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Youth Basketball Shooting: 3 Things Youth Coaches & Players Need to Adjust

Difference #1 - DON'T LET THEM "CHUCK" THE BALL.

When working with young players, always use a lower rim. ALL experts agree that it's a huge mistake to use a 10 ft. rim. In most cases, an 8 ft. or 9 ft. rim is the way to go.

The biggest problem with kids today is that they use a full-sized ball, 10 ft. rim, and they have to "chuck it" to get the ball there.

This is where many players establish wrong habits in their basketball shooting form. These habits often linger and hamper players well after they are strong enough and big enough to shoot properly at a ten foot hoop.

You'll often find players that "chuck" the ball frequently miss to the left and right.

Getting rid of these habits takes a lot of time and effort, much more than is needed to establish correct habits in the first place.

So our advice is simple…

  • USE 8 FT. RIMS FOR KIDS THAT ARE 8 YEARS OLD AND UNDER.

  • USE 9 FT. RIMS FOR 9 AND 10 YEAR OLDS.

  • USE REGULATION FOR 11 YEAR OLDS AND UP.
We also suggest that you use smaller basketballs. For kids 8 and under you can use mini-basketballs (7" in diameter). You'll notice that their shooting form makes an undeniable improvement with the smaller ball. For 9 and 10 year olds, you can use a junior ball (8.75" in diameter), and 11 year olds can use a youth ball until they get to high school.


Difference #2 - DON'T GO TOO FAST AND EASE INTO DIFFICULT SKILLS.

Some of the skills in shooting workouts will be too difficult. In fact, young players should spend A LOT of time just on form shooting and shooting away from the basket.

Players develop shooting habits at an early age, so you need to start with basic form shooting. If they get really good, you can start moving into shots off the dribble and so on.

Just to give you an idea, here's the progression for a young player:

Move onto the next progression when the player is VERY comfortable with each previous skill.

  1. Form shooting with one hand (away from the basket)
  2. Form shooting with two hands (away from the basket)
  3. Form shooting with one hand (a few feet from the basket)
  4. Form shooting with two hands (a few feet from the basket)
  5. Catch and shoot up to 10 feet from the basket
  6. Catch, pivot, and shoot up to 10 feet from the basket
  7. Dribble, pivot, and shoot (both hands)
You'll obviously need to go at a slower pace with young kids.


Difference #3 - PERSISTENCE, PERSISTENCE, PERSISTENCE

When it comes to teaching youth players, you are going to have to constantly adjust their shots.

The trap that most youth coaches fall into is that you fix a kid's shot once, twice, three, four times, and by the fifth time, you let the kid start shooting with their old, bad habits. That's where you need to remain persistent and keep adjusting their shots. It could take hundreds and thousands of corrections before the player finally gets it.

Don't get frustrated or mad. It's just a process that takes time and have some fun with it!

It's also very rewarding when you see the kid nailing shot after shot at the varsity level a few years down the road.


If you are interested, we also have a basketball shooting guide that goes into great detail about the art of shooting and much more.

Comments

Andrew p. Dyal says:
10/23/2008 at 8:05:49 AM

I'm teaching 7-8 yr. old girls. What should I teach them off/def to get them moving but not to overwhelm them. We work on the basics, but they don't want to mve, especially on off.


Joe Haefner says:
10/23/2008 at 10:47:05 AM

Hi Andrew,

If you get them to move consistently, tell me your secret. :)

At that age level, that is NORMAL. I would just focus on getting them comfortable on the court. Because they have no experience with basketball, they will not understand when and what to do. If they know what to do, it may take a few seconds to process, because they have not been placed in those situations enough times to instantly react to the particular situation.

You have to be extremely patient and let them figure things out themselves.

You may want to wait on this drill until they are a little bit older: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/drills/basicspacingdrill.html You could always test it out and see if it helps.

Most of all, keep things FUN!


Jeff Haefner says:
10/23/2008 at 12:50:22 PM

Andrew - You could also implement a simple offensive rule like:

"Do not stand for more than 2 seconds"

Sometimes they just need to know what you really want. If they're not sure where to go, just tell them to cut to where the defense is not. Cuts should be made without resistance.


Andrew P. Dyal says:
10/23/2008 at 3:56:01 PM

Jeff, I'll try that out on Monday. We've lowered the rim to8 ft. and it has made all the diff. I wish my son's couch would do the same. The girls are shooting much better and are getting rid of the ball much quicker with the rim lowered. Thank you, Andrew


Steve says:
10/28/2008 at 10:35:03 AM

Hi, I'm coaching a girls team of mostly 8 and 9 year olds. Last year was my first year coaching and I really didn't have much of an idea on how to run a practice. I would just like to know what you think the perfect practice plan would be for this age group. Our practices are an hour and a half once a week. I would appreciate any help.


