The Problem: Kids at a young age care more about results (make or miss) than using the correct form when shooting. The challenge is to get them to keep their focus on mastering their mechanics – this is not easy to do! Some of the most common and critical flaws you will see in young players are:
- Improper hand positioning: generally having their shooting hand toward the side of the ball (not near the center or “behind” the ball) which encourages use of the guide hand on the other side of the ball to help power the shot
- Poor alignment: toes not pointing to the basket, as well as bringing the ball up on the wrong side of their body (which makes it impossible to get their elbow in/aligned and results in the guide hand getting too involved)
- Rotating their body: young players generally try to shoot from too great a distance to a rim that is too high, and end up rotating their feet/hips/shoulders to create enough power to get the ball to the rim
- Insufficient Arc: throwing the ball AT the rim with a low arc, which significantly reduces the odds of making shots
Unfortunately, traditional teaching approaches like BEEF (Balance, Eyes, Elbow, Follow-Thru) don’t directly address the common challenges of most beginners.
Strategies: Players first need to understand WHY good mechanics are important. Hopefully you can get them to understand that by using mechanics that help them 1) shoot consistently straight, and 2) shoot with sufficient arc, they will significantly increase the odds of the ball getting through the rim. This in turn will increase their shooting percentage make it a lot more fun playing! The first three common flaws above all make it very difficult to shoot consistently straight, so you’ll need to be watching for these. Some strategies to teach better shooing mechanics include:
- Start players in close when working on new mechanics
- Ask players to FREEZE just prior to taking a shot (at their “set point”) – this will help you see who has correct hand positioning and alignment
- Ask players to FREEZE after taking a shot – this will help you see who had a good, high follow-through, who’s toes aren’t pointing to the target, who rotated their hips/shoulders/head, etc.
- Help players understand the concept of a Range (the distance they can shoot from with good mechanics AND make a reasonable percentage) and how they determine what their range is
It’s important to restate that while the above “coaching points” about good mechanics are valuable, if you can’t get the players to listen and care, it’s all for not.
Something to Try: Here are some things to try to get them more focused and working on sound mechanics:
- Use this “Illustration Aid – Shooting Pictures” to show some of the best NBA shooters to help teach some of the keys to being a great shooter
- Drills to help players with their mechanics and consistency:
- For your proficient shooters, give them an opportunity to “qualify” to shoot from further out by showing they can shoot with good mechanics and making a “reasonable percentage” (for you to define). This will give kids something to strive for, and will keep them using the best mechanics possible.