free throw shooting

Free throw shooting – rethinking the one-point difference maker

Free throw shooting in basketball. Why is it so tough to consistently do well?

After all, a player is standing still, 15 feet away from a non-moving target, holding the ball and with nobody defending. Why are so many players simply awful at this essential skill of the game? Since you asked, I have a couple of theories.

The Simple Skill

First, one reason so many players suck at free throw shooting is that, after a lay-up, it is the simplest offensive skill in the game.  That means, of course, players don’t spend much time practicing them. That is especially true of the youngsters.  When they hit the court, they want to fire it up from outside.  Beginning with free throws is out of the question.  Truthfully, older players aren’t much different. But regardless of the age group, players prefer to move around, shoot the three or take a few goes from the deep corner. Ten-to-fifteen foot jumpers?  Players can’t put up eno0ugh of them. But stand still at the charity stripe, focus and shoot time and again?  Forget it.

The Boring Skill

Second, free throws are boring. Well, they are boring until the game is close and each point really counts.  Then, well, that is a different story. The most boring of hoop skills goes from “who cares” to everybody cares. But duplicating that in practice is impossible. No matter how many times a player says, “Okay, this is for the championship,” imaginary scenaros cannot come within a zip code to the real pressure of a player trying a free throw in the final minute of a close game.  Coaches do try, but the threat of running a couple of extra suicides match the knee-knocking drama of reality.

The Embarrassing Skill

Third, no player likes to be embarrassed, especially when they are so bad at this seemingly easy thing. Every player thinks, Can’t anybody do this? Fans say they can do it blindfolded. Yet, placed in the same position of having to make a shot, standing still, with hundreds, if not thousands, of people screaming, those same fans would be unable to buy a free throw. No, basketball players are proud folks to begin with.  And they know that everybody watching knows that he or she has been playing the game since they could walk upright. They understand that fans are counting on them.  They can feel the excitement as well as their own anxiety.  So, when they miss, it is oh so embarrassing.

The Intimidation Skill

Lastly, when it comes down to it, players know that to be good at free throw shooting they must endure standing there and shooting them for hours on end. Methods? Oh, Rick Barry, he of the underhanded, Granny Way, guarantees that if a player practices his method that his or her made percentage will go up.  Maybe so, but isn’t that the case for any method?  If you keep missing ground balls in softball or baseball, do you start trying to catch them only backhanded?  If you continue to chilly-dep your chip shots, do you decide to start hitting them with your driver? No, you do one thing to change the outcome – you find a tried and true way and you just practice more.  Then again, working harder solves a lot of seemingly unsolvable problems.

Note: National Scouting Report is the largest high school scouting organization in the world.


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