Free Throw Drills
by iHoops

The key is to shoot free throws for twenty minutes straight during this drill. Count your makes and misses (i.e. 1-for-1, 1-for-2, 2-for-3, etc), in order to chart your improvement over a period of time.

Shooting Free-Throws Properly

Although a large part of free-throw shooting is based on personal tendencies, a few procedures should be universally followed in order to achieve maximum success.

1. Line the foot that corresponds with your shooting hand--if you're right handed, your left foot--up with the nail that is nailed into the center of every free throw line in every gym. (If you are shooting outside, try to guess where the center of the foul line is.) This guarantees you a level of alignment with the rim, helpful to your overall success. Though there are exceptions to the rule, most great free-throw shooters follow this line of thinking (even if they won't admit it).

2. Fix your eyes on the front of the rim. Do not use the back of the rim, or, even worse, the white square on the backboard as your point of reference. Doing so means that you are looking towards a place on the basket where, if you hit them, you will most probably miss. Whereas, if you aim towards the front of the rim, your mind automatically tells you to shoot the ball at this point with a trajectory conducive to a friendly bounce. And even if you hit the front of the rim, if you have the rotation that you should as a shooter, the ball will roll into the basket.

Keys to Effectiveness
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. If you practice them enough, you will become a good free-throw shooter.

Rebounding Tips
by HoopsVibe

The team that controls the boards wins the majority of their games! Control of the boards reduces the number of shots taken by the opponents and increases the number of shot attempts by the good rebounding team. It also increases the number of fast break opportunities.

Though a great deal of rebounding is dependent on the size of a team, size alone does not result in backboard control. If you work diligently in practice, techniques will be developed that will lead to successful rebounding on both the offensive and defensive boards.

Here are 20 tips to help you improve your rebounding skills:

1. Assume every shot will miss. Even the best professional players only make 50 percent of their shots.
2. Be aggressive. Rebounding is 75 percent desire and 25 percent ability.
3. Know when a shot is taken and from what area of the court it was taken from.
4. On defense, do not watch the flight of the ball. On offense, you should.
5. Know the rebounding characteristics of both rims and the shooter.
6. Find someone to box out.
7. Make contact.
8. Fight for position.
9. Have good leverage and balance. Keep your back straight.
10. Keep your hands up in front of you.
11. Maintain contact.
12. Use your rear-end to "sit on" the other player's knees.
13. It's imperative that the shooter is boxed out. They are usually the only ones with advanced knowledge of where the rebound may go.
14. If you are boxed out, step back, move and break the contact.
15. Rebound the "help side." Over 60 percent of all missed shots go to the opposite side of the shot.
16. Generally, the longer the shot, the longer the rebound.
17. Bank shots usually rebound closer to the basket.
18. Timing your jump is more important than the height of your jump.
19. Tip the ball to a teammate or an open area if you cannot grab it yourself.
20. Protect the ball. Don't stand still or bring it down low where it can be stolen.

Basketball Footwork Tips

Basketball Footwork Tip #1

Quality balance skills in the game of basketball are crucial. By keeping your feet shoulder width apart, you'll get the proper support base you need to stay strong against your opponent.

Keep a good bend at the knees and the waist. Keep your head just above the midpoint between both feet. In this position you have the most physical balance possible.

Basketball Footwork Tip #2

Developing great pivot skills will help you explode into effective offensive moves, as well as get away from a pressuring defender. Stay on the ball of your pivot foot and don't allow it to come off the floor until you dribble, shoot, or pass the ball.

In the post, a good move is the drop step. If you have the ball on the low block and the player guarding you is on the high side (closer to the free throw line), make the foot closest to the foul line your pivot foot and take a strong step with the opposite foot directly toward the basket.

This allows you to seal your opponent on your butt behind you.

In general, if your pivot foot moves and you don't dribble, shoot or pass, it's a violation (traveling), and the ball is awarded to the opponent. A reverse or back pivot is when you turn backwards and when you turn forwards it's called a forward or front pivot

There are many reasons to pivot, including to get open and to give yourself an open shot. If you don't get comfortable performing pivots, you'll never be as effective as your potential says you can be.

