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1. Welcome from the Coach
The Olympics was an eye-opener for this country, I hope. Maybe coaches and players will renew their search for a shooting method that can really make a difference! The whole world sees the limit to a primary focus on individual qualities like strength, size, speed and "athleticism," and the greater value of teamwork and the development of team skills like passing, setting good screens, ball movement, defense and, especially, shooting. In a great "team" game like basketball, a good, solid "team" will almost always beat a team of "individuals."
Our group of gifted athletes and remarkable coaches couldn't field a team to win more than the Bronze Medal. They lost three games and were blown out by little Puerto Rico. The only blowout win we had was when Angola tried to play match-up zone and man-to-man (I heard that was how it was played -- didn't see it).
There were many reasons given for the poor showing, some surely valid, like the difference in foul calling (I could see that Tim Duncan got a raw deal at times). Some even reasoned that the 3-point line was too close! Or that the shorter 3-pt distance packed it in too much, and other reasons like that.
But I feel that, despite all the problems of lack of practice time, lack of team cohesion, different rules, etc., the failure came down to shooting. The international teams could make the outside shots and our team couldn't, except in occasional streaks. We didn't have the offense to pull away when we had our full court game going, and we were always susceptible to our opponents hitting a bunch of 3's in a short time and catching up or getting ahead.
We chose a team of bangers and fast breakers, tough, strong players, great leapers, but we didn't stock it with any true shooters. There aren't many left in the game, but we have a few.
When our guys had open outside shots, they usually missed. Shots hit all over the place at times, including airballs. Then a player like Marbury would get hot for a few shots, then cold again. Marbury was hot for a whole game and we won, then was mediocre the next. Iverson shot the best overall. No one else could be relied on. Duncan's great inside presence was limited by the tight zones and the fouls (deserved or not).
IT'S THE RELEASE!
Iverson has a such a high level of confidence and self-trust that he can make his throw-flip motion work fairly well most of the time. He makes a complicated stroke work, but it's usually flat and hot. I think he just "wills" it in with a high degree of confidence. I heard it said of Tim Hardaway, who had a very flippy stroke with spotty success, that he made shots because he was so tough the ball didn't dare NOT go in. I think Iverson is sort of in that category, willing the ball in. I think he'd shoot worse if you'd back off from him and dare him to shoot over you. Kobe is like that, too, I feel. They're pressure players, they do better under pressure.
The failure, I saw, is in the Release. Our team was mostly wrist flippers and throwers. They didn't have the simple, uncomplicated pushing action with relaxed wrist and hand that I recommend. They also shot mostly late in their jumping motions, which leads to wristy, upper body strokes.
But Jasikevicius for Lithuania has a great Release. And Ginobli does. Basili, the Italian, seemed to have it, too. For most players who made their shots pretty consistently, their wrists were usually relaxed, not powering the shots like the Americans. They shot on the way up, not at the top of the jump. A few of the international players took the ball way overhead, and a couple of them had some success at times, but you just knew it wouldn't hold up, being too complicated. I got a clip of Jasikevicius shooting off a pick in slow motion, catching about 90% of the leg power with an arm-straightening release action, relaxed wrist, follow through held on line, Swish!!!
The Swish Method (now available in video and DVD) can help players at all levels. My personal coaching can help individuals and teams understand and execute the simple, effective principles of great shooting performance. My articles and Newsletters constantly describe what's needed. It's not hidden. It's given freely. The whole world needs this simple technique!
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WOMEN'S OLYMPIC
They worked hard and overcame some very strong opponents. One of the reasons women shoot better than the men, as I see it, is that they don't have the upper body strength of men and they HAVE to shoot from more leg power. I feel that's a blessing when it comes to shooting. They're not seduced into using the smaller, less reliable muscles of the wrist and hand. Using bigger muscles is one of the secrets of great shooting. Shoot on the way up and the shot is more stable, quicker, higher. Hesitate and use more upper body muscles and the shot is less stable, less predictable, more affected by pressure.
I especially liked the strokes of Thompson, Riley, Taurasi, Swoopes and Bird, and Johnson really shot well in one of the games I saw. The injured Katie Smith would have added more firepower down the stretch with her long range bombing, though I feel a stroke from off the shoulder is inherently hard to keep accurate. She's one of few who are able to do it consistently. Overall they all could shoot fairly well so they weren't liable to falling far behind hot shooting opponents like the men were. They could always get back into close games, and usually they dominated the whole game.