CWB says:
11/13/2008 at 3:06:02 PM

Coaching kids out of the womb, they are 5 year olds, maybe 6. Practice is very limited. I like the form drill as this taught myself. Are these kids strong enough to shoot with 1 hand? Also, what passing drill as well as dribbling drill can be used? I am assuming skills are very limited and do not want to confuse anyone. Also, do these drills take the fun away that is mentioned here all the time?


Joe Haefner says:
11/14/2008 at 9:55:12 AM

Hi CWB,

It is very difficult to coach that age group. Quite honestly, I wouldn't worry about coaching kids until they're at least 9 years old. Just let the kids play and have fun.

Here is a link that may help you out: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/qa/q1-verybasicyouthdrills.html


Brian says:
11/18/2008 at 5:16:10 PM

From what I have read here it seems that 5 and 6 year olds should be using mini balls and 7 foot rims. My question is how do you hansle coaching a team of 5 and 6 year olds that are in a youth league that is using 8 foot rims and youth size balls? Some of them can get the ball to the rim but it is more of a throw than a shot. Any advise would be great. Thanks.


Brett says:
11/21/2008 at 7:25:35 AM

Coaching a 4, 5 and 6 y/o league. The league seems set on playing with the junior balls size 5. I was wondering if you use size 3 balls to teach proper shooting form, will the transition to size 5 and proper shooting for be a big deal. Is that what your recommendation is?


Joe Haefner says:
11/21/2008 at 3:39:00 PM

Hi Brett,

Quite honestly, I don't worry about coaching kids before the age of 9 or 10. I think kids should go out and have fun. Their shouldn't be competitive leagues at that age. they should be playing 'nerf' ball and dunking on closet doors. At least, that's what I did at that age. Self-discovery & creativity is taken away when a coach is shouting instructions and providing organziation at such an early age. This will actually inhibit a child's long-term development.

We should be more concerned with games that teach movement. Play games that involve skipping, running, hopping, jumping, moving laterally, and so on. This will benefit them much more compared to teaching them basketball skills at such an early age.

However, the smaller basketball is probably better at that age, because they will be very weak. I wouldn't worry about spending too much time on shooting. Ball handling is probably the easiest thing for them to practice at that age.


CWB says:
11/24/2008 at 12:02:37 PM

"Quite honestly, I don't worry about coaching kids before the age of 9 or 10. I think kids should go out and have fun." . . From what I see the kids that are 5 years old do not have the skills or knowledge about basketball to go out and have fun. So it is a catch 22 where you have to do simple, maybe boring drills so they can advance to playing a game or a fun drill. You want them to have fun but on the other hand they need something to work with. I will see if I can make any inroads.


Joe Haefner says:
11/24/2008 at 1:32:23 PM

Hi CWB,

Good point. I'm echoing a lot of what I've said on previous posts on this page already, but oh well.

Am I against leagues for 5 and 6 years old? I guess it depends on what type of league. Are we creating all star teams that play year round? Then, I am definitely against that for reasons such as burnout and injuries.

Are we referring to a league that lasts a couple of months and teaches skills and plays skill games and movement games? Then, I don’t think it’s a big deal.

I think it’s more important to teach movements such as running, skipping, hopping, jumping & landing, moving laterally, crawling, climbing, and any other basic movements you can think of than teaching basketball skills at an early age. How do we expect a child to handle a ball while moving if they can’t even move properly yet? I would encourage young kids to participate in soccer, gymnastics, swimming, and martial arts as long they are with quality coaches and are seasonal, because it helps develop an all-around athlete.

Another reason I am slightly against leagues at that age is that it can inhibit their creativity and self-discovery by placing rules and restrictions on the players. Creativity and self-discovery is very important when it comes to long-term development of a child. If a coach is always giving instructions and telling players what to do, kids will lack those characteristics when they get older.

I think kids should be outdoors, at a gym or local rec center just playing games with other kids and having fun. When I refer to games, I mean tag, jump roping, touch football, or anything else they can do for fun.

Sometimes, I think leagues are just developed for profit and for the parents. On the other hand, some leagues are developed to keep the kids off of the streets, and I’m all for that.



CWB says:
11/24/2008 at 2:03:19 PM

It may be that it is for the parenst as kids are not as active anymore. It used to be just little league, but that was when kids were more active. So, I think parents may sign their child up to replace that physical activity. I know that I just played baseball but I was always playing football or basketball, or tag or whatever outside.


