What Makes Free-Throws So Difficult?
Free-throw shooting, for many basketball players, is the toughest shot in the game.
It is not difficult because it is physically demanding; it is a simple shot 15 feet from the basket with no defenders, no running and no jumping.
A free-throw is just you alone performing a skill you repeated thousands of times. In fact, you have probably never had a practice where you did not practice free-throws.
What makes the free-throws so difficult?
You may be alone taking the shot but you are alone with your thoughts.
There are many potential distracting thoughts that can interfere with your performance such as; crowd noise, fans waving their arms, worrying about missing, thoughts of past misses, the score, teammates, spectators or parents.
What do the best free-throw shooters focus on when standing at the free-throw line?
The top free-throw shooters focus on their preshot routine.
It is impossible to focus on two thoughts simultaneously… For example, you cannot focus on the score of the game and your preshot routine at the same time.
By focusing on your preshot routine, you normalize the free-throw shot. You lessen the sense of pressure you feel and take your mind off of that fear of missing.
By focusing on your preshot routine, your free-throw becomes the same shot you take in practice.
Well, one of the best free-throw shooters in professional basketball is Elena Delle Donne of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.
Delle Donne has made 207 of her 218 free-throw attempts, 95% in the first 31 games of the 2015 season. Delle Donne is a 94% career free-throw shooter and is as clutch as it gets in the sport of basketball.
Delle Donne focuses on a very specific preshot routine that she consistently runs through her head prior to each foul shot.
Delle Donne spots the dot that marks the middle of the foul line, places her right foot in line with the center point, bounces the ball three times, places her index finger on the ball’s air pinhole, bends her knees slightly, positions her shooting hand, shoots the ball and repeats a cue phrase as she releases the ball.
DELLE DONNE: “I actually just tell myself, ‘It’s going in,’ every single time.”
A preshot routine is more crucial when Delle Donne shoots foul shots in away games against the Connecticut Sun.
In Connecticut, there is no marking to indicate the center of the foul line. Delle Donne’s pre-shot routine is disrupted resulting in a 87.5 free-throw percentage in three games at Connecticut this season.
DELLE DONNE: “It really bugs me. It shows how mental foul shooting is.”
Try this tip to improve your preshot routine:
If you don’t have a preshot routine, study what top free-throw shooters do. Adapt some of their behaviors into your routine.
Make your routine simple, consistent and personal to your game. Once you have created your new routine, practice it until it becomes a habit.
You certainly want to include mental imagery, self-talk, and trust into your preshot routine.
Check Out Our Video Of The Week, Helping Athletes Trust In Their Skills In Competition!
Related Sports Psychology Articles
- Post Game Assessment to Improve Your Performance
- Improve Self-Talk to Reach Your Peak Performance
- How to Improve Your Preshot Routine
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