One of the more frustrating myths in basketball–especially at the youth level– is that shooting free throws is easy. The MOST frustrating myth at the youth level is that Lay-Ups are easy.
We might be able to argue that free throws and lay-ups are missed so frequently because the players are told that these shots are easy.
Two things happen when a player is told that a shot is easy.
1) They won’t practice them as seriously or as regularly as they should. And why should they? If something is easy there is no reason to practice it that often or with that much attention to detail. By definition something easy can be done by anyone and without practice. Because it’s easy.
Free throws are simple. NOT easy. We have confused simple with easy.
2) If a player is convinced a shot is easy and is not making the shot regularly then what does that say about the player? What does this force the player to think about himself or herself? The conclusion must be that the player is bad or even awful! After all…it’s an easy shot!
What is needed is to flip the script. To be honest. Free throws are NOT easy! Free throws are difficult. Lay-ups are NOT easy! Lay-ups are challenging. If we change the premise we also change the conclusion. What used to be–with the old premise–the idea that free throws and lay-ups are easy therefore if I miss them I’m no good and can’t even do something easy becomes–with the new premise–that free throws and lay-ups are challenging therefore if I miss them I need to practice them better and more frequently. Because they are challenging.
Think of all the things that have to go right when approaching the basket for a lay-up. Better make sure your foot planted properly, that your knee or ankle doesn’t buckle, that your waist doesn’t get turned at a bad angle, that your arm comes up perfectly with the momentum you created with your lower body, that you have a good grip on the ball, that it leaves your fingertips just as you wanted it to. From foot to fingertip there are dozens of thinks that can go wrong in any given shot. If just one of those things is slightly off the so-called easy shot becomes that much more challenging. Every basketball player has had this happen to them.
Proper practice will take care of most of those issues but even “millionaire” NBA players miss free throws and, yes, even lay-ups. Because they are challenging shots.
The most over-looked aspect of shooting is just how fatigued and sore a player might be during a game. Basketball is a physical game. When shooting a free throw a player may have all kinds of bumps and bruises to deal with. May have just gotten hit hard with an elbow in the shooting arm or–as in the video above–gotten hit somewhere very…uncomfortable.
Flip the script. Free throws are challenging. Lay-ups are difficult. The rest is commentary. Now go and practice.