6 Benefits Of Using 3v3 Leagues In Your Youth Program

By Joe Haefner

6 Benefits Of Using 3v3 Leagues In Your Youth Program

One of the best things I did as a Head Varsity Girls Basketball Coach and Director of a Youth Program was to start up….

How to Break Bad Shooting Habits and Keep Your GUIDE HAND Quiet

By Joe Haefner

How to Break Bad Shooting Habits and Keep Your GUIDE HAND Quiet

The most common shooting flaw with young players is…

What We Did With Our 4th Grade Youth Basketball Team – Offense, Defense, Skills and More

By Joe Haefner

What We Did With Our 4th Grade Youth Basketball Team – Offense, Defense, Skills and More

My daughter’s 4th grade team had a great year. Tremendous improvement, lots of fun, and lots of life lessons learned…

Competitive and Fun Youth Drill – Speed Dribble and Lay Up Relay Race

By Joe Haefner

Competitive and Fun Youth Drill – Speed Dribble and Lay Up Relay Race

This is a fun and competitive drill that helps players to improve their speed dribble and lay up under pressure in…

11 Creative Ways to Get MORE Out of Your Limited Practice Time

By Joe Haefner

11 Creative Ways to Get MORE Out of Your Limited Practice Time

Practice time can be a very limited resource for basketball teams, especially with young players. Between school, different sports and other…

4th Grade Basketball Practice Plan – From Jeff Haefner’s Coaching Blog

By Joe Haefner

4th Grade Basketball Practice Plan – From Jeff Haefner’s Coaching Blog

We had a great practice with our 4th grade girls team last night! One of the best practices we’ve ever had. Here’s the practice plan…

Basketball Size Chart – Recommended Sizes for Kids & Adults

By Joe Haefner

Basketball Size Chart – Recommended Sizes for Kids & Adults

If you spend a little time watching youth games, practices, or pick up games in this country…. you’ll see that most young players use the wrong size basketball. And using the wrong size often leads to…

Please Don’t Make Youth Basketball Gross!

By Joe Haefner

This is an article that we’re reposting that was written by Tom Pittman in the year 2010.  We think the message is great!


Sometimes we youth coaches watch professional basketball so much that we confuse that with what we do.

Professional basketball is mostly about winning — and it should be. After all, at that level, while basketball may still look like a game, in reality it is a business, and people’s livelihoods are affected by the wins and loses. Consequently, pro basketball coaches coach to win, and while it is a shame Adam Morrison barely got off the Lakers‘ bench last year en route to a championship, or the Utah Jazz let go of Sundiata Gaines, the hero of their victory over LeBron James last year, that’s the business of basketball. It’s about winning, and the players are just a means to an end.

But youth basketball is not about business, it’s about the kids.

Let me say that again because that is a huge difference between the basketball we watch on TV, and the basketball we coaches coach: youth basketball is not about the wins, it is about the kids.

Sure, winning is still the object of the game for youth basketball, but it isn’t the REASON for it.

And youth coaches who don’t get that remind me of the coach in the movie, The Karate Kid. And like the movie, these coaches tend to produce kids with warped values when it comes to sports. And unfortunately, there are enough people with warped values involved with sports that it confuses young athletes.

When coaching youth, it is important for youth coaches (and parents too for that matter) to remember that the meat and potatoes of youth basketball are the kids — building their skills, knowledge, confidence, and love of the game — and winning is gravy.

Don’t get me wrong, I love gravy, but gravy on its own without meat and potatoes is actually pretty gross.

And not very filling.

Yes, it’s all basketball, and winning is always the object of the game, but it’s not the object of the sport itself.

The different levels of basketball have different reasons to exist, reasons coaches need to accept that while it is all basketball, the different levels it is played at have different purposes.

  • Youth basketball is about building skills, knowledge, confidence, and a love of the game in kids.
  • High school basketball is about player development, including character development, team loyalty, representing your school, etc.
  • College basketball is about the big dance. Just getting to the NCAA championship tournament is a legitimate accomplishment in college basketball, especially since there are great deal more college teams than the 30 teams the NBA has. And reaching the “Sweet 16,” “Elite Eight,” or “Final Four” is so legit, it actually goes on coaches’ and players’ resumes.
  • NBA basketball, as we’ve already discussed is about winning, and people’s livelihoods depend on it.
  • D-League basketball, however, is a different animal. Like the NBA, fans love the high level of play in the NBADL, and the passion players play with for meager paychecks, but what fans really love is when players get called up to the NBA.

