Developing Confidence in Your Shooters

This article was written by Tennessee State University assistant men’s basketball coach Russ Willemsen.

Confidence comes from consistent preparation at game speed. I am a firm believer that a coach has a way, like no other, to instill supreme confidence in his players. Some of this can be developed through conversation and building a strong relationship with your players. A lot of the confidence though comes from what is drilled and what is emphasized on a daily basis. These simple concepts done over time will develop an unbreakable confidence within your players when it comes to shooting.

Define the Difference Between a Good and Bad Shot

Confusion not only causes doubt, but can also make a player timid or cause them to be a volume shooter. Coaches need to clearly define the difference between what a good and bad shot looks like. Personally, I believe this should be determined when the ball leaves the shooter’s hand, AND not determined by whether it ends up being a make or miss.

Shot selection is one of the hardest things to coach because there is a fine line between over coaching and allowing your players to play with freedom and confidence. My philosophy is, unless it is an open 3FG in transition, get a paint touch (or post touch) before a shot attempt.

Regardless of what your personal philosophy is though, emphasizing it everyday will dramatically improve shot selection, which improves shooting percentages, which allows your players to play with confidence.

Practice Shots Within Your Offense

All of the shots that you work on in your practices and individual skill development workouts should be shots that a player will see within the flow of your offensive system. If your offense does not contain flare screens, why work on that type of shot? Players should be getting daily repetitions on the exact shots they will take within the course of a game. Start by breaking down sections of your offense and begin taking shots off those specific actions. This will give your players a deep comfortability on which shots they expect to make when the lights are on.

Work on Form Shooting

Form shooting is something that should be done everyday with your players. It takes less than five minutes, but doing this consistently over time will increase all of your player’s shooting percentages. Form shooting allows a player to make 25-30 shots inside of 15 feet in a matter of minutes. There are plenty of variations to form shooting that you can choose from as well. So find what works best for your team and then implement it daily. As your players see the ball go through the net their confidence will rise.

Consistent Footwork

When it comes to footwork some coaches teach jump stop, some teach permanent pivot foot, and others teach inside foot. Teach what you are comfortable with, but make sure that you emphasize it everyday and drill it at game speed. It needs to be a consistent thing though. Until a player is executing it correctly every time, you need to be calling them out if they are not doing it correctly.

Tampa Basketball Trainer Kyle Ohman uses the analogy re-training how somoene would brush your teeth. Without a concious effort, you will brush your teet the same way you have always done it, you don’t even think about it anymore. If you want to change the way that you do something as engrained as footwork, it has to be a concious effort until a player’s muscle memory is changed. This means, every single shot that a player takes, you must make sure that they are executing the correct footwork; no exceptions.

Consistent footwork will help with improving your player’s balance on the catch. Being off balanced throws a shooter’s timing off, and this will drastically lower shooting percentages.

There is an old saying that you have most likely heard before but it is so true. The saying is, “free your mind and free your feet.” This simply means that if thinking is removed from the equation, your natural habits will be able to take over. So, keep those natural habits simple so that shooters can be confident in what they know.

Practice Pressure Shooting

John Wooden once said, “Do not mistake activity for achievement.” As I have grown in my career, I have moved away from drills where you are taking 50 shots around the arc (10 from five spots). Instead, every shooting drill either has a clock on it, or a competition connected to it.

This is going to naturally build pressure into each shot that the player takes. Having a clock or competition involved forces players to perform at game speed. I am a huge fan of team shooting drills that involve pressure. For example, if shooting with a group of four, set your drill so that the four players must make three field goals in a row from seven different spots. This puts pressure on every shot attempt. When players succeed at these types of shooting drills their confidence grows.

Your Penetration Philosophy

Every team should have a penetration philosophy. This simply means that when the ball attacks the paint, shooters relocate. I am not a huge fan of the dribble drive offense, but one thing I love is when the ball attacks the paint and the driver knows where all four of his outlets are.

Developing a penetration philosophy goes hand in hand with practicing shots within the flow of your offense. Most three point field goals that are taken in today’s game are off of a penetrate and pitch. Based off percentages, penetrate and pitch threes have the highest chance for a make. Taking high percentage shots within the flow of your offense will definitely help with improving shooting confidence across the board with your players.

The Power of Words

Proverbs 18:21 says, “the tongue has the power of life…” This means that we as coaches can breathe confidence into our players by what we choose to say. Simple words of encouragement or praise can go a long way in a player’s shooting development.

This goes back to what you have determined is a good shot or not. If a good shooter misses an open shot within your system, and they hear, “keep shooting, they are going to start falling,” they are most likely going to be more confident in their next shot. If you are inconsistent with what is a good or bad shot or you allow negativity to influence your words to a player, their shooting confidence is most likely going to take a hit. It is up to you to breathe life into your shooters.

Developing Confidence in Your Shooters Conclusion

Like anything, developing confidence when it comes to shooting takes time. It takes sweat equity that is accrued over an extended period of time. These are just a few ways that can help jump start confidence within your shooters, and they are not overly complicated. However, if you are consistent with them and are willing to put in the time of doing things the right way, you should start seeing a culture of confident and capable shooters within your team.