In my coaching I often use the words"awareness" and "distinctions" when talking about learning. In my understanding, learning comes from awareness, and from the mastery of distinctions comes extraordinary performance and coaching. Here we're talking about basketball, a physical sport, though I'm sure many of the same things would apply if you were talking about bridge or chess or painting or Astrophysics.
Awareness is the word we use to identify experience. The function of the five senses is accomplished by what we call awareness. You're "aware" of an arm movement, a smell, a taste, or a sound, etc. In basketball, we're mostly concerned with the sense of touch, some vision and, to a lesser degree, sound. Taste and smell, probably not.
Awareness is defined by my dictionary as, "knowing; realizing; conscious." To keep it simple, let's call it a knowing of an experience by the senses. Some people are "super"-aware, and others are very "un"-aware. But with practice anyone can become more attuned to the senses and, thus, achieve more "awareness" and learning.
SO WHAT'S A DISTINCTION?
But there's a deeper meaning I've been taught to understand, that of "embodying" the distinction, that of "being" the distinction. When you truly "have" a Distinction, you know it on a deep level, you can execute it in a variety of ways, you know it inside and out, so to say. I play golf a lot and I can play to a certain level. I have a medium high level of the distinction "golf," but nowhere near that of the PGA playing professionals.
One of my mentors is a golfer of the highest level. When we go into a sand trap, the difference between his sand wedge shots and mine becomes very obvious. He knows how to play these shots in many ways. I can basically only apply one or two types of shots, and my accuracy and control of distance are just fair. You could say he has the distinction of "Sand" to a far greater degree than I do. To me it's pretty much just sand. To him it's light sand, heavy sand, course-grained sand, wet sand, etc., etc. He can make his shots spin this way and that. Conversely, I have the distinctions of "Basketball Shooting" more deeply than he does. We all have our areas of interest and expertise.
The point I want to make is that, when you realize the meaning and value of these two words, you can take an area of interest to a deeper and richer level. Tim Duncan has the distinction of "bank shots" more than most players. Michael Jordan had the distinction of "air" (elevation, vertical movement, motions in the air) more than just about anyone.
THE DISTINCTIONS OF SHOOTING
I've been studying shooting seriously now for 15 years. I have distinctions far beyond most of you in this one area. I can stand in different postures and still shoot well. I can release the ball in many ways from different Set Points with whatever trajectory I wish. I can bank shots in and I can swish them, either or, back to back. I can shoot early or late in my jumping action. I can do things with my opposite hand and with my eyes closed, even looking at the ground while I shoot. When you don't have the distinctions, your ability to perform and learn are limited.
My coaching and my writings are explaining, describing, revealing, opening up these distinctions to many other players and coaches. One suggestion for gaining a greater distinction in an area of focus is to play with it. Do shots right handed and left handed. Shoot with eyes open, eyes closed. Shoot many different ways, all with the purpose of expanding your knowledge of these actions, coming more and more to truly "know" it. Shoot flat on purpose, then shoot super high, then medium high. Play up and down the height scale. Then your shooting (or whatever it is you're studying and intending to master) will start to truly develop. You "ARE" the shot, as some people have kiddingly described it. In the classic golf movie, "Caddyshack," one of the great lines was Chevy Chase saying to his student, "BE the ball." It may sound funny, but when you are truly "one" with the ball, your club, the course (target) and your body, the game of golf becomes really simple.
Seek out distinctions. Go deeper than just (shallow) awarenesses. Distinctions don't come easy. They take time and practice and awareness and inquiry and patience, but the rewards are great. They'll improve whatever activity you choose to do, from tiddlywinks to basketball shooting.
"Hi Tom, It has been quite a while since I wrote, but I continue to read your articles with interest and also applaud your decision to develop a complete curriculum for teaching coaches your revolutionary ideas on shooting.
"Just a few notes while I am on the keyboard:
"I took a year off from coaching after some disappointments in 2001. I didn't get the high school job I wanted, but did have a successful year coaching 5th and 6th grade girls.
"Being out of coaching for a full year was agony for me, though, after a few months, and became unbearable when I went to all my Granddaughter's games last Winter and had to observe the team playing with almost no shooting skills and no coaching to be seen either.
