Free Throw Tip #1


In the month of November, we will focus on shooting free throws and improving your free throw shooting percentage.  It is my belief that a high school player should strive for a minimum standard of shooting 80% from the free throw line regardless of position.  I find it unfortunate when I hear analysts and commentators applaud collegiate basketball teams who shoot in the 70’s percentage-wise as team as if they are a great free throw shooting team.  I understand that this takes into consideration centers and power forwards who typically shoot a lower percentage at the line.  However, if taught, practiced, and emphasized properly, I believe collegiate basketball teams, regardless of division, should be shooting well over the 70’s from the free throw line.  With that said, I challenge all players that read this who are in high school to aim for a goal of shooting 80% or better from the free throw line for the season.  If you are a collegiate level player, 85%, and if you are a professional player, 90%.

At the NRBA, we teach our students, as part of their free throw shooting routine, to line their dominant foot up with the center of the rim each and every time they step up to the free throw line.  This is the very first thing you should do when shooting free throws, whether you are practicing or in a game.  If you are a right hand shooter then your dominant foot is your right foot.  Likewise, if you are a left hand shooter then your dominant foot is your left foot.  By centering your dominant foot with the front of the rim you align yourself perfectly with the basket.  This will help you shoot your free throws straighter and will also give you more room for error if you are slightly off to the left or to the right.

In addition to aligning you as a shooter, centering your dominant foot with the rim ensures that you step up to the line the same way every time you shoot free throws.  Consistent results, a.k.a. High Free Throw Shooting Percentage, can only be achieved through a consistent approach/process.  It is very important that you step up to the free throw line the same way for every free throw you shoot.  If you develop the habit of lining your foot with the center of the rim every time you attempt a free throw you will begin developing consistency in the way you shoot free throws.  This consistency will in turn improve your percentage.

So I challenge you to set your standard high as a free throw shooter.  Next time you practice your free throws in your driveway, at the park, in a gym, etc. take this simple teaching point and begin applying it. Or, next time you are fouled in a game and go to the free throw line, remember this simple principle for shooting free throws and do it when it counts.  Most indoor courts have a marking at the free throw line that indicates what is the center. For wood floors it is usually a small nail hole/mark.  Most times it is small but if you look for it you will find it and it will make it easy to put this basketball tip into practice.  This is not a tip that will magically increase your shooting percentage.  However, it is one detail you can start doing in the process of becoming a high level free throw shooter.  As John Wooden said, “Success is often found in the perfection of minor details.”