Basketball Footwork Tip #3
Quick Pivot

We can't emphasize the need to stay on the balls of your feet. This is be helpful when it comes time to make quick pivots or fast cuts. As you make your move, you'll be able to maintain your balance much better by remaining on the balls of your feet.

Since you have to be on the balls of your feet to move anyway, by playing on them, you will make your move more quickly

Basketball Footwork Tip #4
Positive Footwork

Now we're talking about your "free" foot.

Keep your free foot slightly in front of your pivot foot as you're squaring up so you gain the best position to attack your opponent. If you allow your free foot to end up behind your pivot foot, you'll allow your defender an opportunity to apply pressure and "belly up" to you. This gets you on your back foot and retreating from the basket.

Get this right because once you declare your free foot, that's the only foot you can fake or step with.

How Basketball Players Gain Confidence
By Alan Stein, CCS, CSCS,

If you want to be successful at anything in life, it is important you have a certain level of confidence. You must have confidence in yourself, in your ability, and your preparation. And please note there is a fine line between confidence and being cocky or arrogant. Confidence is crucial to success, cockiness and arrogance can ruin success. Ask any of the best players and they will agree. The best players in the world have a confident swagger about them. They know they can play because they have put in the work.

Confidence is especially critical when it comes to shooting the basketball. If you don't think the ball is going in every time you shoot, then why are you shooting? Ask any good shooter and they will tell you the "next shot is going in." They will tell you this even if they missed their last 10 shots.

How do you get confidence on the court? You prepare. You strength train and condition so fatigue is never a factor. You spend hours a day shooting hundreds of shots. But you don't just go out and shoot; you take game shots, from game spots, at game speed.

"You only feel pressure when you are not prepared."

If you are ever in a shooting slump, go back to the basics, and put in the work. Most shooting slumps are mental; they require a check up from the neck up. If you put in the work on a daily basis, you have to believe in yourself that it will pay off.

Attacking the Full Court Press
From the Coach's Clipboard Basketball Playbook

Full court press defenses try to get turnovers and easy baskets by pressuring, trapping, and harassing the offense. There are several principles and some strategies in beating this pressure.

Stay calm. The press tries to upset you, and make you commit turnovers. Try to be calm and confident that you can beat this. If you make a mistake, you must immediately forget it and stay calm. Otherwise, they may get three more steals from you, like a snowball effect. Do not dwell on what's already happened always think "next play", what is going to happen next. The coach must stay calm too. An upset, angry coach is not what the already rattled players need. In a time-out, the coach must be calm, reassure, re-focus his players, and settle his players down.

Think "attack!" A full court press is always a gamble for the defense. If you think positive, and attack the pressure, you can get an easy lay-up and score. So when you see a press coming at you, ATTACK! Think of it as something to beat, to get an easy score... make 'em pay! We like to attack the press with quick passing as this can get you a 2-on-1 situation and a lay-up. Sometimes you have to beat the press with the dribble, but then you are less likely to get the lay-up. So think pass first.

Three "looks"
When receiving the inbounds pass, catch it and get into triple-threat position facing the defense and look up the floor before immediately starting your dribble.
1. Look up. See the floor. Look up the court. Don't look down at the ball.
2. Look before you pass. Make good, quick safe passes.
3. Look before you dribble. Don't dribble unless you have to. You beat the press by quick, sharp passing usually not dribbling.

Getting the ball in-bounds. Get the ball in quickly, before the defense can set up. Make sure you make a good in-bounds pass. Do not take the ball out from directly under your basket, or your passing lane may be restricted by the backboard. If the other team has just scored, you may "run the baseline". You cannot run the baseline if the ball went out of bounds and the official is handing it to you. You must stay where the ref gives it to you. If the ref doesn't handle it (like after a score), you can use the whole baseline. You can run the baseline after a time-out, if the time-out was called immediately after the opponent scored.

To receive the inbounds pass, the point guard must get open. Too often I see young point guards trying to get open by running away from the defender, which is usually unsuccessful. Instead, our point guard should walk up to the defender, make contact with the defender (get a forearm into the defender) and then "bounce-off" off the defender to get open. If the point guard is being aggressively denied, he/she can walk the defender down almost to the baseline, seal and quickly release long for the over-the-top lob pass. When receiving the inbounds pass, we teach our receiver to get into "triple-threat position" after receiving the pass, rather than just putting the head down and starting to dribble. Getting into triple-threat allows the receiver the "three looks" disussed above, to see the defense, see our receivers, and still have the dribble option.

