Using Bursts and Improving Time on Task

Bursts are a teaching concept utilized to allow one or more players to remain on the floor continuously but over a shorter duration. The duration could be anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds, or across a specified number of repetitions. 

Before we go any further here is a video example of bursts applied to closeouts. Keep in mind this concept can be applied to many basketball coaching situations.

A burst is different from the traditional method in which players get repetitions. Traditionally, players perform one repetition at a time, followed by a waiting period where they are not active. Regardless of whether they are participating in an individual, small group or team practice, several seconds are taken as they “reset” and wait to perform their next rep. Sometimes it will take longer or shorter as they wait for other players to get their repetitions. The main issue with this method is it does not always lead to a high time-on task ratio, which is the rate at which players are active in a workout performing skills. Players also get less opportunity to immediately apply feedback as there is a waiting period before they get their next repetition.

The more time a basketball player can spend successfully engaged in the learning process, and to instantly be able to apply feedback, the more learning will occur. One way to increase the skill level of your players is to increase the amount of time your players are engaged physically practicing the skill or tactic to be learned. The goal of a practice should be to have the highest number of players physically active. This helps maximize the learning opportunity. This concept is called Active Learning Time (ALT), with a detailed Immersion blog here 11 Ideas to Improve Active Learning Time in Practice

Using bursts helps improve learning time because players can get multiple repetitions in quick succession. For example, in an offense vs. defense situation,  an offensive player could use the burst concept to play against a different defender in quick succession for a number of repetitions or a certain duration. The defenders could either be live or guided to provide random practice situations during the course of the burst. This concept can also be applied to a defender. The defender(s) could stay on defense for bursts and guard different offensive players.

Bursts also take into consideration the role of individual constraints in the player development process. If we acknowledge that every player is different with unique characteristics, by playing with and against a variety of players, a wider repertoire of skills can be shaped. For instance an offensive player will typically require a different way to finish, shoot or pass against a taller vs. shorter defender. Bursts can account for this variability.

Many times during practice players play against the same players. If one group is doing a 1-on-1 drill and waiting in a line this often means the players will always play offense against the person standing in front and defender against the person standing behind them. This does not account for the role of individual constraints and players may be able to use the same solutions over and over again which is not representative of the game.

In a small group workout of four players, applying bursts could mean one or two offensive players stay on offense while the defense changes constantly. The next defender sprints on as soon as the offensive possession ends. This means as soon as the rep is finished the offense must develop their habit of sprinting to space to pick a new location and get ready for the next rep. Coaches may wish for the offense to keep playing until defense secures the defensive rebound on a potential miss before starting the next repetition.

There are many benefits to using the bursts concept. It gives the offense a chance to experience and get comfortable with different coverages. This provides players with a chance to “figure it out” at a much faster rate than the traditional one repetition and out method. It also develops a present focus mentality. Players cannot get distracted or angry at a mistake because the next repetition will immediately be starting. Therefore, their attention and focus goes into reading and making a correct decision on the next possession. A final benefit is that players immediately get a chance to try again after feedback as opposed to waiting to experience something again.

The burst concept is valuable for enhancing decision-making in player development and team practice situations. For instance, if the task is playing 3-on-3 and using a pick and roll to score, the offense can play 45 seconds continuously against two different defensive teams who work in shifts. For every repetition the defense will use a different pick and roll coverage resulting in the offense having to recognize the coverage and then punish the coverage using an appropriate solution. As learning progresses the defense could be challenged to use a different coverage every time. This random defense is a way to be able to work towards more conceptual defensive coverages and solutions.

Another advantage to consider when using bursts is that they better simulate the physical demands placed on a basketball player in a game. In a game players play in physical bursts followed by a downtime caused by a foul, inbound situation, substitution or other stoppage in play. The traditional one repetition and stop is simply not as game-like.

Furthermore bursts can be run having the offense and defense change roles as in a normal game, but staying for the entire duration of the burst without stoppages or other players rotating in. This could be 90 or 120 seconds where the offense and defense get a number of varied repetitions with a short period of rest after. This may be even better for retention and allows the coach to see what concepts players can retain offensively or defensively after alternating between both phrases of play.

 The bottom line is that the burst concept can be applied to any player development or team practice situation for an individual, small group or team practice. The coach can use duration or a specified number of repetitions while the players count their scores using your team’s scoring system.

Send us your burst videos in action by using the hashtag #ImmersionBursts and tagging @bballimmersion and @AlexJSarama. 


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