When it comes to teaching basketball shooting techniques, coaches often wonder whether to focus on whole practice or part practice. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages, and in this article, we'll delve into the details to help you make an informed decision. As a basketball coaching specialist, we'll explore the benefits and drawbacks of each approach, providing you with a comprehensive guide to teaching your players how to shoot a basketball effectively.

What is Whole Practice?

Whole practice involves teaching players to shoot a basketball from start to finish, incorporating all the necessary steps and movements. This approach focuses on the entire shooting motion, including the preparation, shooting, and follow-through. Coaches who adopt whole practice typically start with the fundamentals, breaking down the shooting motion into smaller parts, and then gradually build up to the complete action.

Benefits of Whole Practice

Whole practice offers several benefits, including:

Improved muscle memory: By practicing the entire shooting motion, players develop muscle memory, allowing them to perform the action more naturally and efficiently.

Better overall technique: Whole practice helps players develop a more consistent and accurate shooting form, as they focus on the entire motion rather than individual parts.

Enhanced game-like situations: This approach prepares players for real-game scenarios, where they'll need to shoot with defenders in their face, while moving, or under pressure.

Drawbacks of Whole Practice

While whole practice has its advantages, it also has some limitations:

Overwhelming for beginners: New players may struggle to master the entire shooting motion, leading to frustration and decreased confidence.

Time-consuming: Whole practice requires a significant amount of time and practice to develop muscle memory and consistency.

Limited focus on specific skills: By focusing on the entire shooting motion, coaches may not be able to dedicate sufficient time to specific skills, such as footwork or follow-through.

What is Part Practice?

Part practice, on the other hand, involves breaking down the shooting motion into smaller, isolated parts, focusing on specific skills or movements. This approach allows coaches to target specific areas of improvement, such as the shooting form, footwork, or release.

Benefits of Part Practice

Part practice offers several benefits, including:

Targeted improvement: By focusing on specific skills, coaches can identify and address areas of weakness, leading to more targeted improvement.

Increased efficiency: Part practice allows coaches to work on specific skills in a shorter amount of time, making it a more efficient use of practice time.

Builds confidence: Players can experience quick wins by mastering individual skills, boosting their confidence and motivation.

Drawbacks of Part Practice

While part practice has its advantages, it also has some limitations:

Lack of game-like situations: Focusing on individual skills may not prepare players for the complexities of real-game scenarios.

Difficulty in transferring skills: Players may struggle to transfer the skills they've developed in part practice to whole-game situations.

Incomplete shooting motion: By focusing on individual parts, players may not develop a complete and consistent shooting motion.

Combining Whole and Part Practice

The most effective approach often lies in combining whole and part practice. By incorporating both methods, coaches can:

• Develop muscle memory and overall technique through whole practice

• Target specific skills and areas of improvement through part practice

• Gradually build up to game-like situations, incorporating the entire shooting motion


Teaching basketball shooting techniques requires a thoughtful and structured approach. By understanding the benefits and drawbacks of whole and part practice, coaches can create a comprehensive training program that addresses the unique needs of their players. Remember, the key to success lies in finding a balance between the two approaches, combining whole and part practice to develop well-rounded, confident shooters.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between whole practice and part practice in teaching how to shoot a basketball?

Whole practice involves practicing the entire shooting motion from start to finish, whereas part practice breaks down the shooting motion into smaller components, focusing on one aspect at a time. This fundamental distinction affects how coaches and trainers approach teaching shooting techniques to their students.

Which approach is more effective for beginners?

Part practice is often recommended for beginners, as it allows them to focus on mastering individual components of the shooting motion before combining them. This approach helps build a strong foundation and reduces frustration.

What are the benefits of whole practice?

Whole practice simulates game-like scenarios, helping players develop muscle memory and instinctive reactions. It also allows coaches to assess a player's overall shooting technique and identify areas for improvement.

Can part practice lead to robotic or mechanical shooting?

Yes, if not properly implemented, part practice can result in a mechanical or robotic shooting motion. Coaches should ensure that players eventually integrate the individual components into a fluid, whole motion.