Joe Haefner says:
11/24/2008 at 4:54:26 PM

Agreed. And the parents may think it's the best thing for their kid.

Maybe, instead of saying, "Don't put your kids in basketball leagues before the third grade (ages 8 or 9)", we should try to convince coaches who work with kids under the age of 8 & 9 to spend the majority of the time teaching movement skills, playing games that incorporate movement skills, and a little less time teaching skills such as passing, ball handling, and shooting, because learning how to move and move effectively is more important at that age.

You can have all the basketball skills you want, but if you have not developed athletically, it won't do a lot of good.

A well-known athletic trainer named Gray Cook references a performance pyramid. It has 3 layers. The 1st layer which is the foundation is "Movement." It refers to just being able to skip, run, move laterally, and so on. The 2nd layer is "performance" and that refers to the efficiency of the movements. Performing movements correctly with power & athletic explosiveness. The 3rd layer is skill. That refers to when you get sport-specific.

For example, you have to be able to jump & land (1st layer – movement) before you can jump with efficiency. You have to jump with efficiency (2nd layer – performance) before you can dunk or shoot a jump shot (3rd layer – skill).

Just like anything else in life, you need a good foundation.

Great discussion. :)


SJC says:
12/4/2008 at 7:32:26 AM

HI Joe,

Thanks for all of your information. It really does help and put things into perspective.

I coach a youth 9/10 year old team. I'm trying to teach a motion offense with emphasis on moving away from the basketball. This seems to be working, slowly but surely. The toughest thing to teach 5th graders is to not run towards the basketball, instead try and get open for a pass. Do you recommend any drills to help with this?

Also, we seem to be having problems trying to break pressure. In our last game, a simple zone press seemed to send us into panic mode. Do you recommend a particular zone press offense that keeps the ball in the mmiddle of the court? It seems that no matter how many times we practice passing to the middle and establishing lanes, we end up dribbling right into where the defense wants us to be.

Thanks again for any feedback.


Jim says:
12/4/2008 at 8:37:00 AM

These are excellent points for working with younger kids, I am huge fan at working the fundamentals from the ground up. I have a couple questions:

1. What do you do with parents who have the philosophy that ONLY playing games will help their child become better.

2. Do you have any alternatives to adjusting the heights of baskets for schools/gyms/programs that don't have the resources to accomodate that?


Joe Haefner says:
12/4/2008 at 12:58:05 PM

Hi SJC,

For spacing, you can use tape to make spots on the floor where a player should or could go to maintain spacing. This drill has been successful for coaches with the same problem: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/drills/basicspacingdrill.html

Another subscriber also posted this for your spacing issue on the newsletter page: "Use cones to teach spacing. I do an offense called train where I place a cone near the elbow , the corner near the baseline and one near the 3 point line on the wing, same side as the one in the corner. Two players stand by two of the cones and then when the point gaurd yells train they run in a clockwise motion around the outside of the cones with their hands ready to catch a pass. I instruct the point gaurd to pass to one of the players as they are on their way toward the basket. They must stay spaced. Once they understand, you could then go to tape on the floor. We practice this on both sides. There are two players on each side and a point gaurd. Sometimes I will instruct them to do a certain number of passes before someone can shoot. This drill works very well and when we scrimmage they run it also. "

For the zone and pressing issue, I would advise find another league. Kids at that age should not be pressing or have to face a press. You can read more about why I believe this at this link: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/defense/age.html

Since you already are in the league that allows this, I would try this press breaker: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/plays/linepressbreaker.html


Joe Haefner says:
12/4/2008 at 1:09:21 PM

Hi Jim,

I would explain to the parents that games help improve team play, but if you really want your child to improve their skills. They need to spend time on this during the offseason. During the game, you do not get nearly as much practice handling the ball, shooting the ball, etc. as you would during a skill session when the ball would be in your hands the entire time. One game, you might get 5 to 10 shots, while during an intense shooting session, you could put up over 500 shots in an hour.

Some coaches argue that skills actually regress during the season, because there is not nearly as much time spent working on their skills as they would during the offseason. My theory is that offseason is for skills, season is for team play.

That doesn't mean that you do not work on skill drills during the season. More time is just spent getting your team to work together as an offense and a defense. If you're a youth coach, you'll still want to do mostly skill-building drills.

As for your question concering the hoops, there are actually baskets that you can buy that attach to the front of a regulation 10 foot hoop, that will hang down a couple of feet to make it an 8 foot hoop. The hoop itself does not have to lower. It is just an attachment you put on and take off.


