Sunday, January 8, 2017

Free Throw Practice Thoughts

Photo courtesy of
The picture to the right comes from a blog by Brian McCormick on shooting. The picture proves one thing - traditional free throw shooting does not work. Look at Dwight Howard - shooting 82% in practice and 49% in games. The practice to game percentages are all over the place and don't really correlate.

The obvious question is why - why doesn't making free throws in practice help you make them in games? I don't think, personally, that we are teaching them correctly. As McCormick eluded to in his article - we shoot free throws in block practice. We shoot a number of free throws in a row. That allows players to "dial in" they might miss their first few then make a high number in a row because they had so many chances to get a feel for the shot. This doesn't happen in games, so why practice it?

Since I'm not really about pointing out problems without solutions here is what we are going to try. Every Saturday after January 1st we bring in 1/2 our team (9th and 10th one Saturday, JV and Varsity the next) and focus only on shooting for 2 hours. This was the first Saturday we did it and we spent about 20 minutes on free throws. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Only practiced 2 free throws in a row MAX - because that's usually all you will shoot in a game. 
  • Started by teaching how to shoot the first free throw. 
    • Most players have a higher percentage on their second free throw - the skill is really being able to step to the line, size up the shot, and shoot. 
    • We talked about taking a deep breath before you step up to calm yourself. 
    • Think only about aiming, not making, missing, being embarrassed if you miss, your parents, your girlfriend, etc. 
    • Take time to go through your routine - lengthen this and really work on focusing your aim. 
    • We then shot one free throw and switched. Also changed baskets to give a different backdrop for each one to try to make it as new and not block as possible. 
  • Then moved to the second free throw. 
    • We teach them to stay on the line no matter what. That way they can calibrate their second one. 
    • First one goes, shoot the same. 
    • First one misses, adjust your second one.
      • Right, left, short, long

Nothing earth shattering, but things that I think players need to be explicitly taught more than it is. Not sure it will make a difference, but we will definitely start tracking them as we go to see if there is an uptick from what we taught!