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This Newsletter is a vehicle for communicating
what I know about shooting. I see the game in deep trouble because
there are very few great shooters any more, and few people know
how to coach great shooting. Coaches and players everywhere lament
the decline in this master skill. Wonderfully designed plays
are run to perfection, a player is opened up for a 10-15' shot
or a 3, and then the shot is missed. It even happens so often
that coaches and players aren't surprised when the shot is botched.
Failure is kind of expected, but it's still disappointing. Articles
are written about this dilemma, and people are looking for an
I was surprised recently in the performance of Duke in games against Stanford and Connecticut. Duke was ranked, I believe, 6th in the nation before those games.
Against Stanford they made only 24 for 85 for field goals (28%), including 12 for 33 from the 3 pt line (36%). If you can believe it, that means they shot better from behind the 3 point line than from inside the 3 point line (12 for 52 - 23%)! The next night they went 25 for 73 (34%) overall and 10 for 29 for 3's (34% also). At least on that night they shot the same in both categories. Now for a struggling team, those percentages wouldn't be quite so shocking. But for a top-ranked team, wow! (Note that Duke is now rated 17th in the country as of Nov. 30th!)
Auburn, ranked #2, lost to Stanford also, and shot only 4 for 24 from the 3 pt. line! That's 17%! Overall they shot 29.6%! No wonder they lost!
Those stats for field goals INCLUDE layups and dunks! We can only guess what the true percentages for field goals from 5 feet to 19 feet were. I wish the NBA, the NCAA, and the High School Associations would start keeping track of non-layup/non-dunk types of shots, not including 3's. If the truth were known how low those percentages really are, maybe there would be greater interest in a different approach to the learning and coaching of the great skill of shooting.
In the pro game, we often see percentages in the mid-30's. Last summer, if I remember right, the New York Liberty of the WNBA scored only 2 points in the first 10 minutes of a game in the championship series against the Houston Comets! There have been some single digit quarters in the NBA (9 points in 12 minutes). For one, the Golden State Warriors got behind 34 to 9 to the Spurs after one quarter at home recently. They shot 34.7% overall for the game (33 for 95) and only 1 for 10 from beyond the 3 pt. line. How many times have you see an NBA team score 14, 15 16 points in a quarter? Lots! And these are the best players in the world and all they do is play basketball.
In a game they won over the Knicks on Nov. 12th, the Boston Celtics scored only 11 points in the last quarter. Luckily they had an 11 point lead going into that quarter and the Knicks could only manage 16 points!
In an 11/27 game against the Suns, the New Jersey Nets made only 29 of 86 shots (33.7%), and of those, only 4 of 18 3 pt. shots (22%). Surprisingly, they shot an unusual 87.5% from the Line, 28 for 32! The Suns, meanwhile, shot 64% from the field (50% on 3's) and 82% from the Line. No wonder they won by 39 points.
So what's the problem and what can be done?
First, we could ask if the problem is the strong "defenses" that are out there. Definitely defenses and shot blocking skills are getting fierce. And the game is getting more and more physical. It seems someone's flying at the shooter with almost every shot in the NBA and more and more in college ranks. So shots get rushed. But I feel the players adapt to this kind of pressure. They get used to it, like they do to fans screaming at them when they attempt Free Throws.
We could allow for some dip in percentages under this kind of pressure. But not to the degree we're seeing. And how about the open, uncontested shots? As I wrote in the September Newsletter after I observed the Big Man Camp in Hawaii this summer, I estimated a shooting percentage of 25-30% for uncontested 15 foot jump shots from the 24 NBA players assembled there (and I think that's a generous range).
But tougher defenses do not explain the poor performance from the Free Throw line? And I think the problem with the performance of both kinds of shots, free throws and jump shots, has the same genesis.
I think the problem is what it's been for a long time: players just don't know how to shoot any more, or how to learn or practice, and most coaches don't know how to coach the skill. And players at the NBA level appear to be less coachable than their predecessors. It might be related to the fact that they make so much money they think they don't have to improve, don't have to work on their games.
In the old days, according to "Downtown" Freddy Brown of the Seattle Supersonics in an article in the Seattle Times Dec. 22, 1996, players like him would pick the brains of other players and incorporate their styles. They were always working on their shots. The NBA was one "great shooting laboratory."
