Keys to a Great Shot Line

Keys to a Great Shot Line

There are several factors that go into determining a great shot line for a player.  

Rarely do I get ALL factors executed to perfection by a single player.  More often than not, I’m making small compromises based on the way a player’s body is built.


Before we get too far into it, let’s make sure we understand what I mean when I say “Shot Line”.  

To me, Shot Line refers to where the ball is shot from in relation to the eyes.  It doesn’t really have anything to do with the set point, though it is easiest to see around the set point.  The Shot Line is more of a 2 dimensional representation of whether the ball gets in front of the player’s eyes, or out towards their shoulder.


My IDEAL shot line would be in front of a player’s eyes.  But let me say right here, I rarely get that.  I often have to make a small concession to the player on this.  

The reason I want the ball online with the eyes is simply because that is what we aim with.  If I was firing a gun, a bow and arrow, or using a pool cue, I would get the object on the same line as my eyes and the target. 

In basketball, I would want to do the same thing – as much as possible.

Why do I say “as much as possible”?

Simple – what I NEED to have happen is the middle of the player’s hand NEEDS to get under the middle of the ball at the set point.  If they are flexible enough to get the hand in the right place AND the ball on the line of their eyes, then that is what I encourage.  If not, I make sure the hand gets under the ball and get the ball as close to the line of the eyes as I can.


This is a common comment from players and coaches when I suggest the ball in the middle of their body.  There is a fear that the player won’t be able to see the target because the ball is in front of their eyes.

The reality is, the ball will only be in front of the player’s eyes for a fraction of a second as they go through the shooting motion. The amount of time vision is obscured is so short that player’s don’t really lose sight of the target.  Plus, no matter where we position the ball, SOMETHING will be passing in front of their eyes, whether it’s the ball or their own arm.  


This is something you hear from coaches all the time – you need to align the ball, the shoulder, the hip and the foot.  This isn’t something I worry about at all.  I focus on the pushing evenly with the legs, getting the hand on the middle of the ball early, and getting the ball close to the line of the eyes.  

Personally, the alignment of the shoulder doesn’t matter in the same way that a pool cue doesn’t need to be lined up with the cue ball and target for the shot to go in.  The CONTACT POINT matters.  In basketball, the contact point is where our hand is on the ball.  This is why I say I NEED the middle of the hand under the middle of the ball.


Most of the player’s I work with end up settling into the ball on line with their shooting hand eye, but not for the reason most people think.  It is not because the shooting hand eye is most important.  It is more likely that is the closest we can get to the middle of the eyes while keeping the middle of the hand under the middle of the ball.

I don’t worry about the dominant eye at all – for a couple of reasons.  First, shooting a basketball is a 3 dimensional target.  Depth is a HUGE part of the equation.  We measure depth by using both eyes, not just our dominant eye.  The dominant eye is more of a concern when the target is 2 dimensional, like when firing a gun or throwing a dart.  In those cases, you aren’t really measuring the distance of the target because you are trying to fire THROUGH the target.  

Secondly, the dominant eye can be opposite to the shooting hand.  And that can cause its own problems.


I’ll never allow the ball to come up the non-dominant side of the body.  The reason being, as soon as the ball crosses the mid-line of the body it is impossible to keep the middle of the shooting hand underneath the middle of the ball.  And like I said earlier, that is the one thing I NEED to have happen.  Going back to our billiards analogy – the cue ball has to hit the target ball in the right spot.

So when working on the shot line of a player, remember some of these factors to help determine what is the correct position for them.

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