Teaching proper shooting fundamentals By Marty Gaughan, contributing writer

Footwork, finishing develop a player’s scoring abilities 

georgetown shot fundamentalsIn order to teach young players the proper fundamentals of shooting the basketball, we must create a foundation that we can build upon. It will be on this foundation that we begin to create skilled shooters.

This foundation is made up of some basic principles that, when taught properly, can be repeated by your players over and over again. Repetition is the mother of all skills.

The principles used to help develop a more consistent and successful jump shot are:

  1. Starting the shot with your feet
  2. Preparing both mentally and physically
  3. Shooting the ball from the pocket
  4. Putting a great finish on the shot

Here is a closer look at the principles necessary to develop a player’s shot.

Feet first

It’s important to teach players at a young age the value of footwork in all aspects of basketball, but it’s especially critical in shooting.

Footwork may be the least taught skill in basketball, yet it’s at the core of success for players. Athletes must be taught to catch the basketball with their feet.

Teaching the one-two step in spot-ups, off the cut and off the dribble are paramount. Players must practice this footwork daily, with an emphasis on quick feet, keeping the feet under the shoulders and having a good staggered stance for power and explosion.

One drill that should be emphasized is a one-two step for each shot. Have the players repeat over and over again, without shooting the basketball, getting into a shot with their feet. Spending five minutes each and every workout on footwork helps players understand its importance and it will also develop a great foundation for their shots.

One last teaching point for players regarding their feet is the launching pad/landing pad concept. In order to create power and balance in a shot, a player’s footwork needs to create a launch pad effect by getting equal push off from both feet. That, in turn, provides the landing pad effect for balanced shooting.

Shot preparation

Great shooters are prepared to shoot the ball before they catch it. This may be a concept that young players least understand. If you have the opportunity to teach players that all the work of the jump shot is done before the catch, they will develop a more fluid, confident shot.

Mentally train your players to think about the shot during the catch — not after it. If you are not mentally prepared to shoot, then you are not physically prepared.

Emphasize to your players the importance of playing with their hands above their elbows. Players also need to work on getting their shooting hands and shooting elbows behind the ball during the catch. That way, they will be under the ball in the lift.

From the pocket

This is an area of the shot that really needs to be worked on and perfected. The more a shot has a different starting point, the less accurate the shot becomes.

WNBA shot fundamentals
Photo: Lorie Shaull, Flickr

I truly believe that most players have too much going on with their shots; the ball moves too much. Getting players to consistently get the ball from the pocket to the shooting release point is crucial. This movement is a short lift, and it helps develop a faster release. The less the ball moves during the shot, the greater chance of success. Eliminate motion to increase accuracy.

This concept of shooting from the pocket can be incorporated into free throws. I have witnessed a great deal of success with players that I have worked with on their free throw shooting when they place the ball in the pocket at the center of the rim. This creates a very simple shot, and it decreases all of the unnecessary motion players put into it.

The ball moving from the pocket to the release point is crucial. Players need to understand that the release point needs to be a hand’s span above and in front of their heads.

A great finish

Like anything in sports, the finishing touch you put on to a skill will not only improve the skill but potentially perfect it. How the ball comes off a player’s hand will be the final element to their shots.

Some coaches like to use the phrase, “Roll it off the big three.” Your three middle fingers are the last things to touch the basketball. When you allow the ball to roll off the “big three,” you’re creating the proper backspin needed to develop the desired shooter’s touch.

Another point of emphasis for players is to keep their eyes on the target when shooting. Watching their shots develops a habit of having their heads move during the shot, creating unbalanced shooting. The target that we teach our players to shoot at is the middle ringlet of the rim. We want our target to be small, because the smaller the target, the greater the focus and concentration for the shooter.

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The middle ringlet also serves as a guide of where we want our shooting hand to go. Focusing on dropping your shooting hand over the middle ringlet will incorporate a shot destined for the middle of the rim. Remember, good shooters miss short or long. Poor shooters miss left or right.

Lastly, we want our players to finish with both hands above their heads on the release. So many young players finish with just their shooting hand above and dropping their guide hand. The dropping of the guide hand forces the shoulder to dip and allows the shot to be taken across the players body, creating misses to the left and right of center.

As players shoot the basketball, we always make them freeze their finish until the shot hits the floor. This develops a habit in your players, and it allows you to better analyze their finishes.

We are looking for five fingers to the floor and five to the ceiling. Once a player has the ball release from their hand, we are focusing on the shooting hand going over the middle ringlet and fingers toward the floor, creating proper rotation. The guide hand remains above the head with all five fingers frozen to the ceiling, allowing for the shoulders to remain square.

Follow these simple instructions and you’ll begin to see a positive change in the shooters on your teams.


Marty Gaughan is a basketball coach at the Benet Academy in Lisle, Illinois. He also is a member of the Winning Hoops Editorial Advisory Board.





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