Creating the Perfect Jump Shot From #MakeShots Players

Those of you who have read my thoughts on shooting know that in #MakeShots training I don’t try to get all players to shoot the same way. My goal isn’t to turn their shot into the same perfect jump shot, but instead, to create the best version of their shot that we can.

But….if I could create a perfect jump shot, based only on players that I’ve been able to train in a 1-on-1 setting, here are the shot elements I’d use and the players I’d use them from. Although I could list dozens, I stuck with 11 of the most important shot characteristics. We know how much of shooting is mental, so I couldn’t leave that aspect out.

IMG_1879.jpg1. BalanceAlly VanTimmeren/Jenison – Taking shots from balance and landing to balance takes a lot of mental discipline and focus. Ally faces many double-teams and the attention of defense in games. Yet, she stays true to one of the most important factors in making shots, which is to take shots from balance and land to balance.

2. Leg driveMaddie Petroelje/Hudsonville“Jump through your IMG_2798.jpghips” is something kids hear me say in training. Engage your lower body and sync that drive with your upper body. Maddie has a trademark 1-2 step walk-in for shots that really is an important timing mechanism that helped her to shoot an amazing 40% from “3” as a freshman.

3. Shooting Pocket to ReleaseJillian Brown/EGR Putting the ball into a consistent shooting pocket and moving it in a straight path through the shooting tunnel to release is vital to making shots. Jillian pockets it in the same spot time after time. That’s because of the number of practice reps she’s taken. It’s a high shooting pocket which allows her to get it off when tightly contested and in-rhythm off the bounce. Her shooting move is simple and repeatable, which is why she makes it so often. IMG_1092.jpg

4. Elbow Under/Elbow Height at FinishMeagan Tucker/Howell – Creating at least 45 IMG_5678.jpgdegrees of arc is vital so the ball “sees” as much of the hoop as possible. To do that, the elbow needs to get vertical under the ball, not behind the ball, at the “2” spot of shooting. Meagan only gets her elbow there at that spot of her shot, but also consistently gets her elbow above her eye line. If gives her a true “up not out” shooting motion.

IMG_8742.jpg5. Guide Hand ImpactEthan McConnon/NorthPointe – NBA Shooting Coach Dave Love is my go-to guy for guide-hand impact on shooting. He talks a lot about when the guide-hand should come off the ball and how minimizing that impact allows for shots to be more accurate. Ethan has a classic guide-hand finish. It’s truly a flat left-hand, with 5 fingers to the ceiling, and no pushing from his thumb to impact spin.IMG_1544.jpg

6. Arc AngleTommy Gregwer/GrandvilleCreating a consistent arc angle is really hard for players due to defensive pressure, taking shots from various positions/angles, and the power/accuracy needed. Tommy’s great mechanics allow him to shoot the ball right in that 45-degree range over and over. It’s a big reason why he is such a great shooter.

7. Shooting-Hand AlignmentAvery Zeinstra/Byron Center IMG_2986.jpgThe first shooting workout I had with Avery I told her she had a “hall-of-fame right hand” at her finish. Where the shooting hand finishes just after release is a true indication of all the other components of the shooting process. When you see Avery’s right-hand placement at the finish, with a true rim-grab, it’s obvious why she led the state of Michigan in 3-point shooting as a freshman.

8. #WeHoldFinishesAlli Carlson/EGR“FINISH YOUR SHOT” or “SHOOT THE LAST 10%” are things kids hear me say in training all the time. Holding your shooting hand online at finish is a great way to make sure you’ve completed the shooting process and self-assess your shot. Alli IMG_3028.pngCarlson has made this a consistent part of her shot. It helped Alli doubled the amount of 3’s she made from her freshman year to her sophomore year and increased her percentage to 35%. In #MakeShots, #WeHoldFinishes.

9. Ball RotationStone Smeenge/HudsonvilleThe way the ball spins through the air tells a shooting coach a lot about the player’s shot. Stone worked really hard on his jumper between his sophomore IMG_6181.jpgand junior year. A result of that work is really good rotation both in the number of spins and the top over bottom rotation. It comes from how strong the snap is in his right-hand finish.

10. Shooter’s IQ/Understanding Their ShotJillian Brown/EGRI think all players need to become a “student of their shot.” They need to know what their common make is and why it goes in. They should know what their common miss is, what likely makes that happen, and how to counter that miss. To do that, you need to be a bit obsessive about the game and your shot. That’s exactly what Jillian Brown is. She studies her shot like she studies all aspects of the game. Jillian is constantly asking about parts of her shot, what she feels, and making necessary adjustments. 

 11. Shooter’s Mentality/Swag/ConfidenceMax Perez/Hudsonville – Shooters are mental. Plain and simple. They can be superstitious and a roller-coaster of emotions. The best shooters need to have unwavering confidence in their shot. Whether they make 10 in a row or miss 10 in a row, they need to KNOW the next one is going in. It’s not going in by chance, but because they’ve EARNED the right for it to go in based on the hundreds of thousands of shots they’ve taken when no one is watching. That’s exactly the way Max Perez thinks and why I want him to take shots at the end of games due to his mentality.

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I believe every shooter has strengths in their shot. They have trademarks or memorable pieces that stand out. When I think of the players listed and why their shots go in, these are the shot elements I think of for each of them. 

If you put all of these pieces together, you’d have a hall-of-fame level jumper.

