Being a better free throw shooter in basketball usually comes with time and work, if you are struggling from the line using tips like, routine, slowing down, and concentration should be enough to make you a better free throw shooter in games. But if you are struggling from the line than this article might be for you.
1. Fixity Of Focus
You might be thinking what the heck does that mean, fixity of focus. Well a reason a lot of players struggle from the line even though they have the ability to be a good free throw shooter, is that they have lots and lots of different thoughts in there heads. They have all this time to think, about there upcoming shot. I see this over and over with players and it can be really sad to see. It becomes this spiral of negative thinking and self doubt which effects there free throw shooting ability.
One way of overcoming this is by focusing on one point on the rim, a reason I recommend this is because this will allow you to focus on the task at hand instead of those endless thoughts going on in your head. By being focused like this, it almost acts as a grounding measure, and keeps your mind present and focused on the task at hand. Remember free throws are just as mental as they are physical.
Examples Of Focus Like This- One way I always recommend this technique is by focusing on the front part of the rim, since a free throw usually demands a lot of touch this can be a great tool and it allows you to just put it over the rim with touch and grace. Hopefully if your stuck in your head a simple mental tool like this can keep you more present and raise those free throw percentages.
2. You Don't Practice Realistic Free Throws
I see so many free throw shooters wonder why they cannot make free throws in games or why they are missing so many free throws when it matters most. The simple truth is most players when they practice free throws, practice in comfortable situations and do not make there practice hard enough to emulate the free throws you might be taking in a game.
There are so many ways practice free throws differentiates from game free throws that players do not account for, like nerves, fatigue, pressure, and Adrenalin. I will be going over ways you can emulate those circumstances in practice that will translate into being a better overall free throw shooter especially in games.
Instead of practicing your free throws when you first walk in a gym and just casually taking hundreds or free throws, make sure before taking those free throws your actually tired and fatigued.
That is why I always recommend doing free throws at the end of a hard skills workout or after you did some conditioning. This will prepare you for those pressured situations in a forth quarter and allow you to better understand your muscle memory for actual in game free throw. Understanding your muscle memory when tired is a more effective way of practicing a free throw as that better preps you for a game.
You might be wondering how you can feel as much pressure in a empty gym by yourself, vs a packed gym with all your friends and family watching. While I admit it is hard to perfectly emulate this in a in game scenario, their are things you can do to emulate this. One drill I always recommend is actually called
Pressure Shooting Drill- You can mix up the drill any way you want, but the basics of it are ,every time you miss a free throw throw, then you have to run or do a suicide on a basketball court. Having a punishment for missing a free throw emulates game free throws because obviously your not going to want to miss that free throw, just like you wouldn't want to miss it in a game. It doesn't just have to be running either, maybe missing means you cannot play video games tonight, or have ice cream at the end of dinner, its really up to you, but whatever it is make sure each free throw you shoot has a little pressure on it.
Second Pressure Free Throw Drill- Another simple thing you can do to emulate your shooting in games is to have someone watch you while your shooting your free throw. Maybe its your significant other, friend, co worker, sibling, or parent, but by having someone watch you is another great way to emulate those nerves you might feel in games.
Competition- This might be the funnest and yet one of the most effective style of practicing free throws that emulate pressure situations. Any game where you are competing against another player is great because again if it matters to you then that is when you feel the most nerves and pressure. One of my favorites is 7 on the line
-7 on The Line Competition drill Rules:
-Each make you put one point up on the scoreboard
-First one to 7 points loses
-Alternate Between each free throw
-if a player misses he gets whatever point is on the line
A reason I love this drill so much is because it really emphasizes making your free throws under pressured situations, while also being a really fun drill you can do with your teammates or friends. Add other things too the game as well to your liking. Maybe the loser has to run or do push ups, whatever it is this fun drill is a great way to improve your free throw ability while also emulating in game scenarios.
I see so many players differentiate their free throw shooting in a game from the routine that they practice. This goes into the basic saying off practice like you play.
