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NBA Finals, Game 7... Your team is down one point... One second left... A foul and two free throws coming... Who do you want at the charity stripe? Of course, we'd like to have a Reggie Miller or a Larry Bird or even better Michael Jordan at the line to sink those crucial shots. Chances are, though, they're not on your team. So now what? It's up to you! So how do you build the skill and confidence needed to win the big games at the charity stripe?

You do it with 4 simple steps: Ritualize - Visualize - Optimize - Capitalize. Free throws are an important part of your game. How many times have we seen games come down to the final seconds and either be won or lost at the free throw line? All the time! So learn these 4 timeless secrets and join the ranks of John Stockton and become a great free throw shooter.

1. Ritualize

Ritualize means you create a specific repeating pattern of behavior prior to performance, a regular pre-task routine, which sharpens your focus, concentration and attention. Reggie Miller would step up to the line holding the ball on his hip with his left hand and place his feet about 12-14 inches apart with his right foot slightly forward. He then would raise his arm straight up towards the basket with his hand bent as if he had just released the ball. Then he would take three consecutive dribbles, sit back into a slight crouch and let if fly. Every free throw was exactly the same. Karl Malone could be seen mouthing something to himself (We have no idea what he was saying) right before he shot the ball. Whatever ritual you develop for yourself, know that it's the most effective device for delivering yourself into the mindset you must be in to sink every free throw.

"Repetition brings familiarity, and familiarity is the opposite of the unknown." - Steven Levenkron

2. Visualize

Visualize means mentally rehearsing or "seeing" in your mind what you intend to do before you do it. When you visualize perfect form and a flawless shot that draws nothing but the bottom of the net, it becomes exponentially more likely to happen. You've heard the saying, "What you see is what you get," haven't you? Focus on the process and see perfection. You'll find that visualization is a powerful tool.

"I see a mental movie before I hit every shot." - Jack Nicklaus

3. Optimize

Optimize means allowing yourself to trust in yourself and your capabilities, to have the self-confidence to pull the ripcord, knowing the parachute will open. Simply put don't hesitate! Delay does damage.

Nike said it best with their million dollar slogan: "Just Do It!" This is when shooting free throws just becomes automatic.

"You must seek to have control and then act with abandon!" - Anonymous

4. Capitalize<

Capitalize means celebrate your success as well as the success of your teammates. Pat yourself on the back with each success at the line. When you make your free throws savor the success, nourish it, grow it, use it -- capitalize on it. Allow it to build your confidence in other aspects of your game -- defense, offense or whatever. Let this positive energy ooze out all over you and your team.

"What I do best is share my enthusiasm." - Bill Gates

With these easy-to-follow principles you can become the elite free throw shooter of your team. Actually, you can apply these principles to every part of your game. Whatever you do, keep on shooting!
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