by Steve Calechman
A little heads-up: With March Madness comes the desire to play some hoops. Whether it’s a neighborhood pickup game or some solo time in the driveway, one thing is constant: the ability to put the ball into the bucket. Sarah Behn, women’s basketball coach at UMass Lowell and president of Sarah Behn Basketball Camp, and Steve Curley, director of the Red Auerbach Basketball School, offer these fundamentals for a can’t-miss shot:
• Use a smaller ball and an adjustable hoop set to seven or eight feet. Regulation sizes are too big for young bodies; if kids have to throw a ball up, rather than shoot it, the bad form becomes ingrained. A shorter hoop also gives your child early success, increasing the chances he’ll want to keep playing.
• Think about the acronym BEEF. Be balanced. Eyes up. Elbow in. Follow through.
– Balance: Have her stand square to the basket, feet about six inches apart and the non-dominant-side foot in front. Have the back toes line up with the front heel. Have her hold the ball with the fingertips of her shooting hand (so that the ball’s seams run perpendicular to her fingers). The middle finger should be on the air hole (or center) of the ball. When she shoots, the ball will roll off in a reverse rotation.
– Eyes up: Tell her to look over the top of the ball at the rim of the basket.
– Elbow in: Have her make and maintain an “L” with her shooting arm under the ball, elbow in. Flex the knees; then, using the other hand as a guide, cup the ball. As she shoots, her hand should be just off center from her face, toward her dominant side. Make sure she uses her legs to help power the shot.
– Follow through: After the release, you want her waving goodbye to the ball – have her think about reaching up to the top shelf, taking a cookie, and ending with her fingers pointing at the floor.
• Start close to the basket – at lay-up distance. You want him close to ensure that his form stays correct. Once he can consistently hit from one spot, move him a step back, and continue. When his technique starts to break down – knees dipping more, jumping higher to get off a shot – you’ve found his range.
• Aim for a speck in the center of the basket. If she targets the front or back of the rim, and she’s accurate, she’ll hit that and not make a basket. Tell her to imagine a gremlin sitting on the front of the rim and to try and hit him in the head, causing the ball to drop over him and into the bucket. Aim at the same spot every time.
Steve Calechmann is a regular contributor to the Boston Parents Paper and a dad in Salem.