Dribble, bend your knees, shoot: the effect of a pre-shot routine on basketball free throw performance under pressure

Research has suggested that having a pre-shot routine is helpful for performance in golf putting (Boutcher & Crews, 1987), and more recently, under pressure conditions for Australian football players (Mesagno & Mullane-Grant, 2010). The current study extends these findings to free throw shooting in basketball, under pressure. Participants were subjected to two sets of 15 basketball free throws; the shooters were videotaped during their second set of shots as a manipulation of pressure. Afterward, researchers reviewed the tape and rated how elaborate participants appeared to be on the pre-shot routine. Measurements of routine time and routine time standard deviation were also assessed. Results revealed a significant and positive relationship between performance and mean ratings of how elaborate a participant's routine was, β = .25, p = .02. This suggests that having an elaborate pre-shot routine does predict performance under pressure. Previous literature has suggested that consistency was important; based on current results, however, we cannot recommend that. In addition to standard practice, sport psychologists and coaches are advised to teach athletes an elaborate routine, to benefit performance under pressure.