The "3 C's"
The Key to Successful Free Throw Shooting

Improving Your Free Throw Shooting


Consistency, Concentration, Confidence




Free Throw shots are unique in that the shooter has complete control of the shot. Free throws are shot from the same spot and distance from the basket with no defense to worry about. The shooter also has the choice of the type of shot to shoot. Since free throws account for approximately 25% of scoring, and a single free throw can make the difference in winning or losing, the ability to shoot free throws should be taken very seriously.

Shooting a free throw is a simple, single, action consisting of a minimum of moving parts with consistency, concentration and confidence playing important roles. Once the smooth, repetitive action of a free throw is learned and acquired, it becomes a natural reflex that is seldom lost. In fact, you will be able to make free throws with your eyes closed.

| Consistency | Concentration | Confidence | Common Errors | Drills | Marksman Club |


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Similar to golf swing, a free throw is a single, fluid motion. Proper free throw mechanics include stance, finger grip, wrist and elbow position, eyes focused on target with a straight release and follow through. During the season you can refine and improve your free throw technique, but do not ever experiment or change it. Any major changes in free throw technique or style should be made during the off season.

Proper Shooting Mechanics

A free throw shot is a single motion. However, like a golf swing, it can be broken down into its parts for analysis and practice. Keep it simple. You want to eliminate as much motion as possible. The less amount of moving parts, the less chance of error.

Step One Assume a Comfortable Stance

For right hand shooters, the right foot points directly at the middle of the basket with the left foot to the side and slightly behind. Line up directly in line with the center of the rim using the "nail hole" use for the free throw circle as a guide. Lean slightly forward on your toes with weight off your heels. Do not stand flat footed.

Knees are slightly bent. Control the distance of the shot with knee bend. The longer the shot, the greater the knee bend. However, to achieve a soft shot and with minimal movements, try to keep the knee bend to a minimum.

Step Two Finger Tip Grip

Hold the ball high using your finger tips as if it is very fragile. There should be space between the ball and your palm. The palm of your hand never touches the ball. You are not shot putting the ball to the rim. Hand should be balance on ball with middle finger pointing at valve core on or parallel to seams.

Hold the off hand, with thumb spread, to the side with only the finger tips touching the ball. Both thumbs should form the letter "T."

Step One Wrist and Elbow

The elbow of your shooting hand should be directly under the ball with wrist cocked backward. Having the wrist back will create wrinkles.

Free Throw Wrist Cocked

Wrist, forearm and elbow should form the letter "U" not the letter "V." This will create the proper arc and backspin on the ball.

Step One Eyes and Target

The target is the center or back of rim. Align and shoot at your target the same way an expert marksman shoots at target on the rifle range. Using the back or center of the rim will allow for error. If you shot the ball long or short, it still has a good chance of going into the basket. When you use the front of the rim as a target, if you shoot short, the ball has no chance of going into the basket.

Keep your eyes focused on the target throughout the shot. Do not peek or watch the ball. If you take your eyes off the target to watch the flight of the ball you will usually miss the shot.

Step One Release and Follow Through

Shoot the ball by extending your shooting arm with the flick of the wrist using a smooth, soft, fluid motion. Never jerky. The ball should roll off your finger tips. The softer the shot the more chance it has to go into the basket. Shoot the ball in an arc with the highest point approximately four feet above the basket.

Free Throw Wrist Cocked

On the follow through, the shooting arm should be extended until the ball is in the basket. Also, shoot the ball in a straight line by keeping your arm aligned directly with center of the basket. The hand finishes in a wrist flexed "Goose Neck" position with index finger pointing to the center of the basket.


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Single Motion


Shoot the same shot every time. Establish a set route and use it every time you step to the line. When shooting a free throw take a deep breath (to relax) and focus all of your attention on making the free throw. You should have a mental picture clearly in your mind, and should not be detracted.


Free Throw Concentration


When shooting a free throw, you must focus totally on making the shot and blocking out any distractions such as crowd noise, opponent "trash" talk, teammates' encouragements, or end of game pressure.

Establish a set routine and take your time, You have 10 seconds to shoot, so do not rush. Create your own routine. Do not copy someone else's routine or ever change it during the season. However, you may refine it. Whenever, you shoot a free throw in a game or in practice, concentrate on your routine and rhythm visualizing the shot and the ball going through the basket.

Do Not Have Multiple Thoughts

Successful free throw shooting, like a golf swing, requires just a single thought. Stay focus on making the shot, closing out all other distractions and thoughts. Focus on what you want to happen. "As you think, so shall you be." When you go to the line focus on the single thought of making the shot.

Take a Deep Breath and Relax.

Taking a deep breath is one thing all great free throws shooters have in common. Taking a deep breath will allow you to totally concentrate on the shot. Keep your eyes on the target focusing on the center or the back of rim.

A free throw shot is a nice, smooth, fluid motion. It may be helpful in initiating your shot action and rhythm to use a "Trigger" saying or mantra, such as "Up and In" or "Smooth and Easy" or "Nothing but net" etc.

Prevention of Icing

When opponents take a timeout in attempt to iced you, it just allows you more time to rest and recover which is important at the end of closing fought game. Since your free throw does not start until you bounce the ball, all the opponents will be doing is wasting their precious time outs.

