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The Elite Shooter Mindset



I’ve been lucky enough to work with some elite shooters – literally some of the best in the world. There are three major things I’ve learned from these players:

  1. Their work ethic and dedication is second to none
  2. They shoot the same shot every single time
  3. They want to be challenged

In our workouts, we challenge shooters in multiple ways – time, percentage, makes in a row, plus minus, or a combination of any of these. When doing these types of drills it’s always telling to see how a player responds when they aren’t shooting well or if they know they aren’t going to beat the drill. There are a couple of “negative” responses that are extremely common:

  • Players who don’t start well and want to restart (I never let them, but I’ll explain why later)
  • Players who know they aren’t going to beat the drill so they “waste” shots – meaning they disregard form, footwork, or shot quality once they have no chance to beat the drill

If this is your response to “losing” a drill or you have players who respond this way, that mindset needs to change. Here’s why:

There are no restarts in games: You may miss every shot you take the first three quarters of a game – you don’t get a redo. Are you going to stop shooting in the 4th quarter? Or, are you going to battle through and believe you will make the next shot.

You must have a present mindset: Any great shooter has complete focus on the shot they are taking at that moment. Develop the mindset that regardless of any previous shot, make or miss, you are trying to go 1 for 1. It doesn’t matter if you can’t beat the drill or if it’s a game winning shot, your mindset must be the same.

Never waste an opportunity to get better: Let’s say you aren’t going to beat a drill, so you throw garbage up and disregard form for the next 10 shots… It doesn’t seem like a big deal. But, let’s say that happens 5 times a week, for 4 months. Now you’ve wasted 200 shots and you’ve also reinforced bad habits 200 times.

You must have a bigger vision: Why are you in the gym working on your shot?  Are you in the gym to beat drills or are you there to improve and become a better shooter?  Yes, you obviously want to beat drills – that’s why we make them competitive – but you can’t let losing a drill get you detracted from the ultimate goal of becoming a better shooter.

A few years ago Mike and I were working out Wes Matthews. We were doing a drill called “Celtic 3’s” where you have to make two shots in a row to move to the next spot. You have to beat ten spots in less than two minutes (see video of the drill here). In his first attempt on the drill, Wes got off to a slow start and two things were apparent. One, he wasn’t going to beat the drill. Two, he was definitely not happy with his performance. The thing that stood out more than his sub-par shooting or displeasure was that he took every single shot with purpose after he knew he wouldn’t beat the drill.

As soon as time expired, he walked directly back to the starting spot and said “run it back.” He then went on to beat the drill in the second fastest time of any player we’ve ever had (Steve Novak has the fastest time and Wes was two seconds behind him). That showed me exactly the type of player and person Wes is. It also showed me why he continues to outperform players who are more highly touted or more naturally talented.

At the end of the day you shouldn’t be happy about not beating a drill. You shouldn’t be happy about performing at a level less than you are capable of but you cannot let that get in the way of getting better.

Stay present,

Go 1 for 1,

Keep the bigger picture in mind.

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