Top 3 Biggest Basketball Shooting Mistakes
Is your coach ruining your shot?
Now, that's a bold statement. Often times, we think the coach has our best interests in mind. However, the vast majority has the team's best interests in mind. You're part of the team, but it's about the overall success of the team. So, where do you fall as an individual within the system of the overall team?
Well, that 100% comes down to what you're doing in the off-season. Are you putting up shots every single day? If so, how many shots are you putting up every day? Are they catch and shoot, shots? Are shots without defense? Are they shots with defense? Are they shots you'll shoot in the game? Are they shots from half court while goofing around? The answers to these questions will determine how well you can shoot the ball within the grand scheme of the overall team concept.
However, that's what you, as an individual, are doing on your own time.
Let's take a step back, and start to look at the beginning stages of learning, and teaching the shot in the game of basketball.
1. Squaring Up
Now, let me explain before you decide to write me off as an incompetent coach and skills trainer. Let me start off by saying that I have coached, trained, and assessed thousands of athletes from kindergarten beginners, to high-profile prep athletes, to collegiate all-time scorers, and semi-professional players looking to improve their shooting form, technique and overall effectiveness.
I look for a couple of things when assessing a shot.
First, I run the athlete through a battery of tests, just to see how the overall biomechanics of their body work. Second, I determine their power source. Third, I look for inefficiencies in the shot. Lastly, I ask them to perform the shot in a particular way to correct said inefficiencies, maximizing power, and utilizing a comfortable technique.
The vast majority of athletes have some form of mobility limitation with the wrist, elbow or shoulder. This creates the old term, "Flaring Elbow" as coaches would call it. Essentially, the athlete has mobility issues in the wrist and/or shoulder.
Let's take a look at the professional athlete with the title, "best shooter of all time." Steph Curry, in this image, and thousands of other images found on the internet show Steph Curry with his feet pointed between 10AM and 11AM, versus the 12PM that most coaches teach. The primary reason for the shift in the feet is to free up the shoulder and elbow, so he can create his shot-line.
The image is taken from the sideline, and his feet are pointed towards the cameraman, not the basket.
Now, this doesn't apply to every athlete, much like squaring up may work for some, and not for others.
Squaring up on your shot should not be a 100% set in stone technique taught.
Signs to look for to see if your players have mobility issues:
Let me be clear. This is a case-by-case basis, and should be assessed and adjusted based on the athletes abilities. However, locking each player into a square up technique may not be doing the most "good" for your athletes, but it is a good start to teach balance, footwork, and power generation.
Examples of elite shooters using the body tilt:
Disclaimer: All of the aforementioned athletes are in the Top 10 All-Time for 3 point field goal makes in NBA history.
2. One-Handed Shooting
If you've played any rec league ball, youth basketball, or been around youth basketball. You'll see coaches far and wide teaching the one-handed shooting drill. This drill is taught with the thought in mind to help the athlete generate enough balance, power, and touch in the shooting hand. I'm not advocating to throw out the one-handed shooting drill, I'm simply implying this takes valuable practice time to teach something the athlete will not use.
Let's explore the one-handed shooting drill a bit. First, the ball is placed on the shooting hand, turned over and placed above the head. Once in position, elbow is under the ball, and ball is balanced, the shot is executed.
Again, this is designed to help create balance on the finger tips, strength in the shooting arm/hand, and finally the touch using a solid follow-through.
However, here is where this drill tends to go wrong. The majority of young athletes will use what is most efficient for them. For them, they lack the balance of the ball, the strength of the arm/hand, and struggle to develop a proper follow-through.
What actually happens with the one-handed shooting drill?
The young athletes will place the ball on their shoulder in a "shot put" position resting the ball on their palm like a waiter/server. The execution of the shot includes a shot from the palm and an open hand. There is no "goose neck" follow-through present.
The athletes that do the drill specifically as the coach instructed, now have the athletes shooting from the top of their head. Very few, if any, young athletes can execute a game shot from above their head. Again, we're not drilling a shot that will be used in the game.
Another example of an elite shooter is Trae Young. Trae Young took the NCAA by storm when he averaged 27.4 points per game for the Oklahoma Sooners. 45% of his makes were from beyond the 3 point line, Trae finished the 2017-2018 season shooting 44%. Trae Young uses the modern technique of shooting from his "shelf."
What is the Shooting Shelf?
The shooting "shelf" is borrowed from the Olympic lifting technique called shoulder shelf. The shoulder shelf is used to create maximum power output to execute the snatch, whereas the barbell is rested on the front deltoids. This is also used to execute the Push Press. As you execute the "Triple Extension" movement, which is essentially a jump movement from the athletic position, the ball can now generate maximum power from the legs, through the hips and into the ball via the shooting arm.
What are better drills to teach proper shooting technique?
