Shooting Form, Revisited

In my 2-and-a-half years at Shoot 360, I have been able to observe thousands of shooters. This has caused me to take a step back and think about how we, as coaches, teach shooting form. I think that sometimes we can overload our players with too much technical information. If we believe that there are 20 steps to create the perfect shot, the chances are most players will not be able to handle that much information. This is something I have done in the past. Over the past 3 years, I have simplified my methods of teaching shooting through observing players of all ages shoot the ball. This does not mean that I am right and others are wrong, this simply means that I have found it more effective to simplify rather than complicate. There have been 3 components that the top shooters all do.


Keeping the ball in a consistent shooting pocket is important. This involves good elbow alignment along with a bent wrist. I always tried to get players to keep their elbow directly under the ball, but I now feel as this is dependent on the build of the athlete. Some players simply cannot get in this position comfortably due to the mechanics of their body. The elbow shouldn’t be flared out to the side, but does not need to be directly under the ball.


Using your legs is crucial to developing a soft touch on your shot. Jumping as high as you can is not necessary; you can efficiently use your legs on a set shot. The important part is using your legs to gain momentum for the ball to be released from your hands. It’s more about timing than strength.


The flick of the wrist! Snapping your wrist is vital for proper rotation. When you release the ball, your fingers should end up pointing to the ground.

All this being said, REPETITION is the key to becoming a consistent shooter. Sharpen up your form, then get in the gym and get your shots up.


Encouraging Growth Instead of Winning in Young Athletes

I am in the process of converting some VHS tapes to DVD for my brother and stumbled on some old footage from our track meets when we were younger. I think I was in first or second grade. What I realized was that the events I loved the most were actually the ones I was the worst at. I don’t know when, but at some point during my childhood, I stopped doing the sprints and jumps and focused on the throwing events. Most likely because I had success at the throwing events and usually placed near last on the other events. I feel like this is an attitude that is common in athletics, especially at young ages. We tend to lean towards sports that we are successful at, even if we enjoy other ones more. In my mind, this is a huge negative in how we develop our young athletes.

While I may not have been a track superstar, had I continued to pursue sprinting, it could have helped me develop some sort of athleticism at an earlier age and probably kept me from getting as heavy as I did as a young child. There are also mental effects that come with only choosing successful sports and events. As we come into adulthood, it can be scary to try new things. It took me years to finally attempt photography and videography, things I had been really interested in since high school. It was a fear of how I would be percieved.

As I kept watching, I noticed myself getting slower and slower as the years went on (most likely due to the weight gain). I don’t think there were any outside influences that caused me to quit. Even in high school when my basketball coach encouraged me to become a sprinter to gain speed, it was the fear of losing and not being as good as the other kids that made me turn the offer down. How can we as coaches to young athletes encourage growth over success? Is this something that is fostered through childhood and ingrained in our athletes before we even get to coach them?

The competitive aspect of sports is a huge part of this. I go back and forth on how much and how soon winning should be celebrated. I think keeping score is an important part of understanding how the game is played, but it’s a fine line between encouraging competition and celebrating winning. At a young age, growth should be celebrated more than winning. The advancement of skills should be the victory.


Proverbs 29 and Effective Leadership

The most important piece for a team to reach its full potential is effective leadership. This comes from both coaches and players. I have been intrigued with leadership for the past couple years and learning about what great leaders do and what horrible leaders do. I continually look at my life and see who around my I value as a leader and who I do not. The most effective leaders throughout my life have made me want to accomplish something for their sake, not in regards to my personal gain. The moments in my life when I feel like everything I am doing is for myself causes me not only to reflect on who I am as a person but also who are the leaders that are promoting this selfishness. I love reading books about this topic (if you have any recommendations, please send them my way). However, I think I have come across one of the highest quality lists of leadership in Proverbs 29. Quality leadership is reflected in the attitude of the people. This is usually described as the moral of the team and translated through team chemistry. So how can leaders get people to “rejoice” (29:2)?


(v.15, 17, 21)

Without discipline, there is no standard which we can hold people to. The opposite of this is spoiling and pampering people. This promotes a sense of entitlement and builds characters who resist correction.


(v. 4, 14, 16, 18)

Justice and fairness provide stability within the team. This makes leadership consistent and constant. With favoritism, leaders will face pushback from people who recognize it.


(v. 12, 23)

This could also be seen as the lack of pride. Being able to humble yourself and recognize that even though you are the leader, you do not have all the answers allows your team to see that you value them. Letting go of pride when you are confused as to what to do builds trust and support for the leadership. An arrogant leader will not have lasting success. A humble leader will admit and acknowledge their faults.


(v. 5)

Sometimes the things that need to be said are the hardest things to say. However, being honest with criticism is more respected that lying to flatter someone.


What I Have Learned in 8 Years of Coaching

Eight years of coaching hoops has come and gone quickly! Not a day goes by that I am not jealous of my players. The thrill of suiting up in your school jersey and taking the court to compete against another team is like nothing else. I truly enjoy coaching, but I grew up wanting to be a player before I started coaching. Playing is always more desirable. However, coaching has been more educational for me. I have spent 6 years as an assistant (1 of those a JV head coach in addition) and 2 years as a head coach. I have been a part of 2 league title teams and 3 last place finishers. My teams have lost close games, won close games, been blown out, and blown out teams. I have gone to bed happy with the job I did, but have spent more nights replaying situations and thinking about what I SHOULD have done. Through experience and being surrounded by great people, I have learned significantly more about the game than I originally knew when I began coaching in 2007.

