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

BASKETBALL IN ANGUILLA

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

Drillz and Skillz/Breakthrough Basketball “Attack and Counter” Skills Clinic in the Chicago Area

By Don Kelbick

Drillz and Skillz/Breakthrough Basketball “Attack and Counter” Skillz Clinic in Chicago Area

The Drillz and Skillz/Breakthrough Basketball “Attack and Counter” Skills Clinic held in Libertyville, Il (40 minutes outside of Chicago) is history and was a great success.

Held in the Libertyville Athletic Complex, the clinic welcomed 60 players and at least 2 dozen coaches for the weekend clinic. The Libertyville Athletic Complex is an unbelievable facility. Indoors it houses a fitness center, boxing center, 2 soccer fields, multiple volleyball courts and too many basketball courts to count. We used 12 baskets to work out 60 players.

Friday we started with footwork and looked at it from several different angles. A good 3 hour evening workout that introduced the footwork and the mentality that have worked so well in improving players. The rest of the weekend was spent applying that footwork and mentality to basketball situations.

On Saturday, we worked on shooting, coming off screens and ball screens. Sunday was the day for post drills, fast break drills, ball handling and a few games of 1 on 1. All in all players took between 800-1000 shots for the weekend.

The players were extremely hard workers and were great to work with. Players continue to amaze me. When they give themselves to you, it is incredible how quickly they improve.

Not lost in the shuffle were the coaches. Many of them came to watch  but when I invited them to come on the court and help out, many of them did so. The weekend could not have been a success without them.

I am looking forward to the next clinic.

For more information on Don Kelbick, go to www.DonKelbickBasketball.com

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5 Bucks To a Better Team

By JimBado

If you’ve only got five bucks, your best investment is a roll of blue painter’s tape. Like duct tape for a homeowner, blue tape is invaluable for a coach and much easier to use than masking tape. Carry it to practices and games to help your team:

1) Build a better understanding of offensive positions/spacing

You can explain positions and tell your squad to spread out until you’re “blue” in the face, but many kids still won’t understand. We showed our players where to line up on offense untold times, but they always seemed to forget their positions. Part of this came from us always rotating positions, but it also stemmed from a lack of markings on the court (we pointed out the block and elbow, but they forgot what those were too).

The solution: mark guards’ and forwards’ spots with blue tape Xs. That worked so well in practice that we started doing it in games. Our players would run down the hardwood during games, look for the blue X and jump stop on it with a smile. After a couple weeks, we didn’t need the Xs anymore.

2) End endless trips into the corners

Inexperienced players tend to dribble into the corner and stop. The defense swarms them and steals the ball or causes a turnover or jump ball. Repeated instructions to avoid the corners, labeling them the “no” zone (i.e., don’t go in there) and stopping scrimmages when someone dribbled into one all failed to end the bad habit for our squad. Once a player started dribbling, the corner seemed to attract her with almost irresistible magnetic power.

We solved the problem by making large squares/boxes in each corner with two pieces of blue tape and the out of bounds lines. When a player dribbled into the “box” during a scrimmage, we blew the whistle. Now, instead of wondering what they did, they looked down, saw where they stood (i.e., inside the no zone) and immediately understood. After a couple whistles, we didn’t even need to say anything.

The boxes virtually eliminated the corners’ magnetic power and, after two practices, we didn’t need to tape them anymore. Thanks to the “power of blue”, our players now remind each other to avoid the “no” zone.

3) Develop a clearer understanding of weak side defensive positioning

Knowing where to position yourself in a man-to-man defense is a tough concept to grasp. Young players tend to “chase” the person they’re guarding all over the court, rather than play defense with their brains. Even those who understand the concept of weak-side defense often stand too close to the player they’re guarding to be effective help defenders.

We discussed “on-the-line/up-the-line” without success until finally realizing (duh), we ought to just put the dern line in the middle of the key from the foul line to the baseline. With blue tape on the floor, our players could see where they should be when they’re weak side defenders. Do they still get out of position? Of course, but the tape has improved their understanding of how to man-to-man defense tremendously. You can also mark the “danger zone” near your basket with tape. Tell your players to keep the ball out of the taped area or, if the ball gets into it, to swarm the offensive player. When kids can see what they should do, they do it.

