Many basketball games are decided on whether a team will win or lose by how well they perform at the free throw line. A free throw is the only time where the game is being play and the clock is stopped, players stop, and the ball is in an individual’s hand, with them and the basket. Since there are no defenders trying to block or alter their shot most coaches and spectators wonder what makes someone miss a free throw. Research literature shows that both psychological and physical factors play a role. Many athletes have a different way of approaching the line, but believe that accuracy can vary depending on the situation. A person may perform well on free throws during a game where their performance doesn’t determine the outcome of the game, but when the outcome is decided on their performance they tend to not perform well. There have been a lot of studies on what makes a person “choke” when shooting a free throw at the end of game situations, but there are not a lot of studies on whether the use of imagery can help a player feel less pressure at the line.
Most of the studies conducted show after 20-30 years of research that using imagery could help improve free throw performance. So why aren’t more coaches and players implementing these into their practice or free throw routine before taking the shot? Some may certainly use imagery before they perform their free throw (i.e. taking a deep breathe and exhaling while saying a positive word to themselves), but spectators, players, and coaches are still seeing players miss free throws every game when they know that they can make them perfectly fine in practice. So researchers have looked into why players miss free throws, especially when the game is on the line.
Some coaches or teams use strategies to increase performance. Among these are types of imagery. Researchers have attempted to determine which types of imagery are most effective to use in sports to help improve performance. Imagery is trying to find its way to be involved in the every day world of sports and researchers have studied this practice for many years to help people understand the many forms imagery can be practiced. There are several types of imagery that could be applied toward improving free throw shooting performance. Hall and Erffmeyer (1983) implemented a type of imagery called VMBR (visuo-motor behavior rehearsal). This technique consists of a relaxation phase, visualizing performance during a stressful situation, and actually performing the skill during a stressful situation. In Hall and Erffmeyer’s study, they had one group (no modeling) perform relaxation and visual imagery, while the other group (videotaped modeling) receive instruction by watching a girl perform 10 free throws with perfect form. The results showed that the VMBR (videotaped modeling) group showed significantly higher improvement, approximately 9% increase; on their free throw performance while the relaxation (no modeling)...