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1. Welcome from the Coach
Articles are written about this dilemma,
and people are looking for an answer. I feel I can provide that
answer. If you agree with what I'm saying, please help me get
my coaching methods out there. Refer people to my Website and
be in communication with me. Thanks.
The Sparks' 27 for 60 field goals (45%) was excellent and their performance from the line, 23 for 27 (85%), was fantastic! Charlotte, meanwhile, made 25 for 64 (39% ... respectable) but got to the free throw line only four times and made 3 (75%).
In 3-pt shots, L.A. shot only 29%, (5 for 17), but Charlotte made only 1 of 11 (9%). In rebounds, L.A. won the stats 41 to 36. In assists, L.A. won with 24 to 14. The Sparks had a +12 point differential in 3's and a +20 point differential in free throws. Charlotte had a +4 point differential in 2-pt field goals.
What I was looking at is the level of shooting skill. L.A. had a slight advantage from the field (+8 points), and a huge, 20 point advantage from the line, leading to the 28 point win. They played, perhaps, their best game of the season! Charlotte was plagued throughout the series with long spells of no or little scoring. Sometimes spells as long as 7 minutes happened. That shows a lack of overall shooting skill and an inability to free up their better shooters. In this game, they just got run over by a steam rolling Sparks team, perfectly prepared and unstoppably executing.
As far as "shooters" in this game, there were a few. L.A. has a great back court in Dixon and Figgs. They're both dangerous shooters. They have quick Releases and quite relaxed wrists and hands. Mbika is also a good outside shooter.
For Charlotte, I liked Feaster's technique the best, though Staley and Stinson are fine shooters. Feaster scored some early shots, but then had trouble the rest of the game getting open looks. Credit the Sparks' smothering defense for that, but I feel picks and screens could be better set by both teams.
OTHER SHOOTING COMMENTS
I watched a number of WNBA games in the last month so I could write about them. Just as I see in the NBA, the college game, high school and down the line, I see few great shooters in the WNBA, with the majority of players being streaky shooters at best. These are great athletes, superbly conditioned,but their strokes are generally variable and inconsistent. An example of that is Chamique Holdsclaw of the Monarchs, a fantastic athlete but a mediocre shooter. For the season she shot only 40% in FG's, 24% in 3's, and 68% from the line. You could see she passed up the outside jumper in order to drive to the basket and create closer in shots, where she's most effective. The problem is that she shoots as the top of the jump (probably as coached) and the shot motion is a horizontal throwing motion, very hard to control.
Here are some games with remarkably poor shooting stats:
On Aug. 4th, the Seattle Storm lost by 19 to the Sparks and shot only 34% from the field (23 for 68). With free throws, they made only 7 of 16!
In a game on Aug. 24th, the Monarchs made 7 of their first 9 shots and then went only 1 for the next 17, missing 14 straight shots. In one stretch they were 3 for 28, before making a desperate last second shot in the first half.
In a game on August 26th, the Sparks scored only 23 points in the last 24 minutes, being outscored 53 to 23 by the Sacramento Monarchs during that period!
Some team shooting percentages in the 20's:
On Aug. 4th, New York lost to Cleveland 58 to 43 in a game where they shot only 29% (17 for 59) and missed all 13 of their 3-pt shots.
On Aug. 4th, the Houston Comets, the defending champs, shot only 25% in a game against the Charlotte Sting, 15 for 59!!! They made up for it a bit by shooting 18 for 19 from the line (95%), but still lost by 5.
On Aug. 14th, the Houston Comets scored only 38 points in an entire game! Their field goal percent was 24%, with just 13 of 55 shots. 17 points only in the first half.
In a very low scoring game, also on Aug. 14th, Charlotte beat Miami 48 to 41. Charlotte shot 36% from the field and Miami shot only 27%. Charlotte was 1 for 8 from the 3-pt line, but Miami out did them (negatively) by making only 1 of 14!
A few of my favorite shooters:
I didn't get to see Jackie Stiles, but I remember from her college play that she has a nice jump shot and free throw. I see she averaged 14.9 pts per game and shot 41% from the field, 43% in 3's, and 78% from the Line. I think I read that she won the Rookie of the Year.
The New York Liberty's Becky Hammon has a nice shot, with a quick Release and a relaxed wrist and hand. Miami's Elena Baranova is a remarkable shooter, winning the free throw title, I believe, with 93%. She shot 43% from the field for the season and 38% from the 3-pt circle! Elena's shot comes from a relaxed wrist and a pushing, end-of-the-arm motion, as I coach, but her shots seemed rather flat, revealing that she doesn't create much upward energy from her legs. She couldn't shoot much better, though. Katie Smith had a great year, though I don't favor the off-the-shoulder set point she has. However, she makes it work most of the time.
