Basketball Shooting: Thoughts on Controlling Distance

It's my theory that the few great shooters the game of basketball has had control distance by varying the arch (trajectory) of the shot rather than varying the Release or the timing of the shot.


In conversations I've had with the older boys in my clinics, most of them think they should learn to have the same trajectory every time and vary the Release or timing to do that. There is even a machine that will track your angle of release for you and tell you what it is. It's an amazing technology for learning about the height of your shots. It will track a certain number of shots, too, like 25, and then display each arch, the mean average, etc.

But I feel to think there's a perfect arch for a basketball shot is an incorrect conclusion. Varying the Arch is what I call "The easy way to control distance!"


When you simply vary the arch at the last instance, you can then really let it go when you shoot and just make that simple, instinctive adjustment and, voilà, the distance is achieved. I can shoot at several baskets of different heights and, with little practice, if any, swish shot after shot at different heights simply by adjusting the angle of my Release as I shoot the ball. To control such shots by varying the speed of the Release would be very difficult.

In my clinics, when we've had one or more baskets with a lower height, my students could easily adjust to the different height and keep on swishing shots.


As with all of my coaching, I invite you to "try" this way of controlling distance. First, try to keep the same trajectory with shots from different spots, shots with different amounts of leg energy, and see what happens. Then, fire off your Release action the same each time and adjust for different shots by varying the angle of your arm at the moment of Release, thus varying height or trajectory. Which is the easiest to learn and sustain? I think you'll see it's the Varying the Arch approach.

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 ( to read of his background and his articles and newsletters, and to view the remarkable endorsements and amazing testimonials for this approach to shooting.