Shooting Layups Using Perceptual Basketball Finishing Drill

Shooting layups is a complex skill. What makes a layup complex is the perception action coupling process. Perceptual layups practice drills are designed to account for this process within the practice.

Basically the perception action coupling process is the coordination of visual perception in an environment and movement required to achieve an action such as a layup. In a layup example a basketball player cannot escape the information coming to them from their game or practice environment. 

Perceptions and Decisions Involved in Shooting Layups

  1. Defender(s)
  2. Teammate(s)
  3. Distance (From basket, from teammate/defender, to jump forward or upwards) 
  4. Angle (From basket, from body)
  5. Release point (Above, below or outside body)
  6. Technique (Preparatory phase, wind-up phase, force phase, landing phase)
  7. Visual Focus (Backboard, rim, defender)
  8. To Draw or Avoid Contact

For better players, an improved perception action coupling will mean that they are able to produce a more appropriate movement for the task. Here is an example of the perceptual lay-up explained using a game example:

The Problem with How we Practice Shooting Layups

As you can see in the example the speed and timing of the layup, plus the distracting information that the defense and environment provide are all difficult to simulate in practice. A number of one-on-one drills exist that can create a more realistic layup practice situation.

Here is a sample one-on-one drill that gives the advantage to the offense, so shooting layups will result, but the defense is present so there is distracting information and visual cues to attune to.

I encourage you to use these one-on-drills, of course, but I want to address the on air component of practicing shooting layups.

As a general observation too much on air layup practice takes place at most levels of basketball. Seriously, go search YouTube for layup drills and you will find the majority of them are blocked training routines, rather than game-like training drills.

Why is that a problem?

The problem in practicing the layup on air is that focusing on the action of shooting a layup can only account for so much improvement.

The skill of shooting a layup is not inherently difficult. What is difficult is the perception action coupling solution a player must come up with under game conditions. What type of layup to shoot relative to their position on the floor, and the position of their teammates, and any defenders in their path all impact the success of the layup.

Make On Air Layup Practice More Game-Like

Rather than having a player practice layups as routines or scripts to follow, make any layup drill more random and variable. This will make the layup practice more game-like by requiring a player to come up with a unique solution on each shot attempt.

Why is this valuable?

If a player does blocked practice of the same layup over and over again, mental effort is reduced because the player would have memorized exactly what is required of them for each shot. The game is random and messy, and involves considerable mental effort, so simulating that within your layup drills is paramount to developing creative and effective layup finishers.

You can block practice during the initial introductory teaching phase of any layup, but to work beyond that point it is best to use random practice. Here is an example of randomizing the traditional blocked routine of the Mikan Drill so that a player is required to come up with a unique solution on each shot.

Why Perceptual Layups?

Since the game is messy, and requires unique solutions on each layup attempt, I wanted to create a layup practice drill that simulates this. The basic understanding of why relates to the decision-making process. The skill of shooting a layup is always preceded by the perception and decision process. 

Here’s what we know about skill execution. Skill execution is preceded by perceptions and decisions.

Skill execution follows this process

  1. Perception
  2. Decision
  3. Action
  4. Feedback

Perception and decisions are more important to the layup process.

Why? Because if a player perceives the correct information on their layup, and makes the right decision about shooting the ball, the percentage likelihood of making the shot increases. If a player perceives the wrong information, and/or makes the wrong decision about shooting the ball, they are less likely to make the shot regardless of their skill expertise.

So instead of practicing layups on air, I suggest using the perceptual layups concept in the video below.

On every shot attempt a player has to first perceive the defender, followed by the target (basket or backboard). This is followed by a player making the decision of where and when to shoot the ball. All of this leads to a player actually executing the foot placement and ball release to shoot the ball at the target.

Of course the end of this process is feedback on the result. Did they score, draw a foul or miss, and based on the result what would they do differently. Make sure when you do this drill players are cutting to the basket from different locations relative to the basket to work on approaching and shooting layups from different positions on the court. 

Perceptual Layup Finishing Drill

Interested in more information about how to progress and add to layers of challenge to perceptual layups?

Check out the Advanced Perceptual Layup Concepts video in the membership area.


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