I was helping out a friend's teenage son the other day with his shooting form. Right away I could tell what one of the major problems was, incorrect use of the guide hand. One of the common bad habits that form early on is the habit of shooting with two hands. Kids who start playing basketball early (8-10) begin shooting with 2 hands because they don't have the arm strength to shoot the relatively heavy ball with one hand, so they use two. The problem is that they get used to it, and once they get older, even though they've stopped officially using 2 hands, the guide hand tends to still get in the way of the proper shooting motion. It's a hard habit to shake, but absolutely necessary in my opinion to become a consistent shooter.

I've used the one hand behind the back before but I've found it awkward because nobody plays with one hand behind their back, in other words its not a realistic way to help someone change their habits, they're likely to give up on it very quickly. I went home and looked through my notes and more notes and found these great tips instead from the Basketball BC website. They really helped me so I hope y'all enjoy them...

One of the most common flaws in shooting is the incorrect use of the non-shooting hand, also called the guide hand. The guide hand should only be used to help the player lift the ball up to the release point – it should not be used to help propel the ball to the basket.

Many players use their guide hand, particularly their thumb, to help shoot the ball because it adds more power to the shot; i.e. two hands are stronger than one. However, the more the guide hand is used to shoot the ball, the more likely force will be applied to the ball that is off the shot line. Keeping the shot on-line is simply broken down into two parts: 1) ensure the ball leaves the index and middle fingers of the shooting hand last, and 2) ensure the index and middle fingers point at the basket. If these two things are done the ball will always be on line. If the guide hand is used to push the ball to the basket it becomes more difficult to accomplish these two tasks.

How can you tell if the guide hand is used to by the shooter? Often the rotation of the ball may not be the true backspin associated with the great shot. However a more conclusive method, to see if the guide hand is used, is quite simple – look at the guide hand at the conclusion of the shot, and if the palm of the guide hand is facing the basket then the thumb of the guide hand has been used to generate power.

The more important question is, how can you help a player who uses their guide hand? What techniques can you use to eliminate the use of the guide hand on the shot? Here are several suggestions:

1. Flat Guide Hand - have the player pull the fingers of their guide hand back so the finger tips are off the ball. Now only the palm of the guide hand, as well of the shooting hand, is used to help lift the ball. This technique will help the player to recognize the shot will executed by the shooting hand, and that the guide is not necessary to help get the ball to the basket.

2. O-K Shooting – this technique reduces the effect of the guide hand’s thumb on the shot. The player will make the O-K symbol with the guide hand and shoot the ball. It will be difficult for the thumb to have any impact on the shot when the ball is held this way.

3. Thumb and Index Finger Pinch – have the player move the thumb of the guide hand directly beside the index finger. The movement will make it more difficult for the player to bring their thumb through on the shot. To keep the thumb and index together a coin could be lodged between the two. With the coin in this position it will make it unlikely for the two to separate.

4. L Shooting - have the player focus on keeping their off-hand and off-arm in the shape of an "L" – upper arm parallel to the floor. This will help teach players to move their guide hand off the ball earlier in the shot and minimize an adverse effect on the ball's rotation.

I had a real hard time to find some recent pictures which illustrate clearly the correct use of the guide hand, but here a couple I found (notice how both have the palm parallel to the shooting line):

For more great info on shooting technique, take a look at Ed Palubinskas's DVD on Becoming a Great Shooter. Coach Palubinskas has worked with professionals in both the NBA and WNBA.


  1. Hoi  

    April 30, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    Couldn't find a picture of Ray Allen?