Mauro Panaggio says:
12/4/2008 at 4:01:32 PM

While I agree that proper shooting form should be the foremost consideration in the teaching of the shooting skill. I do not agree with the teaching of the two hand shot under most circumstances. It just becomes one more poor habit that must be broken. As you know bad habits are harder to break than learning a new habit.

Since the final goal is good shooting form and the one hand shot is preferred, then only the one hand shot should be taught until the player has sufficient strength to use the one hand release. This will take less time than you think. It only has to be one step from the basket. This will necessarily eliminate the temptation to shoot from distances where they can only reach the rim by "chucking up the shot".

As a coach I shudder whenever viewing youth players out attemting shots from the 3 point line and their youth league coaches stand by and say nothing to discourage the practice. I have stated my position on the permitting of the 3 point goal in youth programs in my book, which I will not name for fear that some may think I am using this as a forum to promote my book.

I still think you are providing a unique opportunity for coaches at all levels to exchange ideas. Keep up the good work.


Robert Valerio says:
12/4/2008 at 5:36:38 PM

Greetings!

I must say that your articles are fascinatingly helpful. It did tremendous assistance in terms of teaching our players how to make a shot in such a comfortable stance even at a long range!

My head coach just introduce a shooting strap to the team and i would like to know how effective it is? I mean scientifically. In terms of conditioning kids 12 years old and under what would you prefer them to do to loosen their "extra baggage" and add speed and endurance to their being a basketball player. One or our players in the post (#5) is complaining pains around his sheen area when we run for 10 to 15 minutes then followed by footworks.

Please advise!

More power and may you introduce more topics that would greatly help us coaches improve our players and our skills in coaching this sport!

Robert Valerio
Manila, Philippines


Joe Haefner says:
12/4/2008 at 7:24:29 PM

Hi Mauro,

Sorry for the misunderstanding, maybe we should change the wording. When we say shoot with two hands, we mean bring the "guide hand" up to the ball. You still shoot the ball with hand, you just use your guide hand to balance the ball as you normally would during a game.

Some coaches don't even let their players put their guide hand next to the ball when form shooting, because many youth players form bad habits and push the ball with both hands. You can see some of these bad habits and how to correct them at this link: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/fundamentals/shooting/5-shooting-mistakes.html


Joe Haefner says:
12/4/2008 at 7:28:01 PM

Hi Robert,

I'm not a big fan of shooting devices. I think you can do without and still teach the proper shooting form. You can find tons of information on shooting on our website that should help you at this link: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/fundamentals/shooting.html

As for the shin splints, I would advise to see some sort of sports physician.

We hope to bring more basketball conditioning information to the website in the near future.


Bandolin says:
12/5/2008 at 7:48:22 PM

I just complete my level one coaches training and the instructor was adamant about not using a smaller ball or lower rim.

He said that (Quebec) which is where I'm from is the only jurisdiction in the world that uses the 8ft. rim to teach young kids.

He said that everywhere else in the world (Argentina, Greece, China what-have-you) uses the 10 ft. rim with a regular sized ball.


Joe Haefner says:
12/6/2008 at 10:32:52 AM

Hi Bandolin,

I'm sorry, but I believe your instructor is mistaken. I have received emails from people all over the world saying that they use lower rims and smaller balls.

Here is something that's going on in England: http://www.mini-basketball.org.uk/

They use smaller balls and lower hoops. Europe has something similar to it where they use size 5 balls and 8ft 6 in rims. FIBA officials from the Middle East and Africa have also contacted the person who created Mini Basketball in England. I've also seen it done in some places throughout the U.S.


Mike Tarak says:
1/13/2009 at 9:33:42 AM

I coach 1st/2nd grade rec as well as 9U travel (school feeder program) for girls this year. I am also on the local youth league board and have served on boards previously for the past 7 years.

Our girls rec league uses 28.5 balls for all girls....1st/2nd grade shoot on 8', 3rd grade on 9' and 4th and up shoot on 10'. All leagues must play man to man and can not full court press.

Anything you set up for leagues should be progressive from level to level as the kids get older. Start basic and give more freedoms of the game as they get older.

Our stealing policy at 1st/2nd grade is only when the ball goes in the lane.

3rd grade...only when the ball goes below FT line extended.

4th grade...once in the front court.

No press allowed in the rec league.

For the competitive travel program the 3rd graders play on 10' rims and can only press in backcourt the final minute of the game and must play man to man D. Once they get to 4th grade it's regular NFHS rules.

For the comment on shooting, have the player hold a nickle or quarter between their thumb and inside bridge of the hand on their guide hand...that will help shooting form.


