Basketball on the Edge – 20 Ways to Tell a Winner

What is the difference between a winner and a loser? The characteristics of a winner listed here apply not just to basketball but to life.

Read this list together with your child and discuss what each statement means. Try to think of real life situations inside and outside of basketball where these principals might apply. Make the list a teachable moment. Print out the list and have your young player tape it to the mirror in their bathroom so they see it every day when they wake up. Help them develop the mindset of a winner!
20 Ways to Tell a Winner

  1. Winners first want to win!
  2. A winner says, “Let’s find out”; a loser says, “Nobody knows.”
  3. When a winner makes a mistake he says, “I was wrong”; when a loser makes a mistake he says, “It wasn’t my fault.”
  4. A winner goes through a problem; a loser goes around it and never gets past it.
  5. A winner makes commitments; a loser makes promises.
  6. A winner says,” I’m good, but not as good as I ought to be”; a loser says, “I’m not as bad as a lot of other people.”
  7. A winner tries to learn from those who are better than him, a loser tries to tear them down.
  8. A winner says, “There ought to be a better way to do it”; a loser says, “That’s the way it’s always been done.”
  9. A winner listens and learns; a loser talks about what she’s going to do.
  10. A winner asks questions and listens to the answers; a loser never listens.
  11. A winner discusses opportunities; a loser complains about problems.
  12. A winner welcomes taking a risk to meet a challenge; a loser won’t take a risk.
  13. A winner repeats behavior that works and avoids behavior that doesn’t work; a loser repeats behavior because he is comfortable with it.
  14. A winner has plans and goals that can be measured; a loser hates measurements.
  15. A winner is extremely loyal; a loser doesn’t know the meaning of the word loyalty.
  16. A winner keeps statistics; a loser doesn’t want statistics.
  17. A winner sets goals daily; a loser doesn’t want to know what goals are.
  18. A winner works harder than a loser, and has more time; a loser is always “too busy’ to do what is necessary.
  19. A winner isn’t nearly as afraid of losing as a loser is secretly afraid of winning.
  20. A winner knows what to fight for and what to compromise on, a loser compromises on what she shouldn’t, and fights for what isn’t worthwhile.

Which one will you choose to be?


Basketball on the Edge – Great Free Throws in Just 30 Days!

I am often asked, “How does my son or daughter become a good free throw shooter?” The answer has two parts. The first part is about developing the proper technique for shooting a free throw. The second part is practice. To quote Frank Sinatra, “You can’t have one without the other!” I work with players who improve their free throws dramatically in 30 days. Others that I work with improve very little. Why the difference? The player did not commit to both parts of being a good free throw shooter. Can your son or daughter become a good free throw shooter in 30 days? The answer is yes, if they commit to following these ten steps.

10 Steps to Becoming a 75% Free Throw Shooter in Just 30 Days

1. Get a routine – It doesn’t matter what the routine is as long as your child has one. Three dribbles and a deep breath? Fine. Two dribbles and a spin? Great. Do the same thing for EVERY free throw. That means games, team practice, on the driveway, EVERY free throw. This creates muscle memory and puts them in the zone no matter what the situation is or how much pressure they are facing. They have done this hundreds, maybethousands of times. A routine helps them be mentally tough. They have done this before, they can do it again. That kind of confidence only comes with repetition.
2. Have proper foot positioning – Feet hip width apart, strong side foot slightly ahead of weakside foot.
3. Bend the knees – Find the level of bend that produces the proper amount of power. This won’t be the same for everyone. Do what feels comfortable and yields good results.
4. Lean forward, but keep the back straight – Don’t keep the back perpendicular to the floor. Lean the chest forward.
5. After the routine, get the ball to the chin – This is the key step. After the routine bring the ball right in front of the chin with the wrist bent backward in shooting position. Pause in the position for about 1 – 2 seconds. This separates the routine from the shot and eliminates starting the shot from below the waist (a remnant of throwing the ball at a ten foot basket when they were small). Doing this minimizes the motion involved in the shot. Every movement from this point forward helps put the ball in the basket.
6. Keep the elbow in – While paused with the ball at the chin, make sure the elbow is under the wrist and not off to the side.
7. Snap the wrist – The fingers should be pointing down like the shooter is reaching into a cookie jar on a high shelf.
8. The guide hand is flat – The guide hand does not help propel the shot in any way. It holds the ball in place and then moves away from the ball with the fingers straight, not bent.
9. Follow through high with the bicep near the eye – Think of shooting the ball up into the basket rather than at the basket. Imagine your child shooting the ball out of a refrigerator box. The follow through should not hit the sides of the box.
10. Practice – All of the first 9 steps mean nothing without practice. How much practice is enough? How good does your child want to be? The MINIMUM number of free throws per day is 50. 100 is a better goal. Have them keep track of how many they make each time they practice for thirty days. Keeping track helps them see the improvement and keeps them focused. There are no shortcuts to being a great free throw shooter. None of this means anything if they don’t practice!

Note: If your child is small and cannot shoot the ball properly from the regular free throw line, have them move closer to the basket so they can shoot with proper technique. If you have an adjustable basket, lower it. That is a great way to develop good form in young players too.

Two free throw stories to wrap this up. In high school state tournament game I made a basket in the lane to break a tie score and was fouled with 3 seconds left. There was a timeout before I went to the line. I vivivdly remember sitting in the huddle listening to teammates and coaches talking about what happens if Mike makes the free throw and what happens if he misses it. At the time I was thinking there was no way I was going to miss that free throw. I was 100 % certain that shot was going in and it did. Why was I so confident? Because I had invested time in the gym, on the driveway, at the park practicing free throws for that moment.

When I was kid I had a spiral notebook (eventually several) where I kept track of all the time I spent each day practicing or playing. I recorded what I did and how many shots I made. That notebook gave me confidence that I could step to the line and make free throws when it counted most. If your child wants to be a good free throw shooter, have them follow the ten steps, encourage them to practice, and watch them quickly improve their free throw percentage.

Addicted to Getting Better - On and Off the Court