Jennifer Azzi had another great year, with 41% field goals, a fantastic 51% in 3's, and 91.7% from the line (3rd in the league). Kedra Holland-Corn of the Monarchs is another good shooter. She shoots on the rise and gets nice arch to her shots. I feel her wrist and hand could be more relaxed, however, but she's effective with her shot.
My favorite players this year were Lisa Leslie and Houston's Tina Thompson. Lisa doesn't have the purest of shots, but she has every other part of the game, hustle, rebounding, defense, shot blocking, passing. She really came to play this year, and I can see she's improved her shooting, too. I really love the way Tina creates shots and the way she releases the ball. Her shots are high arching, coming from a relaxed wrist and plenty of leg power. If she hadn't been injured, the Comets would probably have gone further. I think it was L.A.'s year, but you never know.
I don't mean to "diss" these
great athletes with my shooting comments. They work hard at
their games and they're doing the best they know how. To me,
these kinds of stats show that shooting skills and offensive
movement to get players open need development. I realize that
tighter defenses are making it harder to get open shots, largely
aided by refereeing that allows very physical play. But it seems
to me that picks and screens could be set better to brush off
defenders and open players for quick shots (or pick & roll
penetration). Improved shot fakes to draw fouls will inhibit
shot blocking. However, most importantly, coaching in more effective
ways to shoot is needed to make those open shots and free throws
when they get them! I'd love to work with more WNBA players
this off season. Kate Starbird of the Utah Starzz gives testimony
to my coaching (see her quote: Tom's
Coaching -- click on "Coaching WNBA Players").
Shooting is the most important skill in the game! Make learning to shoot better (and coach it better, for coaches) a high priority this year. Yes, of course, you need the other things in order to make the shooting work: conditioning, dribbling, passing, defense, rebounding, learning plays, moving with and without the ball, etc. But if shooting is not well done, you're in for a long season.
Shooting is poorly executed at all levels of the game ... still. If you can shoot (and do the other things reasonably well), you will get to play more minutes. If you can shoot, you'll become the "cream of the crop" immediately, since there are so few of you. If your teams shoot well, you'll win more than your share of games. (See my story of the great-shooting Ukrainian team at the Summer Pro League in Long Beach. It's in the July Newsletter.)
My Swish video shows a very simple, yet powerful, way to learn and coach shooting. It gets to the "heart" of shooting and simplifies the process of understanding and learning it. Read some of the many testimonials on my website to confirm that it would be a great way to start to improve shooting for anyone. Also, if you haven't already, read all my articles and newsletters on shooting.
SOME SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS FOR SELF LEARNING:
With or without the video, learn to increase awareness of what you do and you can learn a lot just on your own. Here are a few simple awareness exercises you can do:
1) Where does your power come from?
2) How high do you shoot?
3) What kind of spin do you impart on
4) Watch your shooting arm!
5) Finally, watch your wrist and hand.
These awarenesses and experimentations will lead to some great learning, even if you don't know exactly what you're looking for. Just watching where your shots land and giving precise feedback without judgment (it was 8" right and a foot long that time, it was a foot short and straight that time, it was two feet long and banked in that time...) will lead to natural experimentation. If you're right a foot, just report that and shoot again. Don't try to adjust your shot a foot to the left the next time. You'll find your incredible body-brain-nervous system will correct perfectly ... if you give good feedback and don't interfere.
If you miss and judge it as "bad,"
you probably will not see or feel exactly what happened, and
there will be little or no learning. You can learn a lot from
missed shots, but you have to accept them and see and feel exactly
what happened. We need to make mistakes to learn. If we view
mistakes as "bad," then we'll interfere with the process
of learning and perpetuate our condition.
The clips are formatted for the Windows Media Player. If you have that Player installed, you should be able to just "click" on the clips and see them. If you don't have the software, I give you a link to a Microsoft page for downloads and you can download it from there.
If by clicking on the clips the Player does not get launched and open the clips directly and play them for you, another (roundabout) way to view them is to launch your Media Player first and then "Open" the URL's that link to the clips. That will require that you copy and paste the URL's.
Here are direct links from this Newsletter to view the clips, if you want to view them from here.
The four clips are the following:
WHAT SPEED: There is a choice of two speeds for each clip. Whether you choose the High speed version of the Low Speed version depends, I believe, on your modem and line speed. The High Speed clips are bigger and will take longer to download but give better quality to the video picture. Try them both and decide which works better for your system.
Here's also a link to my video clips page
where you can view the clips: Video
Q: I've heard you should "Square Up" when you shoot. What does that mean and do you agree? ...M. Thelander, North Branch, MN
A: First, No, I do not agree with that instruction. I recommend an "open" stance, with your lead foot forward and your other foot back a ways and the body turned 20°, 30° or more. How far you bring the "off" foot back is up to you. And I also do not agree that the feet should point directly at the basket, which is sometimes coached. What that does is "square" up your shoulders again. Let them point where they naturally want to point if you turn your body.