Not any more. Most of today's players have lost the ability to control the flight of a basketball. The few great shooters remaining today like Detlef Schrempf, Jeff Hornacek, Steve Kerr and Allan Houston shoot differently from the other players. They've learned a way to fire off their release motions the same every time. They're not guessing how many muscles to use each time they put up a shot. They've found ways to control distance and direction and do it consistently. And I'll bet they've all discovered that the basket is large and forgiving if they shoot high.
The solution I see is a method of learning and coaching shooting that reveals how to maximize control and minimize variables, while also encouraging freedom and letting go. The human body is an amazing learning machine if we trust it and pay attention to experience. Shooting can become an automatic and repeatable motion if some simple things are mastered. Like most things, the most effective motion is a simple, uncomplicated one. Golfers, tennis players, extraordinary athletes in all sports learn that lesson. And my Swish Method offers that.
An aside about Allan Houston: I got to
watch him in the early warmup period before a recent game in
Salt Lake City against the Jazz. And I was totally amazed by
this great shooter. In the 30-45 minutes that I watched him,
I saw him miss only a couple shots out of, perhaps, 30. And he
was taking difficult shots, simulating game pressure, taking
3's, fall always, being guarded, etc. What was most amazing was
that he was "swishing" just about every one. This great
shooter wasn't just practicing shooting, he was practicing "perfection!"
It was the most amazing warm up shooting I've ever seen.
But he's been improving some since, shooting 53% for the last 4 games, 39 for 73.
Phil said he thought working on rhythm and timing might help Shaq. After that assignment of Tex to coach Shaq, I noticed a different rhythm with his shooting for awhile, but I could see the rhythm was too fast and caused his shot to be "hotter" than ever. That's why, in my opinion, his percentage dropped for those first 10 games of the season. In the last game I saw, however, he had stopped the 3 dribbles-and-then-shoot routine and had gone back to his old non-rhythmic (or less-rhythmic) self. The resulting shots were not as hot, but they were still totally flat and still jumped around a lot, jumping or spinning out of the basket in almost half the shots.
I would like to coach Shaq, and I've offered my services to Phil and Tex. I don't believe his problem is rhythm or timing (or "mental"). I believe it's in his technique, in the way he releases the ball and what he's doing (or not doing) with his legs and body. I can show him a simple, beautiful and effective way to shoot, but he has to want it. I imagine right now he is very frustrated and probably tired of different coaches telling him what to do.
In a recent ESPN article he put it this way, "My job is to step up and hit (free throws). If I do, I'm going to start averaging 37, 47, 57. I'm the nastiest big man in the league. Right now I'm upset at my play because because I know I'm better than this. I'm going to start getting ticked off and start stepping up and making (free throws)."
I don't think anger is going to help.
You can learn a lot by watching others. But you also have to train yourself to "see" what you see. Here are some ideas about what you can do to improve your viewing of the game.
A. Watch the shooter not the ball
When you watch other players in practice or in games, and in person or on TV, discipline yourself to watch the player all the way until the ball reaches the basket rather than follow the flight of the ball. I know we're all programmed to observe the "result," rather than the process. We want to know what happened. But you can learn a lot by staying with the process, with the player's body and shooting arm/hand.
You'll know if the shot went in or not by the reaction, but you'll learn a lot more if you stay with the shooter. In fact you'll often be able to predict if the shot is going in or not from that observation. Perhaps you'll see the player pull his Release to the left or right, and the ball will consequently miss left or right of the target. You'll see when he or she under powers the shot and comes up short. You'll see jerky motions that have little chance of going in. As you get good at seeing, you'll even see when there's too much power and a shot's going to be long.
B. Watch how much leg power is used in the shot
One of the major areas to watch is the use of the body and legs in the player's shot. Notice if the player is shooting from upward energy, or is she or he under powering the shot. Maybe the shot is being taken at or near the top of the jump, and, if so, it's probably a very flat shot with less chance of going in than a high arching shot.
