Teaching By The Comic Book Method

by ed riley

What is the one thing that stands out about comic book characters? Humm, let’s see, OK here’s one. Superheroes are drawn with strong jaws, or a strong exaggerated chin line. People who rely on their strength are drawn with exaggeratedly big biceps. Goofy characters might be drawn with exaggeratedly big, high cheekbones, and really baggy clothes. Intelligent people are drawn with glasses. Superheroes disguise themselves behind exaggeratedly big glasses. The list goes on and on. The common thread here? Everything is exaggerated, bigger than life!

Why do you think this is? I don’t think that the artists draw this way to prove they can draw BIG things. It actually costs more to draw some characters this way, because the bigger something is, the more ink it takes to fill in the pictures. So why would they draw their characters this way?

Could it be that people tend to remember things that are exaggeratedly big? I have not seen a Dick Tracy comic in over 30 years, but I remember his jawbone, it was big and squarish. I remember the Hulk had muscles bigger than most people’s head. I remember that Disney characters bottom jaw would drop down to their beltline when they were astonished by something. If you take the time to think about it, you can come up with your own exaggerated memories.

Comic book characters are drawn with exaggerated features so you will remember them. So what does this have to do teaching kids the game of hoops? I try to teach using exaggerated methods. Let’s take a simple drop step. Here are the steps for performing a drop step:

1. Post a player about 6′- 8′ from the basket on the right side of the paint. Have one foot in the paint, one foot outside the paint, facing the elbow.

2. Without the ball, have them revolve to the right toward the right side of the basket.

3. While revolving toward the basket, take an exaggerated high and long step towards the hoop. This is your step you go up off of for a lay-up.

4. When they can do this smoothly without the ball, then we give the passer a target. They are facing the elbow and now they hold their left hand out as a target for the passer.

5. When they catch the ball, they start revolving toward the basket and switch the ball from the left hand to their right hand.

6. They now have their right palm up holding the ball. Their left hand now goes out to their left side in a crooked position so they can ward off a defender on the left.

7. With the ball in their palm up right hand, they do their exaggerated step and do a one handed lay-up. No 2 handed layups are allowed.

Human nature says the defender is going to try to block the shot, so your player will get their shot off, and normally get fouled to boot. This is a simplified drop step.

FOLKS, notice step #3. I tell you to take an exaggerated high step. When I teach it, my leg goes real high and I do it in slow motion. Then I have them do it lifting their leg as high as they can. All my girls look at me like, “You are one loco hombre!” I’ve even had them tell me they refuse to look that stupid in a game.

So I guess I’ve failed in teaching this move, right???? WRONG-OLA!!!!!!!!! My girls remember the move because it is so exaggerated. They remember it because I have made it bigger than life in their minds. They refuse to do it my way because they don’t want to look retarded. So what do they do? They spend time learning it without such a high step, but they SPEND THE TIME LEARNING IT!!!!!!!! Could you ask for anything else?

Another example? Howsa bout spin moves, or crossovers, or between the legs, or behind the back moves that lead into an open shot, would that work? Let’s use a crossover. I teach both forwards and guards to start a crossover at the right elbow, from right to left hand. Then they do a jump stop in the middle of the free-throw line, and I make them go immediately straight up into a jump shot. Simple move, right?

The drawback to this move is that their body momentum is carrying them to the left. The player normally tries the shot while still moving to the left. The problem is that it’s a totally off balance shot, without the shoulders squared to the basket. It’s hard to make 10% of these shots. So here’s my exaggerated solution.

When they end up at the spot where they should take the shot, I have them jump onto the spot, landing both feet at the same time. I demand that they land hard enough, that you can hear their feet make that “Plop” noise as they hit the floor. If you can’t hear the “Plop” from across the gym, they shoot freethrows as a punishment. I have exaggerated the noise they have to make.

The result of this is that when they “Plop,” they have just stopped their momentum, they are no longer off balance moving left. Then I have them go straight up, shoulders squared to the basket, and do a jump shot. Now their chances of making it have greatly improved. Without exaggerating the sound they HAVE to make, my girls would still be taking that off balance shot with their shoulders pointing at whatever good looking boy was in the stands.

What can we learn from the comics? To put it simply, the more exaggerated you teach the move, the more your players will tend to remember and execute the move. Sometimes it’s the stupid things in life that work!