A successful free shot requires confidence, sound mechanics, routine, relaxation, rhythm and focus. Routine, relaxation and rhythm help with concentration and confidence.
Think positively. You always shoot from the same place on the line. No one is guarding you. The basket is large. Three and a half balls can fit into the rim. With confidence – and solid mechanics – you can’t miss it.
Stand a few feet behind the free throw line until the referee hands the ball to you. You will stay there more relaxed. If you hear negative remarks from the crowd or recognize your own negative thoughts, interrupt them with the word stop. Take a deep breath and let go of negative thoughts as you breathe out. Replace them with a positive affirmation such as I am a shooter! Nothing but neat! or count it!
Develop a sound routine for your free throw. A routine helps you relax, focus, and pull with the beat. Most importantly, using a routine will improve your confidence. The routine may include dribbling a number of times, checking one or two mechanics, using visualization to mentally practice your free throw just before you shoot it, and taking a deep breath to relax. Adopt a good routine and stick with it; it is a mistake to copy modes or repeatedly change your routine.
Here is an example of a routine that you can adjust to suit you. Once you have received the ball, position your feet making sure to line up the ball (not your head) with the middle of the basket. Use the small indent mark in the ground exactly in the middle of the free throw line that marks the free throw circle. Place your shooting foot slightly outside this mark, lining up the ball with the middle of the basket.
Most players use one-handed shooting for a free throw, taking the time to control each of the basic mechanics: balance, hand position, elbow aligned, sight (focus), pace, and tracking.
Get into a balanced position. Some players bounce the ball a number of times to help them relax. When you bounce the ball, keep your shooting hand on top. This helps you to have your shooting hand facing the basket when setting the high position for shooting. Use a relaxed hand position and align your index finger with the valve on the ball. Next, check the alignment of your elbow. Some players do not have the flexibility to have their hand facing the basket and the elbow in it. It is more important to have your shooting hand facing the basket than to have your elbow completely. If your hand tends to turn to the side when you bring your elbow back, let your elbow come out a bit.
Learn to relax when shooting free throws. You have more time to think with free throws than with other shots. Trying too hard can cause excessive physical or emotional strain. Use deep breathing to relax your mind and body. For a free throw, you especially need to relax your shoulders; take a deep breath and let your shoulders drop and relax. Do the same for your arms, hands and fingers. Learn to relax other parts of your body. Controlling your breathing and relaxing your muscles are especially helpful in a free throw routine.
Before shooting, view a successful photo. Viewing just before the shot can produce a smoother, more fluid, and continuous pace and increase confidence. Right before you shoot, focus on your target just above the rim. Stay focused on the target as you shoot.
Start your shot high and use the down-up motion of your legs for rhythm rather than lowering the ball for rhythm. The up and down motion of your legs gives your shot momentum and is especially helpful when shooting late in the game when your legs are tired. By starting the ball high and using your legs for the rhythm, you will decrease the risk of error that can occur when lowering the ball.
Shoot the free throw with a smooth, fluid rhythm. Use custom keywords to help establish a smooth sequential rhythm for the free throw shooting. Speak your words to the beat of your shot. For example, if your trigger words are legs and through and your anchor word is yes, combine them – Legs-through-yes! – in rhythm with your shot, from the start of your shot until the ball is released. Using custom keywords in this way sets your pace, improves your mechanics, and builds confidence.
Act like a shooter
Exaggerate your follow-up, keeping your eyes on the target and shooting arm up until the ball hits the basket. Keeping your follow-up isn’t just good mechanically, but more importantly, you look and act like a shooter.
You feel tense before and during your free throw.
Use deep breathing to relax your mind and body. Breathe deeply and exhale completely. Relax your shoulders, let them drop and relax. Do the same for your arms, hands and fingers. Learn to relax other parts of your body as needed.
Free throwing exercises
1. Daily free throw training
Shoot a certain number of free throws each day. Practice sets of 10 free throws after other drills. Because a player rarely shoots more than two consecutive free throws during a game, during this drill, never make more than two consecutive free throws without going off the line.
Practice under pressure. Show imagination and compete with yourself. For example, imagine that time is up and doing the free throw will win the game. Record the number of free throws taken per 100 attempts. Constantly challenge your own record. Do the same with consecutive free throws.
Be confident. Use positive affirmations before going to the line and visualize a successful photo right before the shot. Having a routine helps build confidence for free throws. Use deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.
Focus. The last step before the shot is to eliminate all distractions and focus on the basket. Say your personalized keywords in rhythm from the start of your free throw to the exit of the ball. If you miss, visualize a successful free throw with good form, repeating your keywords.
Take 100 free throws. Score based on the total number of free throws taken. Record your score. Also, record the most consecutive free throws. Test your record every time you exercise.
2. Eyes open and eyes closed Free throw shot
Research has shown that the combination of practicing the free throw with eyes closed and practicing the free throw with eyes open improves the shot more than practicing the free throw with eyes open alone. Shooting with eyes closed removes vision as your dominant sense, strengthening your other senses, especially the kinaesthetic sense (sensation of body movement) and touch.
Visualize a successful photo and focus on the basket right before closing your eyes. Take a free kick with your eyes closed.
Start the exercise by shooting 5 free throws with your eyes open. Have a partner bounce each hit and keep track of how many hits you make out of 5 and how many consecutive hits you make.
After shooting 5 free throws with your eyes open, shoot 5 free throws with your eyes closed. Have a partner bounce the ball and give you feedback on each shot, including the reaction of the ball on the rim. Use that feedback and your kinesthetic and tactile senses to adjust your shot as needed.
Finish the exercise by shooting 5 free throws with your eyes open. Have a partner bounce each hit and keep track of how many hits you make out of 5 and how many consecutive hits you make.
Score based on the total number of free throws taken. Record your score. Also, record the most consecutive free throws. Test your record every time you exercise.