Foul Shooting tends to be one of the highlight statistics that is mentioned by every coach following a game. The importance of foul shooting is highlighted further if a team is involved in a tight loss in which the team’s percentage of made shots is below what is set as the expectation is. The foul shot is often viewed as an “easier” shot because it provides a player with an uncontested, stationary shooting opportunity from close range. Therefore missing a foul shot is often attributed to poor concentration rather than being a deficiency in the players technical skills.
The best place to start with regards to improving concentration of a player is to assess their technical foul shooting performance. Foul shooting is an abstract situation in the multi-directional high-speed sport of basketball. Players will struggle in this situation for no other reason than it is a difference tempo and feeling to all other environmental aspects of the game. Therefore, a coach should start by looking at the performance of the foul shooting action individually with a player. A player should be viewed performing the skill individually, in a one on one situation, not just as part of putting up multiple foul shots during practice as a cool-down activity.
When viewing a players foul shooting one on one a coach can provide a great deal of feedback to the individual specifically correcting their technique and skills. During this time, a coach should also be looking to identify flawed habits that might feature in a players foul shooting. A coach can then provide direction to a player about how to eliminate these actions from the individual foul shooting technique. In turn, this will lead to a coach providing feedback to a player on how to self-coach when shooting from the foul line. This is a very important aspect as is a pivotal strategy for a player in improving a form-shooting situation like foul shooting. This is because once a player starts to develop some of the same awareness as a coach; they can then start to become more dynamic by altering their performance issues in real time during games. For example, when a player is foul shooting and their shot hits the front of the basketball rim, they might self-coach by saying to themselves that they need to generate more power from their legs, which in turn extends the distance the shot and the ball will travel further to the basket.
One of the more common techniques used to improve concentration when foul shooting is for players to develop a “ritual” when preparing to take the shot. By ritual we mean they have a predetermined series of movements they perform to help them focus on the task at hand. For example, a player might start their preparation at the top of the keyway by pausing to focus on the target and then move to the foul line before receiving the ball from the official. They then might continue their preparation by dribbling the ball three times before taking up their shooting stance and performing the shot. The point behind developing a ritual is it is a deliberate process that a player goes through to centre their focus. It is a physical process to trigger a mental response of heightened attention and eventually improve concentration.
Another option for improving concentration is to provide players with a mental preparation technique like visualising the foul shooting situation prior to physically performing the act. This strategy can be undertaken prior to walking into the key (as mentioned earlier when a player pauses at the top of the key) or performed once the player has received the ball from the official and is in their shooting stance. The visualisation is only a quick mental rehearsal of the foul shooting technique, but always with a successful outcome (the foul shot going in).
Improving concentration can mean different things to different players. Each player is an individual and it is best to discuss with them as a starting point some of the techniques and strategies highlighted here to start the conversation moving about what can be done to improve their foul shooting.