Working Toward Goals

Working toward success, one goal at a time

Even with proper mechanics and my technique of focus and concentration, I still had to put it all together in a process that could be repeated. I began shooting 500 free throws a day, in increments of 25.

As I improved, I kept setting new goals. One day, I heard on the radio that, according to the census, there were nine million men in America my age. I remember thinking, “I’d like to be one of the ten best seventy-year-old free throw shooters in the country.” I felt that goal would challenge me, but it was still attainable.

How to Improve Your Free Throw Shooting Now

This could happen to you

When I give free throw clinics and teach my seven-step method to players, I often see an enormous improvement immediately. This is surprising because the players may only be doing five of the seven steps correctly. They may bounce the ball twice instead of three times. Their elbows might still be out too far or their feet are staggered on the line. Still, the ball is finding the hoop.

Introduction to the Inner Game

The mental game can be played in a number of ways. W. Timothy Gallwey has written extensively about the “inner” games of tennis, golf, and skiing. What he discovered is something I think all serious athletes should consider.

Gallwey concluded that as we play sports, our minds are divided as if there are two people or “selves” with different personalities. One is analytical, overly judgmental and ultimately inhibiting. He called this side “self one.” The other side of your mind is quiet, confident and filled with amazing potential. This is “self two.” When playing sports, self one is constantly judging, criticizing and attempting to control self two. This becomes obvious when you hear a player yelling at him or herself, “You fool! How’d you miss that shot? You were wide open!”

Gallwey’s solution to this was, first of all, to recognize this split nature of the mind, and, second, to learn to trust self two. To accomplish this he employed a technique that is similar to the use of a mantra. In tennis, when the ball is approaching, you watch until the ball hits the court. When you see this you say, in your head, “bounce.” Then, as you swing the racket, you say “hit at the moment you actually stroke the ball.

The purpose of this “bounce, hit” technique is to keep the conscious mind, self one, busy while self two accomplishes the task. It’s like sending the boss out on a pointless errand so the workers can stay behind and get the job done.

If I were to compare my technique to Gallwey’s “bounce, hit,” I would say that the act of looking for the inflation hole and silently repeating the mantra accomplishes the same end. The conscious mind, which interferes in situations such as the free throw line, is tied up in the meaningless visual act of looking for the inflation hole.

Is it Possible to Improve My Free Throw Shooting?

Aren’t free throws just easy in practice-but difficult to pull off under the pressure of a game or a championship? No. The mechanics for free throw shooting can be learned. Combine proper mechanics with focus and concentration and you will be astounded at what you can achieve. I guarantee you will improve far beyond your preconceptions.

You could almost say that a free throw is a metaphor. It represents all those things in life that are more difficult than they appear. In fact, the harder you try, the more elusive success becomes. Some react by giving up and shying away. Others bear down and succeed. And their success is greater for their struggle.

When you shoot a free throw the only thing between you and the basket is yourself. You stand alone with just your muscles, your heart, and your beliefs. Sounds too good to be true, right? Again, no. Not with the correct application of proper mechanics, focus and concentration, and tireless practice. That is the purpose of this website, and

    Make Every Free Throw

, the book paraphrased above.

If you want to learn more about this method that you can use to make every free throw, even with the championship at stake, order your copy of

    Make Every Free Throw

. Thank you for joining us here at freethrow.com.

Coach’s Corner: From Make Every Free Throw

I talk to a lot of coaches, and I know how frustrated they are with their players’ free throw shooting performances. I can’t say I’ve ever met a coach who didn’t feel there was room for improvement on the free throw line. Every coach seems to have an immediate example at hand where free throw shooting cost them a game or a championship. As a coach, you know that free throw shooting can make all the difference between a win and a loss.

I recommend that coaches become familiar with my method of free throw shooting before they present it to their team. This means using the steps to shoot until you believe it works. You have to believe in what you are preaching. Your excitement and conviction will come through in many small ways, and you belief will come from first-hand experience. Much of coaching is trying to communicate a feeling. How can you describe the feeling unless you’ve experienced it?

When working one-on-one with your players, your trained eye can provide valuable feedback to someone trying to master the technique. Maybe a player thinks his or her elbow is tucked in. But you, standing behind, can see that it is still waving in the breeze. In addition to working on mechanics, work on self-image. Motivate players in positive ways. Let them know you believe in them and their skill. Reassure them that you don’t expect instant perfection, but at the same time require them to commit to change and growth. Your commitment to, and enthusiasm about, the program will help motivate your players to develop their skills with your guidance.

Remember that players can only learn a certain amount at one time before they begin to feel lost. Each basketball player has a sense of personal style that he or she is proud of. Let it be known that you will not change that style anywhere except at the free throw line. Then, as you teach my method, begin by enforcing the main points first. I would say you should focus on squaring up, bending the knees, and bringing the elbow in. Don’t immediately require them to do all the other steps perfectly.