Have you ever been in the gym for shooting practice and you can’t make a thing? All your shot mechanics feel off. You’ve tried adjusting your form and reset with some free throws. Still, nothing is going in.
How do you overcome that block and get your shot back on the right track?
If you’ve ever played golf, you may have heard of “swing thoughts.” These are small phrases golfers keep in mind during their swing. Each one is created for the individual to help them have solid form. This same technique can also be used by basketball athletes looking to keep their shots smooth. Consider creating a list of “shot thoughts.”
The Benefit of Shot Thoughts
The mechanics of a basketball shot are complicated and can vary wildly from athlete to athlete. Often it is a combination of problems that are throwing your shot out of whack, one problem causing a domino effect on your form. Having a few shot thoughts can help you identify the largest and most disruptive problems quickly and help you sort them out right away.
Develop your shot thoughts in partnership with your coach. It can be easier to train independently since you have created a clear checklist of issues that may crop up. You can become a better basketball player as you learn to identify the problems on your own and self-correct.
What Makes a Good Shot Thought
The key when it comes to shot thoughts is to keep it short and simple. You don’t want to overwhelm your brain and cause yourself to overthink. You want to create quick touchstones that keep you on track. Everything should be as fluid, natural, and relaxed as possible.
Tailor your shot thoughts to your form and be specific. Instead of something vague like “follow-through,” you can give a short but specific example, like “[reach] into the cookie jar” or “relaxed, floppy wrist.” It can also help to have them listed sequentially as your progress through your shot.
Focus on what you need to do to improve, not what you are doing wrong. This keeps you focused on something productive in your shot instead of trying to avoid a bad habit.
Don’t get lost in the details. Focus on the bigger components of your shot that give you problems, and trust that the others will fall into place as you smooth out your form.
How to Create Your Shot Thought
First, work with a coach to break down what is and isn’t working for your shot. Identify how your shot changes when you’re under pressure. These are all moments when form tends to break down and can help identify your focus points.
Next, create your list of 2-4 “shot thoughts.” Focus on key moments in your shot. These are typically technical cues, like “elbow in” or “catch in triple threat,” but could also focus on shot rhythm, external factors, or a physical cue. My most recent list of shot thoughts is: wrist cocked, drive the elbow, finish high.
Test them out. Have someone rebound for you and spend 10-15 minutes taking fluid shots around the court. When you miss a shot, analyze what felt wrong and choose one of your shot thoughts to keep in mind for the next rep. Maybe keep one in mind for ten straight shots. Or switch it up based on how your form is flowing. The key is to use your shot thought as a reminder of a positive action to take in your next shot.
Adjust as needed. As you iron out different problems with your shot, your shot thoughts will inevitably change. Some you might need only for a week, some may come and go throughout the season and some you might keep forever. For some players, it might be better to do less thinking while shooting. Know what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to try out a new technique.
Overall, shot thoughts are a great way to self-correct when struggling with your basketball shot and quickly refocus on positive change. So the next time you’re in the gym, it’ll all be nothing but net.