I have been involved in the game of basketball for over 20 years. I have coached, played, and watched many games where free throws decided the game. Free throws should be some of the easiest points to get. After all, they are free! Free throw technique is so important and often left out due to the fast pace of today’s game. All of the following steps can be done in a matter of seconds.
1. Relax. As a player, I always tried to catch my breath off of a drive, because I had just been knocked down, pushed, or slapped most times. Regardless of how good my form was or how much I had practiced, I needed to be relaxed so my shot would flow.
2. Proper Floor/Foot Spacing. I remember a girl who shot her free throws from the left corner of the free throw line. It was awful. Painful to watch. Lining up my feet was always the second thing I did behind relaxing. Most gyms has a nail smack in the center of the free throw line. Being left-handed, I always put my left foot there, with my right foot being shoulder width apart. That created a balanced center as I went into my shot.
3. Repetitive Motion. Many players have niches or quirks before each shot. Mine was to dribble twice, spin the ball, and pull at my shorts. Twenty years later I still do that when I am teaching young players how to shoot. Once I did that I rarely missed.
4. Shot. After my quirky start, I would then elevate the ball, creating a window, with my elbow being at a 90-degree angle. This is so important because the elbow has a direct effect on the shot. For example, if my elbow kicks out to the left, my shot would go right because I would end up pushing the ball that way. If my elbow stays locked, the ball’s trajectory is right on target. I teach my players now that if the ball is on target, it will become one of three things: short, long, or right on target. If the shot is left or right, it is a mechanical issue. Once the ball is up at the correct angle, shoot and follow through, flipping the wrist.
5. Follow Through. This is one of the most important keys to shooting. The wrist needs to be flipped like reaching up and over into a cookie jar. I see many young players snake biting after a shot–a quick shot with no follow through. A good follow through can help with a good roll many times.
I absolutely love shooting hoops. I now make a living by developing young players, so I drill the technique of free throw shooting. Free throws accounted for many of my points; however, it was only through following the above steps religiously that I became confident with the ball at the free throw line.