How do I determine which approach is best for my team or student?

Consider the player's skill level, learning style, and goals. Whole practice may be more suitable for advanced players, while part practice is often better for beginners or those struggling with specific aspects of their shooting technique.

Can I combine whole practice and part practice in my training sessions?

Absolutely! Many coaches and trainers use a combination of both approaches to provide a comprehensive shooting program. This hybrid approach can help players develop a strong foundation while also simulating game-like scenarios.

What are some common part practice drills for shooting a basketball?

Examples include practicing the stance, grip, and alignment; working on the shooting motion from the chest up or from the release point down; and focusing on follow-through, balance, and footwork.

How do I ensure my players are transferring their part practice skills to whole practice scenarios?

Gradually increase the complexity of drills, adding game-like distractions and defenders. Also, provide opportunities for players to practice shooting in scrimmages and game situations.

What role does feedback play in whole practice and part practice?

Feedback is crucial in both approaches. Coaches should provide constructive feedback on technique, highlighting areas of improvement and reinforcing good habits. Video analysis can also be a valuable tool for feedback.

Can whole practice be too repetitive and boring for players?

Yes, if not varied and engaging, whole practice can become repetitive and demotivating. Coaches should incorporate different drills, scenarios, and challenges to keep players engaged and stimulated.

How can I make part practice more engaging and fun for my players?

Use games, competitions, and challenges to make part practice drills more enjoyable. For example, have players compete to see who can make the most shots from a specific spot on the court.

What is the ideal ratio of whole practice to part practice in a training session?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as it depends on the team's or player's specific needs and goals. A general guideline is to allocate 60-70% of practice time to whole practice and 30-40% to part practice.

Can whole practice be adapted for players with different learning styles?

Yes, whole practice can be modified to accommodate different learning styles. For example, visual learners can benefit from video analysis, while kinesthetic learners may prefer hands-on, experiential learning.

How does part practice impact a player's mental preparation and confidence?

Part practice can help build confidence by allowing players to master individual components of the shooting motion. This, in turn, can enhance mental preparation and reduce anxiety in game situations.

What is the role of muscle memory in whole practice and part practice?

Muscle memory plays a critical role in both approaches. Whole practice helps develop muscle memory through repetition, while part practice focuses on building muscle memory for individual components of the shooting motion.

Can part practice be used to correct bad shooting habits?

Yes, part practice can be an effective way to correct bad shooting habits by breaking down the motion and rebuilding it from the ground up. This approach helps players develop new, more effective habits.

How does whole practice prepare players for game situations?

Whole practice simulates the speed, intensity, and unpredictability of game situations, helping players develop the instincts and reactions needed to perform under pressure.

What are some common mistakes coaches make when implementing whole practice and part practice?

Common mistakes include not providing enough feedback, failing to vary drills, and not gradually increasing the complexity of practice scenarios. Coaches should also avoid overemphasizing one approach at the expense of the other.

How can I incorporate technology, such as shooting machines, into my whole practice and part practice training?

Shooting machines can be used to provide repetitive, high-volume shooting opportunities, allowing players to develop muscle memory and build confidence. They can also be used to simulate game-like scenarios and provide instant feedback.

What is the importance of player self-reflection and self-assessment in whole practice and part practice?

Player self-reflection and self-assessment are critical in both approaches, as they help players identify areas for improvement, develop a growth mindset, and take ownership of their learning process.

Can whole practice and part practice be used for other basketball skills, such as dribbling or defense?

Absolutely! The principles of whole practice and part practice can be applied to other basketball skills, helping players develop a strong foundation, build muscle memory, and improve overall performance.

How do I know when to switch from part practice to whole practice with my players?

Coaches should monitor player progress, adjusting their approach as players demonstrate mastery of individual components and readiness to integrate them into a whole motion.

What is the long-term impact of whole practice and part practice on player development?

Both approaches can have a profound, long-term impact on player development, helping players build a strong foundation, develop muscle memory, and improve overall shooting technique and performance.