Four Great Ways To Keep Your Team’s Attention

By Joe Haefner

Want to get your player’s attention or find a useful way to handle large groups of kids at practice or camps? Having problems with kids messing around during practice? Check out the tips below.

Many coaches struggle keeping their player’s attention throughout practice, especially at the youth level because they have really short attention spans and brains of younger players are actually designed to get excited and hyper even if they don’t want to. They really can not help it, so it’s a bad idea to punish them.

Here are some ways to keep their attention and keep practice flowing smoothly:

1. Keep lectures short (2 minutes or less). If you lecture any longer than this, most kids will be in “lala” land by then. And kids don’t come to practice to hear you talk the whole practice, they come to have fun.

2. Keep drills short and fun (half court – 5 minutes or less, full court – 10 minutes or less). If you stay on a drill for too long, it becomes monotonous and the kids lose interest.

3. Clap Method – You tell the kids at the very beginning of your first practice that whenever you clap, they have clap the same number of times you clap. You clap twice, they clap twice. Make sure to also tell them that this is time for them to listen.

You can usually get everybody’s attention after 2 to 3 sequences of claps and that only takes normally 3 to 5 seconds. Much better than yelling so much you can’t talk the next day.

4. Line Method – Whenever you blow whistle or yell “lines”, the kids race to an assigned line and sit down. You might have 5 lines of 6 or 3 lines of 3 depending on the size of your group. The team that lines up and sits down first wins. Congratulate them with some enthusiasm by giving them fist-pounds, high fives, and/or verbal praise.

I’ve seen both of these methods work in small practices and huge groups.

If you need some ideas for fun drills, check out our 60 Fun Youth Basketball Drills & Games.

22 Comments

  1. John — January 22, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

    Sound good but what if you are trying ot emphasize something important. What do you think about having them run for messing around. Mnay times the guys think that it is ok to mess around in practice. We always tell them that what they do in practice leads to the real game.

  2. Lee — January 22, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

    I have everyone run when someone messes around – if they have that much energy, then it’s time to burn it off.

    You can only do this once or twice, though, before it resembles abuse. If a particular child keeps messing around, it’s time to discuss their changing sports.

  3. nicolas — January 23, 2009 @ 7:39 am

    you said you would send free e-book…ain’t got one yet

  4. Hal Jarnicki — January 25, 2009 @ 10:41 am

    I’m looking for some solid game day prep & procedures. What works for a middle school team?

  5. ariel rabe — January 25, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

    Some instances I gently ask the kid/s to go to a soft sofa located near the office of the club house (the kid/kids never did because they kept quiet), sit there and return only when he/they are ready to listen. But giving first a fatherly warning is a must because kids do listen. Another one is to ask the kid/kids to come closer in front of the other kids. One time a kid was on an acrobatic hype and saw his head on the seat of the chair, I called his attention and pointed to the positive side of his hyper-active behavior and later commented that “You see, you can do it.” Yes, he was able to focus on listening.

  6. Cathryn — January 28, 2009 @ 5:59 am

    I coach a bunch of girls, they mess around a little, easy than boys in that way, but if they really aren’t listening or being disruptive in a bad way, I make them sit out for 5 mins, or tell them that they can join in when they are ready to be a part of the team. It doesn’t happen that often and it is usually the same ones!

  7. Chris — January 28, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

    Cathryn, I like the sitting out idea. I also coach girls (7th grade) and I have a group of 3 girls that are a constant source of attitude and problems. The main problem is that 2 of them are starting guards and very talented. Unfortunately at home they hear a bunch of crap from their Mom’s about how they are above everything. It makes life very hard on a volunteer coach.

  8. tom biedekapp — January 28, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

    state the skill that you want the players to improve on, get agreement that it would be a good skill to improve on ask players if they know of drills to help them improve, daily goals that everyone agrees on help keep focus which needs to be one of the skills players develop

  9. alvina reyes — February 4, 2009 @ 3:51 am

    i have a problem about my teammates, they don’t follow me whatever i told them to do, because i am only the team captain and not the coach.

  10. tim — April 5, 2009 @ 6:16 am

    This doesn’t solve all the problems listed above, but when I blow the whisle all the kids get into “triple-threat” position, even if they don’t have a real ball. The whole team runs if someone messes up. They quickly communicate on the next whistle. The only drawback is the use of a whistle during drills. I have to make adjustments. When other coaches see this during a practice their jaws drop at the speed we transition from drill to drill or simply start a practice.

