Canadian Coach Mike Mackay explains the keys to developing shooting



I have a had a number of coaches ask me about helping their players with their jump shots. These coaches recognize the fact that; players who want to play at higher levels of the game, eventually need a jump shot, or else be relegated to a limited shooter who only can shoot when the defense does not honor them.

I cannot stress enough the importance of developing the big muscle movement patterns first. It is the same in teaching a child to walk, they need to learn the gross motor movement pattern before you add the details. Too often in teaching shooting we focus on the fine motor skills of the hand, wrist and arm first. If the big movement patterns are not correct they will throw off all of the fine movement skills.

In teaching a jump shot I think it is important to start with the generation of power. The power needs to be produced from the big muscles of the body in an upward explosion. We want the athlete to be on balance. Without balance they will find it difficult to hit a target when we add the ball.

I start to teach by having the players simulate jumping on a mini tramp. When they jump there will be some things they do naturally:

  • feet will be shoulder width
  • the feet are parallel, not staggered
  • they will swing the arms to get height
  • land on balance
  • land in the same spot they take off on

One problem area is the people who knee squat to jump instead of hip squat. They need to learn to sit to jump. Work may have to be done on proper squat technique.

Another drill I do to get them to jump and swing their arms is a partner jump. Any players who have played volleyball will recognize this drill. The partners swing their arms, jump and touch hands above their heads. They need to land on balance.


What does balance look like?


Players and coaches need to recognize when players are on balance. The player should be on top of their feet, with the hips bent. When they land on the front of their feet they have a tendency to step forward. The head is leaning or often looking down. When landing on the back of the feet often the player will have the ball above the head or take a backward step.


Jump shot progression


This can be done as part of your warm up. The players are working on the fundamental movement skill of jumping. The player starts on balance, jumps and reach, and land on balance in the same spot they started from.

The second progression is to land with both arms above the head. There is no sense in moving on to the next progression until the players have mastered this one first. This is the fundamental building block of the jump shot. If they cannot do this, adding the ball is not going to make it easier!

The next progression is to work on the arm and hand position when jumping. I start by having the players kneel on the floor. They put both forearms flat on the floor in front of them. They tip the wrist of the shooting hand. They turn their hand on its side on their non-shooting hand. This puts the hands in a rough position for when the ball comes into play. I do it this way because not all players are visual or auditory learners. We need to help those who have to “feel” it.

They now start in a balanced position with the forearms parallel to the floor. We want them starting here so that they can still generate arm swing in their jump.

Time the of breaking the wrist with the feet leaving the floor. This is a key element of the jump shot. As players improve they can refine this to breaking the wrist at the top of the jump. I find when first learning this causes too many problems. It is too fine a detail.


Add the ball


Now add the ball. Again the point of emphasis are:

  • Starting on balance
  • Swinging the arms and push with both legs in a upward direction
  • Time the breaking of the wrist with the feet leaving the floor
  • Landing on balance with both arms in a good follow through position

Do not use the basket at first, players will be too concerned with the outcome of the ball going in. We are focusing on the process. I find it is good to shoot to a partner along a line. This way the partner can act as a coach. It helps them understand the shot mechanics.


Wall Shooting


Another drill I have used to get players to work on timing their the jump, is by jumping close to the wall. It makes them work on looking over the ball at the start to looking under the ball at release. The ball never leaves the hands, but tipped against the wall. They learn to jump straight up and come down on balance.

At first start square. As they get better add the pivot. Now they have to be

The purpose of this document is to help coaches with developing the big muscle movement of jumping to generate power in the shot. Once the players master this then you need to refine the fine motor skills.