Basketball – Changing Bad Habits to Improve Free Throw Shooting Mechanics

You may be surprised to know that once again it is the ‘mind’ that dictates the changing of any bad habits. First of all the habit must be recognized as one that causes a problem, causes pain, inefficiency, inconsistency or it may be a habit that is unappealing etc. In all the basketball shooting clinics that I orchestrate, I always ask the question “what do you think about at the moment you release the ball from the hand”? 99.9% of the time I get this answer. Either “Hope the ball goes in” or something along those lines and this is completely and utterly an incorrect thought pattern.

Most of the time the pain that comes with the old habit becomes gain with the new habit. Obviously when consciously working on breaking an old habit there will be mental and physical pain. That’s why many of us would rather accept the old habit. It takes courage to break a habit, discipline to end the unwanted habit and it takes desire and motivation to fuel the process.

The following poem illustrates our friend “habit”.

I am your constant companion
I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden
I will push you up to success or down to disappointment
I am at your command
Half the things you do may as well be turned over to me
For I can do them quickly, correctly and profitably.
I am easily managed, just be firm with me.
Those who are great, I have made them great.
Those who are failures I have made failures.
I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a
Machine and the intelligence of a person.
You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.
Show me how you want it done. Educate me. Train me.
Lead me. Reward me.
And I will then… do it automatically.
I am your servant.
Who am I?
I am a habit.

The reason I get these incorrect answers is because the players don’t recognize incorrect shooting mechanics which are a direct result of errant shots. Once you understand this concept you will become more ‘mindful’ of anatomical inconsistencies and you will be able to unravel destructive behaviors. This applies not only to free throw shooting but to biting finger nails, judging people, overeating, cursing etc. As I said earlier we need to become mindful by first recognizing all of our flawed shooting mechanics and I would always work on correcting my biggest problem first. In other words if your pinky finger drops one half inch on the release is not as big a problem as your shooting wrist moving sideways or laterally on or during the ball release, or a swaying sloppy elbow.

Recognizing and correcting old or bad habits stems from studies of neuroscience, cognitive therapy and cognitive science. By becoming mindful you help the brain shift from disturbing to positive behaviors. The brain actually has elasticity throughout our lives and actually changes itself as we challenge old habits. A visual would be like molding putty with our hands. (There’s the reference to the “hands” again.)

The field of Neuroscience portrays to us that there is a point where we have to make a crucial choice and it must be made within the blink of an eye or about a quarter of a second. It is during this crucial moment that we choose to reject any self-defeating or poor shooting mechanic or movement.

Mindfulness meditation and cognitive therapy focus on repairing maladaptive or flawed shooting mechanics. Remember that “science rules” when it comes to shooting excellence. If we defy the laws of nature or the laws of science we lose and our efficiency is compromised. The closer we comprehend these laws the sooner we align ourselves with perfection. My whole objective behind this book is to improve your awareness of each anatomical error that causes missed shots. Remember that a missed shot is a direct result of incorrect physical action directly caused by lack of concentration or more specifically not knowing or consciously thinking of correcting a problem area like bent knuckles or floppy wrist etc. These movements result in inconsistent results.

Becoming aware of incorrect shooting mechanics or bad shooting habits is the first step, and unless we can be aware of them and challenge them before they happen, they will dictate why we shoot the way we do. And the more imbedded they are, the more they will keep returning unless we apply mindfulness and awareness of these generally mediocre mechanics. Remember that the National free throw percentage for High Schools in the US is around 65%, Colleges and Universities hover around 68% and the NBA jumps a few notches to around 72% from the line which in my estimation is still mediocrity. It is hard to believe that the best players in the world only average about 5 percentage points better than the National High school average.

A majority of this book is about seeing ourselves through our statistics as a shooter, categorizing ourselves as horrible, mediocre or excellent and making the necessary changes to elevate our status. We will explore by practicing ‘mindfulness’- which is a method of training the mind to  يلا شوت expand the scope of awareness while refining its precision- we can reach beyond the limiting or detrimental ways we constantly and unconsciously promote. You will learn how to disengage from the flawed shooting habits that undermine your potential confidence or the confidence of your players. Let’s face it, every player wants to be a great shooter and scorer. Or at least they want to be recognized for their efforts and hard work. Top scorers get all the recognition unfortunately but this is a true fact. You will also learn how precise mindfulness will seek out bad habits, which will add new insight and clarity that will help you distinguish between what appears to be and what actually is. For example, I had my shooting technique filmed with a camera at 1,000 frames per second. When I reviewed this, I could tell right away the difference from what seemed to be and what really is, or the actual reality.

Moshe Feldenkrais became a pioneer in the workings of the body, specifically body movements. His method of working was through physical movement; many of his brilliant insights came from his own personal struggle to regain control of his own body especially after it was paralyzed by polio. His studies could be referred to as ‘movement awareness’.

The habitual ways in which we move our bodies are ingrained or embossed into the part of the brain referred to as the ‘motor cortex’ which is responsible for controlling motion or body movement. Most of us have a few habits of holding or moving that limit our potential or even cause pain. For people to reach their full potential they have to break out of the rut of bad habit and this means that changes need to occur within the motor cortex, so that new neuromuscular patterns can be formed that maximize rather than limit our ability to use our bodies . When it comes to free throw shooting there is nothing more important than being aware or mindful of moving body parts. Especially the finer muscles that are responsible for moving these body parts. One major example is to be aware of the finger joints and how they are moving as the shot is released. You will be amazed at how poor the average person is at recognizing this let alone adjusting any flaw.


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