Since the purpose of our great sport is to shoot the ball into the basket, teaching effective shooting form is one of the most important aspects in coaching. Our goal as coaches should be to enable players to keep their shooting simple, accurate, and repeatable. But what should you focus on and how do you drill it? Here are 4 keys to teaching great shooting:
- Center of your hand on the center of the ball: The first place I start when teaching young shooters is hand placement on the ball. Since it’s the one thing that actually touches the ball, it’s essential that young athletes get this correct. The key is that the center of a player’s hand is on the center of the ball. If it isn’t, the player will apply force on the ball unevenly, causing it to go in the opposite direction (e.g., a player whose applies more force on the right side of the ball, will cause it to go left). So where is the center of the hand? It’s different for every player, but I have generally found it to be either their index finger or in between their index finger and second finger. To measure this I get each player to put the tip of their index finger on the seal of the ball and to spread their fingers and thumb out on the ball as they would when they shoot. I then measure with my hand (index finger to thumb) if the distance between this spot and their thumb is equal to the distance between the index finger and pinky on the ball. If it isn’t I then get them to put the crease of where the index finger and second finger meet on the seal. I remeasure and usually find this to be the center. For more, check out this post, How to Grip the Basketball and Use Your Hands for a Perfect Release, from NBA shooting coach Dave Love.
- Turn your feet: You were probably taught to shoot the ball with ten toes to the rim. Like cassettes, shag carpet, and video stores, things have changed. A recent study of the top 36 shooters in the NBA found all of them shoot with their feet turned when shooting from distance. Just watch Steph, Damian Lillard, Trae Young, Allie Quigley or other top shooters and you will see that they are all turned. Almost all high-level shooting coaches today teach players to turn their feet—to roughly 11 o’clock for right-handed shooters and 1 o’clock for left-handed shooters. Why? It better aligns their arm and their eye with the shooting target, and it allows for a more free and powerful motion of the shoulder joint. A good analogy that many shooting coaches use is darts. The top dart players in the world are always turned, enabling the same type of free shoulder movement and alignment with the target. For more, read Shooting Myth #1: Shoot 10 Toes to the Rim by Tyler Coston of SAVI Performance.
- Dip: Loading your shot by dipping your arm on the catch is essential to creating rhythm, power, and a repetitive motion (off the catch and the dribble). For more, read Shooting Myth #2: Don’t Dip the Ball by Tyler Coston.
- Vertical acceleration and hold the finish: Rob Fodor is one of the most respected shooting coaches on the planet. He’s currently the shooting coach for the Miami Heat. Rob has studied physics, geometry, and kinesiology and applied them to identifying the key to an accurate, repeatable shot. Rob has identified vertical acceleration as the single most important aspect to effective shooting. It’s a rather simple concept—a player must release the ball in a consistent, accelerating manner from the bottom of the dip to the release point. With any pauses on this journey you will leak energy and hence power. During this phase of the shot, the elbow should be under the hand which is behind the ball (creating a reverse C position at the set point of the shot). The release should be nice and high to produce a good arc on the ball (ideally 45 degrees). You can test this by observing a players shooting elbow on the release—if it is below their eye level it is too low. They should hold the cookie jar finish until the ball goes in the basket. Fodor has a great drill, called the Roll-Up drill, that is used to teach vertical acceleration and the proper arm position from the low point of the dip through to the finish.
When I teach these keys I do a lot of form shooting to start to get the mechanics down. There are lots of great variations of form shooting you can use to load the learning—hop forward and back, and side to side in a stance, then shoot; have a teammate apply some force to the shooter to mimic contact; do a 180 jump and back, then shoot; do a reverse pivot and back, then shoot; have a teammate do a walking close-out to provide a visual distraction…I then start to load the drill with a teammate or coach closing out to mimic the type of visual noise that shooters will face in a game. Get players shooting off the catch after a cut such as a blast cut, and off the dribble.
One final key: young players should be taught these mechanics from when they begin shooting. The brain grooves the first way we learn something and it is hard to undo and retrain. So, when we teach young shooters to shoot in a chest pass-like manner because they lack strength, we are causing a lot of problems with their future shooting mechanics—instead, lower the baskets and ensure you are using a size 5 ball for young players.
Hope this helps you in sharpening our West Ottawa shooting skills this season!