"I'm a good shooter in practice but I can't shoot just as good during games. How do I improve my shooting during games?"
This is a question I get from almost every player I coach. It's a part of every shooter's journey to struggle with transitioning their shooting abilities from practice to games...
Just like with shooting in practice, there's a process to mastery of shooting effectively in games and that's what I want to talk about here...
Here's a specific question I got recently from one of our players...
"Hey coach, I’m a good shooter but I keep having bad shooting games where I can’t shoot anywhere near what I’m capable of. Sometimes every shot is way off and other times it goes straight in and barely even touches the mesh.
I have also started struggling with my free throws but that’s mainly because my coach is playing me more minutes now so my shots off because I’m a bit more tired.
I know I’m an 80-85% free throw shooter but my fatigue is not allowing me to shoot that during games. This keeps happening and I’m just not sure why it’s not getting any better or how to fix it. I would really appreciate any advice. Thank you!"
There are two different answers to this question.
The first one touches on your mental approach to shooting and the second one has to do with transferability of skills from practice to games.
The first piece of advice I can offer you is to approach shooting with the mentality that every shot you take is an accurate representation of your current skill level.
If you shoot 50% from the 3 point line in one game, it’s easy to claim responsibility for that success.
However, in the next game if you shoot 20%, you would say (as we all would) that you had an “off game” and that you didn’t shoot up to your actual skill level...
But I would argue that IS your skill level.
Shooting 50% one game and 20% the next is an accurate representation of your consistency.
The games where you miss free throws because you played extra minutes, that is an accurate representation of your conditioning and your ability to shoot when fatigued.
If some games you struggle because the defense is too fierce, that is an accurate representation of your ability to shoot under pressure.
When you approach shooting with this mindset, you take complete responsibility of your performance. You take responsibility of the good AND the bad.
Too many players don't practice accountability as it relates to shooting...
Remember, if you take responsibility for every miss, you will likewise be able to claim the glory of every make.
Many people will leave the gym after a bad shooting game and think “my shot was off today, hopefully it’s back before next game”. This puts ownership on ‘the shot’. Hoping that ‘it’ comes back.
A more effective way to think about it is to put the ownership on YOU.
So instead, any time you have an off game, ask yourself:
1. What is one thing that held me back from shooting the way I expected to?
2. What can I do to prevent this from happening in the future?
For example, if you are missing free throws in games because you are tired, fatigue is holding you back. I’m guessing you don’t want your coach to play you less, so the alternative is to improve your free throw shooting when tired.
One drill you can try is Sprint 142s (1 sprint for 2 free throws)
Keep doing this and other drills like this to help you improve. If this doesn’t fix the problem, keep asking the same two questions above over and over. Keep practicing and keep adjusting.
That brings me to the second answer.
There is often a significant drop-off from practice performance to game performance because most people do not practice at game speed.
If you feel that could be an issue for you, try to replicate game intensity as much as possible.
Practice against a defender whenever you can. Try to create pressure situations during your drills.
For example, going back to zero if you miss 2 shots in a row. Play in front of crowds when you can if that is an option for you.
Be creative to make your training as similar to a game as possible.
Now, even after doing all of this, there will still be a difference between your practice performance and game performance because it is still extremely difficult to recreate the excitement, adrenaline, arousal, nerves, pressure and intensity of a real game...
So, the next step to increase your "in-game" performance is to play as many real games as you can, whenever you can.
If you do all of this, I am confident that you can greatly improve your shooting performance during games.
Lastly, if you're shooting anything below 85-90% three's in practice, you have room to grow as a shooter. The next most obvious and most important way to improve your in-game performance is to become a high percentage shooter in practice.
Get the jumpshot training to become a 90% shooter here.
Get your perfect shooting form down first, and you'll be ready for when I release my in-game jumpshot training program in 2020.