Master the Simple Skills

This lack of mastery of the free throw led me to begin research on the subject.  Questions were asked of coaches, players, and fans.  Many games were observed as well as practice sessions.  It was most interesting to watch the ritual used by players prior to shooting a free throw.  The question in my mind was always, “why can’t basketball players convert a high percentage (75% or more) of the free throws attempted?”


My study of the free throw led me to an observation about free throw success.  My observation is this – “The Paradox of the Free Throw – the things that make it look so easy as the things that make it so hard.”   


What did I learn as I studied the simple skill of shooting a free throw which is a repeatable skill.  A repeatable skill is a skill that can be practiced over and over again in exactly the same way.  Nothing is changed every time the skill is practiced.  One problem, however, with repeatable simple skills, it is difficult to for coaches to get players to practice such a simple skill with the intensity and pressure of the game situation.


So how does a player become an excellent free throw performer?  Listed below are several fundamentals of excellent performance.


  1. Practice, Practice, Practice.

  2. Develop a ritual and shoot the free throw the exact same way every time.

  3. Keep your mind active by repeating the steps of your ritual as you prepare to shoot.

  4. Be process oriented, rather than outcome oriented.  With proper practice using a ritual, the process oriented free throw shooter has automatically programmed himself for a successful outcome.  A person who is outcome oriented tends to place pressure on himself and the success of the free throw is questionable.


There is no substitute for hard work.  If you are looking an easy way or shortcut to develop simple skills, you are cheating yourself in developing your talents.


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