You have heard it over and over - "We could have won that game if we had just hit our free throws!" Don't let anyone fool you, games can be won or lost on free throw percentages. And, unfortunately, this is true for the "other" team as well, so make sure you make free throw shots one of your important practices.
While some people seem to be born with a knack for hitting a foul shot, the rest of us have to work hard to hit one. The old saying "Practice makes Perfect" actually does have merit. Practice, practice, practice! BUT, make sure your form is right or chances are you aren't going to improve your shot much. (And I know you have heard that practice makes perfect a million times but you remember the phrase so there must be something to it, right?)
Here are some tips on how to properly shoot a foul shot. Concentrate on the position of your fingertips and wrist. With the basketball in your shooting hand, position your wrist as far as back as it will comfortably go (relax, this is trying something new so try to make it fun). Pull your elbow in to a comfortable position under the ball and bring the ball up between shoulder and eye level. Be sure you are using your hand to balance and keep the ball steady, but only use your fingertips. Now bring the ball up so that you can see it and the rim at the same time.
Put your feet shoulderŽs width apart and then put the foot that is on the same side of your body as your shooting hand close to the the foul line, but don't put it on the line or shot won't count. Flex your knees and relax.
Now, here's the hard part - concentrate. Try to block out everything, other players, referees, fans and all the noises that surround you. If you practice concentrating this way, it will become natural. Mind training is essential in basketball but we will talk about that later. Focus on whatever you need to, there is nothing left in your mind but the ball in your hand and the basket you are now facing.
Keep concentrating and when you are ready to shoot, bend your knees to a comfortable position (time and practice will show you whats comfortable for you) then extend. While the legs extend, bring the ball up and release it just before the top of your movement. When you let the ball leave your hand, snap your wrist downward (follow through) as if you are pointing it at the ground but DON"T change the position your arm is in you release the ball and be sure your elbow stays in line and doesn't go jerking around the atmosphere. A good smooth motion is what you are looking for. If you have never shot free throws, this will fell awkward, if you are trying to corect a bad habit you have, this will feel awkward but that will pass with time. When you snap your wrist properly, the ball will have the correct amount of spin on it.
Keep your eyes on the basket, (remember nothing else exists at this point and time, just you and the basket and the ball) and aim for the rim. What part of the rim you aim for is debatable, most people aim for the front of the rim but this is where practice is going to help you decide which one to aim for. Don't randomly switch back and forth betweeen the front and back rim though. Shoot ten or more shots at the front and see how it goes and then switch to the back rim and do the same. It may make a difference or it may not. When you finish your free throw you should be standing on your toes and not flat footed. And remember to concentrate of your position and form because each shot you take is putting you one step closer to a good habit or a bad one.
If you are having trouble with your shot, you can practice at home by lying on the floor or even while in bed on your back. Lie on your back and pretend you are shooting and concentrate on your elbow and wrist placement. I have actually found it easier to concentrate at home than anywhere and it does actually help you at practice and games to do this at home. Practice snapping your wrist and concentrate on pitiing your fongers down at the end of the shot. I like to see my fingers "in the basket" when my shot is done.
With correct form, concentration and lots of practice, youŽll be shooting free throws on a percentage that even the pros may envy!
See you on the court!