The following “Yoga for Your J” poses help identify specific parts of the jumpshot from beginner to advanced levels. These are both areas of the body and the connection of movement from one area to another. If one area is weak, it’s hard for the shooter to move smoothly through the full, connected one-movement jumpshot (this is what we call a 2-piece J or in some cases a 3-piece J.) Players must see, do, feel, visualize, practice and respect that this controlled action is supported by proper mechanics, strength, alignment, symmetry, strength and coordination. Players can do these drills at home or off a hoop with the standard being that they all must regularly address their mechanical flaws in their jumpshot through deliberate practice. Players are the report cards for coaches. If they’re doing level 1-4 basic shooting drills and these mechanical drills 80-90 percent of the time, then coaches and players receive passing grades. Please ask the kids to do specific poses and drills for homework according to their areas of weakness.
#1 CHAIR: For players who lack strength, balance, symmetry in their base or “seat” of their shot. Base must be back in a shallow squat. We often say, “A loose, cool monkey scratches his knees while he prepares for the ball – hands up, but head is forward enough, legs are bent enough for a shooter to reach down and to a quick knee scratch.” 80 percent of issues are in the base.
#2 PLANK is for players who lack upper body and shoulder strength and stamina to stay squared. It also works the core. Use the ball so that players can get a core, groin and inner thigh workout – this all supports the mid-line, which is the line shooters need to keep stable to be effective – no jumping forward if the chair and plank are strong.
#3 DOLPHIN is for players who struggle to keep their elbow in or if they MOVE THEIR HEAD. This is the best drill for crooked elbows or for those who insist on centering the ball. Pressing head on the ball keeps it still and they can see what 90 degrees looks like on both sides of their shoulders through their wrists.
#4 WRIST FLIPS – Great exercises for tennis players and baseball players who often have muscles built in their wrist or outside on their wrists. Between the dolphin pose and the wrist flips, players learn better flexibility and range of motion in their wrists. Feel free to put in some full hand and palm connection with the ground (even if kids do it on knees). Really need to either loosen up the hands/wrists or build them up – for kids who haven’t ever done any hand drills to work on their grip.
#5 CHILD’S POSE is a simple pose with a few variations – wide or narrow. Coaches can activate the hands and fingertips and work on getting the hips down. Doing a child’s pose with a prayer over head (not pictured) is excellent for elbow and inner arm development.
#6 DOWN DOG is arguably the most effective pose in opening up several tight areas at once. Coaches should focus on connection of hands, proper cat-cow hand/knee placement first, then connection of hands, then the pinning up of the butt and the flattening of the back and neck and the emphasis on pressing the heels down. Excellent for promoting symmetry in shooting – no twisting if you fully connect your base and maintain your base at the end of the shot.
#7 The J Pose is a position that kids can stay in at any of the levels – from the low seat with a chair behind them or butt against the wall to the raising of the ball into the frame on shooting side of body and zipping their guide hand along the zipper of their coat (midline). Holding in the first spot, middle spot and the top spot – the TOP of the jumpshot is beneficial for players who need to connect the mechanics and also learn that pushing forward is not the solution. The base controls the power, balance and mechanics. Ball between legs is not as ideal as a block or pillow, but it works in firing up the hamstrings, glutes, feet, inner thigh and groin (the midline). Encourage kids to do this drill at home – ALL KIDS. This knocks down several areas at the same time.
Please see both photos of the J pose below and modify/prescribe as you see fit. Going deeper than normal in a jumpshot seat (sitting on a bench for instance) is acceptable for it also serves as an ACL injury prevention exercise and fires up full range of motion on the hamstrings so that the more shallow stance feels easier. Use a bench to get kids deep; using a wall is more realistic in that shooters don’t have to go too deep – they just have to be that ready monkey in the seat.