Free throw shooting is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of offensive basketball. Countless games are either won or lost every year due to the ability or inability of players to make a completely unobstructed and undefended free throw. Granted, there is often some added pressure placed on the free throw shooter, but that is still not a valid excuse for some of the dismal free throw shooting percentages we see on all levels of competition.
While it may be difficult to replicate the adrenaline rush that comes with stepping up to the free throw line in the final seconds of a close game, it is relatively easy to master the fundamentals of the free throw so you can perform with machine like accuracy regardless of the game's time and score.
If you are already an outstanding free throw shooter (80% or better) don't change a thing when it comes to your shooting mechanics or practice routine. But if you're not shooting 80% or better then consider the following teaching points:
1. Position yourself far enough behind the free throw line so that during your shot and follow through there is no danger of having your foot coming in contact with the line.
2. Most indoor courts have a nail hole in the center of the free throw line directly in front of the rim. Lining up your shooting foot with that nail hole will put your shooting shoulder in perfect alignment with the rim.
3. Shoot to have the ball clear the front of the rim. Some coaches want their players to look at the back of the rim but focusing on the center of the basket seems to work well for most players.
4. During a game you have ten seconds to shoot your free throw after the official hands you the ball. When practicing free throws you should also follow the ten second time restriction.
5. Develop an easy, free flowing, rhythmic shooting style and then commit yourself to shooting the exact same way every single time you step up to the free throw line.
6. Always start with the ball in the ready position and then shoot the ball in one fluid motion. Hold your follow through until the ball goes through the net. Concentrating on these three areas will help you shoot the ball the exact same way every time.
7. With the ball in the ready position take it up with your right or left hand and keep your elbow directly under the basketball. Your arm should be completely extended as you follow through. Remember, the shot should be as fluid as possible.
8. Control your breathing. You might want to take a good, deep breath and then slowly exhale right before you start your shooting motion.
9. Control your mind. Try to completely relax, especially in late game situations or whenever you are feeling a little more pressure than usual. Clear everything from your mind and form a mental picture of your shot dropping cleanly through the center of the net.
10. Practice, practice, practice - especially when you are tired so you can come close to replicating game like situations
There is absolutely nothing that an opposing coach or defender can do to keep you from making a free throw. In fact, there is really no good reason or excuse NOT to be an outstanding free throw shooter. All it takes is an understanding of the proper mechanics, the ability to concentrate, and the willingness to practice. The rest is up to you!