It's been my experience that most basketball players are really good shooters in their driveways or when they are alone at the neighborhood court. However, this rarely translates to game situations. This article is going to cover things that I do to help my basketball players become better shooters when it truly counts.
Basketball games are fast, physical, loud and intense. You do not have time to run through a shooting checklist in your mind (balance, eyes, elbow, follow through, etc.) during these situations. If you do, a defender will likely be on top of you before you can shoot, and that great opportunity will be gone.
To be an effective shooter in games, you must master the three C's:
A shooter needs to have consistent shooting form. They need to be able to get into their shooting form, make adjustments and execute the shot without even having to think about it.
A shooter needs confidence in their ability to shoot. If they have confidence, then the speed and chaos of the game won't be able to rattle them.
Finally, a shooter needs to be able to calm themselves to make shots effectively. This means being able to mentally slow things down so that even game-like situations where the action is moving quickly can feel slow.
Develop Shooting Consistency
Consistency is bred by repetition. This means that you need to practice your shot daily. This is also best done on a court and not in your driveway. The reason for this is that you need to get comfortable with the layout and sights of the court. The more realistic you can make your training, the better your in-game results will be.
This needs to be a daily thing. Remember, you are working on developing a consistent shot that won't require you to think about it during a game, which means you don't just need reps, but good reps. There's a difference between going out in your driveway and chucking the ball around for 20 minutes and having a locked-in, focused shooting session. Simply "getting shots up" isn't automatically going to make you a better shooter. Set a goal for the number of repetitions you're going to achieve each day, and always make the goal focused on the number of makes, not attempts. For example, your goal is to make (not attempt) 25 shots each day. Once you are consistent with that, increase it.
Develop Shooting Confidence
For shooters, confidence is knowing you can make your shots in difficult, stressful situations. I have two drills I end every basketball practice with that help develop this trait.
Shooting Drill 1: 12 Stations
This drill has 12 stations. Athletes line up at the first 9 stations around the key. Start with the athlete in position 1. That athlete tries to make their shot. If they make their shot, they move to their left to the next station. If they make that shot, they move to their left to the next station. If they miss, they stop at that station and it's the next athlete's turn to shoot.
After the last player has missed a shot, it starts all over again with the first player. When an athlete progresses through all nine stations around the key, they can move out to the three stations at the three point line. The first athlete to make a shot at all 12 stations wins.
You can also use a stopwatch to add a sense of urgency to each shot by enforcing a time limit (the athlete must put up their shot within 4 seconds of arriving at a new station, for example). This drill gets players comfortable with shooting from different parts of the court while also exposing them to pressure and competition. It also gets players used to shooting when cold, as a miss prevents them from putting up a shot for a period of time. I typically allot 15 minutes at the end of practice for this drill.
Shooting Drill 2: Swish and Step Back
For this drill, the athlete lines up at the free-throw line. They then attempt a free throw. If they make the basket without hitting the rim or the backboard, they get to take one step back and attempt their next shot from that distance. This continues as long as they make their shot without hitting the rim or the backboard. If the athlete makes the shot, but hits the rim or the backboard, they have to shoot from the position they are at until they can make the shot without hitting the rim or backboard. If the athlete misses the shot, then they have to take a step closer to the basket.
This drill sounds simple, but it creates a lot of pressure on athletes the moment they miss that first basket and have to take a step forward. I have seen this drill reduce great shooters to tears and really get in their heads. I like to use this drill with my great shooters who can complete the first shooting drill above in a few minutes. Again, a stopwatch can be used to enforce a time limit on each shot and create a sense of urgency.
Develop Shooting Calmness
Except during free throws, you never have a prolonged period of time to set yourself up for a shot in a game. There are always defenders who will close out and attempt to rush your shot or disrupt your form. That's why the ability to mentally slow things down is very important if you want to become a great in-game shooter. I have my athletes do variations of a "catch-and-release" drill to help develop this quality.
Shooting Drill 3: Rapid Fire
For this drill, the coach holds a basketball in the middle of the paint. The athlete stands just outside the paint. The coach then fires a chest pass at the athlete, who must quickly get the shot off.
This helps the athlete get comfortable with catching the ball, getting set up, and shooting the ball quickly. This is usually prompted by the coach yelling "Shoot! Shoot!" as soon as the ball has been passed.
We do this drill from multiple parts of the court and with all different types of passes (chest pass, bounce pass, overhead pass, etc., all with varying levels of accuracy). After the athlete gets comfortable with this drill (i.e., once they begin consistently making shots), we can progress to the coach running at the athlete immediately after the pass (so the coach acts as a simulated defender). The athlete must get the shot off as the coach works to close out on them quickly. I usually spend about five to 10 minutes on this drill in practice. If there's no coach around, you can easily perform this drill with a teammate, as well.
Thoughtlessly chucking up shots isn't going to make you a better shooter. To truly hone your shooting ability, you need good reps, you need confidence, and you need the ability to slow the game down. The more you can master the three C's, the better your in-game shooting performance will become.
Photo Credit: skynesher/iStock
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