And the better a player does in the NBA, the cooler his former d-league team is. Then a fan can say, “I saw Fesenko play when he was with the Utah Flash.”

And even cooler is when d-league teams are generous with player access, then a fan can say, “I visited with Fesenko a few times when he was with the Flash. See? Here’s a photo of the two of us together.”

But the point is, just because it’s all basketball, that doesn’t mean it all serves the same purpose. Just as the difference between self-defense and murder comes down to the reason, so too do reasons make basketball different at its different levels.

So youth coaches, remember to serve the meat and potatoes before the gravy, and make Mr. Miyagi (and Mr. Han) proud. :-)


You can read more of Tom’s stuff at http://basketballogy.com/

Should Youth Coaches Eliminate Shooting Drills From Practice?

By Joe Haefner

I know what you’re thinking, “Eliminate shooting drills from practice? Joe must have fell off his rocker again.” But please hear me out, because this could help the development of your youth team tremendously.

Do I think you should eliminate ALL shooting drills? Absolutely not.

Should you eliminate most? Yes! As a youth coach working with 5th graders and below (10 & 11 year olds and younger), you should NOT be spending 10 to 30 minutes on shooting every day.

Well, you’re probably thinking now… well why?!?

  1. You need to develop ball skills first in order to be successful.

    If you can’t dribble, beat the press, or take care of the ball long enough to even take a shot, what good does shooting and everything else do you? Nothing is worse than trying to run offense and all you do is turn it over. You are better off shooting a 20 foot runner, that way at least you have a small chance of making a basket or even more likely one of your players getting an offensive rebound near the basket and put it back up for an easy make. If you turn it over, you have zero chance to make a basket and the other team probably gets an easy one in transition.

  2. They pick up ball skills faster than they would pick up shooting at this age.

    If you watch players at games, practices, and camps, very few 3rd graders could shoot the ball as well as a 10th grader. However, if you watch them dribble the basketball, you will see a much higher percentage that can dribble the ball as proficiently as the older kids compared to shooting.

    That’s because younger players can improve their ball handling at a much faster pace than they can improve their shooting.

    As Bob Bigelow says, you should introduce the skills by gravity. Which means the skills that work with gravity would be the easiest and the ones that work against gravity would be the hardest. Since dribbling is completely with gravity and shooting is completely against gravity, it only makes sense that dribbling would be easier for younger kids to learn and progress.

    Now, let’s say you worked on ball skills when the kids were in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. By the time the players reach 6th grade, they’ll be very good ball handlers. Now, you can adjust your practice priorities. You won’t have to spend as much time on ball handling and you could now allocate more time to shooting, because the players are strong enough and coordinated enough to take the instruction needed to be a good shooter. They will also improve their shooting at a much faster pace.

Well, why is shooting harder to teach to younger players and what can you do?

When it comes to younger players 5th grade and below, they usually lack the coordination and strength to consistently shoot the ball properly at a goal.

My advice would be to include some strength and coordination exercises at the beginning of every practice. Great drills for total body strength and upper-to-lower body coordination include:

Crawling is great for strength and creating coordination between your upper and lower body. You can do bear crawls, crab crawls, and inchworms. You can do them forwards, backwards, side to side, and in a circle.

Lunges and squats are great for lower body strength, mobility, and coordination. No barbell is needed.

After you get the basics of lunging and squatting, you can add pushes to improve lower-to-upper body coordination which is required to become a good shooter.

For the pushing aspect, you can simply use a basketball.

Squat with Push – You squat down, have the ball at your chest, stand up and push the ball over your head.

Squat with Out of Sync Push – You squat down and push the ball above your head, stand up and bring the ball to your chest.

Coach, if I cut out most of my shooting drills then how am I going to score points!?

