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Basketball – The Power of Symbolism in Free-Throw Shooting
As a coach and teacher for about 40 years, I learned a few things myself. Learning is a fascinating thing and yet I think some of us take it for granted. “Life” itself is a tremendous journey filled with constant learning, to help us improve our position in life, earn a respectable living, and survive to the end in all aspects of life. Learning helps us make the decisions for which we become responsible, whether good or bad.
The power to “choose” is probably the greatest power we have in life. Everything we do can be traced to a thought, then a choice that ultimately leads to a destiny. I don’t want to philosophize too much here, but ultimately this article aims to leave an impact through visual symbols that may last a lifetime.
Charles Garfield once said, “The key to self-management is the ability to self-observe. It is important to realize that self-observation is not the same as criticism, judgment, or paralysis. through analysis. Rather, it is a consistent monitoring of one’s own performance.”
Another reason I write about symbolism is that the greatest teacher of all, Jesus Christ, taught in parables and symbols and if those parables and symbols left lasting impressions in my mind, I hope that will have an effect on you the reader.
Over the many years of teaching, I have found that I use more and more visuals or symbols to help students eventually see what I see. Another educational tool like an overhead projector projecting an image onto a screen. There’s a visual right there. It seems that we get on the same page faster.
Here are 4 reasons why I use symbols in my coaching methods.
- Symbols create visuals that help remind important concepts.
- Symbols can represent and create feelings that we can control.
- Symbols can teach various principles depending on personal willingness to learn or improve.
- Symbols can possibly speed up learning by clarifying imaginary visuals or images.
As I’ve said before, when it comes to shooting free throws in a superbly consistent and efficient manner, it takes more than just “being a human”. You must become a “human doing”. Shooters are not born. They are done. So the first key is to find your maximum ability as a free throw shooter by learning what your best maximum average on the line is. If the best in the world, namely the NBA players, have an average of around 72%, you can measure yourself against these numbers which are really very poor for such a simple and repetitive skill.
William James is the author of this comment which is perfect for my message. He said, “A mind once stretched by a great idea or new understanding will never fully return to its original dimensions.” This is why once you reach 90% of the line, you will never go back to 70%. You will respect the changes you have made to raise your numbers through cognitive learning.
Since there are about 25 scientific principles that must be followed when shooting a free throw or three-point shot, I found that almost all of the principles carry some symbolism within them. Remember that every principle has a scientific attachment and there are few or no shortcuts. Try to defy gravity. Try drinking unleaded gasoline. These are scientific principles that we all follow, whether out of fear or knowledge, it doesn’t matter. The result is the same and that’s what we want, positive reinforcement and instant gratification.
Firing mechanism symbolism:
1. The “life” of a free throw which lasts only about a second is symbolic of “life” itself. The free throw takes one second and the average lifespan is around 75 years depending on whether you are male or female. Females are more blessed and on average a few years older according to scientific studies. To shoot a perfect free throw, you need a goal. That’s the point. It takes motivation, desire, dedication, knowledge and endless practice of perfect principles to achieve the desired result which is perfection.
Leading a nearly perfect “life” requires the same process. The goal is paradise or eternal life. (My apologies to atheists and non-believers. My intention is not to hurt anyone’s feelings). Diligently seek and acquire appropriate knowledge, application of principles learned, desire to follow a certain predicted path (which may be good or bad), self-motivation, dedication, practice and application of principles and values that provide the desired result. Are you telling me if it’s more difficult to master the second to shoot a free throw in basketball or the 75 years to master yourself in the game of life?
2.Hand-ball relationship. Not only should the hand be placed with the index finger at 90 degrees to the seams (the seams are not crucial here, but the index finger in the middle of the ball is). The hand should be as wide as possible to get the palm off the ball and it will be easier to maintain a level of consistency with the wide hand.
The symbolism here is that of writing with a pen or pencil. Aren’t you placing your fingers the same way every time on the writing utensil and writing with the fingers and not with the arm and larger muscles of the body? Fingers walk. The yellow pages ad can ring a bell.
3. The guiding hand. It is the support hand that stabilizes the ball when picking up or receiving.
The symbolism here is the visual of the space shuttle ready to take off into space. Moments after the rockets fire and spit megatons of fire and smoke into the ground and atmosphere, you see the supporting metal scaffolding slowly peel away to allow liftoff.
Same as the left guide hand which, after stabilizing the bullet in the “firing pocket”, detaches a few inches to allow the shot to be fired unhindered just before pulling the trigger with the right hand. (Opposite for left hand shooters).
4.The “bullet pocket” is the area of the body near where the ball comes to rest briefly after picking up the ball just before releasing it. Depending on the size and strength of the shooter, this is where the shooting pocket may be. Can be near the belly, chest or right side of the face or even behind the top of the head
The symbolism here is the trigger cocked, before pulling the trigger.
If there is no pause before you pull the trigger, the shot can be called a “chuck” or a thrust. A shot is disciplined and a chuck or push is undisciplined. This pause usually separates males from females simply for lack of strength.
5. The shooting arm includes part of anatomy from shoulder joint to wrist joint. When you straighten or “lock” the elbow during the shot to make the whole arm appear straight, you are actually symbolizing a gun barrel with the bullet in the chamber just before it is fired.
6. The follow-up which is the last stage of the shot and is simply the wide open hand starting in a palms up position (holding the ball) ending with the wide open hand with the palm down.
The symbolism here is like closing the (hinged) lid on a cookie jar instead of sticking your whole hand into the cookie jar. The hand remains somewhat curved with no joints flexed except the wrist.
7. The wide finger spread before and after the blow Ensures consistency in ball delivery as it limits excessive movement by keeping all finger joints in locked mode. The only joint that bends on the hand when shooting is the wrist.
The symbolism here is like a duck’s webbed feet that always stay wide for maximum traction while paddling. Imagine rowing a boat with a broomstick instead of an oar. Same principle. No steering or power with thin tracking.
8. The shooting bow is generally the same as the launch angle which is also equal to the angle of entry of the ball into the basket.
The symbolism here for the bow is to imagine shooting from the top of an old red British telephone box. You definitely don’t want your tracker to be at your forehead or near your ear.
9. The “complete follow-up” is the holding pattern during the shot at least until the ball hits the edge. This is an outstretched arm with the wrist bent and the hand parallel to the ground and without bent joints.
The symbolism here is the Statue of Liberty holding the flaming torch proud and high and for quite a long time. (Hold track for the duration of the shot or until it hits the edge).
10.The inside edge of the shooting wrist If you have the perfect shooting pocket a few inches above the forehead and the inside edge of the shooting wrist will line up with the front center of the rim.
The symbolism here is the inside edge of the shooting wrist relative to the sight on the tip of a rifle or shotgun. So when you have the perfect line, you’ll have the front center of the rim, the inside edge of your shooting wrist, and your eyes forming a perfectly straight line, just like a long gun barrel.
A good closing statement for all the above symbolism was given by Frank Andrews when he said “Mindfulness is the practice of directing your attention, moment by moment, in the direction of your goal. It’s called mindfulness. mindfulness because you have to keep your goal in mind as you observe your attention. Then whenever you notice your goal has moved away, you calmly realign it.” Absolutely perfect.
Copyright 2009, Ed Palubinskas. All rights reserved.
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