How To Become The Best Free Throw Shooter On Your Team!
By The Morris Basketball Program
All basketball players have lived this moment in their heads at some point in their career- down 1, 1 second left, with two free throws to seal the game for your team. You step to the line, ice flowing through your veins, and drill the first shot like you could have done it with your eyes closed. The crowd goes crazy. You step back to the line, poised as ever, ignoring the screaming haters, not even noticing your family and friends in the stands. You take that deep breath you take before you know you are going to become a hero, bend your knees, hold your follow through, and watch as the ball flows softly through the net to seal the win for your team. Everyone goes wild and carries you off the court to go celebrate!
If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, sealing the deal at the free throw line not only takes impeccable mechanics, but mental toughness, discipline, and a lot of tunnel vision. Here are 5 easy steps to increasing your free throw percentage:
1. SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT!
Mechanics, mechanics, mechanics. Repetition, repetition, repetition! Every basketball player has heard these two words before, probably too many times. Focusing on doing the same mechanics repetitively will grow your muscle memory, thus making your free throw more robotic and less vulnerable to mental breakdowns (Free throws are the only component of the game where it pays to be a robot). If it is all in your muscles, your mind does not even have to think! You just have to step to the line and shoot the same shot with confidence! The more shots you take in practice, the better percentage you will make in a game situation.
2. PRACTICE TUNING EVERYTHING OUT
It’s also very important you keep your mental level on an even keel while you are at the line. A free throw shooter can encounter a lot of distractions- the other players, fans, time/score pressure, and even an off the court thought can throw off a perfect free throw. If you have ever “been in the zone” doing something (video games, reading a book, watching tv, etc) where nothing else even phases you, then you have achieved the zen like feeling that you need to phase out all these distractions. It’s just you, the ball, and the basket. For the next 10 seconds, nothing else even matters. If you can focus and concentrate one shot at a time like this, you are making progress.
3. LINE UP CORRECTLY!!!
This could actually take the #1 spot in my honest opinion. In a perfectly formed free throw (in most cases) the ball is lined straight up with the elbow, which is lined straight up with the same side leg of the shooting hand, which is lined up straight with the same side foot of the shooting hand, WHICH MUST BE LINED STRAIGHT UP WITH THE CENTER OF THE BASKET. Most times, you can find the center of the free throw line (they tend to put nails, or somehow mark the center where you can find it but not in all cases). If you can’t find it, use the center of the basket as a point of reference. That way, if your mechanics are correct, you will shoot a perfectly lined up shot in a straight line towards the center of the basket. This will add to your percentage.
**Also make sure both feet are pointed towards the basked and not towards the side–this will keep your entire body square with the basket.
4. DO THE SAME ROUTINE EVERY SINGLE TIME
The true key to shooting a high free throw percentage is to take out all the variables that can alter your best shooting mechanics. One of these variables that you may not even notice are if you are making small changes to your routine each time you shoot. If you normally spin the ball in your hands and then bounce it twice before you shoot, spinning once and dribbling three times can definitely affect the outcome of your shot. It is very important to lock down a routine that works for you and makes you comfortable.
5. PUT A LITTLE PRESSURE ON YOURSELF
When we say “a little pressure”, we don’t mean beating yourself up for misses. We mean, put yourself in a game situation (2 seconds left, down 1, shooting 2, etc) that means something to you if you would make the free throw. You must be mentally involved with your shot if you want to be the best free throw shooter on your respective teams. This is why at the Morris Basketball Program, we have our players shoot their free throws in a game situation style, to help the increased percentages translate to the actual games. The only thing holding you back from being a better free throw shooter is YOURSELF!
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