Purpose – To develop:
Since shooting a basketball requires high levels of concentration and focus, it’s important that players can quickly switch from seeing the entire court (this is the known as soft centering – which is a general awareness of everything around you) to having a laser-like focus on the basket (this is fine centering – focusing on only one thing).
Here is a drill that helps players develop higher levels of concentration and focus as well as trains them to go from soft centering to fine centering. I recommend doing this drill with one player at a time, or no more than 3 at a time.
PART A – Visual (Have players do this part slowly so they can absorb as much visual information as possible)
First, you need a small piece of white athletic tape (the same kind you use to tape up ankles). Stick the piece of tape on the front of the rim. (This “white spot” on the rim will be a focus point for this drill).
Have each player stand out on the court near the free throw line and look up at the backboard and rim. They should visually take in the whole backboard, the rim, and the net at the same time (soft centering on the entire area).
Next they should shift their focus to the backboard – studying the edges of the board, the padding around the board, and the lines of the box above the rim. Have them notice how big an area the board really is.
Next they should look just at the net. Tell them to see the whole area of the net with the white rope hanging down and notice all the little loops within the net and all the little spaces between the loops.
Next, the focus should move to the rim. They should look at the orange paint of the rim, and see all the little hooks that keep the net hanging. They should focus even further on the small piece of white tape that you put on the rim. Have them stare at this piece of tape for about 30 seconds. (Doing this will help them get totally focused on the rim. Remember, the better they are at finding and focusing on a specific goal – the basket – the better they’ll be at shooting.)
PART B – Shooting The Basketball
This is a continuation of PART A, except that shots will be taken. Have the player stand about four steps in from the free throw line, straight in front of the rim, focusing on the white tape for a few seconds. Then have them shoot the ball. (Remember, their target is the tape. What they are trying to do when they shoot is to put the ball over and beyond the piece of tape so it falls straight down into the basket.)
After each shot, have them set up in their ready-to-shoot position again, head up with eyes focusing on the piece of tape for a few seconds, and then shooting again. Have them do this for a few minutes and tell them to gradually take a couple steps back every few minutes to increase their “focus range.”
You can also let them dribble into shooting position or have someone pass them the ball. This will let them get used to focusing on the rim after they dribble or catch the ball before shooting. Just make sure they end up facing the basket straight on so the tape is directly in front of them and they can focus on the target (the tape).
You can also put a piece of tape on both sides of the rim to have them practice focusing their shots from either side of the basket.
When players first start doing this drill, they should go nice and slow so they get used to focusing on each little detail. Then they can gradually go faster. This will allow them to develop the ability to concentrate quickly, so they can go from concentrating on the entire court to focusing only on the rim after they get the ball and are ready to shoot.
I have used this to help 10-to-15 year olds develop their concentration and focus skills and the results have been awesome. The main thing is to get them to understand that they must go from being aware of everything around them to being able to focus right on the target when they are taking a shot.