"Nevertheless, I began coaching Ashley, who began 5th grade last Fall, late in the Summer and she made the 7th Grade team easily. I started her on the Swish Method, and for some reason, she did well at first, then didn't improve for a while. I then went back and tried some of the old ideas I learned from Ace Hofstein, a shooting coach who uses the square up method to teach shooting. Same problem....
"Then I read one of your articles that was on your site in the coaching department and you said that the coach's job was not to correct, but to act as a guide to make players aware of their bodies, the flight of the ball, and to encourage them to think about what happened when they shot and how it felt, and to be aware of what was happening and to do what seemed natural within the general framework of good shooting principles relating to using a constant pure release, and using UP-Force from the legs and body and the angle of the shot to determine distance for the shot, etc.
"I had had a somewhat frustrating day (for us both, I suspect) with Ashley that day and I decided to change my approach from saying "Shoot higher!", "Use your legs"!, "Follow through!", etc, etc, and instead, I told her that today we were going to just have her shoot and she would think about her shot and say what she felt and what she thought might fix the problem if she felt there was one.
"It was an amazing thing. She was relaxed and when she missed a shot, she thought and then talked about what she thought happened. I nodded and said nothing , or said "Ok", and she shot again. The only thing I did was, from time to time, reinforce the ideas of simple pure release with a relaxed wrist, catching the wave of the UP Force, and that higher shots saw a bigger target. No suggestions were made at all about a particular shot, I just listened most of the time and rebounded and threw her the ball.
"The result was that she was swishing shots within 15 minutes with a set point over her head at the free throw line. She just turned 11 and is 5'3" and wiry and slim, unlike her ole Grandpa (me). I used this method on a 10 year old the other day in a 20 minute session with a similar result, though we used a low set point that allowed her to just see the basket over the ball.
"Tom, you have found an important principle of shooting here. Not only are your mechanics of shooting sound, but the more important thing is to teach self discovery and the body's ability to learn if it is not interfered with too much by a coach's constant admonitions to do this and do that and the other thing.
"Your personality lends itself well to that style and it was natural for you to adapt it, but in my case, I always love to correct and demand it be done my way as a coach. I had to learn that sometimes it is better to provide guidance than a detailed rote routine to memorize, specially in something that is so tied to the state of the mind and one's self confidence like shooting. I know that you know these things, but I want to encourage you anyway, because I have tried it both ways and have seen how much wiser your philosophy is on this matter."
-- Mike Burke, Illinois
"Teaching shooting for so long has been one of the toughest aspects of our sport to teach. The SWISH method provides a new perspective to coaching this vital fundamental and we have found it most beneficial in improving the consistency of our players.
"I cannot recommend this method highly enough in assisting any player improve their shot."
Peter Lonergan, Development Manager,
"Coach, Just thought I would give you an update on how we are progressing with the changes in teaching shooting at our association. First, the change has energised our coaching group, to be able to teach shooting and see the results is very rewarding and we are enjoying the challenge. Obviously, there is no change without some pain and some coaches are struggling to come to terms with the changes.
"After years of "BEEF" and "lock & snap," it will be a gradual process but we are singing the song.
"It is interesting, we have a player in our senior men's team, who has played a club record 362 games and is respected as one of the finest players in the SEABL, the second tier of senior competition in Australia behind our NBL. He is a career 46% three point shooter and once we started to use some of your principles, we realised that he had been adopting many of the principles of your system for years, obviously un-beknown to him.
"He has his lead foot foot quite forward and his follow through is very relaxed, very little tension in the wrist at the point of release. This is a useful "selling tool" for our new teaching philosophy!
"Again, thanks for opening the door on some of the most exciting changes/advancements in shooting for 20 years!"
"HI DEAR TOM, I WAS LOOKING ON THE
INTERNET FOR SOME DRILLS TO HELP ME
"I MUST SAY IT IS INDEED VERY ARTISTIC, NATURAL, FREE, EASILY EXPRESSED THEREFORE EASILY REPEATED, AND MORE EFFECTIVE THAN THE CONVENTIONAL METHOD. THE THING ABOUT THE CONVENTIONAL METHOD IS THAT ONE IS TOO BUSY CONCERNED OR THINKING ABOUT HOW TO PLACE THE FEET, HOW TO SQUARE UP, THUS THEY MISS THE ART OF FREEDOM OF SELF EXPRESSION.
