Trajectory – Thoughts on how to score effectively

Many coaches concentrate on skills like ball handling, passing and teamwork. Admittedly these are extremely important to your team’s success, however, it does not matter how efficiently you can move the ball around the court if you do not know how to shoot and score with a high chance of getting baskets.

Let’s look at trajectory as defined by Wikipedia and how it relates to shooting a basketball:

A trajectory is the path a moving object follows through space. The object might be a projectile or a satellite, for example. It thus includes the meaning of orbit – the path of a planet, an asteroid or a comet as it travels around a central mass. A trajectory can be described mathematically either by the geometry of the path, or as the position of the object over time.


Learning how to shoot and score from any area on the court is important. Keep in mind that the trajectory needed to score will be different, depending on where on the court your players are located. There are going to be areas where scoring will be easier, so teaching your players how to recognize the best areas on the court to shoot from is very important to ensuring you team’s success.

Basically, the areas on the court which offer the widest range in trajectories are the ones that you look to shoot from. Being able to use the backboard effectively to alter the ball’s trajectory is a great strategy but in order to do so, players must often be facing the backboard more or less directly. Players need to understand that while it can be easier to get a basket when you are closer to the net, the fact is that unless you are positioned in front of the backboard with a perfect angle (eg. for a layup), shooting will become infinitely more difficult and the range of trajectories which can enable you to sink a shot will be much more limited.

There have been many studies that have gone into finding the best trajectory for taking a shot. For example, a study performed at the Human Resource Laboratory located at the University of Calgary found that the optimal trajectory for sinking a free throw were as follows: If a shot were taken at a sixty degree angle and at a speed of 7.3 meters per second, the chances of sinking a free throw were determined to be fairly optimal.

The study took into account the fact that a ball will spin on the rim and may be affected by the presence of the backboard as well. Obviously players will need to try out this trajectory and factor in their height and the force at which they are throwing the ball. Also, their position on the court will affect this. The statistics were performed based on a free throw and not an attempt by a player to sink the shot from a position close to the basket. If the players are positioned too close to the backboard, the amount of force needed and the angle at which the shot should be taken will need to be altered.

You will need to experiment with trajectory, player height and player strength in a practice environment. By giving your players ample opportunity to practice free throws and rebound shots as well as shooting from the two-point area and three point line, you can increase your player’s understanding of trajectory and allow them to have a higher chance of scoring when they are in the middle of a game.

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