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                        So You Volunteered to Coach Your Kid’s Basketball Team





Below reflects views from The Youth Trainer, as well as information from variouas experts. We are not saying to parents, coaches, athletes, etc..., that we're recommending that you do what is described below.  By performing any of the exercises, workouts, and drills, or subscribing to any of the practices described below or anywhere on this website, you are performing them at your own risk.  We will not be responsible or liable for any injury or harm you sustain as a result of trying to emulate what we have described or made available for you to consider.


If you are not very familiar with basketball, maybe you can enlist an assistant coach that is significantly more knowledgeable to help you along.  Along with putting in the time to educate yourself, you may also want to arrange to periodically meet with someone that is willing to consult with you.  You may be able to meet with the person from time to time to allow them to review your plans, draw from their knowledge, etc…  A teenager that is very experienced at basketball may also end up being a willing and able consultant for you.

When coaching youth basketball, typically, the team is allotted one practice a week, and, to say the least; it is a challenge to have them functioning effectively as a team during the early portion of the season.  So a primary objective should be to maximize your limited practice time. 

I’ve had success having the players of my older teams come to practices about 15 minutes prior to the time practice is to begin, to start warming up and loosening activities in a hallway, locker room, etc…  Not that this totally suffices as my warm up and loosening portion, but it does help.  Typically, this is not as important for your 5 and 6 year olds, but as the kids get older and their musculature develops, warming up and stretching becomes more of a consideration.   You can search “Youth Warm up and Stretching Routine” for guidance. 

Three major areas that need to be addressed in your practices are; fundamentals, team concepts, and conditioning.  Often these can be intermingled throughout your practices.  I believe it is a very inefficient use of time to do activities like “suicides”, that are strictly conditioning, when there are so many drills, and game-like activities that can be done that develop fundamentals along with conditioning.  

Once practices begin, it is important for your drills and practice activities to feature actual involvement by the players, with a minimum of time standing in lines.  Have your practice plans on paper so you may flow from one thing to another, avoiding wasted time.  You also have to maximize your down time, ie; one group can shoot a few free throws while another group gets water, instead of everyone lining up in front of a water fountain.

To have your team prepared to compete successfully by the start of the season, you need to have an understanding of what fundamentals and team concepts are of the highest priorities, along with being able to evaluate your players as you practice the various fundamentals and team concepts.  An objective is to be able to quickly decide upon a style of play that utilizes your team’s strengths, and you also want to identify roles for your players. 

Understand that in the first game of your season, your opponent may come at you with a full court press or whatever pressure defenses your league’s rules allow, and your team needs to be able to function against a man-to-man as well as against a zone.  In a perfect world, prior to the start of the season you’d be able to arrange a scrimmage or two against an opponent that will agree to press you some, as well as play some man-to-man against you.


If your team cannot adequately pass, catch, and dribble; things can get ugly very quickly.  Take the time to demonstrate the fundamentals and to observe your players to see that they are executing them correctly.  This includes making sure they are in compliance with the rules, ie; starting and stopping their dribble without traveling, pivoting correctly, not “traveling” while catching passes when moving, not “carrying” the ball when dribbling, etc… 

Include in each practice a minute or so for drills that help develop basic ball handling.  Include some that require “keeping the head and chest up”, to have vision of the court, as well as using both hands.  Dribbling drills that focus on protecting the ball while keeping the head up, also should receive a few minutes during each practice.  A competitive dribbling drill that I like to use is to give all players a ball, and allow them to dribble simultaneously in a confined space.  As long as they are dribbling, they may use the non-dribbling hand to knock the ball away from a teammate.

Try to include dribble moves like the change of pace, switch dribble, and “reverse dribble” in your drills as well.  I like to section off the court into three or four vertical lanes, and allow the players to practice the dribble moves against a defender that is going to play passive defense (step and slide, retreating with the dribbler, but not taking the ball).  The dribbler should try to keep the ball close to the body and protected at all times as if the defender will try to take the ball.

As for passing and receiving, an initial step is to practice the basic passes where the players are stationary, but as soon as possible, it is important to include drills that include movement, and later defense also.  Basic passes include the one and two hand chest and bounce passes to pass straight ahead, the overhead pass to pass over a defender, and the “reach around bounce pass” to pass around a defender.  Players must learn ball fakes to avoid telegraphing their passes, and must be aware of keeping the ball close to the body and protected. 

To function best offensively, as a team; your players need to adequately understand “spacing” and “movement without the ball”.   This is where your drills to develop your offense come in.  If you have a player that is very effective when close to the basket, then have an offense that allows that player to be in the low post at various times.  Other than that, when coaching youths, in a perfect world; all of them would get to play each position when on offense at various times.  Often, however; because of time constraints, and the varied talents, you end up assigning roles to the various players for the good of the individual’s and team’s success.  

As for individual offensive skills; learning the concept of being “squared up to the basket” and being a “triple threat” is very important, as well as learning basic post moves when receiving the ball close to the basket with the back to the basket.

The DVD Duke Basketball : Creating a Championship Guard does a great job of covering ball handling fundamentals as well as shooting and defense. 


If you are coaching in a league where the players are around the age of 8 years old and younger, hopefully your league features a basket that is lower than 10 feet, and uses a ball that is smaller than a regulation adult male size.  When kids are shooting on a basket that is too high and/or with a ball that is too big or heavy, it can drastically impact their shooting technique.  They may twist their body to be able to get the ball up to the rim, may sling it from behind their head, and other ways to compensate for their lack of strength.  Compound that with the fact that a lot of kids prefer to go out to the three point line to heave up shots at the basket, the shooting technique is really affected.

