Case study: University of Maryland men's basketball
It took years of testing and refinement before SOLIDshot was ready to be introduced to the public in the summer of 2016. Part of that process meant taking the smart sleeve and its coordinating phone app out onto the basketball court.
And who better to take the smart sleeve for a test drive than the future generation of basketball pros?
SOLIDshot teamed up with the University of Maryland men’s basketball team to see just how much NCAA players' free throw percentage could improve once they started practicing with the smart sleeve.
The result? SOLIDshot not only helped to increase free throw consistency in players who used it more than those who didn’t, but also boosted confidence in the players that used it and encouraged the coaching staff to want to use the sleeve on a regular basis.
"SOLIDshot really helped our players shoot with confidence," University of Maryland men’s basketball head coach Mark Turgeon said of the study. "Our free throw percentage went up six-percent as a team, which helped us win many close games."
During three weeks of preseason play, a select group of players used SOLIDshot in the UMD practice facility. These athletes participated in the same shooting drills in the same environment as those players who practiced without it. The only difference in those practices for players wearing SOLIDshot came from the instant audio and visual feedback that comes from using the smart sleeve and coordinating phone app—feedback on the elevation of the player’s arm, the bend of his elbow and the snap in his wrist. UMD assistant coach John Auslander, who ran the study with the players, spoke in a video for the site and mentioned how much the sleeve and app "helps [the players] focus on all of the little details of their shots."
Paying attention to those little details produced big return. In comparing stats via ESPN.com, the players who practiced using the SOLIDshot system saw greater rise in their free throw percentages from the 2014-15 season to the following 2015-16 season.
In addition to calculating and correcting, the smart sleeve also gives positive feedback. When players achieve the right arm angle and wrist snap in their shot, SOLIDshot alerts the player that they did something right, encouraging repetition. Auslander is a fan of the "psychology" behind using the smart sleeve and app. "When it’s buzzing them, telling them 'good job,' they can really get into a rhythm and they can start to get a feel for what their ultimate shot is."
One of the most positive aspects to come out of the study was finding out that this isn't just a "one-and-done" system either. Auslander acknowledged that SOLIDshot serves a purpose throughout the course of a season.
"Game to game, guys can get hot or get cold," he said. "All we have to do is put the sleeve back on. We have their numbers locked in, and we can get them improving their shot and getting it back to where it was when it was at its best."
Focus on wrist snap
The SOLIDshot smart sleeve and app target a few different aspects of a player's shooting motion in order to give proper feedback. One of those key components is the snap of the wrist.
The ability to cock the wrist back towards the forearm—much like a catapult—and flick it back towards the basket as the shooting arm extends upward, is what creates backspin on the ball. Not only can it make or break a shot, but it is an aspect of the shooting motion that is difficult to repeat consistently.
During the study conducted with the University of Maryland men's basketball team, a select number of players used the SOLIDshot sleeve as an extended coaching tool to improve their free throws. The data compiled from the app show also showed that SOLIDshot can help improve a player's wrist snap.
We now zero in on one particular player—who is to remain anonymous due to NCAA rules—whose individual free throw percentage improved by 8%. This player was also working on improving his wrist snap at the end of his shots. Observing his data in the SOLIDshot app, it was also revealed that the snap in his wrist increased and became more consistent over the period of time that the study was conducted.
This helps to illustrate how SOLIDshot's positive feedback system can create repetition in players finding their proper form with every shot. "When it's buzzing them, telling them 'good job,' they can really get into a rhythm and they can start to get a feel for what their ultimate shot is," UMD assistant coach John Auslander said.
Focus on arm height
Another component that the smart sleeve focuses on is the upward extension of the player's arm.
In what is considered a "textbook shot," a player starts with the shooting arm bent at the elbow at a 90-degree angle, with the elbow pointing towards the basket. As the arm fully extends and the wrist snaps forward, it should develop upward—not outward—towards the basket. Higher placement of the shooting arm results in a high arc of the ball.
During the study conducted with the University of Maryland men's basketball team, a select number of players used the SOLIDshot sleeve as an extended coaching tool to improve their free throws. With the compiled data from the app, it also shows that SOLIDshot can help improve how consistently a player can extend their arm the proper amount upward.
We now zero in on one particular player — who is to remain anonymous due to NCAA rules — whose individual free throw percentage improved by 10%. A key with this this particular player was to track his arm height with each shot, with the goal being to get his arm higher when he released the ball. Observing his data from the SOLIDshot app, we find that this player improved on extending his arm in the proper upward motion, and then again readjusted to elevating his arm more after a dip in his stats.
This showed two things: That SOLIDshot can help players "get their arm up," and that constant use of the sleeve can help make corrections when a player hits a rough patch. It goes back to a comment made by UMD assistant coach John Auslander, that using the smart sleeve throughout a season can be beneficial. "Game to game, guys can get hot or get cold," he said. "All we have to do is put the sleeve back on. We have their numbers locked in, and we can get them improving their shot and getting it back to where it was when it was at its best."