Last week, at the end of a youth practice, I watched player after player shoot a free throw. Without exception, the players missed before they got the ball over their heads. They started poorly.
I saw this picture on the Internet. I’m not 100% who it is. The picture is a snapshot without context, which makes an evaluation difficult. However, if, as it appears, he is preparing to shoot, he starts from a less than optimal position, based on the available information.
Now, every player is different, and everyone does not have to shoot in the same exact way:
However, some things have been found to increase success, and some individual differences reduce success.
The player pictured above does not appear well-organized. His body is going in several different directions. His gaze is focused in one direction, shoulders turned in another direction, and arms lined up in a third direction. His fingers do not appear to be aligned with his wrist and forearm, and he has four fingers to the right of the center of the ball. My guess, based on what I can see, is that the ball sits in his palm on his shot as well.
Are these things that he should change or are these individual differences? Without seeing the whole shot, it is hard to know.
When I watched Texas A&M play Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament, an A&M player continually missed free throws, and the misses derived from the start of his shot. As soon as he started his shooting motion, I knew he would miss. His entire approach was flawed. He shot three-pointers more successfully than free throws. He looked uncomfortable, and his body moved in too many directions. These were individual differences that he should tweak or change to simplify his shooting motion.
With the young players at practice, many rushed. They did not look at the basket until they were nearly to their shooting pocket. Others had adopted the turn in their free throws, but their follow through followed the turn of their shoulders and the ball hit the side of the backboard. Another player shot with ten toes to the rim, and probably should have turned slightly. Others picked up the ball with a poor grip with fingers pointed eschew, forcing their elbow out, meaning that they had to curve the initial motion of their arms to get their elbows under the ball at the release.
These are mistakes that occurred before they began their shooting motions. Their struggles began with the start of the shot; simply picking up the ball in a different way or looking at the basket for a split second longer before starting one’s shooting motion (quiet eye) would have improved their free-throw shooting.