Wrist Snapping Cause and Effect

It can be tough to figure out in many cases. I'll give you an example...

I describe players that don't follow through on the target line of the hoop as either "thumb down" or "pinkie down" shooters. When a right-handed shooter takes a shot, they may snap their wrist hard to the right at the last second and end up with their thumb much lower than their pinkie finger. These are "thumb down" shooters. Or, a right-handed shooter may snap their wrist hard to the left at the end and end up "pinkie down."

Many coaches at this point will jump in and try to get the player to fix the direction of their wrist snap and encourage the player to snap their wrist along the target line on every shot. Most times the player will continue to struggle often because they are trying to correct the effect without first addressing the cause.

But let's back up a step. Should we even care about this particular issue?

Does it even matter that the hand isn't snapping on line with target?

After all, the player may even make the shot.

Remember, shooting improvement is all about stacking the odds in our favor. We are never going to be absolutely perfect on every shot, but we should be trying to keep our shots as simple as we can so that we have a chance to make each shot as repeatable as possible.

Is it possible to make a shot when your wrist snaps off line? Absolutely.

But our goal is consistency and repeatability, so we should be working to get things like a wrist snap as "on line" as possible.

Now we are back to, "how do I fix the wrist snap if you say that the wrist snap isn't even the problem?"

This is when I start to work backwards. Why would a player (or more likely their body simply by instinct) snap their wrist hard to the right as they are shooting? The most logical answer is that their body felt the ball going to the left and quickly tried to correct it at the last second.

I strongly believe this is the reason for most of the wrist snap issues out there; The player is trying to correct another mistake at the last second. So if the player is snapping hard right, it is because they feel the ball going left just before that. Now we need to figure out what would push a ball left. That is the habit you may need to correct in order to get the wrist snap on line.

Conversely, if the player is snapping there wrist to the left (pinkie down as a right handed shooter) then they are likely trying to correct an issue pushing the ball to the right just before that. We would need to figure out why the ball is starting off right and correct that issue.

The reasons that may be the CAUSE are too varied to be able to get into with this particular blog, but I'm confident that you can use the simple principle of Cause and Effect to better diagnose issues in players shooting.

The non-shooting hand can often be one of the most overlooked pieces in a consistent jump shot. My course, 7 Days to Get Your Non-Shooting Hand Off the Ball, gives you an entire week's worth of lessons, drills, and progressions to make sure your non-shooting hand does everything it's supposed to and nothing extra.

Learn more about my courses here.


  1. Coach Stewart

    This was a really good article, I have not noticed this in working with players. I would think that in a workout if this does not happen a lot then you can chalk it up to maybe fatigue etc. If it is constant I think I would go back to a shorter range and maybe have the player speak verbal cues to himself

    • Coach Dave

      Correct, it will happen to everyone some of the time, and we will even make some of those shots. But like you said, if it's happening a larger percentage of the time, we need to address why.

  2. Bob Topp

    Dave, I think the core of this problem starts with the thumb of the off hand. When it flicks across the palm or the palm turns, the ball is getting extra force applied to it. That force fights the straigtness and accuracy of the shot. If the shooting wrist flares out, the shooting thumb drove it there, because it went along for the ride. If the shooting wrist curls in, those last two fingers are pushing back to straighten out the shot and fight back against the initial push. You are saying that we shooting coaches need to find the core cause of a flaw. I agree completely.

    • Coach Dave

      I agree that the off hand can play a role, but I find that it is usually after the initial problem. In my opinion, most guide hand issues start with the shooting hand being out of position. But I think we are in the same ballpark.

  3. Scott Walters

    This has been extremely helpful as my number 1 student (my son!!!) goes off his thumb. I feel it’s a slight outward elbow that causes this....is this a potential cause? What other common potential causes are there?

    • Coach Dave

      If his elbow is out, then his shooting hand will come to the right side of the ball, pushing the ball left, and therefore he'll snap the ball to right. If that is what you see, then I would agree that is likely the cause. Focus more on the position of the hand than the elbow.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *