Featured Shooting Articles by Tom Nordland

(Note:  Tom is a Shooting Coach living in northern California.  You may also find this article on his website at www.swish22 com under "Articles/Reviews." )

To order Tom's video, Swish - A Guide to Great Basketball Shooting, click here.

Articles by Coach Nordland featured on this site:
The Trouble With Shooting!
What Can Be Done With Free Throws!
The ABC's of Great Shooting!
Taking the Lid Off the Basket?
Danger Signs of Poor Shooting
Simple Coaching for Improved Shooting

Simple Coaching for Improved Shooting

How to tell if your team needs work on shooting!

An 8th grade girls coach recently ordered my "Swish" video to help in the coaching of his poor shooting team. They were only getting about 20 points per game, and shooting percentages were around 20% from the field and not much better from the line.

He told me how their shots have no arch, and how they tend to move laterally, rather than up when going to shoot. They have no idea what to do with their arms as they shoot, and the arms and hands move or jerk wildly in different directions.

The video will show him how to coach my Swish Method, but we talked a bit about what he could do in the meantime to effect some positive changes as their season is just about over. What I wrote him, I realized, would be helpful to any coach wanting to improve shooting, so I decided to put them in a little article on my Website.

The idea is to increase awareness of shooting distinctions that make a difference. If the kids start to see and feel these things, and can do it with a sense of "curiosity," not "something's wrong," they'll make remarkable improvement in their shooting. Most kids do not shoot well and try to change or fix what they cannot feel. Once you can feel what's happening, and especially if you have an idea of what will work, then experimentation happens and great learning is possible.

These are suggestions for points of awareness for the players to experiment with, to "play" with, to learn from. Please note they are very simple, very non-"technical."


Introduce them to the idea of moving upward with their bodies as they go to shoot, rather than laterally, and using that energy to shoot from. This can be learned without a basket, either shooting back and forth with a partner or working against a wall. Have them experiment with bigger and smaller upward motions (with a jump off the ground or not) to feel the powerful upward surge of energy that's available, and then start to connect their shot motion to that energy. From my experience, girls tend to move laterally toward the basket to generate power. This change of direction or orientation will do wonders for them. Boys jump vertically, but more often than not they wait to shoot, thus losing the power and other benefits of this source of power.

As they get the idea of shooting from this force, rather than just from upper body muscles, ask them to shoot earlier and earlier. It's like "catching a wave" in surfing. There's a surge of power in the beginning that gradually dissipates. Catch the wave early and you get a lot of power.

As they learn to shoot earlier, you and they will see the shots start to go higher with less effort. For most shots, you want to shoot from maximum leg force! This just means you shoot as early as possible, and this requires that the players set the ball quicker and release the ball very quickly. (Inside, turn-around jump shots and close in jumpers and runners can be shot with some "hang time" because you have plenty of power and the error margin is much greater.)

This one thing alone can work miracles. If you shoot earlier, you get:

  1. More power
  2. More height
  3. A quicker release
  4. The Release muscles can do less and relax because the bigger lower body muscles are doing more
  5. A "stabilizing" effect. The larger muscles create an energy like a rocket blasting off from Cape Kennedy. The Release becomes the Space Shuttle going to the moon.


Secondly, focus on the Release motion. Make it a strong pushing action of the arm (rather than a wristy motion), aimed in line with but high above the basket. Ask the players to notice if their wrists and hands are tense, and, if yes, to relax them. Make this motion a constant action, a quick, strong (about 70-75% of max.) force that they can do over and over with little variation. The hand will actually bounce when the wrist is totally relaxed. This relaxed, flopping action is desirable because it is "repeatable."

The Release happens while the upward motion of the lower & middle bodies is taking place. It's a "one piece" motion, integrated, continuous. If you wait in the jumping action to shoot, you lose all the great benefits listed above.

Do it the same every time: Make the Release motion a constant action, always the same speed and force. Let it be "Full Out," meaning about 70-75% of max and complete to the end of the arm. Train yourself to do this motion no matter what your body does and shooting becomes a lot easier. Don't hold back.

Connected to a target: The Release motion is made directly in line with and connected to the target, the basket. The arm points directly in line, though high above. The hand will flop forward and down, staying in line with the basket if there is no tension in the wrist. This gives Accuracy. A lot of body movement can be tolerated if the Release is quick, strong, consistent and "connected" to that end result, the basket.


This is the last piece of the puzzle. Ask your players to be ready to vary the arch with each shot, depending on how much leg power they feel. This allows them to make the same, full-out Release action every time, without fear of being too strong or too weak. This is how distance is controlled. With a strong lower body action providing power and an upward motion, and a quick, high angled and constant, connected-to-target Release motion providing direction and ball control, the simple act of varying of arch gives control of distance. The result is a high flying shot that comes down softly to a large target.


  • Shoot on the way up, from powerful lower/middle body energy
  • Release the ball with a quick, strong, and constant arm-straightening motion.
    You'll see and feel a "snap" of the wrist and hand when totally relaxed.
  • Be ready to vary the arch to control distance


Open stance: With an "open" body stance (rotated to the left for right-handers, right for left-handers), it's easier to be more in alignment with target, hand, eye and body than if you square up. Also, there's no need for tension, since those elements line up naturally the more you turn. See if you can get the feeling of being "under and behind" the ball as you go to shoot. From that position, you will feel more connected to the target and you can then push the arm directly in line with the basket and accuracy is more assured.

Set Point: Observe the Set Point, the place you bring the ball before starting the Release. It's effective if the center of the palm (where the ball sits) is in line with the basket and your shooting eye (either above the eyes for bigger, stronger kids, or below the eyes). If it's above the eyes, the Set Point is most effective if it's forward of the head, not overhead, and in line with the eye, approximately, not too far right or left. The back of the ball will be somewhere near the front of the head. Note that when you have your shooting hand above the eyes and in line with the eyes, the elbow will be a little to the right (for right-handers). This is normal. Do not force the elbow to be under the ball. If you do, you tilt the hand off the target.

Tom is a shooting coach who lives in northern California. He now coaches at all levels of the game, from beginners to NBA professionals. Visit his website to read of his special background and the many remarkable endorsements and testimonials he has gotten for his coaching. He has written many articles on the problems with shooting in this country, and he also publishes a free monthly Shooting Newsletter from his site. Website: http://www.swish22.com; Email: Tom@swish22.com; Tele: 1-888/SWISH-22.

Tom Nordland, Shooting Coach
(c) Copyright 2000 Tom Nordland

Tom Nordland
Boulder Creek, California
Email:  Tom@swish22.com
Web site:  www.swish22.com