Just when it seems we’ve advanced beyond it, blue tape continues proving its value. Since our summer league plays two simultaneous games crosscourt on a large varsity court, the crosscourt marks for the foul , three point and out-of-bounds lines are all very light. Unable to see the yellow foul line, our kids repeatedly stepped over it; the referees waved off the shots we made due to lane violations.

Once we put down a blue tape line, violations disappeared. After marking both foul lines, the referee called our squad for three seconds. During a time out, I asked him how our players were supposed to know they were inside the key (the key is the exact same color as the rest of the floor). He had no response, but we did: marking it with more of our trusty blue tape.

You can find more articles from Jim Bado that are usually non-basketball related at the LOSER Report.

For more youth coaching tips, drills, plays, offense tips, defense tips, and much more, visit our Youth Basketball Coaching Home Page.

Stop Yelling and Start Coaching

By JimBado

Do you like getting yelled at? I bet you don’t whether it’s at work, home or on the basketball court. But, if you’re like many youth coaches, you yell at your players and criticize their performance. And here’s why: they play better after you do that, don’t they?

Let me share a not so secret “secret” with you: when you yell at your players after a really bad game, their improvement in the next one isn’t due to your screams. In fact, your criticism may hurt more than help; it can turn your kids off from playing the sport. If a player or team does poorly – and most do from time to time — the next game, inevitably, they will be better because of a simple statistical phenomenon: regression to the mean.

Why should you care about a somewhat obscure statistical concept as a youth basketball coach? Because, in short, regression to the mean means your performance — in anything you do — will tend to be close to the same most times. If you have an outstandingly good performance or an outstandingly poor one, your next will not be nearly as good or bad, you will move back toward your average performance (or regress to the mean). This phenomenon is important because of how you perceive the impact of your yelling and screaming.

In a famous example, Psychologist and Noble Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman, interviewed Israeli flight instructors – a critical job if one ever existed – about the feedback they gave the pilots they trained. Instructors told Kahneman they stopped giving the pilots positive feedback because whenever a pilot did an outstanding job and they praised him, he flew worse on the next flight. And, on the other hand, when the pilot performed poorly and the instructor read him the riot act, he did better the next time.

The instructors, like many of us, saw their words as having more influence that they, in reality, actually had. An outstanding performance, due to regression to the mean, will be followed by one not as outstanding. Conversely, a terrible one will be followed by a better one. What goes up, must come down and vice versa. The instructors made the same mistake we make as youth coaches: a team who plays terribly will, in all likelihood, play better the next game whether or not you yell at them.

Does this mean you shouldn’t say anything because your words have no impact? That you can’t hold your players accountable for their performance? Absolutely not! Instead of yelling, you can:

1) Show your team what to do (not tell them what not to do)
2) Tell them, they can do better (because they can be)
3) Focus on a few, specific fundamentals to improve and
4) Practice, practice, practice those skills, remembering to have fun
5) Track, reward and recognize progress, no matter how slow

Earlier this season, one of my youth teams got drilled 33-1 (we only scored due league rules requiring a point be awarded when a player gets fouled while shooting). Believe me, at numerous times, I wanted to yell at various players, but stopped myself. Yelling would have made me feel better, but wouldn’t have made much sense: as a coach, you do your work at practices, not during games.

Although I really – really – wanted to tear into them after the contest – some players seemed to not put in much effort during the game — I backed off and focused on the five above at the next practice. Reminding myself my job was showing them how to play better and encouraging them – they are eleven and twelve year olds playing in a YMCA rec league — we practiced specific fundamentals we failed to execute during the game, believing those would help us do better in the next one.

The next week, my squad won 16-14 in overtime. What happened the week after that? Well, you know that concept of regression to the mean….

You can find more articles from Jim Bado that are usually non-basketball related at the LOSER Report.

For more youth coaching tips, drills, plays, offense tips, defense tips, and much more, visit our Youth Basketball Coaching Home Page.