"I WANT TO SAY I THANK YOU FOR THIS VALUABLE WORDS OF WISDOM, THEY REALLY HELP ME SEE MORE CLEARLY THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ART OF SHOOTING."
YOURS IN THIS BLESSED GAME
J. Bryan, Tequesta, FL
"Now, I should mention most of these boys had poor form over the past four years. They relied on passing to a great shooter, and never developed their own shooting skills. After getting approval to start working with some of the boys, during practice, one of them said to me "Mr. Richards, it doesn't matter." That's how low this kid was on shooting. Another kid cared even less. That's because they never were taught how to shoot. An they were never taught how to shoot, I believe, because no one had a copy of your video.
"Well, during one practice, when I had two of the boys for 15 minutes, one said the "Mr. Richards, it doesn't matter" line again. Under the threat of running laps with their arms raised up, they realized it did matter!!! The poorest shooter on the team, one of these boys had never made a shot in four years. We worked and worked, and in practice he was consistent out about 8 feet.
"The season was coming to a close, and we were supposed to play in one final tournament. A notoriously hard tournament at that. The head coach was reluctant to sign-up for it, but with a little encouragement, he went ahead and did it. I don't blame him for being reluctant. These boys never advanced in a tournament over four years, why have one more disappointment?
"Well, this team of only eight boys lost the first game to a team of at least sixteen that ran them down something fierce. But we did go on to the consolation bracket. While leading during the last game of the bracket, our boy who had never made a single shot sunk a jumper with "video-perfect" form. The place went nuts, and after the buzzer, we were able to take pictures with the boys holding a trophy for the first time ever!
"There were a lot of factors that turned this team around. Simpler plays, harder practices, higher expectations all played a roll. But I really do believe your video made the biggest difference.
"You know how they say you're not supposed to dwell on the past, but look forward to the future? Well, I can't help but wonder how much better my son and his teammates would have been had we used your video from the start. I hope more people get their hands on your video and embrace the techniques. It's so easy, and natural, that it feels like cheating!!!
"Best Regards and Thanks Again."
"Men often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it even if I didn't have it in the beginning."-- Mahatma Gandhi
"If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you. The universal power never judges or criticizes us. It only accepts us at our own value." -- author unknown
The most important thing you can get out of this season is to realize how incredible the potential is that lies within you. Everyone has different natural gifts, and it is important you follow your unique talents. However, everyone on this team is blessed with more than enough talent to become an exceptional player. No one knows what you are truly capable of, including yourself. If you feel something in your heart, let that be your guide. Don't listen to people who tell you that you can't do something, don't even waste your time arguing with them. Instead, listen to and read about people who are successful and have accomplished great things. (Editor's note: If you're with great people, find a way to ASK THEM to help you achieve what they have.)
The fact that so many before have accomplished their dreams and goals is all the proof you need to realize you can do it to. Just make sure it is your goal or dream and something that you feel in your heart, and not somebody else's.
The best approach I know is exceptional attitude and effort. This approach is simple and has worked for countless others. Consider this quote by Charles Swindoll, a minister and best selling author,
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people, think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill . . . The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string we have, and that is our attitude. I'm convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes."
The questions that follow are a first step in choosing your attitude and making the commitment to yourself to be the kind of player you want to be. What you put into this is what you will get out of it.
Before you can make a positive change, you must be honest with yourself and understand what you are currently doing. Answer the first question honestly even if it hurts, and answer the second question in the pair as you want to be and in a way that will lead you to your goals and the team's goals. This is not a magical process, you can't expect success unless you choose the behaviors and attitudes that will lead you it.
1) Do I treat it as something special when I cross the lines of the court for practices and games? In other words am I appreciating the opportunity or do I sometimes take it for granted?
· How do I need to be to reach my goals and the team goals?
2) What is my effort like in practice, am I doing my best on a consistent basis?
· What does my effort need to be like to reach my goals and team goals? Describe this in detail.
3) How is my effort and focus in building new exceptional basketball habits, such as catching and seeing, staying in a defensive stance, adjusting my defensive position when the ball is on the fingertips, finding my man on defense to box him out, and so on? In other words, am I going along with old habits, or am I bringing focused attention to building new habits in drills and in play? (Editor's note: Especially pay attention to your shooting, the master skill in the game!)
· How does my effort and focus need to be for me to reach my goals and team goals?
4) What is my effort like in games? Am I giving my best effort?
