A coach I once met said he gave his players this advice: “When you go to the line, say to yourself, “Stop! Now get set.”” In other words, separate this shot from the flow of game action. Create a brief, isolated period of concentration to accomplish your task-namely, two points for yourself and your team.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier, we did a report on the physics of free throws. We found that Dr. Tom’s shooting style is backed up by science, since the arc of the ball is closer to perpendicular if you start from a shooting position lower down. In other words, Dr. Tom’s method. There’s just one problem: everyone thinks we are talking about the “Granny Style” of shooting free throw made famous by Rick Barry. This two-handed, underhanded method worked for him, but we don’t recommend it.
Yes, Dr. Tom is a proud grandparent (though not a grandmother!) who set the world record when he was in his 70s. But he used a much more conventional style of shooting with a one-handed release.
There’s an old saying that it always helps to remember whenever anyone tries to put you down: haters gonna hate. People may want to dump on a certain shooting but they’ll have to eat their words when they find out it works.
It’s been an exciting year for free throws – well, pretty exciting, at least. Taking a look at this year’s statistics so far, five players are shooting free throws over 90%: Kyle Korver (pictured), Jrue Holiday, Stephen Curry, Jamal Crawford, and Isaiah Thomas. One other fact that comes out looking at the stats is that no one is shooting in the 50-59% range, though there are a few stragglers shooting in the 40s. Time to catch up, guys.
Always trying to practice what it’s like to shoot free throws under game pressure but don’t know how? Here’s a tip you can try. Part of what will be a longer series on practicing techniques.
They say Free Throws are easy, but there’s still plenty of pressure you have to overcome while shooting. At NBA and other competitive basketball games, crowds have many ways to distract players, including those annoying shakers and, in the case of the Brooklyn Nets, a really old guy named Mr. Whammy.
So here’s a tip for practicing: put on a track of crowd noise in the background as you practice. Crank it up. It may not be able to completely replicate what it’s like to shoot under game pressure, but it helps you to get into the same mindset. A big part of Dr. Tom’s method is Focus and Concentration, and you have to be able to do that not just while you’re practicing but during a game.
Everybody hates physics, right? Well, at least any good basketball player who would rather be out on the courts than staring at a blackboard crammed with equations does. But a little physics can go a long way, and it can also help to understand why Dr. Tom’s Free Throw method is so successful.
To simplify things a bit, let’s start by assuming complete accuracy (a big assumption, but we’ll get back to that later). In this case, you have to shoot the ball with the right angle above the ground and speed for it to go in. Of course, getting the right speed and angle on the court is an issue of feel. But from a physics standpoint, if the ball arcs more, it will hit the plane of the hoop at an angle closer to 90 degrees, giving it a better chance of going in.
This idea is backed up in an article in Discover magazine, which finds that shooting a ball at just over 45 degrees (depending on the height of the player) is the best way to go. The article also advocates a shooting style virtually identical to Dr. Tom’s – though unfortunately it refers to the style as the “granny shot”, since it leads to shooting lower, and thus gives you a more direct angle at the hoop plane.
So if lower is better, why not just throw the ball underhand? That’s where accuracy comes in. If you go too low, it’s harder to control the direction of the shot, and you miss. But at just the right height, you can make sure the shot goes in. Some of Dr. Tom’s techniques, such as keeping the elbow in and feet square to the line, help with accuracy even more.
For more free throw tips, check out our book and video!
When you step up to the free throw line, there’s only 15 feet between you and the basket, and the points you deserve. 15 feet doesn’t sound like much. But when you step up to shoot, all of a sudden it looks like a lot more.
How do you overcome the mental pressure when you’re at the free throw line? Your team is counting on you and the pressure is on. Whether or not you make your free throws will be a key factor – most games are won or lost on the free throw line.
To make your baskets, you need to be able to focus and concentrate. Master the mental side of basketball and you’ll be able to remind yourself of the fact that at the end of the day, 15 feet is not that far.
For more tips on focus and concentration, download the player’s edition of Make Every Free Throw!
When we think of genius, we usually think of nerdy scientists mixing together chemicals, working on computers, or writing out horrendously long equations. But there’s also such a thing as genius for sports. Prominent writers have compared the genius of Michael Jordan to that of Einstein. Sure, Jordan probably would never have been able to create the theory of general relativity. But then again, Einstein would never have been able to win game 6 of the 1998 NBA finals.
I think it’s safe to say that sports genius is a lot different from science genius. But when it comes to shooting free throws, what kind of genius should you have?
The answer is a bit of both. Free throws need the same quick thinking you need to succeed during regular play. You need to cope with distractions and game pressure. But they also require strategy. To raise your percentage, you’re going to need to know what technique works. That’s where the seven step method comes in. Created by Dr. Tom Amberry, the world’s champion free throw shooter, they help you to hone your free throw abilities, so you can master the strategy and improve you in the moment thinking.