If the player shoots early on the way up, see if you can notice any difference in arch. I find those kinds of shots fly very high and much truer because the lower body muscles "stabilize" shooting. Check it out. What do you see?
C. Watch the Set Point, Release and Follow Through
And finally watch how the arm and hand work in the setting and releasing of the ball. The Set Point, where the shooter brings the ball during a jump shot to "set" it and provide a stable launch point, can dictate what happens. If it's too far overhead, all that's left is a throwing motion with the arm and hand, usually a flat shot. If it is kept more in front of the head, an upward pushing action is encouraged, which helps to minimize variable and create a high shot.
Watch what happens with the shooting arm during the shot. Does it throw or push the ball? What angle do you see with the shooting arm? If there is an imaginary clock and the arm is the hour hand, and straight forward is 9 A.M. and straight up is 12 noon, what time does the arm make? Does the arm stay extended after the Release, or does it pull back or move to the side?
Watch the shooting hand. Is it relaxed or tense? Does it stay in line with the basket or is it pulled or pushed to the side? Can you see if the hand bounces in the Follow Through? ...or is it tense and stuck?
D. Once in awhile watch the Ball (Arch and Spin)
Watching the shooter complete his/her shot motion is the most important thing to focus on, but occasionally you can observe the height of the shots being put up and observe the spin. Note how high the bottom of the ball gets relative to the basket. Is it just 1-2' above the rim or less? That would be considered a "flat" shot. If it's 2 1/2 to 4' above, we could call that "medium" high. The top of the backboard is 3' above the rim, so there's a good reference point. If the ball is more than 4' above the rim (more than a foot above the backboard), let's call that a "high" shot.
Notice that most good shooters shoot medium high to high. It's the poorer shooters who have the flat arch. The target is small to a flat shot, and opens up (gets bigger to the ball) as you shoot higher and higher.
Observe spin, too. Most great shooters have medium backspin. If you see a dead ball (no spin) or any kind of side spin, you can know that the players are doing something with their hands or fingers that interferes with the natural backspin.
All of these awarenesses will help you
learn to control the flight of a basketball. When you can see
them in others, you'll be better able to see them in your own
shot. If you can focus more attention on "how" the
shot is made by other players, rather than whether or not the
shot went in, you'll learn a lot. If this helps you, please Email
me and tell me about it. Tell me what you saw and how it affected
your shooting style. I'd love to hear from you.
Shooting is the most important skill in the game of basketball. Yet it's also the least understood and woefully under performed at all levels of the game. If your child can learn to shoot well, it will be a huge "plus" throughout his or her basketball career. It will lead to more fun, more recognition, more minutes, scoring more points, being chosen first in pick up games, and higher self esteem. It might even lead to scholarships and who knows what else. If you can shoot, you are "really" a basketball player. Other skills are critical, too, but this is the master skill in the game.
As many of you who are reading this know from owning the video, the coaching in "Swish" is simple yet profoundly powerful. It shows step-by-step how to learn and coach shooting. Once you understand the method, you will see the game differently. You will see why great shooters can do what they do so consistently and, conversely, why the technique of most players is ineffective.
There is a tremendous joy in knowing how to do something well like shooting a basketball. "Shooting hoops" is a lifelong skill, something you can do with friends or alone. Swishing a basketball over and over reminds you how capable and talented you really are. It's a great "high."
Consider buying the video for a child, relative, friend, or for a neighbor's child. Tell your friends, neighbors and coaches about it. Tell them to go to my Website (http://www.swish22.com) and check it out, read the articles I've written on shooting and notice the impressive endorsements and testimonials. It's a terrific video, one of the best ever made. I guarantee it!
Give the Gift of Shooting! They'll thank
you, as I do!
OTHER AREAS OF THE COUNTRY: I'd love to come to your city to put on Clinics. My rate for 2-3 days of coaching is $2,000 plus expenses. If we do 4 Clinics of 20 players at a cost of $35/each ($50 to include a video), that could pay for the visit. The Clinics would be 3 1/2 hours each, giving enough time for lots of individual coaching in addition to the powerful group exercises. Call for details and to set up such coaching.
Keep checking my Website at http://www.swish22.com or call or Email me if you'd like more details. I'll update the schedule on my Website when it changes.
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