· How does my effort need to be in games on consistent basis to help me reach my goals and team goals?
5) How do I handle mistakes and adversity? Do I get upset and down, letting my confidence drop causing more mistakes, or do I become more determined and make the choice to learn from the mistakes and the adversity?
· How do I need to handle mistakes to achieve my goals and team goals?
6) How do I handle sitting on the bench, do I space out or feel sorry for myself, or do I unselfishly support my teammates and paying attention to the action?
· How do I need to be when sitting on the bench to achieve my goals and team goals?
7) How do I listen to the coaches? Am I listening with an open mind or I'm caught up in doing what I think is right?
· How do I need to listen to reach my goals and team goals?
8) Will I be a team player and focus on doing whatever I can to help the team's success or will I be preoccupied with myself?
· How do I need to be to reach my goals and team goals?
9) Do I take intelligent risks in practice and games that will serve me in becoming a better player or am I afraid to make mistakes and look bad? (Editor's note: It's our human, ego nature to want to "look good" at all times. Go easy on yourself when you do. Laugh, if you can. It's just the way things are ... until you take charge and find ways to change that "default" way of being.)
· How do I need to approach positive risks in practices and games to reach my goals and team goals?
10) How do I handle being tired? Do I stop working and lose concentration or do I stay focused and remain committed to the task at hand?
· How do I need to handle fatigue to achieve my goals and team goals?
11) How do I handle constructive criticism from the coaches? Am I caught up in defending myself and in being right that I'm not open to listening and becoming a better player?
· How do I need to handle constructive criticism to reach my goals and team goals?
12) When things don't go my way, do I blame others and make excuses, or do I take full responsibility for myself?
· How do I need to be when things don't go my way to reach my goals and team goals?
(Editor's note: Conversely, how do you handle success? Are you proud of yourself and feel superior, or are you humble, recognizing it could easily have been someone else rather than you? How you act can affect others, especially younger kids who want to emulate you. Being a "star" can open doors to where you can help others achieve and learn and grow. Or it can just put you up on a pedestal for all to see and worship ... and maybe knock down at a later time. I had a lot of athletic success as a high school kid and I wish I had had this kind of understanding and coaching when I was going through it.)
13) What current image, feelings, and thoughts do I have about myself as a player? Is my mind holding me back, am I getting in my own way?
· How do I need to choose to see myself as a player to reach my goals? Decide if you want to play with relaxed intensity, fierceness, freedom, courage, confidence, fearlessness, trust, joy, openness, resolve. Choose three adjectives that you want to describe the way you want to play?
(Editor's final note: This is for the younger readers I have, but it applies to everyone, of course. I hope you read this and really understand it, my young friends. How you are "BEING" is huge in all your endeavors! For example are you being courageous in your daily life, or are you living a life of doubt, fear and low expectations? Think about what this means. Re-read this section several times. Ask your parents, siblings, friends, coaches, anyone, what it means to them and how you can understand it. I want to emphasize that it's a critical understanding of life. If you put some time into this and incorporate the key points in your life, like attitude, effort, handling success and failure, it will give great dividends down the road.)
The DVD version of the Swish video is now available on a new Order Page we just got installed. It's at: Swish Products Page. You can order the DVD, the VHS video and/or the T-shirt. The video has been re-worked to include the same six minute "Bonus" section at the end as the DVD. You can also order Swish "Catch the UpForce" T-shirts there, too.
If you've already purchased the Swish video, you'll get a 50% discount on the DVD. To do that, first email or call us with the approx. date you ordered the video and we'll give you a discount code for the discount.
The Order page is new and we're still ironing out the wrinkles, so to speak. Let us know if you have any problems with it. Thanks.
I invite you to bookmark my Website (URL: http://www.swish22.com) 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 video clips and 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 this newsletter, my site, and my video. Forward the newsletter to them and suggest they read it and the many archived issues. Send them the URL and let them know there's a proven method for powerful shooting.
Clinics planned for this summer:
Northern Ohio -- in planning stage
St. Louis area -- in planning stage
As the details for these clinics become firm, I'll update my "Clinics" page on my website. Refer there for the latest status and instructions for enrollment.
If you'd like to organize some shooting
clinics or camps, contact me.
I'll be doing some sessions around the country this fall and
winter. I'll also be scheduling Coaches' Trainings at each stop
as much as possible, too. Stay in touch for them.
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