Well, right now your team is probably shooting around 10% to 20%. If you work on shooting with the younger kids every practice for 20 minutes, you might improve their shooting percentage by 2%. To score more points, you’d be much better off spending 2 minutes every practice emphasizing to your players to crash the offensive boards.

So what should youth coaches do for ball handling, passing, and shooting during practice?

  • Depending on the length of your practice, spend 10 to 20 minutes on dribbling and ball handling drills and games.
  • Incorporate athletic development, footwork, and passing into your practices.
  • Spend 5 minutes every day shooting form away from the basket. Do wall shooting or line shooting. That way, they’re only concerned with their form and not whether the ball is going in the hole.

    Don’t get me wrong, you might spend 15 minutes the first couple of practices to teach some of the shooting basics, but after that your time would be much better spent on ball handling, footwork, and passing.

    Then each week, you can slowly progress them through shooting form where they eventually get to the point that they’re shooting at the basket within close range WITH PROPER FORM. Maybe you can even do some catch and shoot drills.

    Also, I recommend smaller balls and lower hoops so they can shoot consistently with good form and just aren’t chucking the ball at the hoops. In baseball, we progress kids from shorter pitching mounds, shorter base paths, and shorter fences for strength and coordination reasons. But for some reason in basketball, we don’t use that same logic.

Also, here is an article that could help you decide what you should work on: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/coaching/teach-youth.html

Long-term planning for youth basketball

As a coach, it would help you tremendously to sit down and plan what skills you are going to focus on each year to help develop well-rounded players. By focusing on just a few things, this helps simplify your practices and helps you make big improvements in a few key areas. If you do this every year, then by the time they reach high school, they will be light years ahead of other players their age.

And of course, remember to include small-sided games and make things fun. That way, they’ll actually want to play when they’re older and won’t become one of the 80% that quit sports before the age of 13.

Basketball In Anguilla

By Don Kelbick


I have a great interest in helping basketball grow, wherever the seeds are sewn. I made a trip to Anguilla to help some very dedicated people try to realize their goal of making basketball matter here.

Anguilla is a very small island, located about 200 miles east of Puerto Rico, in the Leeward Islands. It has really friendly people, great food and beautiful beaches. Travel was a flight from Miami to St. Martin and then a 20 minute ferry to Anguilla.

The first thing I noticed was, as a British territory, that people drive on the wrong side of the road. I always thought that would be no big deal, but I was wrong. I have no doubt that if I drove here many people would wind up dead. Just crossing the street is a problem.

On this island of 13,000 people, there is really no basketball culture to speak of, except for a small group of dedicated residents who believe they can enrich the lives of the people of Anguilla, especially the kids, by exposing them to the game. The trip was postponed once to allow  Hurricane Irene to pass over the Island. In fact, the coaches almost got caught in the weather as they were painting the court. That’s right, the coaches were painting the court!

We are running the camp in 2 sections, 8-12 in the morning and 13 and up in the afternoon. It is a long day in the sun. Never did I ever think you could burn through SPF 50. The kids are great. Very positive, very respectful and very friendly. As players, they are all novices, even the older ones. They have never been through anything like this camp before. They are learning how to work hard, how to respect others on their team and how to play basketball.

The players are very willing learners. They are eager to soak up knowledge, no matter where it comes from. The coaches, all Island residents, are eager to learn as well. I have worked a lot of camps for a lot of years and rarely have I found a group that I enjoy being with as much as this group of coaches. Their connection through the kids to the game is something to be admired.

This has not been an easy week. Temperatures in the mid 90′s, no cover, blazing sun, and other obstacles (I lathered on the SPF 50 but it had no effect). In the U. S. we get spoiled with facilities, equipment, etc. This camp, however, is the reason why we all should coach. An unique opportunity to reach people of all ages who are not jaded by false hopes of NBA paydays, no helicopter parents and no desires other than looking for a positive influence in their lives. The opportunity to touch so many people and have an effect on their lives is what coaching is all about.

Maribelle West and Paul Bell, the driving forces behind the effort, have created a true grass roots program. Hopefully they will get the support they so richly deserve.

You can see their goals and aspirations at www.IslandHoopsABA.com

For more information visit www.DonKelbickBasketball.com