Basketball on the Edge – 13 Shooting Tips for Your Young Player

1. Learn the 1-2 step not the jump stop.

Footwork and balance are the keys to being a great shooter. The 1-2 step allows young players to have better balance and therefore get more power from their legs in their shot.

The 1-2 step means that the player catches the ball off the pass or takes their last dribble when shooting off the dribble with their non-shooting foot closer to the basket and then steps into the shot with their shooting foot (the right foot for right handed shooters).

Younger players and even those in high school often come up short with their shots when they shoot off a jump stop because they are not strong enough to generate the power necessary to get the ball to the basket. The 1-2 step provides that additional power.

2. Pose for a picture.

Whenever I am working with any player I always tell them to follow through and pretend like they are posing for a picture. I ask them to imagine their parent in the stands trying to take a picture with a new phone or camera, but they aren’t sure how to do it. The player must hold their follow-through in the air long enough for Mom or dad to snap the picture. Otherwise, they’ll get a picture of the player standing with their hands down by their sides.

This a great reminder cue to use when teaching shooting or practicing with your child.

3. Keep your follow through in the air.

This piggybacks off #2, but it bears repeating. Both the shooting and guide hand should remain in the air until the ball goes in the basket (or misses). Stephen Curry may be able to pull his follow-through back quickly, but your young player shouldn’t. It’s a bad habit that will make their shot less accurate.

4. Reach into the cookie jar.

The follow-through with the shooting hand should look like a person reaching into a cookie jar on a high shelf with the fingers pointed down. The wrist should be relaxed not stiff. This is another great verbal cue to use when teaching shooting.

5. Push your follow through up towards the ceiling.

The shooting arm should finish nearly vertical when the shot is released. This will help to ensure proper arc on the shot. If the shooting arm is more horizontal that will result in a line drive shot with little arc and less chance of going in. Shots with correct arc have a much better chance of going in the basket.

6. Don’t be in a hurry to chase the rebound or get back in line.

This a great tip to remember when practicing shooting. When your young player is shooting by themselves, they are often eager to chase the rebound and will forget to hold their follow-through. Remind them to stay with their shot until it goes in. When players are shooting in a team shooting drill they often shoot and are already headed back to the line before the shot has even reached the basket, (especially when coaches are asking them to hustle back to the line). Coaches, remind your players to hold their follow through before getting back in line.

7. Focus on the process.

This is especially important for young players, but really applies to players of any age. Take the time to notice each part of the shot and what your young player is doing while they shoot. The position of the feet, the hands, bringing the ball through the shooting zone, the release point, the follow-through, these are all part of the technique of shooting. Don’t just shoot to shoot, shoot to improve your skill level. Don’t focus on makes and misses, but rather focus on what your young player is actually doing to cause those makes or misses. I often tell players I work with that improving their technique will make them worse before it makes them better. They have to believe that the process will eventually pay off as they practice shooting with correct technique

8. Notice how you miss.

If your young player doesn’t know how they miss (short, long, left, right) they won’t be able to make the necessary adjustments in their form to get it corrected. Help them be mindful of how they miss, so they can improve their technique.

9. Keep a record.

Track and analyze your young players shooting. How do they know if they are getting better? Keeping records will enable them to see their improvement over time. Although this may seem to contradict #7, you can keep records and still focus on the process during shooting practice. Don’t talk makes or misses during practice time, but do try to chart shots to have a running record to look back at over time.

10. Land slightly ahead of where you jump.

Spend time watching great shooters and you will see that their feet come forward and the usually land slightly ahead of where they jumped. This creates more power in the shot.

11. Spend time on form shooting.

This is critical to success as a shooter. Every player I work with goes through the same form shooting progression every training session. It reminds them of the correct mechanics and builds muscle memory. I believe every player should do form shooting on their own as part of their individual warm-up prior to games and practices whenever possible.

12. Keep your shot fluid.

A shooter’s entire body should work together to produce a smooth flowing shot. I teach players to imagine water running from their feet to their fingertips and the shot flows right along with the water. Players with a hitch in their shot are rarely successful.

13. Practice game shots.

Everyone loves to “shoot around”, but does that make you a better shooter? It might if the alternative is sitting on the couch playing video games, but if your young player really wants to get better they have to practice game shots done at full speed.

There are no shortcuts to being a great shooter. First, you must develop great technique. Second, you must spend hours in the gym practicing and mastering that technique.

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