Mastering the free throw can be difficult if you don't have a good routine. It's easy to develop a case of the jitters when everyone stops what they're doing to focus on your shot.
You need a personalized rhythm you can count on. Here's a simple, five-step routine to get you on track when you step to the line.
1. Develop a Repeatable Routine with the Ball
To build a foundation, find a routine you can follow with the ball every time you shoot a free throw. This differs from player to player, but it can include any combination of dribbles, spins or ball-handling moves. Personally, I prefer a simple one-dribble routine before I shoot a free throw, but the specifics are really up to you. Just make sure you pick something you will repeat before every free throw.
2. Create a Mental Checklist
Find a few specific things you want to remind yourself of as you step to the line. For example, each time I shoot a free throw I remind myself to get my eyes up early on the rim and bend my knees. A mental checklist imposes order that will carry you through your entire routine.
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3. Find Your Comfort Spots
Within your routine, find the precise points where you feel particularly comfortable—whether it's before you start your shooting motion, during the ball-handling part of your routine or when you release the ball. As you practice your routine, you will begin to identify these spots, and the routine will become more familiar.
A lot of shooters find that a certain phrase or bit of self-talk relaxes them when they step to the free-throw line. If you have a quote, phrase or reminder that can help you get into a state of relaxed focus, incorporate it into your routine so you will be confident, calm and collected during every free throw.
5. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat
There is no substitute for repetition when it comes to shooting the basketball, particularly on the free-throw line. You should get so comfortable with your routine that shooting free throws becomes automatic. When you practice your free-throw routine, put artificial pressure on yourself to mimic the pressure you feel in a game. Then when you step to the line when it counts, you'll have the confidence to knock down the shot.
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