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
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
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
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
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
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.