Focus and Concentrate

FocusConferenceRoom Pick up the sports page any morning and read the quotes of sports stars. Many of these winners attribute their success to concentration. Others say they won because they were focused. These words-focus and concentrate-jump off the page. I’ve gone one step further by putting the words together as a winning pair: focus and concentration.

These are familiar words to most people, but they are used in many different ways. Let me tell you how I think they apply to the world of sports in general, and free throw shooting in particular.

How to Shoot Free Throws

Photo Courtesy of Erik Drost via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Courtesy of Erik Drost via Wikimedia Commons

After I set the Guinness World Record for free throws, people always ask me the same question: How do I shoot a free throw?

There are some basketball fundamentals that are used to make your free throws. But there are some things that make free throws different, too. I’ll cover a couple of those things here:

  • Elbow in. In game conditions, lots of players have their elbow out to fend off aggressive players trying to strip the ball. But at the free throw line you don’t need this.
  • Square up. Lots of shooters stagger their feet. That’s fine for three-pointers. But most coaches will tell you to square up so you don’t miss right or left. Square up on the free throw line.
  • Use your legs. I’ve heard people say that free throw shooting is an upper body motion. I disagree. I think you need to make a nice smooth shot with your legs too.
  • No Aiming. I see a lot of players stare at the basket because they really, really want to make the free throw. But this doesn’t help. Just lock in on target and shoot; It’s more accurate that way.

In my next blog I’ll cover the mental side of free throw shooting. But if you really want to improve your free throw shooting or learn how to coach free throw shooting for better results, get a copy of my video, Make Every Free Throw.

The Big Short: Free Throw Shooting in the NCAA

This is a giftToday is the first of March and, to me, that means March Madness is here. Since I wrote Make Every Free Throw, I’ve been following each of the Final Four favorites every year. A while back, I read a piece in the New York Times that talks about what I wrote in my book, which was that free throw statistics in the NCAA haven’t changed much since the 1960’s.

I like to say that a free throw is a gift. It is astounding to me that more players are not taking advantage of this gift that comes in the form of a foul. According to the NCAA’s current free throw percentage rankings (2015-2016 season), the difference between the number 1 ranked team and the number 4 ranked team is less than 2 percent. You may only get a few free throws each game, but add up all of the free throws in each game and the point spreads add up. That small difference in free throw percentages becomes the big difference between winning a championship and going home disappointed.

Take a look at Villanova coach Jay Wright’s free throw shooting drills. The results speak for themselves: Villanova is currently ranked number 1 in the NCAA in free throw shooting percentages. The drills that Coach Wright uses are pretty much in line with the advice I often give to coaches in clinics. For more of my free throw shooting tips — for players and coaches — download my video Make Every Free Throw.