The Basketball Podcast: EP301 with Lee Taft on Basketball Performance and Movement

RELEASE DATE : 03/01/2024

In this week’s coaching conversation, world-renowned movement specialist, mentor and coach, Lee Taft joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on basketball performance and movement.

Lee is highly respected as one of the top athletic movement specialists in the world. In the last 35 years, he has devoted most of his time to training all ages and abilities. He has spent most of his time teaching his multi-directional speed methods to top performance coaches and fitness professionals worldwide. Lee has also dedicated countless hours to mentoring up-and-coming sports performance trainers, many of whom have gone into the profession and made a significant impact themselves.

Since 1989, Lee has taught foundation movement to beginning youngsters and helped young amateur athletes, to professional athletes, become quicker, faster, and stronger. Lee’s entire philosophy is based on one of his most notable quotes, “Learning athletic movement correctly from the start is the foundation for athletic success.”

With the release of Ground Breaking Athletic Movement in 2003, Lee revolutionized the performance industry with his proven methods and strategies for multi-directional speed. His innovative approach to training has impacted how athletic movement speed is taught.

Lee brought to light the importance and fine points of the “Plyo Step,” “Hip Turn,” “Lateral Run,” and athletic stance. According to Lee, “Speed and agility done right are about making sure we marry the natural movements athletes have with the effective and efficient body control to maximize speed and quickness.”

Lee has been asked to speak at numerous global strength and conditioning and sports performance events and has produced multiple instructional videos and courses in multi-directional speed and movement training. In addition, Lee has written several manuals on movement techniques and speed development.

Lee Taft

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Lee Taft Quotes:

“When I first started teaching, I just watched. I didn’t have any preconceived notions. I just watched how these kids evolved from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I watched them move and I did the same with my athletes . . I spent a lot of years coaching different sports. I spent a lot of years in strength and conditioning, and I’ve owned five different training facilities known as The Speed Academy.”

“One of the first things that I want all my players to be able to do is I want them to become really effective and efficient at what I call the seven movement patterns . . if they can do those well, now I can start stacking more specific advanced skills onto that because their skill set is already at a level that allows me to add more to it. So, that’s the foundation of basketball movement.”

“The greatest skill a basketball player can learn is reading, because the better I get at reading my opponent, and we know this through science, the act of moving starts before we realize it, and we’re talking milliseconds because the brain reads it and it fetches that pattern, and that’s because of recognition. How do I get better at recognition? I have to play more. I’ve got to get more experience. I have to be exposed to it more times. As a coach, I have to be okay with failures, because failures are the brain’s way of creating learned patterns.”

“The more you make your athletes read [in practice], being okay with a little bit of ugliness, then you’re going to establish a better prepared player . . I don’t want to win practices. I want to win games.”

“If we go back to those seven patterns [of movement], the seven patterns transcend all sports. But basketball makes me carve out specific movements that are very specific to basketball.”

“The one [movement pattern] that I’ve impacted players movements the best, and it’s primarily from the defensive end . . is the hip turn. A player who does not hip turn well and doesn’t escape space and defend their space really well, it’s very obvious.”

“If I’m picking my opponent up at half court and nobody else is within 25ft of me, it’s pretty obvious if I can’t keep that player in front of me. But, if I have a really explosive hip turn that allows me to escape space and attack new space where my opponent went, it really impacts the presence of that player as a defender.”

“An offensive player is reading the whole time, and then they decide what they’re going to do. Dribbling is about moving the ball into different spaces that allow me to be able to push myself into that direction. So, I have to be able to have the ability to push the ball where I want to go . . but that has to coincide with my footwork.”

“Coaches are most powerful when they use what I call guided discovery. If an athlete doesn’t know what to do, you’ve got to teach them. But if they have an idea, you can help them, you guide them in that direction and let their brain start to figure it out . . You have to let them go, let them fail and just don’t let them get off track too far. That’s when we establish really good athletes that we see at our highest level.”

“Coaches understand the straighter the joints are, the quicker the athlete. The more knee bend and hip bend, the more power. Power isn’t necessarily fast on a basketball court. Elasticity is fast on a basketball court. So when my foot and my ankle is loaded but my knee is bent slightly, my hips are bent a little bit, that’s when I hit and I go fast. That’s why world class sprinters run very tall . . So, we need to be able to plant on angles that allow us to be somewhat stiff and then be able to respond off the ground quickly.”

“Landing to perform is really important as well. I have to be biomechanically sound and be able to put force into the ground. So, when I teach jumping, I want players to be able to access their hips, but I also need them to access their quads, their thighs, because we don’t always get a chance to do the perfect vertical jump.”

“I think that’s really our job at the end of the day, as basketball coaches, as basketball performance coaches or teachers of the game, is to set our athletes up for success. Okay, now, how do we do it? Do I give you ten things to think about, or do I give you one or two? Which one can speed up your learning process, can allow you to have a win every single day at practice and establish really good habits?”

“Just understand the model, then build drills that establish that model every day and do not try to hit home runs. Coaches make mistakes. They want to hit a home run. ‘We’re going to learn it today.’ No, you’re not. What you’re going to do is you’re going to establish the thought process today. You’re going to start them thinking about it, but they’re going to learn it over the next week or two or a month, and they’re going to get better at it every day.”

Lee Taft Breakdown:

6:00 – Basic Goals
10:00 – Skill Execution
14:00 – Run Fast and Stop Fast
17:30 – Defensive Slides
21:00 – Recovery
23:30 – Long First Step
28:00 – Stimulating Thinking
32:30 – Parkour
34:00 – Late Development Sport
36:47 – Perfect Footwork
40:30 – Acceleration
48:30 – How to Jump Higher
51:30 – Teach with Cues
56:00 – Static Stretching
1:00:30 – General Movement Template
1:04:00 – Extrinsic Motivation
1:08:30 – Create Efficiencies
1:10:00 – Better Movement Patterns

Lee Taft Selected Links from the Podcast:

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