Teaching Kids to Shoot a Basketball
Shooting is perhaps the most glamorous of basketball skills. But behind the emotion of a game-winning free throw or the excitement of a big three-point shot lies a science.
Mechanics and Body Positioning
Tara VanDerveer, head women's basketball coach at Stanford University and winner of two NCAA national championships, teaches the BEEF method. Here's the breakdown:
B = Balance
Have your child stand with her legs shoulder-width apart, torso slightly forward, and feet pointed toward the basket. Knees should be slightly bent. If the shooter is right-handed, her right foot should be parallel to and slightly in front of her left foot, or vice versa if the player is left-handed. Make sure her shoulders are squared to the basket. The power behind a shot comes from her legs, not her arms.
E = Elbow
The elbow of her shooting arm should be in front of her body and under the ball at a 90-degree angle. Your child's wrist should be flexed and fingers comfortably spread. The ball should be able to balance in one hand and should not touch the palm. Don't allow her arm to cross too far in front of or away from her body. The non-shooting hand is called the "guide hand." It is placed lightly on the side of the ball to aid in balancing the ball in her shooting hand. It is not used to actually shoot the ball.
E = Eyes
When shooting, your child has to focus on a target. Most shooters like to focus a little above the front of the rim, while others keep their eyes on the back of the rim. Whatever the target, make sure it's the same every time. Consistency is key. Make sure your child does not watch the ball as it leaves her hand.
F = Follow-through
Following through puts the finishing touch on a good shot. After extending her bent elbow up and releasing the ball, your child's wrist should flick forward. Your child's tips of the index and middle fingers should be the last part of her hand to touch the ball. To imagine a proper follow-through, VanDerveer says to think of your child reaching into a cookie jar on a high counter. The arm is extended vertically and her fingers are pointed slightly downward.
Work on BEEF without the ball, following the steps until your child feels comfortable. Then incorporate the ball by standing across from your child and having her shoot the ball to you as if you were the basket. The focus at this point is not to make shots, but to perfect the form.
After your child masters the skill, let your little one have a go at the basket. Says VanDerveer, "Once at a basket, start in close and warm up working on correct form. Slowly move back. For young children, I am a fan of small balls and lower baskets."
Shooting is really a matter of finding a consistent, comfortable form and practicing it until you've got it down to, well, a science.