by John Townsend / @JTshootingcoach

I just finished working with 30 kids on developing their jump shots. During this process, a laundry list of questions occur about generalities in shooting. This group of shooters, along with their parents, had a lot of similar questions.

One particular question was asked about five times: “What do you do when you get nervous in a game and start to miss a lot of shots?”

The question was always prefaced with: my son/daughter never misses in the driveway. They are a great shooter when no one else is around. They can make three pointer after three pointer when no one is watching.” I thought it was a legitimate question.

That night, before the second half of Game 3 of the Bulls/Heat series, I caught the halftime interview with Russell Westbrook. Cheryl Miller was questioning him about why the team shot so poorly in OKC’s Game 3 loss to the Mavericks. “Why couldn’t you make more threes? What were you doing to heat up? What was your thought process to get your shots (threes) back on track?” she asked.

“What should you do as a shooter when you start to miss shots in a game?”

The first thing that MUST happen is that the player needs to understand his/her particular shot. Shooters have to know why the ball goes in the hoop. What do they do with their particular shot to make it feel good and go through the basket? What is the shooter doing with their hand position? Is their wrist straight? Do their feet match their elbow? When you miss in the game do you have the ability to read your miss? Are you miss left and or right? Or are you missing long and short?

Having an understanding of your misses, hand positioning, wrist positioning as well as the relationship between your feet and elbow will get your shot back on track in game situations. It is one thing to miss a shot in a game when the shot actually feels good and you think that it is going to go in the basket compared to when you shoot a shot and it feels horrible and you know it has no chance to go in. Those two different misses have completely different mental outcomes. The first is: Let me shoot again. Where the second outcome is questioning yourself. The way to respond to that questioning is through your respective performance cues.

A performance cue is one; maybe two—but no more than three—things that you know will get your shot immediately on track. These particular cues, you know if you do one or two of them, will not only get the ball in the basket but will make your shot feel great in the process. Do know what your performance cues are? To get your shot back on track in game situations, you really need to know.

It is more important to understand why your shot goes in as opposed to why you miss. In a game situation, you should always think about why the ball is going in as opposed to why you are missing. One is positive and one is negative. Stick with the positive.

Do your best to be a STR8 SHOOTER. I will check back here at SLAMonline next week where I hope to outline another aspect of shooting straight.