Sinking the Shot: Creating a Ceremony

The Players Ceremony


We’ve all seen it while watching basketball.


A player is at the foul line: but before he takes his shot he takes a couple of dribbles, practices his shooting motion, points to the sky, or wraps the ball around his waist a few times.

I’m a Basketball Jones


When I arrived at the University of North Carolina basketball camp in the summer of 2000, are first day was spent shooting free throws.


This is the school of Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Vince Carter, and Jerry Stackhouse, and we start off camp by shooting free throws?


The Dream Team


Not exactly how I envisioned starting off my camp experience.


Somehow, I ended up going first.


My first shot — *dink* — right off the front of the rim.


After I missed, the coach stopped everything, passed the ball back and said:


“You’re going to do it different this time. I want you to take a minute, and I want you to come up with a ceremony. Something that you do every time you come to the line, before you shoot the ball, and I want you to focus on that ceremony before you take the shot.”


I stood there for a minute contemplating my ceremony.


After about ten seconds, I shut the loud analytical side of my mind out and listened to the heart of my mind.


“Take two dribbles, rotate the ball in your hand, focus on the rim for 3 seconds, bend deep with your legs and come from the floor with the shot and focus on that beautiful perfect rotation of the ball as it exits your hands.”


Swish. Nothing but net.


Coach passed the ball back to me and told me to do it again.




I shot close to 12 more times before he told me to stop — I made every shot.


After I finished, my coach explained all of us that as easy as free throws may seem, they’re intimidating. Many players get nervous and those nerves can alter shots. That’s why you need a ceremony that you perform each time at the line to calm your nerves or frustrations.

Focus Your Mind


Ceremonies are everywhere in life.


We perform daily ceremonies that we’re not even aware of most times.



How you prepare your coffee in the morning, the steps you take when brushing your teeth, and the same route you take to work every day.

We see ceremonies in the gym every day as well.


There are:


  • Bro grunters who slap their chest before they bench
  • The curl guy who breaths four massive breaths before he works the guns
  • Or those heavy squatters/deadlifters who scream: RIP IT! Just before they lift.


Sure, their antics are juvenile to some or cause others to feel intimidated.


But it’s the ceremony they’ve created to get them focused on the task at hand.


Ceremony Matters


Vast majorities of people in the weight room today are constantly distracted by their Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds between sets. Their minds are not connected and their bodies show it with crappy form and execution.


No matter how brutish or “Jersey Shore” some ceremonies may be, I have to say I respect those lifters that have them.


I challenge you, like my coach from camp, to create a ceremony for yourself.


You don’t need to grunt, slap your chest, jump up and down, or even let out audible breaths.


Start a song from the beginning, say a prayer, envision the first rep and crushing it with ease, or take a couple of deep silent breaths and bring your attention and focus back to the task at hand.


A gym can be as loud as your rival’s home court in the closing moments of a must-win game. Finishing that last set can sometimes require laser focus.

Win/Lose at the Line


I entered basketball camp with a free-throw percentage below 50%.


After establishing my ceremony at the foul line, the following season, I shot over 80% from the line.


Implementing my free-throw ceremony helped me to improve one of the weakest aspects of my game.


Establish your own ceremony and make it a part of your training. It’ll help you focus and sink the shot.

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