see what you form looks like. Good technique is important to me.

Incremental Gains
(Body Building)
When I was reading Tim Ferris's book - 4 hour body. I was able to increase my max bench press by 50 pounds! (110 - > 160lb), by only working out 1 time a week - for about 30-45 each time. I used a really structured system, where I only increased my weight by 5-10% each week (the difference was sometimes so minute, I was using 2.5 lbs). And I have very specific sets and reps to do.

I knew that if I simply practiced 3 pointers very week. Mathematically, I could increase my percentage of making shots. The first week it took me 10 minutes. The next week it took me 9 minutes. So I knew this theory was correct. However,  I had no idea I was going to improve to the point of making 10 3-pointers in 2 minutes. That is a 500% improvement in accuracy/ time.

For course - I practiced very methodically and every weekend.

Start slow and increase slowly. 
(dance and piano)
In piano, if you want to play a fast piece (presto 160 bps)
What my piano teach taught me.. you use the metronome, and you start slow. First you do at maybe 80 bps - and get all the notes right. When you get it perfect slow, then you move it up one notch maybe to 90 bps. And when you get all the notes right and make no mistakes playing through.. then you go to 100 bps. All the way until you finally get to 160 bps.
In dance, learning isolation, it's the same thing. You start super slow. When you eventually dance with music, it looks good. Also choreography - you start very slow when learning the routine. And eventually go faster until you can dance with music.

so with BASKETBALL... I started right under the basketball hoop - super EASY shot. And I would time myself how long it would take to make 10 shots. 5 minutes. 4 minutes. 3 minutes. 2 minutes. Good! Then I take a step back. 4 minutes. 3 minutes. Good! Take a step farther back until at the 3 point line. 7 minutes! 5 minutes. 4 minutes... Slow slow and methodical practice. To practice 3 pointers, I didn't start by practice 3-pointers. I started by practice right underneath the basket.

Doing a lot of research on youtube
I realized that "basketball" is a very popular sport - lol - and there are many many tutorials out there to teach you how to get better at shooting. Here are some techniques I thought were helpful...
"Sweep and sway" - technique
"one motion shot" vs "two motion shot"
This week, I was able to improve my 3 pointers, because I think I was finally also to integrate getting spin on my ball, using legs to generate power, and the "one-motion shot" technique. Typically when I shoot close to the basketball hoop, I do a 2 motion shot. However, when I shoot a 3-pointer, I have to do a 1-motion shot to get more power. It doesn't make sense to shoot the ball differently when you are at different parts of the court. It makes more sense to just have one type of shot.

Because I was practicing a specific drill today -  the between the legs, step-back jump shot, I accidentally forced myself to practice a 1 motion shot at close-range. I was doing this while drilling good form - good alignment, cocking my wrist, following through. And then when I went to do 3-pointers, and finally got my rhythm down.. and then I timed it.. and my 3-pointers got super good super fast!  I made 10 shots in 2 minutes! crazy.

Good Motivation
One of my motivations to get good was simply so I good beat my friend at basketball.  Having someone to play against (or keep you accountable) really helped keep me focused. Tim Ferris calls this "stakes." If there is nothing at "stake" - you don't really have motivation to practice.

So anyways... when you are playing 1 vs 1 - a "3-pointer" is worth 2 points, and a lay-up is worth 1 point. So basically - if you are able to make 3-pointers - it's like capitalizing on something that is super overpowered! lol It's worth double of a normal short. So I felt like it would be a really worthwhile goal to be able to learn how to make 3-pointers.

Having Fun
dance, video editing
I really practiced a lot because I was having fun. I think it's because there is a social element going on - and there is a competitive element. A lot of times when I draw - I kind of isolate myself - so I don't improve much. But with dance, basketball and video editing - there is a community and it really helps make it fun. I don't feel like I am working when I am playing basketball. But I feel like I am "working" when I am drawing - why the fuck is that?


The point of this post
So this blogpost isn't so much about basketball -it's more about learning and growth hacking.
I didn't have a "plan" when I was trying to get good at basketball. But when I learning -  I was utilizing a lot of other learning "methods" from other disciplines and applying it to basketball. I have 10+ years in piano. 4+ years in art. 4+ years in tennis. So I'm not saying there is one way to learn something. But I would try to use a method of learning that has WORKED FOR YOU THE PAST.

I'm a really methodical person, so I used a really methodical way. One of my favorite artist - Anthony Jones  - was really good at video games before he was good at art. And he basically used the techniques he got good from playing videos games and treated art like a "game."

For me - I didn't relate to his way of practicing - because I suck at video games! So I don't get a lot of his analogies and techniques. What I'm saying here for basketball - might not work for you - because my background is in piano, tennis, dance - a lot of former training involved. You might not get it.

On the other hand - on the reasons why I struggle with art - is because I've always had a teacher guiding me and giving me homework. My method to get good was to just.. listen to what the teacher had to say, and do double the amount of homework he gave me. And I would excel at the class. However, if I'm doing something where I don't have a teacher (theme park illustration) - then I have to figure stuff out on my own - and use a new learning method - which I'm experimenting with now.

This is good blog post for me.  :)