Improving Your Free Throw Shooting

Free Throw

"If it's going to be, it's up to me!" - George Raveling

Free throw shooting is an individual effort. Coaches can provide guidance, but to become a proficient free throw shooter it is entirely up to you. However, to be effective free throw practice must have purpose and objectives. Just don't go to the line and shoot. Remember "It's not the number of hours you put in, it is what you put into the hours that count."

Here are a couple of free throw exercises to use in practicing and improving your free throw shooting. Be sure to employ the proper mechanics along with your specific routine and rhythm on every shot. Have fun!


Prerequisite Drill - "Five Spots or Twenty-Five"

Five Spot Shooting Drill

Before practicing free throws, it is best to double check to make sure your release and follow throw is perfect along with building your confidence to make twenty five(25) shots in a row. Standing directly in front of the basket, make five(5) shots in a row. Move to the side of the basket just below the block, and make five(5) more consecutive shots. Go across the lane and make five(5) consecutive shots. Then move up to the first hashmark on the free throw lane line and make five(5) more in a row. Move across the free throw lane to the opposite hashmark and finish by making five(5) consecutive shots.

Note: Any time you miss a shot you must start over. The drill is to make Twenty-five (25) shots in a row. Once you accomplish this your release and follow through will be correct and you are ready to start your free throw shooting practice in earnest.

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Progressive Free Throw Shooting

Progressive Free Throw Drill

Rotate around the gym using six baskets. Start by making a single free throw at the first basket. Then move to the second basket and shoot until you make two free throws in a row. Move to the third basket and shoot until you make four in a row. This progressive rotation continues making six in a row, then eight in a row, and finally making ten in row at the last basket.

For a shorter rotation start by making two in a row, then four in a row, then six in a row, and finish with 10 in a row.

For younger players just make 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 free throws (not consecutive).

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Freeze Out or Hot Spot

Hot Spot Free Throw Drill

Freeze Out is a fun game with players rotating on free throw line with the object of staying in the game. Players align on the lane lines and rotate clockwise. Each player goes to the line and gets one free throw. If it is successful you stay in game and next shooter goes to line. However, if the attempt is unsuccessful that you step off to the side on the "HOT SPOT" and watch the next shooter. If the next shooter makes their free throw, you are out of the game. However, if the next shooter misses their free throw attempt, they go to the "HOT SPOT" and you get back into the game. Competition continues until only one player is left.

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Crazy Eight Competition

Crazy Eight Free Throw Drill

This challenging and exciting free throw game builds you confidence to make free throws under pressure. The object of the game is not get points. Once a player accumulates a total of eight points, they are out of the game. Points are awarded only on missed free throws. The point total will vary according to how many free throws were made prior to a miss. A made free throw puts "points on the board." Once a player misses a free throw they get the total number of points on the board, and the number of points on the board goes back to zero.

When each player goes to the line, they have the option of shooting as many free throws as they desire. However, if they miss, they will receive with the number of points on the board including the ones they added. The challenge is to make as many free throws as possible, then step off putting pressure on the next shooter. Any time the points on the board reaches eight, the next player to miss is out of the game.

Example of Scoring: First player makes one free throw and steps off (one point is now on the board). The second player steps to the line and makes three free throws in a row before stepping off (four points are now on the board). A third player steps to the line and misses the free throw attempt receiving the four points that were are the board.

Give Crazy Eight a try. In addition to having fun, it really improves your confidence and the ability to make free throws under pressure.

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Free Throw Swish

"Swish" works on free throw accuracy. Players go to the free throw line and shoot three shots. A point is awarded for a swished free throw that does not touch the rim. No point is awarded on a made free throw that touches or hits the rim, and a minus one point is given for a missed free throw. A player's score is the sum total awarded for the three shots. If the round is tied, another round of three shots is played until the is broken. The ultimate goal is to score three points (or "Hat Trick"). Each round starts a new game or you can play a pre-determined number of rounds. When shooting alone, the goal is to score hat tricks or three points.

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One-and-One And Run

1-and-1 and Run Free Throw Drill

This exercise combines free throw shooting with conditioning. Go to the free throw line shooting a one-and-one free throw situation. When you make both free throws you get to run. Starting on baseline sprint to half court and then turn and run backwards to opposite baseline. Repeat the process of sprinting and running backward coming back to the original baseline. You only get to run you are successful in making both ends of the one-and-one situation. Drill ends after ten(10) runs.

If you are shooting with a partner(s) you can make the drill competitive. Alternate shooting with each player going to the line with a one-and-one situation. First player to complete ten(10) runs wins.

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"Four Up" - Team Free Throw Shooting

“Four-Up” is a competitive team free throw contest. Players are divided into two teams and alternately aligned around the free throw lane lines. Each player shoots one free throw. Players rotate clockwise after shooting one free throw. Players not shooting rebound.

Scoring: Made Free Throw = +1 Point and a Missed Free Throw = -1 Point.

Cumulative game score is kept by adding or subtracting points according to whether a free throw is made or missed.
Competition continues until one team gets + 4 or Four-Up.

Note: For a quicker game, play “Three –Up.” For large groups divide players up into 6 to 8 players to a basket.

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"Make One" - Team Free Throw Shooting

“Make One” is a team consecutive free throw contest. Players are aligned around the free throw lane lines. Each player shoots one free throw. Players rotate clockwise after shooting one free throw. Players not shooting rebound.

The challenge is for each player must make one free throw. However, they must be consecutive. Anytime a player misses a free throw, the consecutive string is broken and players must start anew.

Note: For 9 to 12 players set a specific consecutive number of free throws made such as 8. For more than 12 players, divide into two groups.

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