Avoid "trap areas"... the corners. Don't dribble into one of the trap areas (see below)... back away but keep your dribble alive, or pass off.

If you find yourself in a trap...(1) do not turn your back to the defenders as this allows them to close the gap on you and you cannot see your teammates to pass the ball. Instead, face the defenders, and keep the ball low and moving and keep your body moving using your pivot foot; (2) Stay low and do not stand upright with the ball over your head, as this also allows the defenders to immediately close in on you. If you have your dribble, you can (1) attack the outside leg of one of the defenders and dribble by, or (2) split the double-team by making an aggressive "step-thru" with one leg between the defenders, with head and shoulders bent over forward, cradling and protecting the ball like a football halfback going through the line, and then push the ball out in front of you starting your dribble.

Quick, accurate passing. You must look and find the open man immediately, and make a quick, accurate pass. Avoid soft, lob passes. Passing up the floor, and cutting, are the secrets to beating the press. Look up the floor and anticipate where you will pass the ball, even before you get it. Don't be hesitant to make the long pass up the court. Oftentimes a good point guard can attack the press with the dribble and, before the double-team arrives, make a long pass up the court to an open receiver for a lay-up.

Receivers meet the pass... go to the ball, get open. But keep your spacing. Look for the open spots in the defense. Get open so your teammate can pass to you. Before you even get the ball, look to see where other open teammates are, so you will know where to pass to immediately. When you receive the ball, don't have your back turned. Immediately pivot and face down-court, so you can find an open teammate. Use the whole court and reverse the ball to the opposite side. Keep at least one player on the "weak-side" to reverse the ball to the opposite side of the court.

Have a standard "press break" offense that works for you, so you can immediately recognize the press and yell "press break" to your team. Remember, stay calm, see the floor, pass quickly, make sharp cuts, and "ATTACK!"

Basketball Fundamentals - When you don't have the ball...
From the Coach's Clipboard Basketball Playbook

What do you do when you are on offense but you don't have the ball?

Think about it! Most of the time you will not have possession of the ball. Half of the time you will be on defense. Of the remaining half when your team has the ball, 80% of that time you personally will not have the ball, as one of your teammates will have it. So what do you do when you don't have the ball? Do you simply stand still and wait for someone to pass to you? That's not what wins games. There are things to do when you don't have the ball.

1. Try to get open for an easy pass and shot. Keep moving, not aimlessly, but with a purpose. Be savvy and cut into an open spot on the floor, especially if the defense is in a zone. If the defense is in man-to-man, set screens for other teammates (and not just the person with the ball). Setting picks will free up teammates for easy shots, and oftentimes the screener is the one who gets open for the shot (see Setting Screens and Cutting and Faking).
2. The low post players should constantly be trying to get into a post position, in order to get the pass from the guards. Post players can screen for each other to get free.
3. Maintain spacing on the floor...don't get bunched up. Poor spacing results in bad passes, turnovers and the defense stealing the ball.
4. Never take your eye off the ball. Be smart. Look for a chance to time a cut through the paint, or go "back-door", for a quick pass from a teammate, and a lay-up.
5. Be alert and position yourself for a rebound (see the Rebounding Tips). Assume your teammate will miss the shot, and get into position for a rebound. You'll get extra shots and points this way.
6. Be ready to jump in after loose balls.
7. Guards be aware of the other team trying to slip a guard down floor for an easy lay-up. Be ready to get back and cover this.
8. Be alert to help a teammate if he/she stops the dribble or is in trouble.
9. When the shot goes up, each defensive player must know instantly what his/her assignment is and move quickly for the offensive rebound, and the outlet pass. The offensive players must know who should be attacking for the rebound and who should be "staying back" to prevent the opponent’s fast break. Remember, usually it is not the person initially with the ball who scores. Instead a good pass to you cutting, or coming off a screen, is where the score comes. So work hard on offense when you don't actually have the ball...never loaf!

