A lot of people concentrate on offense and defence and forget one of the most critical points of the game that often gets overlooked as actually being crucial, and that is the free throws. Free throws are one of the only parts of the game that is completely controlled by the player making the shot. No one else can interfere and no one else can influence the shot. This means that the shooter has complete control, and if that shooter hasn`t practiced those shots or has under estimated their importance; you may find that some points that your team could be racking up, will be lost.
One tip that a lot of players, and even some coaches overlook is simple repetitive practice. Doing the same shot over and over again, while your coach is watching you to help you with small pointers and potential adjustments that can up your successful shooting percentage. This method doesn`t work with every single player, but should be integrated occasionally into all training regimes to ensure that players all have minimal amounts of free throw practice.
Players also have to learn to deal with the actual mental side of the shot as well. The crowd will be cheering loudly and proudly, your teammates will be shouting encouragement, and your opponents may simply try to distract you.
Whatever the case is you have to learn to ignore all these outsides factors and concentrate solely on the shot before you. While there is no exact way to measure the physical and the mental side to each shot, there is simply the ability to state that a successful free throw shooter has mastered both aspects or learned to adapt and control them. If this means having to practice on a crowded street and learned to deal with noise and distractions, then that`s what has to be done. If it means practicing in a quiet gym, then so be it. Either way coach and player will have to work together to decide the best ways, which come on a player by player basis. No two players on a team are EVER the same. What works for one player, may not work for another.
What is important is developing a free throw routine or “ritual”. Developing this will get you into a “zone” that will help you concentrate and block out your distractions and focus on the goal at hand.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and could be as simple as kissing the ball before you shoot it, or a single dribble. Either way you need to find a way to be able to put yourself in the concentration zone that will be required to maximize your potential success and minimize the failure.
In the end, one main thing stands out and that is practice. Free throws WILL NOT improve overnight, and they certain won’t improve without work. You need to be at it day in and day out, and constantly working hard to improve. Saying you want to improve is a start, doing something about it is a whole new ball game.
Photo credit: wm chamberlain