How to Use Jungle Shooting

Are you searching for a task-representative small-sided game which has an emphasis on shooting, while also incorporating other skills? Jungle shooting is a small-sided game focused on providing shooting repetitions with variability and randomness.


The Problem with Traditional Shooting Drills

The problem with many shooting drills is that coaches make the decision for players. This includes what shot they will take and from where they will shoot. Every shot is predetermined. Every shot in the game is the opposite of this, starting with the basic decision of “am I open?”

An SSG like Jungle Shooting provides many varied affordances. These include getting open to break 3 in a row, drive or pass decisions, running a trigger if neutral, applying coverage solutions, etc. For a shooting task to be game-like, players have to be nudged towards shooting BUT critically still do other things (such as a pass or drive decision). Otherwise, the scenario is too artificial and not representative of what happens in a game.

Contested Shooting

The main problem with many shooting drills is they are not game-like because there is no passing option. I love the innovation from coaches using contested shooting drills. But the problem lies within as these SSG’s are typically over-constrained with players not being allowed to pass. The question I would pose here is whether these are task representative. The goal is to shoot open shots, not heavily contested ones. Because these SSG’s are over-constrained, they lose their benefit.

To develop world class players they need to shoot with a hand in their face and a heavy contest. But the balance has to be sought between contested and allowing the passing option. Shot selection is biggest factor influencing shooting percentages.

No Shot is the Same

This SSG shows how no shot is ever the same. This is therefore a lot more game-like, particularly with passes coming from different locations, speeds, spins etc vs perfect chest passes coming from under the basket as we see in most shooting drills.

This is the main consideration for coaches wishing to use non-linear pedagogy (NLP) particularly with shooting. Movement degeneracy has to be embraced as it is physically impossible to repeat the same shot within the game. Blocked, constant drills such as spot shooting are simply the complete opposite to what we see happening in games.

Basketball games are dynamic and fast-paced, just like this Jungle Shooting. You can literally observe in the videos affordances (opportunities for action) emerge and disappear as the players interact with their environment.

Research on Motor Performance of the Jump Shot

This is a good opportunity to highlight the research related to influence of a defender on the motor performance of the jump shot. This has been demonstrated in studies by Rojas et al., 2000 and Gorman and Maloney, 2016.

Gorman and Maloney (2016) found that the presence of a defender led to faster shot executions, longer jump times, and longer ball flight times. Even at the NBA level, the proximity of a defender influences shooting accuracy. When NBA players have a wide open shot (the defender more than 6 ft away), the average shooting accuracy of 3PT shots is 38.1%. For open shots (4–6 ft), 35.4%; for tight shots (2–4 ft) 31.2%, and for very tight shots (0–2 ft), this is 26.4% (NBA Advanced Stats, 2017 data).

This has VERY important implications for how we practice. While a lot of players like spot shooting, this doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for them! I found during the season that as the shooting percentages of my players increased drastically (including multiple games where we shot 40%+ from 3PT on 40 attempts or more), players immediately bought into the “wacky” concepts and ideas we’ve been using with shooting.

Making Small Changes

Even using a base drill such as spot shooting, my players have incorporated simple changes to improve the effectiveness of it. They will use different passes, sometimes contest, always change location and mix in triggers. This is one example of how we can add some value and “meet in the middle.” 

Jack Fleming has a great phrase in his blog talking about contested shooting “Shots in the 2012 Olympics were charted and discovered that around 15% of shots were uncontested. This means that around 85% of the time, players were having to shoot the ball with a defender coming at them making them change their shot. Interestingly, of the 85% of contested shots, just over 50% of these were executed with very high levels of defensive pressure.” Critically, how often do we practice these shots?” This is the exact reason I place such a value on using SSG’s like Jungle Shooting. 

How to Explain Jungle Shooting

To run Jungle Shooting, bursts must be applied as opposed to traditional rotations (offense to defense etc). Therefore, the offense and defense will stay for 60 seconds before a short rest of 10 seconds before the next sequence commences. 

  1. Offense can only shoot threes, for younger players allow mid-ranges.
  2. Choose the format based on how many baskets and players you have (2-on-2, 3-on-2, 3-on-3, 4-on-3 all work well). 
  3. Use two basketballs if there are two offensive players, three balls if there are three offensive players. The offense can pass, shoot, drive or run a trigger. The defense can do what they want but they must rebound the shot attempts (e.g. double team one player, contain). They guard different players during the duration as opposed to staying fixed to one. 
  4. Offense must work amongst the chaos to seek out the best ROB shot (Range, Open, Balanced).

When starting with this we did not add loud music. This led to more connections, making it a little easier for the offense. Also it meant that this wasn’t as much of a strain on working memory. Now we do this with loud music, and I frequently pick something a little stressful such as heavy metal or arena sounds! This encourages offense AND defense to connect above the noises.

I call this jungle shooting because in order to survive in the wild we have to train in the wild! Many coaches are like zoo keepers, hand feeding their players in controlled environments with on-air drills.

“To survive in the wild, we have to train in the wild” – Train Ugly


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