You might also follow the sound advice of Tom Amberry, who once held the world's record for consecutive free throw at 2,750, of beginning your free throw by bouncing the ball twice looking at the valve core. In looking at the valve core, it will trigger your concentration, proper mechanics and rhythm closing out all other thoughts and distractions.

Improve Every Day

Prepare for the best and never stop improving. The moment you stop improving your career starts to die. Make it a daily goal to improve. Remember, that small improvements always add up to a huge improvement.


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Confidence and success


Confidence is built upon success. Success at the free throw line is a result of the first two "C's." If you use the correct technique, and concentrate on every free throw, then you will become very confident in your ability to make free throws, especially crucial game winners. As a result, your opponent's will not want to foul you.

It is critical that you have complete confidence in making the free throw. Any weight lifter will tell you, before you can lift the weight, you have to think you can. The same is true with free throwing. You must think you can make, before you will make it. If you are not sure, you are more than likely going to miss it.

Success free throws are a direct the result of consistency and concentration. If you have proper mechanics, along with a sound routine and rhythm, you will be successful. However, how successful is dependent on the amount of time and effort you are willing to put into practicing free throws. Free throw shooting practice is like a bank. If you put a nickel in, you will only get a nickel out.

If you happen to miss a free throw, don't fret about it. A missed free throw only increases the percentage and chance success in making the next one!

If you experience free throw shooting problems, you are more than likely to get well meaning, but often times detrimental, advice from unqualified coaches, players, parents, and bystanders, However, free throw shooting is primarily an individual effort. Just go back, focus, and practice the proper mechanics. Success and confidence will follow.

Consecutive Free Throws Records

1. What is most free throws in a row that you have made?

2. What is the world's record for consecutive free throws?

3. What is the consecutive free throw record for shooting blind folded?

Learn More    Consecutive Free Throw Trivia Quiz


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Common Errors to Avoid

Poor free throw shooting percentages are mainly the result of improper mechanics. However, not focusing and concentrating entirely on making the shot can spoil good free throw form and technique.

  1. Unsure or not confident about making the shot. Probably going to miss.

  2. Being distracted or having multiple thoughts rather than concentrating on a single thought of making the shot.

  3. Not taking a deep breath and relaxing on every free throw.

  4. Holding palm on the shooting hand on the ball. If the palm is involved you cannot hit the rim softly.

  5. Holding off hand on top of ball. This will result in blocking the shot. Hold the off hand to the side of the ball.

  6. Not clocking your wrist back. The shot will be flat and tend to nose dive.

  7. Holding elbow out rather than under ball. Results in ball traveling a curved line to the basket rather than on a straight line.

  8. Dropping arms immediately to waist rather than keeping them up high on follow through. Usually results in short or flat shot.

  9. On follow through, bringing your shooting arm across your body to the opposite side rather than keeping in line with the basket.

  10. Holding the ball behind the head, like a soccer pass. Hard to control and usually results in a hard sling shot.

  11. Poor physical conditioning plays an important role in shooting, especially during big play-off games. You are as only as good as your legs.

  12. Changing your free throw routine during the season. Refine and reinforce the mechanics of your shot instead.

  13. Not putting ample time and effort into practicing.


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Free Throw Shooting Must Be a Vital Part of Every Practice or Workout

Since free throw shooting is a repetitive, neuromuscular skill, the more you practice, the more accurate you will become. Therefore, in order to become a great free throw shooter, you must practice free throw shooting daily. Their is no getting around it. If free throw shooting is not included in a team practice, then shoot free throws on your own. It is a good idea to never leave the court until you have made at lease 10 free throws in a row.

View/Print    Fun Drills to Improve Your Accuracy

View/Print    Free Throw Self-Analysis Check List

View/Print    Free Throw Shooting Log


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Take the Challenge
Become a HoopTactics Marksman

The HoopTactics' Marksman Club is a unique group of individuals that excel in free throw shooting. Everyone is welcome to become a member. You just have to qualify. Members receive special Marksman Award certificates and improve their game in the process.

The HoopTactics' Marksman Club is a unique group of individuals that excel in free throw shooting. Anyone is welcome to become a member. There is no cost or dues. All you have to do is qualify. You can qualified either through team practice, actual games, or individual workouts. Qualified Club Members receive a special free throw certificate suitable for framing.

The HoopTactics' Marksman Club is Comprised of Three Levels

Bronze Club Membership

Make 25+ consecutive free throws and become a member of the
HoopTactics' BRONZE AWARD club.

Silver Club Membership

Make 50+ consecutive free throws and become a member of the
HoopTactics' elite SILVER AWARD club.

Gold Club Membership

Make 100+ consecutive free throws and become a member of the
HoopTactics' expert GOLD AWARD club.



Join the club and improve your game in the process. Best of success in achieving your marksman club membership. Be determined and persist (characteristics of all great athletes).

Once you have qualified, click on the appropriate level below for your membership application. Complete the application and email it to HoopTactics.

HoopTactics Marksman Club

Bronze Club Membership

Bronze Application

HoopTactics Marksman Club

Marksman Silver Club Membership

Silver Application

HoopTactics Marksman Club

Marksman Gold 
Club Membership

Membership Application





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