“The Paradox Of The Free Throw“ by Dr. Jim Poteet … ever heard of him?
Most haven’t, but he is a GIANT in the game of basketball.
I first met Jim Poteet during my playing days at McMurry University when he was the coach at Bethany Nazarene College. I knew instantly there was something about him that was special. The way his team played and the manner in which he carried himself stood out.
Coach Poteet has enjoyed a long and successful career in basketball with no signs of slowing down. Here are a few of his achievements:
- 2013 – 2014 Inductee into the NAIA Hall of Fame
- President of the National Basketball Shooters Association
- President and Commissioner of the Association of Christian College Athletics
- Doctorial dissertation: “The Paradox Of The Free Throw” … written while working with Dr. Tom Amberry (holder of the Guiness World Record in free throw shooting)
- 96% + in Free Throw competitions and exhibitions
I recently asked Coach Poteet to share his thoughts on free throw shooting.
One Motion: From your dissertation, “The Paradox Of The Free Throw”, you stated, “What makes them look so easy is what makes them so hard.” Could you expound on that?
Coach Poteet: “The free throw requires a paradigm shift for the shooter. He/she has been running up and down the court playing both defense and offense and then the foul happens. The game changes completely and it becomes an individual event at this point. The free throw shooter is now the only performer. All eyes in the gym are now on the shooter and he/she is the center of attention. The shooter has all the pressure of the situation. The later in the game and the closer the score, the more difficult the free throw becomes. The mind becomes difficult to control as the tendency is for negative thoughts to enter the mind. The easy shot from 15 feet suddenly becomes difficult emotionally, physically, and mentally.”
One Motion: You believe in the following … Dribble, Set, Shoot, Repeat … What does this do for the shooter?
Coach Poteet: “The idea here is to develop a routine. As one watches free throw shooters perform, it is easy to see that many shooters have no consistency to the art of free throw shooting. A routine allows the shooter to relax and gives a consistency to every shot regardless of the location (home or away), the situation (time and score) or the surroundings. One must remember that the free throw is the same shot no matter where the game is played around the world. That should be a comforting thought.”
One Motion: The key to free throw success … Is it technique, mental preparation, combination of both, or something else?
Coach Poteet: “The key to free throw success is a combination of several things. It is technique (routine or mantra), practice (goal setting i.e. hitting 100 consecutively), mental preparation (learning to keep the mind active and positive so that no negative thoughts enter), conditioning (shooting the same way even when tired), and learning to shift your paradigm (the free throw is to basketball as the putt is to golf).”
One Motion: Why don’t players today spend more time trying to master free throws?
Coach Poteet: “Good question. We practice what we think is important. Free throws don’t seem to be important. However, 25% of all points scored in a basketball game are free throws. I tend to blame coaches for the lack of mastery of free throws. Coaches do not make free throw practice an important event. They say something like this, “Shoot 10 free throws, tell the manager how many you made, and go get a drink of water.” That type of approach shows that the coach has little or no interest.”
One Motion: How can coaches/parents encourage players to practice free throws more?
Coach Poteet: “Explain how important free throws are in a game. Explain that 25% of all points scored in a game are free throws. Explain that 60% of all points scored in the last 3 minutes are free throws. Explain that 85% of all points scored in the last minute of the game are free throws. These statistics should get a coach and the players attention to the importance of free throws. If I were coaching at the high school level, I would start free throw clubs with the “50 consecutive club”, the “100 consecutive club”, the “250 consecutive club”, and more. Players like challenges. By challenging them you accomplish the practice element, which can be boring, by keeping a goal on the horizon.”
One Motion: Explain what it means when you say, “Players must focus on the process and not the outcome.”
Coach Poteet: “This is the mental approach to being a great free throw shooter. As a player develops free throw technique and a consistent routine, the tendency is to think about the made free throw. The made free throw is the outcome. The thinking pattern must change from the outcome to the process. The good free throw shooter talks himself through his technique and routine. This is known as “focusing on the process”. This process keeps the mind active on the task at hand and keeps it from wandering to bring negative thoughts. By “focusing on the process”, the outcome is assured and deflects the pressure of being “outcome oriented”. The outcome takes care of itself.”
One Motion: In your opinion, what makes a good free throw shooter?
Coach Poteet: “Several factors: great technique, consistent routine, positive mindset, ability to focus, learning to deal with the boredom of repetition, and practice, practice, practice …
Thanks Coach Poteet for your contributions to the game of basketball, and above all, for being a great Christian role model to so many people!
With God and a powerful dream, anything is possible!