Square Up* literally means to stand such that a line across your shoulders is perpendicular to a line from your chest to the basket. To me that instruction is antiquated. It probably comes from the old "two handed" days when players shot set shots and underhand free throws using both arms. For such shots you need to be square to your target for the greatest accuracy. However, today most people shoot jump shots, free throws with a one-handed motion. These modern shots ends with the shooting arm extended toward the basket and the guide or support hand held back. Thus the body set up is to the side, with the strong shoulder turning toward the basket and the off side away from it, and the shoulders are "open" to the basket. Why force a "square" stance when the body naturally wants to turn and open?
(*Note: If you mean, rather, to "face
up" to the basket, and not exactly "square up,"
then it can mean an open stance is recommended, but most kids
I've talked to understand it to mean what I describe above.)
HOME EXERCISE: To test out these two very different setups, square up to a target and bring your hand up above your shooting eye to where you would bring a ball to shoot. Notice where your shooting elbow naturally goes. Isn't it to the side maybe 10-12" or more, like with a salute? If you shoot this way, your motion will be angled across the target and it will be hard to be accurate. Thus you have to force the elbow in ("Jam it in!") to get the hand more in line with the target.
From my way of thinking, it's preferable to have the forearm of your shooting arm "basically" vertical so the shot can be just a straightening of the arm upward and in line with the target. The key orientation is the palm of the shooting hand. Aim it directly in line with the basket (though pointed above) and notice where the elbow wants to be ... naturally. Can you see that it's a little to the side (3-5", depending on the length of your arm) and the forearm is almost vertical but not exactly? This is close enough to vertical, without compromising the aim of the palm and hand.
Some people who advocate squaring up advocate shooting with the ball off the shoulder or the ear so the forearm can be vertical. To me, shooting this way is not effective because the eye and ball are in different planes, and an angle back to the basket has to be computed with each shot. It's possible to shoot this way fairly effectively, but it's not an easy, natural way of shooting. It takes tremendous concentration to do consistently. There has to be careful attention to direction paid with each shot. I imagine it's very easy to be long left or short right (for right handers) as you try to figure out the angle.
HAND NOT IN ALIGNMENT:
Try both open and square and try ball positions from in line with the eye to over the shoulder and find what is most effective and comfortable for you. I think you'll find it more natural and effective to open the body and have everything aligned.
I suggest opening the body at least 25°
to 30° or more.
Here is one of the Q&A items from my
A. The greater the height or arch of a shot, the steeper the angle coming down and the larger the basket appears to the ball in flight. The bigger the landing area, the greater the chance of a ball going in. The largest landing area would look like an exact circle 18" inside diameter, and would be that for a ball falling straight down from above the basket. A shot taken from just under the basket and very high, would approach this 90° angle. Since shots are usually taken away from the basket, the angle is less than 90°. Flat shots come in at 15-30° above horizontal. What might be considered a medium high shot is in the 35-45° range. And over 45°let's call "high" arch. I've heard that some studies indicate that ~60° is the most effective attack angle. Others say 50%.
Most players' shots rise only a few feet over the basket (a reference for the bottom of the ball), maybe from 1-2 feet above the rim. Few are as high as the top of the backboard (3'). This trajectory gives them low to medium low arch, creating flat, "hot" shots. A shot is hot because gravity has not had a chance to slow it down, and such shots will easily bounce or spin out.
The shots of most great shooters fly high, at least 3' and often 4', 5' or more above the rim. Try it! Take some shots with different arches and observe the results. If you're shooting almost entirely with your arms, hands and fingers, your shots will be more horizontal (with low arch). If you shoot from the upward drive of legs and body, from what I call UpForce, your shot will automatically become more vertical. It's also harder to block. Experiment with shooting earlier in your jump. You'll see the shot goes higher without trying, and you will probably feel a sense of "effortlessness." Shooting high gives you both a larger landing area and a softer, more forgiving shot. Who wouldn't want to shoot that way for best results?
HOME EXERCISE: Sit on a chair about 10
feet from a cylindrical waste basket. Note the shape and size
of the opening. It appears as a flat oval, doesn't it? That
is what the ball sees if it's coming in at a flat angle (20-30°).
Now stand up and move toward the waste basket. Note the shape
and size of the oval as you approach. Do you see it get larger
and larger as your eyes approach from a high angle? (You can
do the same thing with a coin on a table top.) When you're about
8' away, that might be like a 45° angle shot coming in toward
the basket. When you get 6' away, that might be like a 50°
angle, and closer will show you 60°, 70°, etc., very
high shots. Can you see how a ball coming in from a high angle
has a larger landing area?
