Shooting is probably the most critical skill for all players in basketball, while great defenders are given their due acknowledgement it’s the players who can score who receive the most accolades and probably have the most impact on their team’s result. Coaches often talk tough on defense but if you can’t score it’s very difficult to win at all levels.
I’ve also found that the shooting technique is the skill that every coach has a different philosophy on and players often receive different messages from coach to coach about how to shoot the ball correctly. This no doubt confuses players about how they are actually meant to shoot the ball and this can certainly effect their confidence as they go about working to become a great shooter.
I attended a meeting a couple of years ago at a State Basketball Association, the idea was to get some coaches in the room with some experience and views on shooting to see if they could create a State method of teaching shooting. It became clear very quickly that each coach had a different philosophical approach and getting everyone on the same page was going to be a challenge, this is where some leadership was needed and some decisions needed to be made, sadly this didn’t happen and it appears the concept was put in the too hard basket (pardon the pun).
There is tremendous merit in a Club, Association, State or Nation providing some leadership on the key principles they want to emphasise with shooting. If all coaches associated with the group can share the same language and general principles it can help stop confusion among players as they move through a development pathway. When I was the AIS basketball coach I tried to provide such leadership through my role and the video on this link is the product;
The video uses one of our AIS players (Ben Richmond) to identify the key principles we introduced to shooting during my tenure as Head Coach. One of the key issues that was identified during that meeting I attended at the State Association was there needs to be a transition between teaching Set shots and Jump shots. Most of the players I have worked with over the years were of an age where Jump shots were the type of shot that needed to be developed whereas coaches who are working with players below the under 18 age group should be teaching players Set shots.
So what is the difference between a Set shot and a Jump shot? Essentially the set shot is taken in one smooth stroke and released on the upward movement of the jump whereas a Jump shot is loaded first (see the video) and released at the apex of the jump. The set shot does not require as much strength and power as a jump shot so it is therefore the shot that should be taught to players in junior age groups. By the time players reach under 18s they should be introduced to jump shots from an appropriate distance from the basket.
Here's a couple of videos of players in my junior group at Templestowe College who both have pretty good shooting techniques using set shots.
Here are some of the key issues that I have focused on in my shooting camps that, to me, seem to make the biggest difference in actually getting shots in.
Start the upward movement from chest height, don’t dip the ball down to the hips before starting the upward movement
Upon starting the shot, the ball should always be on the line of vision – the line between the shooters eyes and the basket – a lot of young players start the ball in front of their shoulder.
Players need to have some upward movement of the ball before they start to propel the ball towards the basket – this is the “load” phase on the video but for a set shooter just lifting the ball vertically will make a big difference
Players should be encouraged to jump high when shooting, this helps gets the timing right, provides more power and gives a higher point of release
A strong firm wrist action is a critical part of a good follow through
Both arms should be fully extended in the follow through
Young players should be encouraged to practise good technique from a range where they can comfortably make the distance. Under 12s and 14s this is usually inside the key or out to the edge of the key. Practising good technique just from the charge zone will help create good consistent form
There should be no difference between the shooting technique of boys and girls
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of keeping players within the appropriate range to develop good technique. Until players reach full maturity they are on a journey to develop a good consistent technique, as their muscles and bones grow it is hard for them to be a great shooter however if they can set a good base and develop nice form and flow in their shot they will reap the rewards in senior basketball.
The most forgotten aspect of good shooting in juniors is the importance of being able to shoot and make lay ups. Players will often work on their shooting but forget to devote time to making lay ups with either hand in a variety of circumstances, most made shots in junior basketball are layups so working with players on how to add this to their repertoire will pay dividends on game night. Developing the non-preferred hand is a critical oversight in junior basketball.
If your club or association can all get on the same page with instruction on shooting, then I think the united front would yield great results for your group.