What's Needed to Improve Shooting? (For Coaches and Parents)

I'm quite sure that the many people who receive my Shooting Newsletters do so because you care deeply about the subject of shooting for your players or children or yourself. Surely most of you realize shooting has been in the dumpster for a long time, and you wonder what can be done about it. Hopefully, what I write about is inspiring to you.

There IS an answer to the decline in shooting, and though it's going to take a lot of individual work on the part of coaches and players, the answers are simple and natural and the process of discovery will be exhilarating. Great shooting need not take thousands of hours to learn. Mastery isn't reserved just for the super-coordinated and physically gifted.

The motion of shooting a basketball accurately and with high arch is so simple and natural everyone can do it immediately, and to master it to some degree of success (to really learn to trust it under pressure) will not take an interminably long time.

In my opinion, the way many coaches coach shooting (if they coach it at all) does require a long time to master and many kids will never achieve it. The instructions that are commonly given, like squaring up, shooting at the top of the jump, and wrist flipping, actually sabotage the natural process that young kids grow up with. When a skill is difficult to do and repeat, or feels uncomfortable or unnatural, the level of discipline and commitment necessary to learn it is tremendous. With the short attention span of kids today, plus the desire to excel immediately, it's no wonder few of them learn to shoot well.


As a coach or parent, keep inquiring as to what great shooting requires. You'll find many of the answers in my video and in the articles I write about it. You'll find other answers in your own experience, in the experience of your players, and what you and they see at games and even on TV. But you have to know what to look for.


Make shooting an inquiry of your own, not just a theory. You don't need youth or great physical condition to do stand-in-place shooting. If you don't have any physical problems, you can learn the skill by shooting in close, from 15 feet and less.

My videos show exactly how to learn and practice the skill and what "distinctions" make a difference. My articles can lead you to the distinctions and awareness that will teach you how to control the flight of a basketball. My article "Coaching Shooting with Large Groups" on my website (Articles/reviews page) lists a number of areas to look at, and how to increase awareness. Awareness is developmental, so if you just increase awareness of the key areas of shooting (e.g. arch, spin, where power comes from, shooting arm, wrist and hand, adding leg power, etc.), learning will happen. When you couple that increased awareness with the understandings and experiences of how things work best, learning is accelerated.


If you were to go to a distance of about 7-8' from the basket and shoot without any preconceived ways of shooting, how would your body do it?

o Would it make sense to force your body to square up?

...or would the body want to open naturally for a one-handed motion?

o Would you want the ball to approach the rim in a flat trajectory, with the ball coming in just over the front rim?

... or would it be more effective to come into the basket from high above the rim? Which works better? Which makes more sense?

o Would a wrist flipping or throwing motion (horizontal) be effective, or would you want to shoot more vertically and have the ball rise high above the basket to come down more softly? What angle of approach would give you the biggest landing area? Would you want to shoot FROM the upward drive of the legs, or not use it and shoot at the top of the jump?

Go to a court and examine these things. When you can truly do it as well as talk about it, your coaching will improve dramatically.


An inquisitive examination of what your body would do naturally will teach you a lot. You'll find you already KNOW how to shoot beautifully, and so do your players. You and they know instinctively what works best. But bad habits and ineffective understandings have covered over the great, natural knowing. What you see in other players in this shooting-challenged world of ours, and what some coaches have told you over your basketball life, doesn't jive with that instinct. No wonder kids get frustrated.

Explore it naturally, both yourselves and with your players, and see what happens. Start and maintain a conversation about shooting. Ask them what works and what doesn't work. Ask them what they see in themselves and others, and tell them what you see. When one of your players starts to really "get" it and shoot lights out, ask him or her to demonstrate and tell the team what the key things are that have been learned. This is not rocket science. It's simple bio-mechanics -- you DO this and the ball DOES that, every time. Once they "get" it, they'll start learning like crazy.

My videos will shortcut the learning process because they demonstrate and discuss the important distinctions in shooting. Showing them to your kids will open the doors quicker. They can learn this by themselves (as did most of the very few who shoot beautifully already), but good modeling and good coaching can greatly accelerate the process.

Tom Nordland is a shooting expert and coach from California via Minnesota. His videos, coaching and writings are inspiring a Renaissance (a rebirth, a revival) in shooting around the world as players and coaches are taught the things that really matter in shooting. A great shooter as a youth, Tom was given a gift of seeing shooting like few have ever seen it. He sees the “essence” of great shooting and how to get there. The good news is that it’s very simple. The few great shooters of today and yesterday mastered simple things, not complicated motions. Improved shooting is now possible for everybody in the game, and mastery is available to those who sincerely dedicate themselves to it. Visit Tom’s website (http://www.swish22.com/) to read of his background and his articles and newsletters, and to view the remarkable endorsements and amazing testimonials for this approach to shooting.