It’s the part of the season where coaches and teams prepare for the post season. You should have your eyes on the ultimate goal of making a run in the playoffs and winning that championship. If you are not in a position to make post season play, then you want to be able to finish the season strong and try to develop some momentum for next season.
With teams battling for playoff position it becomes more and more important to limit turnovers, control the boards, play great defense, and make your free throws at a high percentage. You see it time after time — late in the game a team needs to make free throws to seal the victory, make free throws to tie or win the game, or make free throws to keep their hopes alive.
So, how can you get your players to shoot free throws at a better percentage down the stretch? I have three tips to share with your players and two free throw games to use during practice.
- Calmness – When you step up to the line you must be totally relaxed. There must not be a tense muscle in your body. When you are calm and relaxed the shot will flow smoothly all the way from the bending of your knees to the extension of your follow through.
- Confidence – Don’t think that you are going to make the free throw, know you are going to make the free throw. I joke with some of my players I train and tell them that when I played and got fouled I would go by the scorer’s table and tell them to put me down for two because I was going to make those free throws. I know that could be borderline cocky or overconfident, but there must not be any doubt in your mind. Because doubt can make you think too much which can make you tense.
- Concentration – I tell my players all the time to be in the moment. If you are shooting two free throws, you can’t think about the second free throw if you are shooting the first free throw. Block everything out. You shouldn’t hear the crowd, see the cheerleaders, or be thinking about the outcome. The only thing you should be concentrating on is the free throw shot you are taking at the moment.
I have two free throw drills I like to do with the players I train at the end of good skill development workout. These drills are different than the traditional shooting/making 10 free throws. These drills add a little pressure to the free throws and forces the players to concentrate versus just going through the motions of just shooting.
- Down 7 – This drill can be done with one individual or with as many as four players. The drill starts with the player(s) down by 7 points. You will shoot every free throw possible you can in a game; 1 shot, 1 and 1, 2 shots, and 3 shots. The goal is for the player(s) to make eight straight free throws to win. If the player misses the front end of the one and one, regardless if they make the 1 shot, they lose because they will only have 5 shots left and will be down 6 or 7 points.
- Plus 10 – This drill can also be done with one individual or with as many as three individuals. The drill starts with the player(s) plus 4. The goal is to get plus 10. Every free throw made you get one point, for every miss you subtract 2 points. If you get negative points then you lose.
Those drills sound simple, but you will see a difference in how the players approach shooting these free throws versus just stepping to line and making 10 shots.
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