CHANGING THE WAY SHOOTING IS TAUGHT

By Peter Lonergan - Frankston Blues (Australia) Basketball

Jump shooting - this fundamental of our great game remains one of the most over-coached, under-taught skills in all of basketball.
Coaches at all levels have been guilty of over-complicating the basic shot mechanics and despite this being such a vital aspect of the game, teaching shooting remains the one skill that remains a mystery to many coaches.
The coaches that can really teach shooting in a simple and efficient ways will always be a valuable commodity as many of us struggle to establish form, consistency and repeatability with our young players.
Teaching shooting and refining the technique and form of players often intimidates coaches and as such, this vital skill at times get pushed back in the priority list and paid little more than "lip service".
Sure nearly every coach wants a team of great shooters and an adequate of practice time is allocated to drilling shooting, but there is a difference between drilling shooting and ensuring the players are practicing good habits and correcting technical deficiencies or inconsistencies.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a risk of "paralysis by analysis", with coaches turning what is really a simple motion into a complex action that transforms athletes into a tight bundle of twisted muscles every time they prepare to shoot.
Elbow in, feet shoulder with apart, knees bent, lead foot forward, wrist cocked, "show wrinkles", shoot at the top of the jump, shoot on the way up, "jump, look, shoot", "lock & snap", shooting pocket, shooting window, "goose neck", "hand in the cookie jar" - ouch, my head hurts!
Just as with many aspects of coaching, there is no "right" way to teach shooting and different coaches will place their own slant on this fundamental with varying degrees of success.
Over the past 12 months, shooting has become an area that I have identified as a significant weakness in my coaching and has sparked a research and education process to ensure my knowledge and teaching ability improves to an acceptable level.
This shooting "crusade" has made me acutely aware of two things - one, my knowledge of this skill has been terrible for to long and two, it is not a difficult skill to teach.
Thanks to stumbling on the www.swish22.com web-site and reading the teachings of Tom Nordland and then being fortunate enough to have Coach Nordland answer my endless e-mails, teaching this "intimidating" skill is no longer such a mystery.
Coach Nordland's "Swish" system, coupled with even more e-mails and questions to coaching colleagues has assisted in formulating a simple system of teaching shooting that has made it enjoyable and highlighted how bad I was in this area in years past (to the 1000 players before-hand, please accept my apologies!!)
After melting the information super highway with e-mails and reading Tom's articles and other web sites, I have arrived at my "road map:" for teaching shooting, with five simple keys -

ü Establish a straight line from the shooting foot to the basketball
ü Start the shot looking over the ball, finish the shot looking under the ball
ü Shoot on the way up
ü Shoot with arc - as Coach Nordland says, "Let it fly!"
ü Limit tension in the wrist at the point of release

Hardly rocket science, nor hardly revolutionary stuff, but these simple points provide the skeleton for teaching shooting.

Establish a straight line from the shooting foot to the basketball -
One of the age-old problems with teaching shooting is keeping the elbow "under the ball". This is one of the toughest aspects of keeping the ball straight and is also the cause of tension in the shooting arm.
By allowing the players to have their "lead" or shooting foot well forward and not worrying too much about where the other foot is pointing, there is a chance the player will be more comfortable and comfort is vital in the shooting process.
Try it yourself, the further the foot is forward, the easier it is to keep the elbow in and establish the "straight line" from the shooting foot, through the elbow and to the basketball.
Obviously you don't want the lead foot forward of the anchor foot to a point it is uncomfortable, but if you are struggling to get a player to keep the elbow under the ball, encourage them to move the shooting foot forward, which will lessen the tension in the shoulder and make it more comfortable for the shooter.
A common problem with shooters in relation to keeping the elbow in is having a square stance, feet level or almost level. The term "square-up" was created when basketballers shot a two handed set shot, so in a lot of ways, encouraging players to "square-up" in the one hand jump shot era is poor terminology.

Start the shot looking over the ball, finish the shot looking under the ball -
Rex Nottage is one of this country's best and most respected development coaches and this is almost a coaching mantra with him.
It is a simple way to explain the set-up and release of the shot and can be used as a checklist for shooting.
If the player can't see over the ball as they prepare to shoot, chances are they have the ball in front of their face. This is a common problem with junior girls and creates problems as they make adjustments such as tilting the head to one side or placing the ball on the shoulder - both of which will create inconsistency.
This is often the cause of players pulling their head back at the point of the release. Because they have started with the ball in front of their face or obstructing vision, the natural reaction is to pull the head back to "peer" under the ball to see the rim.
Finishing the shot looking under the ball is vital also in teaching players to sight the rim through the "shooting window" prior to release. Many juniors shoot from the hip or in front of their eyes, creating a flat trajectory and inconsistency.
The flight of the ball has to be "up & in" the rim, not "out & at" the rim, so lifting the ball above the eye level and pushing it up is crucial to consistency. If the player can't see the rim under the ball, they are releasing the ball too low and the result again will be flat trajectory or inability t get it off.

Shoot the ball on the way up -
Coach Nordland calls this "UpForce"™ and this is perhaps the biggest "revelation" of his "Swish" method. It also makes so much sense that it is embarrassing to those of who have been proponents of "shooting at the apex of the jump" for so long.
If using the legs in the shot is important, why then would we encourage players to release the ball at a point where basically the legs have been "disengaged"?
At the "top" of the jump, the legs are no longer in use, so the shooting action then basically becomes all arms and leads to inconsistency. The legs provide the upward movement; the arms propel the ball forward.
Shooting on the way up means the legs are always engaged and players can shoot more consistently because the larger muscles are providing the energy source for the shooting action.
The other point to consider is that the "top" of the jump is a very small amount of time and often means players are indeed shooting on the way down at the point of release.

Shoot with arc - "Let it fly" -
Linked to the concept of shooting on the way up, ensuring players are shooting with sufficient arc is obviously an important aspect in teaching the jump shot.
We are fortunate to have a "Shoot-away" at our association and apart from the value in not having to chase down the rebounds, perhaps its biggest advantage is players must shoot with arc.
The nets on the "Shoot-away" force players to shoot with what they believe initially to be exaggerated arc - in reality it encourages them to shoot with the sort of arc that will allow for consistency.
An indication of how "flat" young players shoot the ball is the first few shot attempts by a group of young players in their first time on the device had them shooting air balls consistently as they attempted to adjust for the height of the net.
With teaching shooting to beginners and under 12 players, I have adopted the "Let it fly" mantra as a way to encourage the players to shoot the ball with arc and give it a chance.

Limit tension in the wrist at the point of release -
Just as in putting on the golf course, you want to limit the amount of tension in the wrist and arm in the shooting action.
The term "wrist flap" has replaced "lock and snap" in my coaching vocabulary to ensure players are not creating tension in the wrist at the point of release by "snapping" the wrist over on the follow through.
Again, try it yourself, shoot the ball with a relaxed follow through action, rather than the harsh "snap" that is often taught.