E60: Darius Washington Misses 2 out of 3 <--click here for clip
I remember watching this live and it still pains me to watch it to this day. As a coach, I would never want to see this happen to one of my players. However, the reality is that it could happen to even the best players.
WHAT CAN WE DO AS A COACH?
Prepare, prepare, and prepare our players even more. All we can do is put our players in a position to be successful if put in this situation. Even still, you never know what can happen. Freethrows won us a game this year when we shot over 80% from the line. One of our players hit 12 for 14 during the game single handedly.
However, many coaches have a difficult time working freethrows into practice plans. Of course, when you lose a game by 1 point and realize that your team shot under 50% from the ft line it usually encourages a change. I am always trying to find space for freethrows in my practice plan!
Here are a couple of suggestions if your team is struggling from the line, if you are struggline from the line as a player, or if you just enjoy basketball and want to learn more about freethrow shooting.
FIVE COACHING SUGGESTIONS, IN NO PARTICLAR ORDER, TO IMPROVE TEAM FREETHROW SHOOTING:
1. Teach proper form and technique at the freethrow line.
This may be the most important part of free throw shooting. Are your players following through? Is the elbow in or is it floating? Are they shooting with two hands or one? This all sounds simple, but surprisingly some simple fundamental flaws can cause players to miss freethrows. Fix them!
2. Try to mix in freethrows throughout the entire practice.
Too many coaches have their teams shoot fts only at the end of practice, but never give players an opportunity to shoot Fts in live game situations, after defensive drills, or early in practice. Coaches think it takes too much time. In my opinion, it is time well spent.
Our practice is split up into increments with everything scripted to the minute. We script a 5 minute, 10 minute, and another 10 minute freethrow period in our practices. This can vary from practice to practice and on certain days we might cut one session down or add in another session. You have to know your team to make that decision.
3. Split up 10 minute segments by sprinting in the middle.
We typically shoot 10 freethrows and then sprint for misses. Shoot 10 more fts and then sprint again for misses. This continues until our 10 minute period is complete. Usually we get in around 25-30 fts in 10 minutes. However, the players are sprinting in between each set and it is simulating the way they will feel in a game situation. The more times we can put our players in game situations, the better they will be in the game. At least I think so. This brings me to my next point.
4. Shoot freethrows in game situations.
When we run our press drill early in practice I will blow the whistle and call fouls. I put players at the line with everyone lining up and make them shoot two shots. When we run other drills in practice I'll stop if someone gets fouled and make them take two shots. Again, players feel like it is a game situation and they can say they have been there before. Sometimes we work different situations in practice where a team is down and I'll call a foul at the buzzer to put a player on the line. I understand you may not put every player in this same situation, but at least they will all have an opportunity to experience some type of pressure situation.
5. Don't over coach it though
Yes, you have to teach players proper technique. However, do not over coach the free throw. Even the best players miss freethrows as we saw in the E60 clip. We want to try to prevent that from happening, but also need to be mindful of our players too. No player is shootinig 100%, although it would be nice! I try to stay on players if they are missing, help them set goals, and try to correct any mistakes. At the same time, I do not over coach the players.
These are the suggestions that have worked for me as a coach. However, I have heard many other suggestions that have been equally successful. In the end, just make sure you stress the importance of freethrows and find time to fit them into your practice plan!
Here is live footage of the Darius Washington Jr. game if interested--> Louisville vs. Memphis 2005
And Remember, hard work beats talent, if talent fails to work hard!