Q: Tom - I have a couple of kids (High School) that I am having trouble with. They all release at the top or just after which makes their shots more of a throw than a push. I have tried to get them to release on the way up to get the push motion, but they find it difficult to break old habits. Any suggestions on drills I can run them through to break old habits?
A: First, do they "know" they release at the top or even on the way down? I realize you and others are telling them they do that, but do they actually feel it? If yes, then half the problem is solved. If not, then they must learn to feel it.
To help them feel it, ask them to tell you each time they shoot what % of the available leg drive (what I call UpForce) they used in each shot. 0% means it's at the top. 100% means they shot early enough to use every ounce of the energy. If they shoot on the way down, it will be a negative number, -10%, -25%, etc.
Once they can feel, things should start to shift. Suggest to them a goal of 90-100% for outside shots* (on the way up, very early), and see what they do with each shot. They will probably start to report 25%, 40%, 50%, etc., gradually approaching 100%. If you can demonstrate it, all the better. As one of them starts to get it, point it out to the others.
(* For inside turnaround type jumpers, 100% is not required. It can be much less, 50%, 25% or less, just so some of the UpForce is utilized to increase stability. Raising the Set Point for these close-in shots allows the player to shoot quicker and go "full out" with the Release. The shots become easy this way. It's how Rasheed Wallace shoots.)
Awareness and feedback is the way to do this, not by just telling them, insisting, yelling, etc. Telling them what they "didn't" do is of no value. And even telling them what they "did" do it is no help if they can't feel it, too. Set up the coaching so they do most of the talking, telling you what happened. You can give feedback occasionally, to confirm what they say or to challenge it. If, for example, a player (I assume they're boys) says 75% but you can see it's only 25%, gently say that it didn't look like that to you. You don't even have to say what you see all the time. Suggest he look more carefully, feel more precisely. Once he's reported a percent, then it's fine to tell him what you saw, but make sure he's doing honest reporting, not just trying to please you.
Once they really feel what they do and really feel the changes that happen (the easier, quicker, higher shooting with greater consistency), they will choose shooting earlier.
They may say they can't feel it. Don't buy that. Touch an arm and ask the player if he felt that. Of course, he'll say yes. It's easy to cop out and say you can't feel. It isn't true.