To have a completely open shot at the basket is rare in basketball. To have the clock stopped, with no defenders in the player’s face, and the chance to take a breath or two before shooting should mean an ideal scoring opportunity. Yet many players, even very good players, miss easy free throw shots after they have been fouled.
Most basketball players simply do not put enough time into practicing the free throw shot. They do not understand the importance of repetition in perfecting this shot. It’s not a five-minute exercise meant for the end of practice. It should be an integral part of a young player’s routine. Some coaches recommend shooting free throws for at least twenty minutes at a time to build skills and confidence.
First, teach your child to always line up the foot that corresponds with their shooting hand to the exact center of the free throw line. This not only creates alignment with the basketball rim, it gives them immediate focus on the task at hand and removes distractions.
Second, teach young players to aim towards the front of the rim, imagining the trajectory of the basketball and a friendly bounce into the hoop. Even if they hit the front of the rim on the shot, the rotation of the ball has a better chance to carry the ball forward. Picking a consistent spot on the basket reinforces the player’s concentration on the shot.
Finally, shooters should bend and extend their legs to ensure a smooth follow-through on the free throw shot, with elbows rising higher by the end of the shot. This can be challenging during a game when a player’s legs and arms are tired, so building it into the practice routine means it can remain part of the entire area of focus when a player is on the free throw line.
Practicing the free throw shot consistently can also help a player’s all-around basketball ability by creating a discipline and focus that will not be shaken by varying game conditions and the distractions found at away-game locations. A young player should understand that they will not become a better shooter merely by playing in a lot of pick-up or practice games. The difference in the final score might be in how much time they take practicing free throws when everyone else has gone home for the day.