When we ask others what we need to do to get better at shooting the ball, we usually hear things like “Get your elbow in!”, “Don’t twist the ball with your thumb!”, “Bend your knees!” and so on.
While a lot of this may be true, players that struggle with shooting the ball are usually lacking something else. They are lacking the foundation, every great shooter has — the right mentality.
This is the connecting link that, if you get it right, makes everything fall into place. If you don’t trust yourself, if you can’t perform under pressure or shot out all the unnecessary thoughts and emotions, there is no way you can make shots consistently.
I’m not saying that technique is not important, it can define your shooting potential. However, if you are not mentally ready, you won’t make a lot of use out of your great technique.
This is a huge topic and is unique to each individual, so to simplify it a bit, I broke it down into the following aspects:
- Trusting yourself
- Handling Pressure
I’m sure, there is way more to this, but for today I want to focus on these four.
Each one of these aspects is important, so it is essential to master each of them.
Your picture-perfect form becomes irrelevant if you don’t have the right mentality when it comes to shooting.
This is the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks me about shooting. Confidence in your ability is non-negotiable. You are not even going to shoot the ball if you don’t have confidence, simply because you don’t trust yourself.
It’s crazy, but you see it even in the NBA, players give up a wide-open shot because they don’t think they can make it. While most of these players, though, can compensate for this through their athleticism or other special abilities, most of the players on lower levels just can’t.
The next time you feel like you lost confidence in basketball, just remember, you don't have a choice. If you want to achieve something big, you can't allow doubt or other emotions to paralyze you.
So do yourself a favor, shoot that ball and shoot it with confidence; because if you’re not shooting it with confidence, you will just end up airballing or bricking it big time.
Obviously, a big part of it is also shot selection. If you are not a good shooter, I don’t want you to take crazy contested shots.
However, if you get a great opportunity, like a skip-out pass for a wide-open shot in the corner, please don’t reject it. If you don’t do anything with it, you’ll just mess up the whole play and work your teammates did, to get you that shot.
The point I try to make here is, if you know that you created a good shot for yourself, don’t feel guilty about taking it. I know that many players feel that guilt or fear of missing, let it paralyze them, and shoot badly. Even if you miss a great shot, no one will get on you for taking it.
So when it comes to trusting yourself, I don’t mean trusting yourself mentally (confidence), but trusting your body and instincts to deliver.
There are hundreds of different variables that go just into executing the shooting motion, and you can’t (or shouldn’t even try) control them all. So at the end of the day, you have to be able to let go and trust your body to do its thing.
Your body (subconscious mind) remembers every shot you’ve ever taken and the result of it. It constantly tries to adjust to deliver the best result possible.
Your conscious mind (or the screaming voice in your head that tells you to finally make a damn shot) can’t do that. While your subconscious can control thousands of variables at a time, your conscious only can handle 1 or 2 at best.
Here is an example: Have you ever found yourself on fire or a hot streak where you’re shooting the lights out?
Then at a certain point you recognize “Oh shit, I’m hot!” or “I can’t miss!” and all of a sudden you’re trying to keep making but just can’t, and now you’re missing almost every shot you take?
This state where you were on fire is where we try to get with trusting your instincts. You weren’t thinking where your elbow should be or whether your release point is high enough.
You just shot completely natural, letting your body do its thing. The person who just made 10 shots in a row is still inside you, you’re still capable of it.
Here is a great video by Paul Fabritz (PJF Performance), where he goes deeper into that concept:
First, let’s clarify what pressure actually is. It’s that feeling we get when we’re about to do something that matters to us, and we don’t want to mess up. That sounds like a great thing, right? But, we still run from it, because we associate it with potential failure or disappointment.
Yet, if you think about it, there are not many people that get to experience that feeling frequently. Most people are playing it safe and rarely even get into the position where they are actually experiencing great pressure.
Everyone feels it and if you don’t, you probably just don’t care about the outcome. There is a quote “Pressure is a privilege” and I truly believe in that. Not many people ever get to do great things, like make that game-winning shot or play in an arena with thousands of people watching.
It might feel uncomfortable, but it can be your greatest tool if you can manage and use it. It can break you or it can fuel you. Likewise, it can turn a moment into a huge highlight or a disaster. Learn to use it in your favor instead of running from it.
“Not everyone gets the opportunity to be stressed by the potential to achieve exceptional things” Tim S. Grover
You must be able to perform under pressure, not just when it comes to shooting, but in basketball and life in general. If you can’t perform in games, no one is going to know what you’re actually capable of.
You can implement pressure into your workouts.
For instance, don’t leave the gym until you made a specific number of free throws in a row or, you can add punishment if you don’t make a set amount of shots in a series.
Be creative and honest with yourself to adapt this concept to your unique situation.
I won’t get deep into this one because there’s an entire post about focus and clarity, so feel free to check it out here.
Focus is the ability to turn out the unnecessary distractions and focus on the task at hand. When you’re in a game, you’re not thinking about what you’ll do after the game, what the girl in the stands might be thinking about you, what would happen if you lose, and so on. You’re just in the moment doing what you got to do to win, one task at a time.
One way of training your focus can be meditation or just completely focusing on an object or sensation. When you recognize that you got distracted, you don’t get emotional, you just get back to what you were focusing on.
- Your picture-perfect form becomes irrelevant if you don’t have the right mentality when it comes to shooting.
- Having confidence, trusting yourself, being able to use pressure, and focusing are key components you have to master if you want to become a great shooter.
- Be able to create a good shot for yourself and shoot it with confidence.
- Trust your body to deliver the end result — the screaming voice in your head won’t get you anywhere.
- Learn to use pressure in your favor instead of running from it.
- Be able to turn out the unnecessary distractions and focus on the task at hand.
Start implementing these aspects into your game, and you’ll see major improvements in the way you shoot the ball. It can (and probably will) take time and be hard, but keep on it, and eventually, you’ll get to a way higher level just by improving your mentality.
If you have any questions/suggestions or just want to talk hoops, don't hesitate to reach out!
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Until next time!