Q: Hi Coach - I was pleased to see this segment in your latest newsletter. Alignment of body parts and shooting form is a topic that has interested me for a long time. I think you make some valid points, however let me play devil's advocate.
First, you make the comment that maybe the "human body is not designed for that". I agree, and think lining everything up may be a slightly uncomfortable and unnatural position. However, I'm not convinced that this is wrong. I believe in one of your other newsletters, you make analogies to the game of golf. I'll do the same thing here. What most people believe to be the perfect golf swing is very uncomfortable and unnatural, yet the pros teach it every day.
A: Just because they teach it that way doesn't mean it works. The perfect golf swing is totally
natural. If you throw a golf club in the direction of a target, you see a perfect swing, except that the clubface is open. But the swing is perfect. A beginner throwing a club could often appear on the cover of Golf Digest looking like a pro. The squaring of the clubface happens naturally, too, once the person has that as a goal.
The golf school I coach at part time shows people this is true on video, and from then on they start to learn the game from an "Everything is okay, I can do this ... easily," rather than a "There's something wrong with me, fix it" mentality. The usual way of coaching golf is much too technical, much too "there's something wrong" based. I think the example of "everything aligned" is like that, someone's "concept" of what's correct, but isn't. If you want the hand to face directly in line with the target, and I do because that's where the ball is and that gives the ball the most solid base, then the elbow has to be out a little. From there, if you push the hand directly in line with the target, the arm does whatever it does (perhaps a tiny bit from right to left as it straightens) and the hand will deliver the ball exactly on line, over and over.
Q: Second, if your target, ball, hand, and eye are in alignment (as you suggest), I will argue that the ball/hand will disrupt your line of vision to the target. As an alternative, what if you line up the target, ball, and hand with the target. Yes, your eye is not in alignment, but you are still focused on the target and nothing is in your line of sight. Again, another sport analogy - similar to a baseball pitcher or football quarterback.
A: Yes, the arm might cover up the eyes a little but it does not affect me. It actually covers up my "strong" eye and leaves my weak, astigmatic left eye seeing the basket. Yet it works just fine. Somehow I "know" where the target line is from all the set up moves and what I do see. If you "have" to have both eyes on the target, as a coach friend from Pennsylvania insisted, then move the Set Point a tiny bit to the right. If it's close to aligned, that can work. Let's not get too technical about this. Try it both ways and adopt what works best for you. But if you move it to the side too far, then you'll have to figure an angle back to the target each time, and little variations will start to occur.
Q: Third, the fact that your elbow is out to the right (for right-handers), implies that when you extend your arm, your hand will follow-through and end up to the right of the target, as opposed to your arm extend exactly towards the target - which would be the case if your eye is not aligned. This right side follow-through, I believe, this creates a need for "compensation", creating variables and complexity.
A: Point your hand at a target and then extend the arm upward to move the hand directly toward it in line with your eye. As I said above, the arm does what it has to do to do this and it's not exactly on the line, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the hand moves directly in line and is able to deliver the ball accurately. Having the center of the hand in alignment puts the fingers in the best position to deliver the ball on line. If you move the elbow under the ball, it rotates the hand off the target a little and now just the thumb and first finger are behind the ball, not the first, second and third fingers, as with the first position. Check it out. We can adjust and make anything work to some degree, but I've just found the hand in line with the target and the eye gives the best chance for consistent accuracy with the least compensation and tension and the fewest variables.
Q: In summary, consider the points I make above and the following: open your stance, align your elbow with the center of the target, keep your forearm vertical, and fingers vertical, and to shoot just extend your arm straight toward the target. (Yes, this slightly implies that your body [for right-handers] is slightly to the left of the center of the target.
A: Slightly to the right can work, though it still requires a slight compensation. But humans are good at such adjustments. But shooting off the shoulder, like John Stockton does, is too much. He's an incredible athlete and can get away with it quite well, but Hornacek is/was the better shooter. I heard from Adam Keefe that Jeff beat everyone at H-O-R-S-E all the time.
Q: I'm really interested in your comments. Please don't take any of this as criticism. I am truly interested in these aspects of shooting, and they are questions that I have struggled with for a long time. I'm still looking for the answers!!
A: Thanks for the questions. I appreciate the inquiry. It makes me think about it more, too, but I still stand by my instruction. Yours obviously works for you, too. A good test might be to test my way vs. your way with a few kids and see which makes more sense with them.