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Jan 15, Jan 22, Jan 29
Feb 5, Feb 12

Grades 3rd-8th 9AM - 11AM 

Montgomery Bell Academy
4001 Harding Pike
Nashville, TN 37205

What is an Open Gym, and How It Develops Skills

Open Gyms, by definition: A place where a group of kids can come together and just play. There should not be a lot of direction and coaching, but let the players learn the strength and weaknesses of themselves and each other. The goal is still to win, but also to create an environment to communicate, put heads together, and develop social basketball skills like competitiveness, accountability.  The only pressure on performance is the pressure from their peers…free of adult pressure…the motivation is on the child to learn and discover without being forced and solidifies their game as their own.  When done right, open gyms are not only fun, but maybe the most powerful training tool.

Open Gyms Develops Instincts

Full court play is where you can get live reps in to experiment and find out what works and what doesn’t work. After playing using what you learn, now you can get in game situations where you catch the ball and know the guy in front of you is cooked. That’s what the guys at the highest level do to work on their game. Ballers like Ja Morant, do you think coaches tell him to do what he does? What about Steph Curry, do you think coaches tell him what to do? No, both of these players put the time in to work on their game until it just happens and is instinctive. That’s when a coach will say “go for it, you earned it! You have to be coachable but at the same time everything can’t be coached or be instructional. If you are a baller you have to make your game instinctive.

Expanding Your Game

Unstructured, free play is necessary for players to relax, get outside the structure of playing basketball and use their creativity. As a player during the off-season you have to work on things that the coaches don’t anticipate you have the ability to do. Then you have to go out and prove it to them consistently. You have to fight to get yourself out of the box and expand your box on a consistent basis. You need to increase the expectations that players and coaches have for you. Players have become too coach enabled because they are coached all the time on what to do and what not to do from the time they start structured basketball play up to college. 


Apply Skills:  New and Old

Open Gyms provide a setting that helps enable your players to connect a skill with a situational game opportunity.  For instance, a basketball low post player may understand how to perform a drop-step move to score a basket, but does he or she recognize the moment when the opportunity presents itself? Is he aware that his defender is positioned such that he can seal off the defender with his body? Does he recognize that his point guard is positioned (or will soon be positioned) at the correct angle to make an entry pass? And if defended a certain way, can he or she quickly identify the available options to regain positional advantage? Recognizing these game situations, and instinctively applying an appropriate skill, are best learned in an open gym setting.

Gaining game situational reps

Yes, certain competitive drills can simulate a game situation, and may be a steppingstone to learning how to perform and apply a skill. Combined with instruction, these drills may be the necessary first step in this learning process. But most sports are a real-time, interactive experience that often requires split-second decisions and reactions. The constant flow of movement, the opening and closing of space, the fleeting moments that provide opportunities to gain advantage, are best understood when players participate in the game activity itself. In an age where neighborhood “pickup” games are much diminished, having open gym in organized sports programs can minimize the pressure of outside influences like officials, coaches, and parents and give players the opportunity to really learn through game situational play on their own. Open gyms are an essential role in exposing players to game situations and  provide an opportunity for the players to learn which of their “moves” work, and how and when to use them.

Hope to see you at the next Open Gym!


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