I’ll give you an example. My dad was a high school coach, and so he was my first coach when I was growing up. I don’t remember a lot of shooting technique teaching from him, but I can vaguely remember being taught by someone that you need your right foot forward when you shoot. When I got to be about 15 years old, I met my current mentor, and he explained that her prefers players to have their feet more level, or with no stagger. He went on to explain the reasoning to me and it made a lot of sense. To me, this was a revolutionary idea.
Flash-forward, and when I suggest on social media that I might want a player to have an even stance, I will get some people saying that it is outdated teaching, and some people that scream that this new revolutionary idea will never work!!
I do a 5 minute bit on this very point at my shooting clinics that I run. I ask the players, usually ranging in age from 11-15 to raise their hands if they were told to get their right foot forward as a right handed shooter. Typically about half the players raise their hands. I then ask if how much they’ve been taught to stagger their feet (the distance one foot is more forward of the other) and have found that the biggest stagger is usually about 4-5inches, and several answers of a smaller stagger than that. To summarize, about half of the group either weren’t taught to stagger their feet at all, and about half were. Those that were taught to stagger their feet were taught either a few inches forward, or less. That is just what I’ve heard from thousands of young players, it is not an accurate survey.
So let’s now get to what I would recommend.
First, I want you to understand WHY, before we even talk about WHAT. My goal for a player’s legs is to push evenly, so that the power generated by their legs pushes them (as much as possible) straight up in the air. If a player can push evenly with their legs, their centre of gravity has a much better chance of lifting straight up in the air than if the player pushes more with one leg than the other. While it may not be possible to do this EXACTLY, this is my ultimate goal.
So now we need to find a foot position that makes it easier for a player to push as evenly as possible. To help with this, I encourage a player to try to “square up” their feet, and have as little stagger as possible. It’s simple logic – if their legs are in the same position as each other, it is going to be much easier to push evenly. If the legs are in dramatically different positions, the legs stand a much greater chance of pushing differently, causing the centre of gravity to move left or right while lifting.
That would be my “letter of the law”, but I want you to understand the “spirit of the law”. Yes, I would love a player to be perfectly level with their feet every time they shoot the ball. More importantly, I want them in a position to push evenly with their legs. So as long as I can look at their legs and see that they are in roughly the same position, then I’m happy. Please don’t feel like you have to get a ruler, protractor and abacus out (I know an abacus wouldn’t help, it just makes me laugh to say it) in order to measure. If you see one leg in a position to push forward, while other leg is in a position to push UP, we might be in trouble. If they are both pushing up fairly evenly while pointed at the rim, then we are probably in good shape.