I give a lot of shooting clinics and I'm frequently asking for volunteers. At many clinics it's like pulling teeth to get someone to volunteer. I know most kids are shy and don't want to draw attention to yourselves. You don't want to look "foolish" or make a mistake.
I know the feeling. That sense of wanting to "look good" and avoid "looking bad" has ruled my life forever, and it still lurks there at all times. From what I can tell, it will never go away, but I've learned some ways to deal with it and reduce its control over me, and I want to share one of them with you.
My biggest fear has to do with my speaking voice, so often in groups I will "clam up" and be quiet, rather than take advantage of an opportunity to speak and express my opinions and risk failing. Somehow in my life, around the time of high school and college, I noticed that my voice was not strong, and when I tried to say something, I would tighten up and the voice would become even weaker, very breathy and shallow. It led to more and more fear and more and more interference. It's been a long struggle to overcome that, and I occasionally revert to that old fear-based voice.
When I'm in groups now and am offered the chance to "say" something, I realize I have a choice. Do I stay inside and safe and say nothing, or do I "take a chance" and offer to speak? There's an opportunity for growth and learning if you step out and make effort. You stay the way you are if you hold back and do nothing. Each of you has your own particular areas of self-doubt, be they taking a shot in practice or a game, public speaking, dancing, volunteering to do something, etc. Do you let what I'll call "fear and discomfort" rule you, or do you step out and go for it?
I've learned that what we most resist probably has a life lesson in it for us. As one of my mentors put it, the fear and discomfort can actually be your "Teachers!" Whenever you feel a shyness or fear of doing something, see if you can catch it happening and face it, overcome it, and do the very thing you fear. Do it quickly, before you can talk yourself out of it. When you do, there will be a big risk (YOU COULD FAIL), but there's also a huge opportunity (YOU COULD SUCCEED, in a big way or in a small way). And the more often you face your fears and discomforts, the easier it becomes to push on through them and the more you learn and grow.
Think of them as your teachers! And then take a risk and go for it. You may fail, but by doing nothing you're already failing with no chance of growth. You really have nothing to lose! See if you can catch this cycle in the midst of the fear and then observe what you do. The first couple of times, you'll surely let the fear hold you back, but then, one time, you will "go for it" and be on your way. I know whenever I truly let go and trust myself, things turn out okay. In fact, they turn out better than just "okay." They often turn out to be huge "breakthroughs!"
With practice at this, you'll find you
can greatly expand who you are and life will be more exciting
and productive. You will become more fearless, a trait we all
Prize: Free video(s) for the top ideas!
A lot of you are getting my Newsletter each month, and the number is growing. I wonder how you use the Newsletters. What are some of the insights and understandings you've gotten from them? If you've had any specific experiences that can be traced to it, please write them up and send them to me. I'll share them with the readers.
Along that line, over a year ago I asked for ideas from my readers as to how I can best forward my coaching and video such that my shooting methods have a real impact on the game. Unfortunately, at that same time I had mailbox technical problems with my service provider and I didn't get most of the entries for several months, and I think I lost some. By the time I figured the problem out, the momentum had been lost. I apologize to those who sent me ideas and didn't hear back from me!!!
I'd like to re-visit this grand idea, and this time I'll be more vigilant regarding the entries. I promise I'll get back to you individually, and I will choose a winner(s) of a free Swish video package for your contribution.
The game of basketball is still suffering "big time" from poor shooting. Everywhere I look I see missed free throws and jump shots. Defenses are getting tougher and tougher, I know, but then the athleticism and quickness on the offensive side is increasing, too. I'm shocked to see how much physical contact referees are allowing. This just helps the defense, as they push and grab and slap at the ball.
My Method of coaching and learning the skill of shooting won't change the way the game is called, but it can show players at all levels how to hit the free throws and open jumpers more consistently. It's both simple AND powerful, and once you understand it, you'll see it's the way the few great shooters in the game today shoot.
THE GAME NEEDS A NEW APPROACH!
Thanks for your suggestions and ideas. I will share them next month and tell you who won the prize. If there are lots of really great ideas, I'll give multiple videos.
I invite you to bookmark my Website (Swish22) so you can go there easily to catch my latest comments on shooting. You can read about my video there (including endorsements, testimonials, reviews and an Overview of the video), my coaching, and the many articles on shooting I've written. You can see archived back issues of this Newsletter and, of course, subscribe, if you're not already getting this on a regular basis.
Please tell others about my site and my
video. Send them the URL (http://www.swish22.com) and let them
know there's a proven method for better shooting.
See my Website for the latest news about Clinics, Camps and Private Sessions.
If you'd like to organize some clinics or camps with me, call or email me.
Here's a direct link to the Clinics
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(2) Go to the Swish website, click on the link to "Free Shooting Newsletter," and follow the instructions there.
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