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Correct Shooting Problems

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Correct Shooting Problems from 2000 WBCA Exposition Talk

I plan to answer these questions:
1. Why players shoot foul shots poorly.
2. Why players rarely improve.
3. H
ow to reverse this situation.
I'll present 2 cardinal rules and 2 cardinal sins for shooting. Then I will show the remedy to all shooting problems.

Cardinal Rule 1 - To improve shooting you must improve mechanics, the way the body moves. In particular, players must work on wrist movement, touch, body alignment, and extension.

Cardinal Sin 1 - Don't do anything that destroys technique like shooting around, shooting long shots, and repeatedly shoot long shots. These most common methods insure that players will not improve, and will probably get worse.

Cardinal Rule 2 - Correct shooting problems by practicing mechanics alone, nothing else.

Cardinal Sin 2 - Don't correct shooting problems on the shot. If you do, players will develop inner voices screaming instructions to "extend", "loosen-up", "follow through", etc. This makes players tentative on the shot, whereas effective shooting is natural, no thinking is involved.

Four Mechanics Exercises:
1. Touch ball - Hold the ball on the finger ends for up to 20 minutes to develop touch. Only the finger ends direct the ball to the basket or elsewhere; no fingers, no palms, no pads. Make sure the fingers are spread apart as far as possible and the hand is shaped like a claw. Do this with either hand.

2. Flick wrist or wrist work - Shots are flicks of the wrist, so the wrist must be loose. Stiff wrists are the most common problem for high school and up male shooters.
One exercise involves just loosening the wrists. Wring or shake the wrists out till they are looser. Another exercise involves flicking the wrists. Flick back and let the wrists come forward naturally. Try doing this with the arms overhead, elbows straight. Flick back and let the hands come forward naturally. The hands should be loose and fingers spread apart. Players, except good shooters, will have difficulty doing this correctly. The more problems a player has doing this, the more they need wrist work. All players at all levels need to do a few minutes of wrist work each day. Beginners need to improve, Reggie Miller type shooters need to keep consistent.

3. Alignment - The shoulders and arms must be aligned or squared up to the direction of shooting. Often coaches say that players must square up to the basket. This is only true if they are shooting at the basket, not the backboard. For bank-shots players square up to a spot on the backboard that they aim at.

Practice squaring up by doing this statute of liberty drill. Here are the steps in brief:
a - Raise the arms straight overhead, elbows straight, with the ball in one hand.
b - Move the wrist back as far as possible.
c - Claw the hand so the ball only touches the fingertips.
d - Bring the elbow towards the nose. Make sure to keep the body squared up to the forward direction. Make sure to keep the wrist back. The wrist tends to twist to the side when the elbow moves to the nose. Most players who are not good shooters will need to be twisted somewhat like a pretzel to get into this position. Again, the more problems a player has doing this exercise, the more he/she needs it. You will understand this exercise better if you see it diagramed in the book or even better in one of our videos.
e - Repeatedly flick the ball 2-3 inches up, not 1 foot, and catch it on the fingertips. It may take weeks or even months before a player can perform this drill satisfactory.

4. Extension - The body must be extended straight up to shoot properly. Players who release the ball near there forehead, I call them nose shooters, will improve quickly and benefit the most from these drills. Women more than men have this "nose shooting" malady. All these drills force a player to extend straight overhead.
a- Shoot-ups- Shoot the ball straight up overhead.
b - One Inch Shoot- Position a player directly underneath the rim, then shoot. Don't worry about players making the shot. Look for extension only. Don't let players back away from the basket.

Each exercise above is not a one time drill. Each player needs to work on these everyday, initially with the assistance of either the coach or another player who has been instructed properly.
Because these drills are so difficult, even motivated players should only work on these for 1-2 minutes at a time. In practice, only expect small improvement each day. Over the the course of a month or two even the worst shooter will show remarkable improvement. College players improve much more quickly than younger players.

Your comments are welcome.

Sidney Goldstein, author of The Basketball Coach's Bible and The Basketball Player's Bible, has successfully coached both men's and women's teams over a period of 15 years.

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