 

 

 

 

10 Things I Learned in 6 Months as a High School Shooting Coach

  1. Kids have a great work ethic

A lot of kids WANT to work. They are determined to get better. The drive and motivation in kids to work hasn’t changed, the way adults expect or interact with them has. Maddie, Jillian, Trevor, Emma, Alli, Andrew, Brooke, and Tommy have a burning desire to improve and are willing to put in the work to do it. One of the reasons I got out of high school coaching was that I sometimes felt like I wanted success more than the players did. I NEVER questioned that with these 8. Their desire matched my desire and that was a big reason I greatly enjoyed our workouts.

  1. This role was very rewarding

I know that being in the gym impacting kids is part of my calling. I loved training hundreds of kids last year from September-February. But to focus 99% of my time on these 8, truly allowed us to take part of their basketball journey together. Seeing their highs and lows, being there to support, inspire, and cheer, while getting to know each of them personally, was so rewarding. I loved the film work, as I analyzed every single shot every single one of my high school kids took in every game. I charted it, scored the quality of the shot, assigned it feedback, and divided it by the type of make/miss from the type of position on the floor. That part of in-depth analysis and then giving advice on how to improve was very rewarding and intriguing to me. What I hope this role when I developed the program was truly what it became.

  1. Pressure on today’s high profile high school athletes is high

College scholarship offers at an early age. Scouting services ranking your every game. Some kids are trying to get into the starting lineup. Others working to make a certain AAU team. Every move you make, shot you take, and interaction you have can be captured on social media. It’s a lot of pressure, both self-imposed, from those in basketball circles and beyond. You can see and feel that pressure when working with these kids. I wrote a letter to each of them sharing 5 things I learned about them during this process. Much of the content of those letters were not even about basketball, but how they can take all of those pressures, work, demands, and expectations and turn it into life success. 

  1. Parents approach athletics in all different ways

Some parents are very hands-on. They watch game films with kids, attend workouts, keep stats, and are engaged in the entire process. Others are simply fans and supporters. There is a lot in-between those two approaches. There is no right, no wrong, but a lot of different.

  1. I felt like I won/lost 5 games every Tuesday and Friday night

Almost every Tuesday/Friday night I would attend a game that one of my 6 high school kids were playing in. I think I saw 24 or 25 games. As the night went on and parent/player texts came in, it was a roller coaster of emotions. It’s rare to have all 6 of your kids shoot well and all of their teams win on the same night. So it was often excitement for the player who had a good night but empathizing and planning for one who did it. As the varsity coach, I had some amount of control and one game to focus on. As a shooting coach, I had less control and 5 games. I underestimated the emotional roller-coaster every Tuesday and Friday night would be for me.

  1. Being able to select your players/parents is heavenly 

Almost every high-level coach has player challenges, parent drama, team chemistry issues, or trouble with their administration. In my 18 varsity seasons, even in the best years and in great programs/communities, I usually had some situation of some kind to deal with. Players applied for this shooting coach program. I got to hand-pick the players and parents. I only worked with players who I wanted to work with and parents I wanted to be around. I’ve never had the luxury of cutting down to a handful and it certainly made the work more enjoyable. I was surrounded by kids that wanted to succeed as much as I wanted it for them. This program requires you to be almost obsessive about the game, which is exactly what I am. 

  1. I took on too much

The experience was great. The kids were awesome. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I hoped that what I had mapped out would be what it was like in real-life application.  I originally thought 5 was the right number and it probably is. 8 was too many. I had one weekend off in 6 months and that was Christmas. I worked 40 weekend days during that time frame.  In September/October, it was 16 individual workouts a week, which when you combine drive, planning, and data collection is about 25 extra hours a week. In-season, the 8 hours of workouts each week had to be on weekends because kids have practice/games on weekdays. Working at least 10 hours every weekend from December-February was a lot. There was game attendance every Tuesday and Friday night and about 2 hours per player of film work and analysis each week.  I don’t like to glorify busy, but all of that was a lot. 234 total sessions with players. Didn’t miss one for illness. That was a lot of time away from my family, friends, and hobbies. I love the program and believe in it, but 5 or maybe 6 is the right number and if I do it again, I’ll need to cap it at that and make some overall adjustments, which may include some partnerships and not everything being individual.

  1. I will get better at this / Motivating and supporting a player out of a shooting slump isn’t one size fits all – Not every player needs the same thing when they are struggling. Some of their challenges were mental/confidence, others were physical/mechanics, or it was even health/injury related. Supporting kids out of those times wasn’t easy and there isn’t a road map. Some of the 8 kids I worked with wanted to go 100 mph every session. Other times, they were sore, banged up, or tired. I tried to always ask them how they were feeling that day and what they wanted to work on instead of just what I had planned. That gave them more ownership and let them know that I cared about how they were doing and not just getting to work. Sometimes I was more successful than others. The better I got to know them, the more I could help. The better our relationship and trust was, the more we grew. I am consistently reading, watching, and attending things that grow me as a shooting coach. I estimate that I’ve watched over hundreds of thousands of shots in person or on film. That will be over a million in the near future. The more I learn and grow, the better I will get, and the better shooting coach I will become. As I do this specific job more and more, I know I’ll get better and better.
  2.  Hard work pays off, usually

I’ve been around some of these players for nearly 2 years. Some had success far and beyond what they set their goals to. I didn’t do enough to help other players reach their goals. Those who fell short certainly weren’t due to a lack of hard work. So many variables can impact you making shots in games and my support helped some achieve well-beyond their goals and in other instances we fell short.

  1. It’s time to take #MakeShots to a new level

I’ve stumbled upon a very good thing. I’m positively impacting the basketball careers of kids at all different ages. This is just the beginning. Big plans are in store for #MakeShots in the near and distant future. I know it’s in God’s hands and I fully trust him. Where this might go next is beyond me and I’m ready for the ride.