A drill that can be completed using the shoulder shelf, and proper shooting technique include the leg-less shooting drill. The leg-less shooting drill is exactly what is sounds like. The athlete puts the ball on their shooting shelf, elbow under the ball, and wrist in proper position with fingers spread. The athlete is close to the rim, and they are to execute the shot without using their legs. As they get comfortable and make consecutive shots towards a goal, they are allowed to move back. This continues until the athlete can no longer execute makes with proper shooting form.
A progression to this drill includes using the no-jump technique. The players start near the basket and perform the shelf technique without jumping, but are allowed to use their legs and finish on their toes in proper triple extension form. The athlete makes consecutive shots towards a goal and are allowed to move back. As they reach the maximum distance where this is no longer effective, they are to stop the drill.
The last progress is using the jump technique. Again, start the players next to the rim, and they move back until form breaks down and consecutive misses are amassed.
This is Trae Young's actual pre-game routine to get his shot primed for games.
3. Follow Your Shot
I'm sure we hear this at least a dozen times every single game. This one absolutely grinds my gears. As someone that spends countless hours working with athletes to improve their ability to shoot the ball, following their shot is not part of the fundamentals of shooting.
Let's explore the concept of following their shot.
The athlete is passed the ball off a screen, or off an attack to the paint. The athlete is set up properly in an athletic position, hand targets are showing, the pass is delivered on target, and the athlete executes the open shot.
Now, conventional wisdom says to follow-through. Coaches run countless drills asking the athlete to follow-through, millions of dollars are spent in the basketball training space teaching the players to follow-through, trainers far and wide are telling the players to follow-through. If we go back to Michael Jordan's mid-range jumper over Byron Russell in the NBA Finals, we see a follow-through.
Before we advance into this discussion, let's explore the popular shooting fundamentals.
BEEF Shooting Fundamentals
We have the B which stands for Balance, feet shoulder-width apart in a strong athletic stance, shoulders square to the rim.
The first E is for elbow, whereas the elbow is placed under the basketball.
The second E is for eyes, whereas the eyes are fixed on the target.
The F is for follow-through. This is ambiguous and open to interpretation.
Does the follow-through mean until the ball is released, until the ball hits the rim, or until the ball goes through the net? I tell all of my athletes to hold the follow-through until the ball goes hits the rim. This way, we as athletes know where the ball is going, if we need more legs, if we had too much guide hand involved, or if our follow-through needs more "snap" to it. This helps us in our next shot attempts to make adjustments.
FOREST Shooting Fundamentals
FOREST came about in 2010 when coaches and trainers were evaluating the shooting form of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and other elite NBA players.
The F stands for finger tips, the ball should be rested on the finger tips.
The O stands for off-hand, it should be positioned comfortably on the side of the ball to help guide the shot in the proper direction.
The R stands for rhythm or the "dip" that helps generate additional power for the shot.
The E stands for eyes following the flight of the ball.
The S stands for Sweep & Sway, which consists of sweeping the feet out freely and comfortably, while swaying the shoulders back to create a greater arc on the shot.
The T stands for --- you guessed it -- Through, which stands for a path that goes through our feet, THROUGH our finger tips and towards the basket.
Now, while these two types of shooting systems are being taught, they all have elements in common - namely the follow-through.
The Importance of the Follow-Through
The follow-through is used as a self-teaching mechanism to allow athletes to determine the feel of a successful attempt. When a player gets hot and makes consecutive shots, they tend to mentally find the exact steps to execute a successful shot. That is taught by allowing the athlete to follow-through and find out what is working for them.
If we apply this principle to other sports, we'll also see the same concept coming to the surface.
The quarterback that throws a cross pattern or deep route will typically set up with balance, with eyes on the target, proper throwing technique, then execute the throw and hold a follow-through until the ball reaches its destination.
The pitcher in baseball uses the same principles, as well. They set up in an athletic position, on balance. They wind up for greatest power generation, and execute the pitch with the pitching arm through until the ball arrives to its destination.
The volleyball player when serving sets up in a similar fashion, they get set into an athletic stance, on balance. They toss the ball up, as they have practiced thousands of times, and execute the serve with a final follow-through until the ball arrives to its destination.
So, this begs the question, 'Why is basketball any different?" Why are athletes told to abandon the follow-through to follow their shot?
This is an opinion piece, and I'm entitled to share my opinion on my own website. However, as someone who has worked with athletes of all age groups and grade levels (kindergarten through 12th grade), and into the collegiate ranks. The principles of shooting are simple, they're not easy, they take hours and hours of practice, repetition, and execution. However, they ring true whether you're a 3rd grader or Steph Curry.
If you're a coach and employ these strategies, I would love to hear more about your experiences, and if you have found ways to tweak the timed classics of squaring up, one-handed shooting, and asking athletes to abandon their shot to keep the possession.
Rising Stars Basketball