Beyond Static Drills: Improving Basketball Shooting Skills with Interleaving

As basketball coaches, you understand the importance of developing players’ shooting skills to ensure success on the court. However, the traditional approach of repetitive drills may not always yield the desired results. Enter interleaving, a game-changing technique for improving basketball shooting skills.

Interleaving, also referred to as variable practice, revolutionizes the way players develop their shooting abilities by incorporating diverse variations of the skill within a single practice session. Gone are the days of static drills where players shoot from the same spot with the same form repeatedly. Instead, interleaving challenges players to adapt their technique to different scenarios, preparing them for the dynamic nature of the game.

By implementing interleaving into your coaching regimen, you can help your players achieve consistency, adaptability, and effectiveness in their shooting. Join us as we delve deeper into the concept of interleaving and explore its myriad benefits for basketball players.

Benefits of Interleaving for Improving Basketball Shooting Skills:

  • Enhanced transfer of learning: By practicing various shot types, distances, and situations, players become better equipped to apply their skills in real game scenarios. They learn to adjust their form and shot selection based on pressure, defender presence, and game clock situations.
  • Reduced errors: Interleaving forces players to constantly think and adjust their shots, leading to a deeper understanding of shooting mechanics. This can help identify and correct potential errors that might go unnoticed in repetitive drills.
  • Increased motivation and engagement: The varied nature of interleaving practice sessions can be more stimulating and enjoyable for players compared to monotonous repetition. This can lead to improved focus, adherence to training, and ultimately, better results.

Putting Interleaving into Action: A Coaching Example

Here’s how a coach can implement interleaving for improving basketball shooting skills. In traditional blocked practice, players typically engage in repetitive drills focusing solely on one specific type of shot or skill at a time. For instance, they may spend an entire practice session solely shooting free throws or only practicing mid-range jumpers. On the other hand, interleaving in basketball shooting development involves mixing and alternating between different shot types and variations within a single training session. For example, instead of dedicating an entire session to practicing free throws, players may interleave their shooting drills by alternating between free throws, mid-range jumpers, and three-pointers throughout the session.

In a traditional blocked practice scenario, players may initially demonstrate improvement and consistency in executing the specific skill they are practicing. However, this improvement may not translate effectively to game situations where players must adapt their shooting technique to various shot types and scenarios. In contrast, interleaving challenges players to adapt their shooting technique on the fly, leading to enhanced adaptability and versatility on the court. By practicing a variety of shots within a single session, players develop a deeper understanding of shooting mechanics and learn to adjust their form and technique based on the specific demands of each shot.

Ultimately, while traditional blocked practice may yield short-term gains in skill proficiency for specific shots, interleaving offers long-term benefits by promoting adaptability, retention, and transfer of skills to game situations. It encourages players to develop a well-rounded and versatile shooting repertoire, ultimately enhancing their overall performance on the court.

Applying Interleaving to Study Sessions

To clarify this concept for improving basketball shooting skills, it is beneficial to present a distinct educational scenario. Rather than focusing solely on one subject during a study session, a high school student could enhance their learning by interleaving different subjects within the same session. For example, they could allocate 20 minutes to review algebraic equations, then switch to reading literature for another 20 minutes, proceed to study historical events for the next 20 minutes, and continue this pattern.

By interweaving their study sessions, the student engages with a variety of subjects in a single study session. This approach allows for better retention and retrieval of information as it forces the brain to continually switch gears and make connections between different topics. Additionally, it prevents boredom and mental fatigue that may arise from prolonged focus on a single subject.

Furthermore, when it comes time to recall information during exams or quizzes, the student’s brain is already accustomed to retrieving information from various subjects in an interleaved manner, mirroring the way they studied. This enhances their ability to recall information accurately and effectively, leading to improved academic performance overall.

basketball shooting skills

Imagine a student studying for exams in history, biology, and literature.

  • Day 1:
    • Analyze a historical speech, focusing on literary devices used to persuade the audience (literature connects to history).
    • Create a timeline of key events in biology, including historical context (biology connects to history).
  • Day 2:
    • Read a chapter about the environmental impact of the Industrial Revolution in history.
    • Research the biological adaptations of plants and animals during the Industrial Revolution (biology connects to history).

By making connections and interleaving subjects, the student gains a deeper understanding of each topic and improves their ability to recall information across different disciplines.


While both interleaving and non-interleaving approaches offer unique benefits for improving basketball shooting skills, interleaving shines for its capacity to nurture well-rounded and adaptable shooting skills. By immersing players in varied and dynamic practice scenarios, interleaving equips them to flourish in the unpredictable nature of the game, where the ability to adjust shots in response to diverse situations is paramount.

Nevertheless, non-interleaving practice holds value, especially for targeted refinement of specific shooting mechanics in isolation. This focused approach can effectively address areas of weakness and refine fundamental techniques. By seamlessly integrating interleaving into their shooting practice routines, coaches empower players to cultivate versatile and dependable shooting skills that seamlessly translate to game scenarios. With this comprehensive approach to skill development, players are poised to thrive on the court and unleash their full potential.

For more on interleaving and evidence-based approaches to teaching, join Basketball Immersion and watch The Basketball Podcast EP153 with Doug Lemov on The Coach’s Guide to Teaching:

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