The most important thing that I have learned is that players are people. In fact, they are young people. They will make mistakes, they will lack energy on certain days, and they will take things personally. People all have their unique things about them that cause different types of reactions. Just because kids play basketball does not somehow eliminate their limitations caused by being human. For the longest time, I thought I needed to demand perfection out of them. One mistake was one too many.

There is definitely an importance to getting the most out of your players. But, as in life, mistakes will happen and failure will occur. In life, I have been told that through failure we find success. Thus, my mindframe has shifted from being negative towards failure to accepting faults as a means to encourage growth. One of my most concerned efforts to improve in my craft is to take away as many “don’t do” coaching cues as I can. Rather than tell players what not to do, I want to be able to give them a solution to encourage growth as opposed to discourage failure.

Turnovers will happen. Bad shots will be taken. There is nothing a coach can do to fully eliminate them. In order to develop my players, I must first understand they are people with a desire to do great things only to be limited because they are human. This is what eight years of coaching has shown me.

I guess I still have a lot more to learn.


Setback, or opportunity?

I recently received an email from my church that the class my wife and I had signed up for had been canceled due to lack of interest. Apparently, they have a minimum need of 10 people to sign up. While I understand the policy, I question why so many people pass up this opportunity to study and gain more knowledge in a subject they are obviously interested in? Westside A Jesus Church is not a small place. There are four services and each are highly populated. What kind of opportunities are you being given that you are not taking advantage of?

Many times in athletics, we have opportunities that we fail to recognize. In fact, we see them as setbacks. A personal example that I have (and that I see year after year) is being a Junior on the JV team. This can be hard, because players typically advance from Freshman team to JV team then to the varsity team as a Junior. My first reaction was that it was a huge setback and I was getting left behind. Years later, I was able to reflect and realize that I was given the opportunity to play in games more than I would have at the Varsity level, which allowed me to grow as a player.

There is always opportunity to grow in whatever situation you are in. If you feel like something is a setback, find the opportunity in it.



Being Coachable - - Respond AND React

There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. - Matthew 21:28-31

I can remember first hearing about what being coachable is from former Willamette University head coach Gordie James. He said that being coachable was not about saying “yes, coach” or telling the coach all the right things and having a good attitude. While those traits may in fact be good, they may also be a front. Being coachable is about taking correction from a coach and applying it, whether that be on the court or off.

Look at the two sons in Jesus’ parable. One says, “I will not.” A stern answer, a blatant refusal to follow directions. The other says, “I will, sir.” A response of submission along with addressing his dad with a respectful name. If the story stops here, it would be obvious which son was more coachable. But as we look deeper, the one who refuses at first ends up following his dad’s direction. The son who appeared to be respectful ends up insulting his dad by refusing to follow up on his word.

Being coachable requires actions in addition to a response. Coachable players will find their game improving throughout the season. The more players on a team that are coachable, the closer that team will get to reach its full potential. Remember that your coach only wants to help you improve when he is giving you advice. His goal is not to make you feel bad or inadequate, but to give you the tools to become the best player you can be.



Screen Time and Your Lack of Focus

“To watch television as a default would be to waste our many gifts.” - Tsh Oxenreider  

The above quote might use television as an example, but I think this quote relates to overall screen time, including phones, Ipads, and television. The screen has become the default activity for society, and is even more of a problem with youth. While smart phones may seem to only distract the individual for the time being, the lasting effect is real.

Abundant screen time can lead to attention deficit, lack of physical motivation, and, worst of all, stupidity (the last one is based off of observation and personal experience). About a year and a half ago, I got rid of my smartphone (and social media) and came back to the flip phone. It was one of the best decisions I have made in recent years. This caused me to talk to people face-to-face and engage in situations I would usually hide behind my phone in. It also encouraged me to explore new hobbies and activities.

As an athlete, screen time can be a huge hindrance on your development. Hobbies such as TV and video games, if abused, can deflate your goals. Abusing your phone can lead to mental distractions. I see a lot of players who are attached to their phone, on it before practice, and reaching for it first thing after. That means that in the 2 hours of practice, their mind was on something other than basketball.

I think technology has provided us with many great opportunities. However, we all need to be cautious as to the amount of time and attention it can take away from us. It’s easy to notice the time, but the lasting effects are the ways it distracts our mind in what we are doing currently doing.

Shot Selection - - The IQ Series

There are so many aspects to shot selection. I think I will be moved to write about different scenarios as the season continues. I am tentatively considering this to be part one. End of game situations can be difficult for players to understand. Most coaches use the term “time and score” to communicate the importance of recognize the end of a highly contested game. One of the hardest things to learn is how to play at the end of the game with a narrow lead.

Different coaches have different philosophies about remaining aggressive versus killing the clock. There is a fine line between being extra patient as the game winds down and causing players to tighten up and make mistakes in their attempt not to lose the lead.

There are some general guidelines that I think players can play by. Let’s say, for example, you are up by 4 with 2 minutes left in the game.

No contested jumpers/transition jumpers

Contested jump shots are usually not a coaches favorite shot at any point in the game, let alone at the end of a tight game. Shooting a contested jumper can lead to a long rebound, which also leads to a transition opportunity. This also is a low percentage shot, most likely allowing the other team to have the ball without having time run off the clock.

Always take the layup

An open layup is the highest percentage shot in the game. Adding two points extends your lead. Even though time may not come off the clock, you have now required your opponent to need an extra possession to tie the game.

Understand what you need

Being up by 4 points does not require your team to shoot a three. I think there are very few players in high school basketball that would be encouraged to shoot a three, regardless of how open they are, in this given situation. Again, different coaches have different philosophies. But players should understand that with 2 minutes left, the defense will probably become more aggressive. Offensively, you can take advantage of that by penetrating and by cutting if you are off the ball.