In a youth basketball game, typically, most of the scoring comes from within a few feet of the basket, and from free throws, if they can shoot them well.  Allot some practice time for; lay-ups, short bank shots, free throws, and mid range shots.  Players should also be encouraged to work on these skills in their spare time.  They also need to work at making themselves available for scoring opportunities, ie; offensive rebounding, hustling down the court during fast breaks, driving to the basket, etc…  Lastly, it is very helpful if the player learns the range from which they have a decent chance of making the shot, but often the problem is that youth players spend far too much time practicing shots beyond their shooting range. 

I feel that TEACHING KIDS TO SHOOT is an awesome DVD for all age groups :


An awful lot of scoring opportunities come from playing good defense and rebounding well, and of course; playing good defense and rebounding well can keep your team in games although offensively things are not going well.  Although I’m making defense and rebounding a category that is the third priority, I believe that it is a good idea to encourage your team to have as its identity, that they are; a scrappy, hustling outfit, that plays good defense, and aggressively but smartly, goes after every rebound and loose ball.  “Smartly” means not committing foolish fouls in the process.  If your players are tired, but you are not in a position to substitute for them, they should be taught to get whatever rest they can while your team is on offense, not on defense.  Your team can score with the efforts of one or two players, but it only takes one of your players slacking off while on defense, to be the weakness that your opponent takes advantage of to score.  You can help drive these points home to your players by rewarding the players that comply with the most playing time, provided that the league doesn’t already have rules in place that specifically how much playing time each player must receive.


Half Court Offense – Obviously you can search basketball offenses.  As for what I like to do - I like to teach an offense that is ready to play against a man to man defense, meaning it will be tougher for your players to get open to receive a pass.  While the two guards are bringing the ball up the court, I like to have them crossing the half court line, side by side about 15 feet apart, and starting the offense with a pass from one guard, across and slightly backward to the other guard.  The other three players may start down low, maybe two of them setting a double screen in the middle of the lane for the third player, just before the ball crosses half court.  After the third player comes off of the screen, those three players fill the two wing positions (foul line extended) as well as the high post.  I let the player coming off of the screen decide first which position to assume and the others then fill the other two spots.  From there many options are available if your ball handler has good vision of the court, and is taught to lead the teammate with a good pass to the spot he/she is moving to.

Option #1 - The ball is fed into the high post who squares up to the basket, the two wing players cut to the basket and post up on the low block if they don’t receive the ball.  The guards will move in various ways to end up on the wings.  In order to make it easier to get the ball into the high post, I let him come up as high as the top of the key.  High post can also drive to the basket or pass out to a wing, then move away from the high post to let someone else take that spot.

Option #2 – The ball is passed to the wing, the high post breaks to the basket on that side then circles around to the other side wing.  High post is replaced by that opposite wing.  The guard that passed can cut close to the wing with the ball, toward the sideline for a hand off.  After the hand off the wing can roll to the basket and post up on the low block.  Opposite guard can move to the ball side to help the ball get reversed if there was no hand off.  Double screen often is not necessary, just encourage players to stay spread and move into one of the positions.

To keep the offense from becoming stagnant, be sure the high post player knows not to stay there too long.  Move away and let someone else fill the spot.  It is also important for the players to know how to react to a teammate’s penetration, to make themselves available for a pass, and of course the penetrator needs to be willing and able to pass.

Transition Offense and Defense – Go over 3 on 2 as well as 2 on 1 situations, offensively and defensively.  Everybody must know to sprint back on defense, and somebody must stop the ball when a dribbler is headed toward the basket.  When on offense your team should know how to push the ball up the court to get right into the offense, but also be willing to slow the ball down and set up the offense when told to.

Man-to-Man Defense – Although you may settle on a zone as your defense, all players should learn how to play man to man.  They need to know how to move their feet and how to be positioned when guarding a player with or without the ball.  When guarding a player without the ball defenders must know how to help the team mate guarding the ballhandler.  The DVD PRESSURE DEFENSE A SYSTEM does a great job of teaching a team man to man defense.

Zone Defense – I like the 2-3 defense that Jimmy Boeheim uses.  His COMPLETE GUIDE to the 2-3 MATCH-UP ZONE DEFENSE DVD is very thorough.

Pressing Defense and Offense against the press – I like the diamond press, and for a press breaker, make sure your players know their roles.  The same person should take the ball out of bounds each time.  Against a full court press I like a vertical line of three players lined up below the foul line and in front of the inbounder.  A big man with a guard in front and behind.  The fifth player goes to the area of the half court.  The guard behind the big man breaks right or left, and the other guard goes the opposite direction.  The big man comes straight ahead toward the inbounder.  Whatever guard the pass goes to, the other guard breaks across the middle to try to receive a pass to dribble up the middle, passing to the player at mid court if necessary.  The other guard runs up the side of the court he/she is on.  The guard that receives the inbound pass may also dribble toward the middle of the court while the other guard continues across to fill the lane toward the sideline.  The big man moves about ten feet away from the direction of the pass and sets a screen that the inbounder uses before running down that side of the court. 

Special Situations include; defending a team with one or two main players, various out of bounds situations, buzzer beater plays, and jump ball situations.


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