5 Tips to Hit That Foul Shot When the Basketball Game’s on the Line

Foul shooting continues to determine many basketball games, yet teaching how to shoot foul shots has remained virtually the same for decades.

Back in high school I averaged 22 points per game but dreaded going to the free throw line. It always boggled my mind that I could hit a 20-footer with someone in my face, yet would miss an uncontested 15-foot foul shot. It wasn’t until I was long done with playing basketball that I found the answers to why this was the case.

In short, when I shot from the field, I used instinct. But when I went to the foul line, I thought about technique. You see, my instinct as a player was far better than my technique. And what did I do at the foul line? I thought about “right” technique. In my case, good foul shot technique did not match my instinctual shooting style… therefore I got tied into a pretzel at the line and missed many key foul shots.

My unique story is that I stumbled onto my “instinctual foul shot style” the very day after my last NCAA college game. How? Well, although I didn’t understand it at the time, it was because that day I was no longer “trying to do it right” (shoulders square, bend the knees, etc and so on). And what happened? I relaxed and my instinctual foul shot showed itself for the first time. From that point I was deadly from the line.

Here’s how to get in touch with your instinctual foul shot BEFORE the end of your career:

Tip #1: Watch game tapes and look to see what quirks you have in your jump shot. This is an immediate tip to how you may need to adjust your foul shot.

Tip #2: Find one movement that puts you in your comfort zone. Mine was leaning back and to the left. This put me off balance but freed my right shooting hand to do what it’s used to doing… shoot while off balance (I leaned left when I shot from the field). When I finally shot this way from the line, it felt like butter.

Tip# 3: If you feel really off balance at the line, get your eyes checked by a behavioral optometrist. I had Convergence Insufficiency (CI) which greatly affected my foul shooting. I had no idea that CI was wreaking havoc on my ability to shoot foul shots. My leaning to the left was my natural compensation for this problem.

Tip# 4: When in front of a large crowd, imagine yourself in your most comfortable practice place. I once thought of being in my backyard and successfully hit 2 foul shots to win a game (unfortunately I forgot to use this visualization again).

Tip# 5: Practice instinctual foul shooting, not correct foul shot technique. If you are already a good player, you know how to shoot. The key is to find your ONE MOVEMENT that makes everything else fall into place. You’ll know it when you find it so please FIND IT! Once you find your enabling movement, think of only that… and let the shot happen on its own.

Teaching to shoot a free throws the instinctual way is key to freeing many players from “choking” at the line. Most coaches and shot doctors teach technique when the real answer lies in the subconscious or instinctual level of the individual player. Free that instinct and the player will thank you and remember you for life.

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