After numerous discussions with youth coaches to pro coaches, observing hours of basketball, and through my own experience- shooting the basketball is taught and performed in a variety of ways. No two shooters shoot the basketball alike. With a proliferation of shooting tools, “systems”, and “secrets”, there is more discrepancy than ever among coaches on the proper way to teach players how to shoot the basketball. I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few of my thoughts:
This is an important tool for beginners when teaching them to shoot the basketball. Many of the problems with the shot start because of poor hand positioning on the basketball. It is important to continuously stress to young players to start close with perfect form before moving on. This is easier said than done, but as a coach or parent you can certainly help eliminate future problems by making sure kids have good hand positioning on the basketball at a young age.
Shooters have to be capable of getting into an athletic position. This is an often overlooked element of shooting. Deficiencies in movement, lead to deficiencies in the shot. For example, if a player can’t get into hip flexion, they will lose a great deal of power on their shot, and may compensate by using more upper body movement. Many people talk about “secrets” to shooting, if there is something overlooked in shooting it’s if the body can perform certain movements to achieve a proper shot. An understanding of biomechanics and kinesiology is one thing not talked about enough when it comes to the shot.
Players need to be able to shoot off of 1-2 step-in as well as a “hop”. For the most part, when introducing shooting to younger players I will start by teaching a 1-2 step-in (L-foot pivot for righties, R-foot pivot for lefties), but as strength and elastic ability increase, I will teach a “hop” as well. Great shooters have the ability to set their feet in numerous ways based on what the context within a game calls for. Watch the arsenal of any great shooter- you’ll see hops, 1-2’s, inside foot, outside foot- there is variation.
This is a topic that many have a really strong opinion on. The debate is between whether or not the feet should be 100% square (parallel straight ahead) or if they should be angled. I believe in a slight angle (I call it a tilt). A tilt means that a right handed shooter has their right side slightly in front of their left on a slight angle (11 o clock feet for right-handed shooters, 1 for left-handed shooters). The feet are still parallel, but at a slight angle. A tilt allows for better, and often more comfortable alignment of the shooting shoulder and arm. In addition, for most, it is a more natural movement pattern. The human body naturally angles itself to stop by shifting slightly sideways (think hockey stop), so when a player is moving into their shot, by forcing them to be “square” with their shoulders and hips it is fighting basic human movement. I believe there are two extremes. Number one is: 100% square with feet, shoulders, and hips. Number two is: turn, which is pointing your feet directly to the side- in the middle is the tilt, which in my own observation is the answer.
All great shooters have rhythm; they are comfortable shooting the basketball. Their hips work with the movement of the basketball to effectively transfer power from the lower body to the upper body. Many coaches are against “dipping” the basketball, but for many this allows the upper and lower body to sync up to get into rhythm with their shot. The key on the “dip” is that it is simply for rhythm, and it is not wasted movement.
Of all pieces, how you finish your shot may be the most important ingredient. It is extremely important that shooters finish with good extension and their index/ middle fingers through the center of the basket. I have a few phrases that I use to help players remember their finish that work well for many of them. If a player has a problem with their follow through, it can be due to a problem with their elbow/ shoulder alignment or a lack of strength.
“Catch it and put it in triple threat.” This sounds great and looks great in practice when running a patterned offense with no defense. The reality is if you are running an offense to score points (which I think is the goal), players have to learn to catch to shoot and react to drive/pass. Playing off the jump shot puts you in “real triple threat” and prepares players to be a threat to score on the catch.
Simply put, a player needs to be willing to work on their shot. They have to have shot so many times throughout their career that they know their shot better than anyone else and can self-correct it on their own.
Block vs. Random Practice
When a player works on their shot, it is common practice to shoot 10-20 in a row from one spot or go “around the horn” a few times- this is block practice. When establishing mechanics and building confidence- this is great, but after initial stages of development, no learning is occurring. Outside of live situations (best way), I use a numbering system and a variety of hand signals when players have solid mechanics to create more game-like repetitions in shooting practice.
There is no perfect “system” or “method” to teach shooting the basketball. There are foundations that will allow players to have success with their shot, but it is an individual subject and there will be variability. With youth players I think it is important that they can get into an athletic stance, have great hand positioning, alignment, and follow-through. Establishing good fundamentals at a young age will lead to less correction being needed when players get older. In conclusion, everyone is a little bit different, but if certain fundamentals are put into place and practiced consistently, the chances of shooting a higher percentage goes up immensely.