1. Master the Pull-up Jumper:
Having a great pull up jumper is a great offensive weapon. With a good pull up jumper the defense must honor your dribble penetration and your shooting. The most effective use of a pull up jumper is on a fast break. On a fast break as you dribble down the floor, assess your options down the court. Use the pull up jumper as you get closer to the basket if you notice that your defense is sagging. As you approach the free throw line come to a balanced stop. Come to a jump stop outside the key so you have better passing angles and there is no danger for being called for a three second violation. Gather yourself and direct yourself into your jump shot in a balanced fashion. Do not float forward or to the side. Doing so will cause you to miss your shot. The pull up jumper itself is just like any other shot. Go up balanced, have your eyes on your target, make a good stroke and follow through. When you land make sure you are balanced so you can follow your shot if you miss.

2. Jump Shot:
The jump show is a key skill that every good player must practice every day. It is an essential part to a good offensive skill set. Position the ball on your finger pads with your shooting hand behind and slightly underneath the ball. Your non-shooting hand is the guide hand resting gently on the side of the ball. Focus your eyes on the front of the rim. Make sure your shoulders, hips and feet are square to the basket. Your strong side foot should be slightly in front of the other. Bend your knees to get power for your shot. As you begin to jump bring the ball up to the forehead keeping your shooting arm perpendicular to the ground. Your other arm and hand should continue to balance the ball from the side. As you reach the peak of your jump release the ball extending your elbow, bringing the wrist forward and moving the fingers of the shooting hand up and through the ball. Be sure to follow through as if reaching through the basket.

3. Fundamentals of Free Throws:
Free throws win and lose games. When shooting free throws, establish a routine to help you relax and focus so you shoot with rhythm. Have confidence and visualize yourself making the shot. Most players place their strong side foot slightly in front of the other. Most players have a routine such as taking a few dribbles and a deep breath to relax. Next, bend your knees for power on the shoot and keep your eyes on the front of the rim. To begin the shooting motion, push the ball up keeping your forearm perpendicular to the floor and in front of your cocked wrist. As you extend your legs release the ball by extending your elbow, bringing the wrist forward and moving the fingers of the shooting hand up and through the ball. Follow through as if reaching in to the basket.

4. Chest Pass Fundamentals:
The chest pass is the most basic pass in the game of basketball so it is important for all players to master this skill and practice it often. The chest pass is always thrown with two hands from the passer's chest to the receiver's chest. Begin in the ready position and step towards the target to initiate the pass. Each hand should be on the outside of the ball with your elbows slightly bent behind the ball. After you release the ball follow through with your fingers pointed to the target and your thumbs pointed down. Chest passes should be quick and crisp and get to your teammate quickly. A lazy chest pass will be stolen easily by your defender.

5. Dribbling:
Wizards assistant coach Ryan Saunders showed off some of the drills he uses to help improve dribbling and ball handling skills. Check out the videos to see what it takes to ball like a pro.

Three Ways to Make Nutrition Work for You

By Danny McLarty (CSCS)

You've been working hard on your game. Your handles, your jump shot, your pull-up J -- it's all coming together. That's great, keep at it!

But there's an area of improved performance that most people don't even consider: nutrition.

Eating right will help you perform at your highest. It will help with recovery from tough games, practices, and lifting sessions. Proper nutrition is also HUGE in putting on strength and size. After all, you can't build a bigger house (body) without having enough bricks (calories).

Let's Be Realistic

I'd love to sit here and tell you that I want you to have a few servings of chicken breasts and broccoli everyday. But I'd bet on the Washington Generals winning a title before I'd bet on the chicken breast/broccoli combo happening with any consistency. I mean, I have a difficult enough time getting my adult clients to follow my nutrition advice. There's no way I'm getting a 16-year old that is used to eating fast food, soda, and Twinkies (as their staple), to jump on the lean protein, fruit 'n veggie, healthy carb and healthy fat bandwagon.

With that in mind, it's going to take some work to make this whole nutrition thing work for you, rather than against you. Let's find out how to make it happen.

It Doesn't Have To Taste Bad

When most people think of healthy food, they think of boring, bland and nasty tasting food (i.e. the chicken and broccoli mentioned above). Well I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to be that way. There are many great recipes out there that are both healthy AND tasty. I believe Gourmet Nutrition is the best resource out there that delivers that coveted tasty and healthy combination. At our house, we make meals that come from this cookbook on a weekly basis.

