Coaching Cue Corner: Lateral Movement

A few weeks ago, I posted an article which reviewed backpedal coaching cues.  Coach - Athlete interaction is essential if the goal is improvement.  Why?  Improvement is driven through cognition.  If your athletes are able to "Understand" they will be able to "Do".

I've been playing basketball my whole life.  Until around the age of 18, I was never properly taught how to shuffle.  Shuffle!  One of the primary movement patterns in basketball, not until I was 18....  Who's fault was this?  My coach, My trainer, Myself?  The answer….all three!  The optimal performance spectrum is accomplished through the introduction of sport skill tasks (Coaches), movement patterns (Strength Coaches) and practical understanding (Athlete).

I've played and observed a lot of basketball in the past.  Astonishingly, I still see players with inefficient lateral movement patterns.  They simply just do not know how to shuffle!  Scooping with the lead leg and NOT pushing with the trail leg.  Yikes! Some of you may ask, "Why is "scooping" such a big deal?"  Well, because of three reasons.  First, you will be slow!  Driving the trail leg produces more force when compared to the single joint muscle function of the "scoop".  Force application= Speed.   Second, you will be lacking change of direction speed. For example, if you shuffle with the "scoop" and your opponent changes direction how are you going to transmit change of direction force?  When changing directions, the "scoop” causes you to lose your base of support which is integral for force application in all anatomical planes.  Change of direction kinematics involve shin angles, anatomical orientation, force transmission and stability. Third, "scooping" is a nightmare for the knee complex.  If you want to stay healthy, avoid the "scoop".  The amount of dysfunction that is occurring is scary.  Translation, deviation and connective tissue stress... the list goes on.  Incorrect foot alignment causes harmful changes to joint and muscle alignment. The result?  The poor foot/ankle alignment associated with the "scoop" can cause injury or wear to the tissues and tendons of the knee complex.

Lateral Coaching Cues

1. Arm Action- The role of the arms is stability and added momentum.  The arms should be kept close to the COG and moved in opposition of each leg extension (trail leg).
2. Torso Angle- When shuffling the shoulders should be directly over the knees. This will improve your mobility because you are aligning your COG in the correct position for optimal performance.
3. Base of Support- The feet should be hip width apart with the toes, hips and shoulders square to your opponent or line of movement. The role of the lead leg is to guide.  The role of the trail leg is to produce power.  Many times I call the lead leg the "steering wheel" and the trail leg the "engine".  It is important to remember that every "push" is followed by a "replace" (Lateral Turnover).  The foot should be replaced directly under the hip in order to reach full triple extension on every repetition.  If the foot is returned outside the hip then full triple extension cannot be obtained and movement speed will be directly affected.
4. Eyes up- The eyes are everything. The position of the head has a lot to do with postural control. If you have poor posture you will lack in balance and motor control. Correct upper body posture accounts for optimal pelvic stability.
5. Push- I tell my athletes to “push” the floor away from them. To perform the push correctly, full leg extension should occur and the medial high arch should be the last to leave the floor.  As a coach, this cue can be the most difficult to teach and for the athlete to comprehend. Repetition is key!

Lateral Movement Progressions (Follow in Order)

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