  11. Craig — April 14, 2009 @ 10:38 am

    I’m a much older coach and really like all the tips. I pass many of them on to younger coaches I work with. I’m looking for one drill though. It’s a wamup drill. Two lines under the basket. First person runs around to the opposite low block and receives pass and shoots. Passes ball back to nextr person in line. Meanwhile one person comes around from the other line to the opposite low post and shoots.
    I cannot find the drill and one of my young coaches would like to include it in warmups. He isn’t running it correctly and I cannot remember the drill perfectly to help correct his technique.
    Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

  12. hany tolba — June 7, 2009 @ 6:43 am

    thanks for your these important advices
    i want to know some drills for the development of skills
    for competetion about beginner players.

  13. Chris — December 3, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

    Would it be a good idea to have some intense running and conditioning drills so the kids can get all the pent up energy out of their system? This way they may be able to focus.

  14. Joe Haefner — December 3, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

    Chris, my immediate thought is no and yes. On the surface, it seems like a great idea and I used to do that myself.

    You want be very careful on how you incorporate the running. If you tell them to get on the line and start running, it may backfire. From a little experience and some research, I discovered that when we MAKE kids run, it puts a negative emotion attached to running which is the last thing you want in order for them to be healthy adults. Running should be a privelege.

    A good way to get the kids to run is to have them play basketball. Another thing that can be effective is shuttle races or anything basically to make running fun. Great question and I hope that helps.

  15. Patch — November 17, 2011 @ 12:02 am

    No e-book, so sad

  16. Bettina Folte-Neul — November 25, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

    I do not single out one player on a negative issue, instead, I include the entire team. Everyone gets a warning, if I give two warnings, then the entire team has to run. I believe this teaches team work and looking out for one another.

  17. Kevin Monahan — December 7, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

    Joe Haefner’s response should be read by all. Keep the running a positive thing. If you get a kid you send running a lot, he may make a point of getting into trouble as a way to gain attention. Try awarding 2 free throws for paying attention as positive reenforcement. The kids that don’t get to shoot will learn quickly. My kids want to shoot all the time. This has helped keep their attention. As an added bonus to training, they learn to take free throws in the middle of other activity like in games.

  18. Cristina — January 5, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

    Helllooo. I have a group of children aged between 7 and 10 years so to speak. It’s my first this age group. Very small! not quite manage to capture their attention. Succeed, but not for long, they always find other things to do. I would like to know if you know what games to their age, I tried it all and not pay off for long. Thank you.

  19. Lynn — March 12, 2012 @ 10:57 pm

    I have a group of 4th grade girls that are beginners (very 1st year playing). They have a lot of potential, but never recognize this potential because they are continuously competing with each other and fighting (carrying over from school, etc.). Attention span – challenging, but can deal with that. I am looking for ideas as to how to motivate them to work together and stop being so selfish on the court and in practices. They are so competitive, etc. that they even fight about little things like which vehicle they ride in to get to practice – very frustrating! They hurt each other trying to steal the ball, yell at each other, talk about each other, pout and cry because they want to be the point guard, whine if they don’t get the ball passed to them, intentionally won’t pass the ball to someone they are fighting with for the day, complain and argue about which baggie of snacks has one more in it, and the arguing……ahhhh! And, then they complain that they’ve only won 1 out of 7 games. i personally am not a person that has to win games at this level, although the 1 game they did win was a big boost to their confidence, but I do want them to do their best and they can’t do that when they are constantly playing selfish basketball. I have a degree in psychology, and have tried everything I can think of, but just can’t seem to move forward on this issue.

  20. tim — January 13, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

    Like them all. I also used, 8th and under, a method in which I would blow my whistle and they would have to get into triple threat regardless of whether they held a ball or not. The benefits were many.

  21. Tariq Mujahid — March 24, 2014 @ 9:41 am

    I am a wanna-be coach who read, attended, and bought everything….well almost everything I was told I needed to be a basketball coach. I work with a youth basketball coach who is blessed with two full court gyms for 2hrs. What seems to be the problem is his attitude about Practice Planning. Usually around the end of the first hour the kids are burnt-out and non-attentive. Any suggestions would be great.

  22. mary oriaro — August 18, 2016 @ 3:06 am

    this is of great help to me I started a mini basketball academy in Kenya and am taking this to the bank

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