Featured Shooting Articles by Tom Nordland
The Trouble with Shooting!
(Note: This article was written by Tom Nordland in December 1997 for The Basketball Highway website. Tom is a Shooting Coach living in northern California. You may also find this article on his website at www.swish22.com under "Articles/Reviews.")
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It is well known that basketball shooting is a deteriorating art in this country. Million dollar athletes in the NBA and star college and high school players miss open jumpers with great regularity and often fail miserably at the free throw line. Shaq O'Neal, the multi-million dollar L.A. Laker Star, is shooting less than 50% from the free throw line.
Stories abound about the dilemma. Coaches don't know what to do. An article called "Why can't Johnny make a jump shot?" in the San Francisco Chronicle* last year said that the three point percentage in college has fallen every year since its inception 10 years previously. To miss easy jump shots is so common that it's not considered out of the ordinary. Seventy Percent for free throws is considered quite good. Teams often shoot only 30-40% for a game, and that includes all the lay-ups and dunks!
Europeans and players from other countries shoot better than Americans. As they get their athletic skills up to the level of our athletes, we're going to start losing to them because we can't shoot the outside shot. An Olympic medal will not be a sure thing very much longer.
I. WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
What is the problem? What can be done about it? The article mentioned above lists 7 reasons for the poor shooting:
It's not cool
Wrong guys shooting the ball
The rise of AAU programs
These are valid reasons, and they explain some of the problem. But how can you explain top players missing open 10-15' jump shots and, even more confounding, free throws? The free throw is an easy shot ? 15' to the backboard, only 13' 9" to dead center. There's no rush. No one is "in their face." It's not a difficult shot, as evidenced by a few non-playing people, some in their 60's and 70's, setting records making thousands in a row.
In this article, first of a series, I'd like to suggest two more reasons for the problem and offer some ideas that might help.
It's thought it takes a long time to learn
Coaches don't know how to coach shooting
II. SOME ADVICE ON HOW TO IMPROVE SHOOTING
First I want to offer that shooting well is not that difficult and that it can be learned in a fraction of the amount of time normally thought! The truth about most physical actions, in my opinion, is that we greatly over complicate them. The most efficient, accurate and powerful athletic movements are the essence of simplicity, be it golf, tennis, bowling, Tai Chi or basketball shooting as examples. The basketball shot has evolved for most players into a throwing motion coming mostly from the upper body. Arms, wrists, hands and fingers are employed to power and guide the shot, thus creating a flat arch (30° above horizontal at best) and a ball flight controlled by small muscles.
Watch yourself or others shoot. Most shots get only 1-2 feet above the basket at the highest point. The shots are coming in "hot" and flat, around 20-30% above horizontal. How often do you see one that rises higher than the top of the backboard. If you do, it's probably coming from the best shooter on the court. Shooting high does two major things: (1) it creates a larger landing area for the ball, and (2) it softens the shot as gravity has more time to slow it down as it rises.
From my research, a shot coming into the basket at a medium high angle of ~45° above horizontal has an effective landing area about 60% larger than for a shot coming in at ~30°. An even higher 60° angle shot (the angle considered most effective by some coaches) has a landing area more than twice as large than that of a 30° angle shot. A larger landing area and a softer shot have to lead to greater success ... why wouldn't players want to shoot higher to get these benefits?
The problem is that most players can't shoot very high with the muscle action they use. Arm, wrist, hand and finger actions are horizontal motions. They create a flat arch. To get higher arch, the players must use more body/leg action.
Here's a suggestion: (This instruction is written for coaches, but if you're a player, do it on yourself.) Have your players jump up and down without a ball (with eyes closed, too) and notice what it feels like. Ask them what direction the force is. They will answer it's "upward." They will also notice it's a strong, stable action. I call that motion the UpForceT, but you could call it anything you want ? leg power, lift, body/leg action, etc. Ask your players then to shoot and notice if there is any of that force in their shot. Is any shot power coming from the lower body, or is it all (or mostly) from the upper body "Release" muscles?
As they start to feel and discriminate more and less UpForceT, ask them to tell you what percent of available U/F energy is being used with each shot (it will vary). By percent, I don't mean to jump stronger to get a higher number. I mean what percent of what's there is utilized. A little down & up free throw action can be used 100%. From my perspective, the higher the percent, the greater the chance of the ball going in.
You will discover that the more body/leg action in the shot, the higher, quicker, the more stable the shot. And there will be more power and range. This one distinction, using more body/leg power in the shot, can make a huge difference in shooting proficiency.
Try it and let me know what you discover. For more detailed instruction, you can purchase my video, "Swish ? A Guide to Great Basketball Shooting." For information, endorsements, testimonials, more articles and ordering information, see my Web Site "www.swish22.com" From the site you can link to a page on reviews to see links to several outstanding reviews of the video.