Tip No. 1: Find a way to make healthy foods taste good. It is the only way (for most people) that you are going to stay with it over the long haul.

Parents/Coaches: It's Time To Step Up

Parents are the ones that are bringing the food home. So it is up to them to supply their children with fuel that will contribute to improving their kid's health and performance. It is pretty difficult for the athlete to properly fuel their body when they open their cupboards up to a bunch of chips and other snacks.

And coaches, you have the ability to lead by example. If your athletes see a coach that works out and eats healthy, the chances of him/her following your lead goes way up.

Tip No. 2: Parents and coaches, you have the ability to influence your kids in positive, or negative manner when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. The choice is yours.

Cook In Bulk

This tip is quick and to the point. Teenagers seem to have a bottomless gut! If you cook for just the meal at hand, then you'll be falling behind. With all of the games and practices kids play, they NEED to constantly be eating good quality foods. The easiest and most convenient way to do this is to cook in bulk and store the leftovers for later. This seems like such a simple tip but believe me, this can make or break you nutrition-wise.

Tip No. 3: When cooking, cook for the meal at hand, and make extra for the next few days to come. This will make life so much easier, and increase your chances for "nutrition success."

If eating healthy is just too boring for you, look into the Gourmet Nutrition cookbook. Parents and kids NEED to work together to make the above tips work. Together, you CAN use nutrition to help take your game to the next level!

2 Ways to Maximize Training Time

By Micah Lancaster, Trainer (

Time is a valuable commodity. Unfortunately, not every athlete can afford to spend countless hours in the gym working on their game. While some athletes are blessed with the opportunity to focus on the game of basketball while their parents pay the bills, many players don't have the choice but to have a job in the summer or even work year round.

Either way, whether you have an hour a day to spend in the gym or four hours, the same challenge always remains: how do you get the most out of your time?

Skills and Athleticism

Athleticism is an important part of being a basketball player, and there are many tools, resources, and ways for players to work on quickness, speed, agility, coordination, and jumping. Some players will jump rope, some run a few miles across a hot, sandy beach and others strap a parachute on their back and run with some added resistance.

However, while these methods may help increase overall athleticism, they all require time. Look around you and you will notice many, many players who have used their time for the purpose of being more athletic. The problem is too many have sacrificed the time they needed for skill work, in order to become faster, stronger, and jump higher. The truth is, time must be spent on your skills and your athleticism. That means, for the sake of efficiency, players must find ways to work on both at the same time.

If you want to work on your quickness, speed, and agility without losing out on the reps you need to become a better shooter, ball handler, and skilled player, go out and get an agility ladder. Jump ropes are absolutely necessary for basketball training, but if you are short on time you can't dribble or shoot a basketball while holding onto a jump rope.

A basketball, on the other hand, can be carried through an agility ladder. This provides you with the opportunity to take many shots, from game spots, at game speed, while working on your quickness, balance and overall athleticism. Research some agility ladder footwork, lay one down, carry a basketball through it, and then shoot or drive to the basket. Your workout will immediately become more time efficient and basketball specific.

Free Throws

Let's look at the above question from the perspective of the free throw shot.

Basketball players must take game shots, from game spots, at game speed. They must also learn how to take game free throws. It's not enough to stand at the free-throw line, go through your routine, and just shoot 100 free throws per day. If you never shoot free throws when you are tired, you won't be ready to knock the important foul shots down when you are exhausted in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

That being said, there are many ways to get tired, but not as many ways to get tired in a basketball-efficient manner. Running countless sprints and suicides may be able to take the wind out of your lungs, but what if you only have 15 minutes to practice your foul shots?

Give this a go. First, break up your free throws. It's not realistic to stand at the line and shoot 25 or 50 straight, because the most you will ever shoot in a game is three in a row. Then, add pushups. Shoot two, do five pushups. Shoot three, do five pushups. Shoot two, do five pushups.

As your arms get tired you will have to rely on your legs, which is a great way to simulate the fourth quarter when your legs are needed most.

If you are a little skeptical, think of it this way: when it comes to training efficiently, you don't necessarily want to burn out your legs for free throw practice. After all, you'll need them fresh for the agility ladder.


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