Everyone likes shooting games, but they’re not always the best way to improve your game shooting performance. In the game presented here, we’re keeping the upside, while reducing the downside.

In this previous article, we discussed ego-shooting and the suggested part that it plays in contributing to poor in-game shooting performance. If you haven’t read that, I suggest you do, or at least refer back to it after reading this one to better understand why this game has been developed. However, relaxed shoot-arounds are one of the greatest parts of basketball. We all love them. That almost anyone can put up or find a hoop and get some shots up, at almost any age, is a big reason why basketball is so popular, and is why ego-shooting is so common – it’s easy and makes you feel good! To make a statement that all shoot-arounds must be game-like and at game-intensity to be of true value, judged by much you’ve sweat and how little you can feel your legs just isn’t going to catch on. And it’s not always practical, even for an elite athlete. Sometimes these athletes need a lighter day but could still do with some shooting practice. So we need a solution, or at least a compromise. We’re focusing on improving the Total Effect via negativa. We do this by maintaining the positive effects (enjoyment of a light shooting session) while reducing the negative effects (increasing the relevance and transfer of the shoot-around to game-shooting performance).

But before we move on, here’s a brief recap of the relevant parts taken from the article series Improving Game Shooting Performance. This game addresses the errors presented in the discussion of ‘Ego-Shooting’.

  • Movements are stored in the brain as ‘mind-maps’ and need to be found and drawn upon before intended action can occur. This is the specific pathway created when different parts of your brain light up in response to completing a physical movement or action.

  • Shooting is one such action and has a specific mind-map.

  • Mind-maps are ingrained, or easily accessed, through repetition and made more resilient to change, or transferrable, through variation – especially early on in the learning process.

  • ‘Ego-shooting’ is what we’ve termed repetitive shooting of the same sort of shot. An example would be shooting 10 stationary catch and shoot jump shots in a row from a spot with a rebounder feeding the ball back before moving on. Once you’ve made a shot, or ‘found your shot’ as a shooter might say, you’ve successfully ‘found’ the right mind-map and for the following shots you’re simply trying to replicate the exact same movement, reducing any variables – trying not to ‘lose focus’ or ‘break rhythm’. The intent shifts from ‘trying to make the shot’ to ‘trying not to miss the shot’. You’re no longer learning to shoot/refinding your shot, but are now replicating the earlier shot that was successful. We tend to do this because we enjoy hitting consecutive shots and replicating a successful shot makes this easier.

  • In games we constantly need to go from performing a number of other actions before shooting the ball and always with a different level of fatigue (thus every shot is different). Therefore, the limiting factor to game shooting performance is more likely to be your ability to ‘find your shot/mind-map’ in time to execute it correctly, and not your ability to replicate an earlier shot – since the two shots in game are undoubtably different to each other in important aspects (body rotation, momentum, fatigue, distance, angle etc).

  • Confidence is certainly important as a shooter, but we are placing too much predictive value on the apparent success of a shoot-around to a successful shooting performance in the following game. Too often this isn’t the case and the false confidence we chase with ego-shooting is holding back our development.

  • So to shoot repetitive shots at training, without any changes, is more likely just stroking your ego rather than actually contributing to significant in-game shooting improvements. You get better at spot shooting inside shoot-arounds – creating the illusion of improvement – but neglect to see that what you’re getting better at is not particularly relevant to game shooting. And as discussed in the article series, ego-shooting might actually be hurting your in game performance when it matters, in the clutch.

Intense shoot-arounds, with a defender and much variation between shots would help solve these problems. But since we want to retain the relaxed vibe of a casual shoot-around, we need to find a way to make it harder to make the basket, thus increasing mental engagement and learning, without increasing the physical demands too significantly.

Boxes we need to tick

  • MADE shots are encouraged (obviously we need to encourage the intent ‘make the shot’).

  • Therefor MISSED shots are discouraged (since the body learns through cause [shot technique] – and effect [make or miss] based upon the original intent [make the shot]).

  • CONSECUTIVE MAKES, when nothing has changed between shots, are considered EASIER and thus WORTH LESS than the initial made basket.

  • CONSECUTIVE MISSES should also be discouraged and PENALISED HIGHER than the original miss (since in a game 2 misses, given the strong influence of momentum, can result in a bad shooting game which isn’t truly a reflection of current ability)

  • MADE baskets which occur AFTER a ‘shake up’ are MOST valuable.

Here’s the game

Name: Anti-Ego Shooting +10/-10

Goal: To beat your partner in that round. You win the round by hitting +10 and lose reaching -10.

Rules: After 2 CONSECUTIVE MAKES, the shooter MUST perform another movement (termed a ‘shake-up) for either 1 repetition (low fatigue) or multiple repetitions (increased fatigue which is an additional variable). This ‘shake-up’ might be a push-up, squats, sprint, slides, lunges, a shot with the opposite hand, half court shot etc. The exact movement isn’t too important, anything that breaks the players rhythm will work. Variation is a good thing though. If you’re shooting around with a partner, have them pick the movement.


  • Made shots

    • +2 points

  • Missed shots

    • -2 points

  • Consecutive makes

    • +1 point

  • Consecutive misses

    • -4 points (for each subsequent miss)

  • Made baskets occurring after a ‘shake-up’

    • +4 points

*Note: this game can be adapted for use in team training settings. Players are partnered up with half the team shooting and half rebounding for their respective partners. On ‘go’ it’s a race to be the first shooter to reach +10 and alert the coaches. In this drill, any players who reach -10 are not stopped from shooting – they still have the opportunity to reach +10. Perhaps have a time limit in case all shooters perform poorly in which case there is no winner and no points allocated. If there is a winner, that partnership gets a point, roles are swapped around and the rebounders are now the shooters for round 2.

Adapting the game for various skill levels/ages

Referring to the section on ‘boxes we need to tick’ you can get a gauge as to what should be worth more or less. From there you can adapt the scores for each type of make or miss to best suit you or your team. For example if you coach a younger team and they aren’t making a whole lot of shots, you might decrease misses to -1, and consecutive misses to -2.

You might even adjust the make or miss thresholds. For example to make the game harder you might set the make threshold at 20 and the miss at 10.

Be creative and find what is most suitable for you, and just as importantly, uses numbers that are easy to remember while you’re playing!

Wrap up

So there you have a score based shooting game which shifts the focus onto ‘finding your shot’ rather than just shooting the same shot over and over. To follow a shooting session like this will result in more missed shots per training session. But take solace in the fact that should see greater skill development and transfer to game shooting, which is how every shoot-around should really be measured.

If you haven’t already played shooting games involving scoring with numbers like this, then it might take a little to get your head around initially, but it should be a quick learning curve before it becomes automatic.

Remember, while here we’ve presented a drill, it’s the concept that’s most important. You might look at this idea and come up with a variation of your own or an entirely new drill which is better! If so, please email us with your idea’s or comment below, we’d love to check it out.