Basketball – Myths About Free Throw Shooting

There is a plethora of information on the game of basketball, skill development, practice planning, history, game statistics, personal profiles, goods and services relating to the game etc, etc. Of course the age of the internet has had a great effect on the accessibility of all this information.

A nagging problem though from my vantage point of being a shooting coach, master, guru, specialist, surgeon, therapist, world record holder etc, is that a lot of the information, although with good intent is mundane, repetitive and bordering irrelevant.

Even though the topic of this article relates to free throw shooting I mean to include three point shooting and field goal shooting whether it be jump shots or set shots or even hook shots. (A hook shot is pretty much the same as a jump shot except your body is at 90 degrees to the chest of the defender, even if it’s a one or two legged jump shot).

The real reason for this article is that the information about free throw shooting or the shooting mechanics in general, that is or has been taught over the past generations obviously must not be very good because the revealing statistics prove this fact.

As of the start of the 21st century you could lump the shooting statistics into the following pool. For example, the average high school team in the USA shoots around 65% from the free throw line, Colleges average around 68% and the professional players average a whopping 72% from the line. You can give or take one or two percentage points in either direction. But the point here is that only about 5-7 percent separates the highly paid professional players from the average all-American kid.

My theory here is that the professional coaches were once college, high school and junior high coaches. It seems that what they learned in their early days as coaches kinda’ stays with them throughout their career and without too much personal development. If one is not a great shooter himself it is hard to teach another individual how to be a great shooter. Granted there are those who become great shooters through hard work and possible good genes, but great shooters seem to be a rare breed. A green belt in karate can’t teach black belt principles. If this is not the case then how come our national average is mediocre or could be awarded a “C” grade and even a “D” in most cases.

It is not my intent by any means to belittle or undermine the millions of dedicated coaches out there, but it is impossible for a coach to be everything to everybody. He/she can’t be a doctor, psychologist, father, teacher, spiritual leader, and a master of all things basketball.
Many coaches are strong at teaching different departments like offense, or defense or creative strategies etc. But it is very tough to be great at all aspects of the game and the shooting department seems to elude most of us because it is very hard to perfect the accuracy engineering part of the shot process. If you are a coach reading this just ask yourself, “Can I out shoot all my players on my team”? Do I have any respect from my players as a shooter or are my shooting credentials rather paltry? Most kids don’t know any more than the coaches and will do anything you try to teach. Most coaches hope that the kids that play for them somehow magically should be great shooters. Shooters are not born. They are made. All players have the potential to be great shooters but somewhere along the line they have not received all the information they need.

So what are the myths about great shooting?

Myth #1. The feet are very important in shooting.
Not true. They are just there. Of course we all bend our knees naturally without even being told. But novices to the game do feel awkward about which foot is forward or backward. Best stance is shoulder width apart and right handers have their right foot forward about 6 inches. But if you have the right strength you can have feet side by side. Eventually though, the further you go from the yalla shoot  basket the more you will move your right foot forward to help in momentum transfer. But the feet have nothing to do with the ‘accuracy’ part which is the most important thing in free throw shooting

Myth #2. Keep your eyes on the front, back or any part of the rim during the whole shot process.
Many players do this probably because they were taught this early. Initially you obviously look at the rim to gauge the distance etc. Then the moment the ball is released from the fingertips your eyes should transfer to the flight of the ball where you can now see if the ball is going to enter the basket, go short, long or crooked. This provides great feedback. Funny that Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Peja Stojakovic etc, all watch the rim. Try it, you will like the control you will be empowered with.

Myth #3. Eye dominance is a factor in great shooting.
Many great shooters have little concept of eye dominance. If you are going to use one eye then keep your right eye open for a right hander so you can see down the inside of the shooting arm as it lines up with the center of the rim on the follow through. If you just keep the left eye open you create an isosceles triangle with your left eye, your right shoulder and the right wrist thus causing you to lose the shooting ‘line’ of sight. We all shoot with both eyes open for the perspective it gives us.


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