At the NRBA, we teach our students to be “pocket” shooters for two primary reasons: 1) efficiency of movement and 2) a quicker release. At the free throw line, your quickness of release is irrelevant. However, efficiency of the shooting movement is as relevant at the free throw line as it is in all other shooting situations. In short, more movement equals greater chance for error in one’s shooting mechanics. A “pocket” shooter eliminates any wasted / unnecessary movement to their shooting motion thereby decreasing the chance for an error to occur while shooting. The shooting “pocket” is simply when the shooting arm forms a 90-degree angle and the shooting elbow and hand are under the ball. If the ball is properly in the shooting pocket, then your toe, knee, elbow and ball will all be in a straight line.
Because of the above reasons, we teach our students to start their shot from their shooting “pocket” even at the free throw line. Before shooting a free throw we instruct our students to implement a “pocket pause” to finish their routine. When stepping up to the free throw line, our students will 1) center their dominant foot, 2) consistently do a specific routine and 3) execute a “pocket pause”. A “pocket pause” is simply bringing the ball to the shooting pocket and taking a brief pause. In doing so, our students ensure that they are going to shoot from their pocket, have no wasted movement in their mechanics, be aligned with their shooting elbow, get extremely focused before taking the shot, and start their shot the same way every single time.
Next time you practice your free throws (and it should be often), we encourage you to start implementing the “pocket pause”. Whatever your routine is at the free throw line, bring the ball to your shooting pocket and take a quick pause before you shoot. As you take this quick pause with the ball in your shooting pocket, your eyes should lock in on your target with complete focus and concentration. From this point, all you need to do is shoot, then execute and hold a good follow through. For many players, this will seem awkward at first because of poor shooting habits at the free throw line. However, with anything, the more you do it, the easier it will become and the results will take care of itself. If you improve the process you will improve the results. The “pocket pause” is a key element in the process of shooting a higher percentage from free throw line.