Bill says:
1/19/2009 at 9:00:25 AM

Do you have any drills to help with catching the basketball. I coach a 9-10 youth team and we have trouble just catching the ball. We have trouble rebounding and just catching passes cleanly.

Thanks.


Joe Haefner says:
1/19/2009 at 11:17:17 AM

Hi Bill,

Start basic. Use normal two man passing drills.

Emphasize using both hands and tell them to watch the ball into their hands.

You can also look at some great passing drills at this link: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/drills/basketballdrills.html#passingdrills


Paul says:
4/10/2010 at 3:14:38 PM

Should 5 & 6 year olds, when shooting on an 8 fot rim with a 27.5 size ball, be shooting with one or two hands?

Thanks.


Jeff Haefner says:
4/12/2010 at 12:07:54 PM

At that age it probably doesn't matter. They are so young that about all you can do is let the kids get out there and have a little fun. Basketball is a tough sport and those kids just can't do much. It will take a few years before they are strong enough or have enough physical development to really play basketball. If a kid is going to take a million shots regardless, then get them on an even lower rim and smaller ball.

Good luck!


Paul says:
4/12/2010 at 1:31:31 PM

Thanks, Jeff. My 5 year old can make hundreds of baskets with two hands, but his coach has them trying to shoot with one hand. My son is still in preschool and small for his age. I just don't want him to get frustrated because his love of basketball is extremely deep. Going from making tons of baskets with two hands to none because he is physically not developed scares me and I wanted some input before talking to the coach (I'm a soccer guy so I don't know everything when it comes to basketball). Thanks.


Jeff Haefner says:
4/12/2010 at 2:33:16 PM

It sounds like the coach has good intentions. That's a good thing!!

If he really takes that many shots maybe you do want to get him a mini-ball and a 7 foot rim and let him start shooting one handed. Bottom line, as long as its no-pressure and fun, you really can't for wrong. The true skill development doesn't happen for several years. Get him in soccer, gymnastics, swimming, martial arts. That will help will with athleticism down the road.

You might suggest this DVD to the coach (if you can do so without offending him). It's the best I've ever seen for young kids. (There's a preview towards the bottom of the page.)
http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/pr/bigelow-youth-right-way.html


Michael Murphy says:
10/3/2010 at 8:25:53 PM

Hi Guys

I am currently coaching a boys under 13 div1 team.
I have just started the new season and the boys have just had parents coaching them till now and they are use to just mucking around at practice. They have no motivation to be a good team or to work hard to improve there skills is there any techniques or drills i can use to get them motivated/inspired about practice and the new season?
Thanks


Joe Haefner says:
10/3/2010 at 9:04:20 PM

Michael,

You may want to take a look at this guide. It has tons of examples and ideas to motivate players.

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/mental/motivate-players.html


Heck says:
1/4/2011 at 1:43:55 PM

I just found this website today while looking for different topics geared towards 6-9yr old bball practice ideas. I coached high school girls hoop for 14 years prior to becoming the AD at my school, and am now raising 2 boys, ages 6 and 8. I feel I have an interesting view of things. I see little boys who cannot wait to run around, play and have fun in sports, and go to my job and see high schoolers who are no longer interested in athletics because the fun has been taken out of those activities, most likely by adults.

I support many of the comments and suggestions made by Joe and Jeff. Small ball and low rims; short practices and shorter speeches; keep them moving, and coach ALL the kids, even the one who thinks he doesn't want to be there!

Prior to these youngsters reaching high school, our job as coaches is to teach kids to love the sport, and make it so they cannot wait to come back for more! If they learn to love sports, they will learn to love competition, and winning in high school (when the newspaper will actually report on the game because it matters to your community) will take care of itself. If coaches/parents focus on winning any earlier than this, then they will be the ones who dribbled out of bounds and turned the ball over.

Keep promoting the fun in youth sports. I look forward to checking back in. Thanks,.


RAK says:
1/17/2011 at 3:27:46 PM

Hi all, and thanks for sharing tips.

I've been working with 4-6th grade boys for several years, and I find the tight-weave is still the best way to get the kids used to moving with and without the ball. Also helps with passing on the move.

As for shooting? If the parents and league are going to allow kids to play who are too small to shoot correctly, you can't punish the kids by banning the 'chuck'. Half my kids can't shoot a free throw without loading up from the outside of their knee and uncorkscrewing up out of their shoes. Would I prefer they start in the middle of the chest and finish like Jordon? Um. Ya. Some of my players are three YEARS from being physically capable of doing that with a 28.5 ball.

I just try to get them to finish high and on-line so the later adjustments are less dramatic.


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