You’ve all heard the saying “The squeaky wheel takes the oil”. In reference to shooting free throws in basketball, the best coach is the ‘miss shot’. When we feel bad or get sick, the first and immediate response is “what is the origin of the pain”. There is an immediate thought process that focuses on the area closest to the pain and the accompanying action is to take a pain reliever, rest or, depending on the severity, seek medical attention. The worse you feel, the more motivated you are to ‘feel good’ or attend to your daily duties without any conscious thought about physical discomfort.
This is the exact same process we should use to deal with a missed free kick. (I use a hyphen because it joins the word ‘free kick’). The main reason this topic needs some expansion is that, through my own scientific observations, I have estimated that about 75-80% of shots are not “dead center” in the center of the rim. This is a huge margin of error and the main problem in the world of basketball is that you never hear any instruction or training on how to shoot the ball ‘straight’. The next time you watch a ball game on TV, make a note of how many shots taken are the correct distance but are ‘off line’ or lopsided. It is a surprising phenomenon and can be corrected with some scientific understanding and the application of relevant principles.
A major part of the problem with shooting a crooked shot starts with the grip, or the way the hand is lined up on the ball. If the hand is not placed on the ball in a scientifically correct way, it will have further repercussions on the “follow-through”, which is the most important part of any shot. The ‘follow up’ is the computer processor that schedules the shot for success.
Just watch when you use the keyboard and type words on a page, how easy it is to hit a rong key or even miss something (oops, I left out the ‘w’, looks weird doesn’t it?) and if it doesn’t mark what you typed you will have grammatical errors. There is good and there is evil. If you’re writing a resume or official document, you definitely don’t want to have any mistakes. We are judged by our application. There is no difference when shooting a basketball. A small miscalculation or an inch of lateral movement anywhere in the fingers, arm, or elbow will cause a shot to miss. Missed baskets lose games, cause loss of confidence, and a plethora of other concerns.
Since shooters are made, not born, the pressure is on players and coaches to get this process right. Perfection at the free throw line is attainable and maintainable, but it requires constant and total mental control of the physical capacity of the body. A great shot isn’t just pushing the ball in the direction of the rim. The other day I went to see a local high school girls basketball game. Naturally I watched the shooting mechanics of the participants, as I always do. I can no longer be critical because the great shooting mechanics are simply absent at the large-scale high school level. The average free throw shooting percentage in high school is about 65% from the free throw line. I’d say that’s a failing grade and nothing to brag about and I bet these guys shoot with their eyes OPEN.
Let’s put this process in some perspective as it is very important. The free throw is the fundamental shot in basketball. All other shots have a connection to the free throw and a similarity in the application of the shot. (More on this in another article)
First of all, if you’ve ever shot a rifle, shotgun, or BB gun, you’ll have noticed that you naturally brought the butt of the gun up to your shoulder and aimed the barrel at the line of sight in line with your dominant eye and you would have your trigger finger on the trigger ready to fire when you are ‘ready’. Note also that he doesn’t pull the trigger until he has the target, the peep sight at the end of the barrel, and his eye in the ‘line of fire’. I also call this the correct “shooting pocket” when preparing to shoot.
Compare this process to the free throw attempt. You pick up the ball (usually with your dribbling hand to associate with your lead hand), then place the ball on its ‘shot pocket’ of the comfort zone, which may or may not be scientifically correct. Let’s compare.
When you pick up a rifle and are ready to shoot, don’t hold the barrel of the gun near your hips or above your head or in front of your stomach. Squeeze the stock with your shoulder and align all other parameters (sight, barrel, eye and target) before firing.
Many players today have an incorrect grip on the ball (index finger in the center of the ball with fingers spread as wide as possible so the pads only touch the ball and not the palm) starting in a ‘shot pocket’ wrong and consequently have faulty tracking. through. The ideal “shooting pocket” is to have the ball about 2-3 inches above the center of your forehead where your eyes can see the center of the rim, the inside of your shooting wrist, which is the peephole aligned with the center The rim and the firing arm when extended over the shot form the barrel of the rifle. This method allows complete vision and control. But this is not for everyone because it takes strength and practice to shoot from this position. Players who are weak will have ‘shot pockets’ which generally start from the face and work their way down, due to lack of strength.
Also, the ideal follow-through should be one arm extended and locked, fingers spread apart and parallel to the floor with only two joints bent: the wrist and the elbow. Take special care that there is no lateral movement during or after the ball is released and especially in the fingers. At the end of the shot, the index finger should line up with the center of the rim, down the inside of the shooting arm, and the right eye on a right-handed shooter should line up.
Now you have some tips to concentrate while you practice shooting. Of course, there is much more involved in terms of finger pressure and finger responsibility on the ball and which finger has which role in the shooting process. But at least this gives a bit of “perception” (pun intended) in the line of fire.
Also understand that when I refer to free throws I mean the same process happens with every shot, especially 3-point shots. The downside of shooting further is that a small error in the tracking mechanics increases the chance of missing the basket.