How do I correct an elbow that sticks out?

Q: My other student I am working with is a young lady who will be a senior in High school in Sept. She has what we on the east coast call the New York City guard syndrome. Great ball handler, can't shoot a lick. I attempted to work with her during the season but there really isn't enough time while you are trying to win games. She shoots with her elbow out. When she brings it in, the shots swish. She can see this, but she has been doing it with her elbow out for so long it is difficult for her to change. I gave her your video to look at overnight. Tomorrow we will go back to the grindstone. If you have any specific advice for a player like above I would appreciate it."

A: The answer, for me, is always awareness and the exploration/discovery/learning that go with it. Ask her to simply watch herself shoot, and watch where the elbow is and report that to you. Tell her to accept it where it is because that's what's real, but it doesn't have to stay out there. A change in stance might help. The more she opens her body in the stance, the easier it is for the elbow to drop down. The key thing is where the hand points, not where the elbow is. You want the center of the hand to face exactly in line with the basket. When it does, the elbow will be a little out, but not way out. That's natural and desired. (It's the way our hands and arms are built.) If you jam the elbow in so it's under the ball, you actually tilt the hand off the target, not what you want.

Also, if the elbow is way out, the hand will not be facing in line with the basket anymore and the action of the arm and hand will be "across" the target at an angle, not in line with. So you have a choice as to what's important, the hand or the elbow.

Ask her to be patient but keep reminding herself she doesn't want the elbow out so far that it interferes with a simple, direct motion of the hand and arm in line with the target. If she sticks it way out, just notice it. Maybe quantify it: how far out is it? What angle does the forearm make with horizontal? If the forearm were the minute hand on a clock, what time does it show? (Make the hand be the point of the clock arm, so the goal is about 11:45. Ask her what time she feels and sees it to be.) Anything to increase awareness. AWARENESS IS DEVELOPMENTAL, in my understanding. In fact, it's the ONLY thing that is developmental in a physical sport.