I am not saying that their isn't room for practicing your free throw mechanics, by getting a lot of shots off, but what I am saying is that, if you never practice the routine that you use in a game your never going to really get that muscle memory down in order to become a better free throw shooter.
4. Focus On Muscle Memory
While it might seem paradoxical to what I have been saying about not thinking as much when you go up to the line ,their is room for focusing on the exact way you make your free throw. What I mean by that is in practice when shooting free throws it can be beneficial to notice what your body is doing when you are making your free throws. Since Muscle memory is so vital on free throw shooting noticing what you do on your makes and what you do on your misses. Remembering and even noticing that concisely can help you make it automatic in games later on.
Tips On Working Muscle Memory
Record Your Self- Recording yourself can be a great way of noticing what works best for you and what doesn't. It also allows you to see why you might be missing shots, and what you need to do to fix it. If you also have access to film noticing this in games is beneficial too as you can note how your free throw might be different in practice to your routine or shot in games.
Rapid Fire Free Throw Shooting- This is a great drill especially for muscle memory because this allows you to get up shots as quick as you can, which allows you to quickly remember and adjust your shots for more makes and a better knowledge of what works for you or not.
Drill rules guild line To Follow:
-Ideally it would be nice to have a partner or rack of multiple ball next to you
-put about 30 seconds to a minute on a clock, watch or scoreboard,
-Shoot as many shots as possible in that time frame from the free throw line
- Do it multiple times and try and get the best score possible
You have to see what works best for you, what I mean basically is that rhythm is going to be different from person to person. That is why NBA players all seem to have different free throws styles and routines.
One of the simplest ways to increase your rhythm I recommend is try out new routines and techniques. Maybe you like to pause on your way up, or maybe you like your feet pointed a certain way, whatever it is find what you like to do most but most importantly stick with it.
6. Make Free Throws Harder
The simple truth of the matter is that shooting free throws in practice vs a game no matter how you practice, is going to be much harder. But by making free throws in practice much harder you can then get a clue of how you might be able to shoot in a game. Their are simple drills you can use to make free throws harder in practice that will translate better to game.
-Golf Shooting For Free Throws
Rules: So basically every make is a par so you get 0 points, every miss is plus 1, and a swish is minus 1.
A reason I love this drill so much is because it allows you to challenge your self by only trying make swishes. But realizing how much harder a free throw will be in games, you will be able to counter this by only trying to swish shots in practices.
-Another Great Drill is Mixing Up Your Shooting
Rules: The basic rules are that you take a bunch of shots around the perimeter whether that is three point shots, or mid range, and even a few layups in their. Then after that you go to the free throw line and take just two shots.
One of the reasons you should be doing a drill like this is so you get used to shooting free throws cold or without practice. Why you do this is so you can emulate an in game situation. Think about it your not going to be shooting 20 free throws before you take the two free throws inside the game.
Pro tip: Shooting at a park with doubled rims or very hard rims is a great way of practicing free throws and your shooting in general. If you can make it on those rims consistently (even in practice) then you most likely are going to be making them in games as well.
7. Belief and Confidence
Now as cliche as it sounds this is more than half the battle when it comes to free throw shooting and shooting for basketball in general. If you want to be a good free throw shooter you have to have the confidence going to the line.
One great way of building confidence at the line is endless repetition and practice obviously. But one not so talked about method I believe is not putting too much importance on every free throw you take. There is no better way of getting in your own head than thinking about how important it is to make that free throw. Be calm at the line, focus on what needs to be done, and live with the result. Trying too hard to make it is a reason you might not be such a good free throw shooter.
8. You Might Be Too Strong
Just a quick note here, they have actually done studies on if height effects shooting since so many centers in the NBA had bad free throw numbers. But what they found is that weight and strength had a surprising coloration with a players free throw shooting ability. So if your a player who shoots poorly from the line and wants to shoot better maybe look into having a two motion shot for your free throws as this is a style of shooting generally geared to taller, bigger, stronger players. For more information on two motion shooting check link below
Thank you for reading my friends. Let me know if I missed anything or what you used to improve your free throw shooting ability below in the comments. As always thank you and keep hooping my friends.