Important Lesson for Youth Basketball Coaches

By Jeff Haefner

Here’s a guest post and very good lesson from Coach Ken Sartini.  We really think he was on the money with this, so we decided to post it on our blog.  Enjoy…


I went to church this morning and as I was looking through the weekly bulletin I came upon this:

Jesus said:  ” A foolish person builds a house on sand…. A wise person builds a house on solid ground. ”

The Deacon spoke on this at length during his homily and it got me thinking.  Since I always told my students about building a house and that it takes a good foundation for it to last, but with a poor foundation the building will crumble.  I told them that their education was the foundation for their lives. Get a good education and build a good foundation for your future.

This holds true in basketball also.  If we are to have a good program we need to build from the bottom up… ( the foundation ) and that begins at the lowest level possible, teaching the fundamentals of the game and how to play, NOT just sets and winning as the end all.  Good solid fundamentals are the foundation of your programs.  As a varsity coach I loved it when kids came in knowing how to play m2m defense, be able to read and set screens and how to shoot.  I didn’t care what offense they ran, as long as they had these basics, we could teach the rest.

Now comes the planning part. 

I was talking to John Jenkins and we were discussing fundamentals vs winning and we came to the conclusion that while the basketball fundamentals are extremely important there are other things that the players need to know in order to implement these.  He related to me of a college coach that came in to coach some of his younger kids and taught nothing but fundamentals. Since they didn’t run a press offense in practice, they got destroyed and never got the chance to do much in games.

John and I talked about some kids that were shooting the ball off their left eye and pushing the ball instead of good solid fundamental shooting.  We had some kids that came in and they were dribbling with their right hands, taking the ball to their left side before bringing the ball up to the proper side to shoot.  It takes a lot of time to break bad habits like this.

So, to all you lower level youth coaches, plan your practices wisely! 

Make a good practice plan, just like you would have a lesson plan in the classroom.  I realize that at some levels time is a big factor – so planning is even more important.  If you don’t know how to make a good practice plan, search the Internet and find the answer….. or find a mentor to help you learn that skill.  Use your time wisely, make sure that you cover the things that they are going to need to  play the game while teaching good fundamentals.  Help them build a good foundation so they can continue to play as they progress through each level….. and they will have some success.

While everyone wants to win…. in the end.. who really cares if kids go 30-0 and cant play when they reach high school because they are so far behind fundamentally.  That is the measure of your success as a youth basketball coach.

OK, that’s my sermon for the day.  Sorry if I bored you… but like I always say…JMO….

If you’d like to contact me or ask me a question, just leave your comments below.

Coach Ken Sartini

In the long run, it’s not what we have done, but what we have become through all of our experiences.

23 Comments

  1. Mauro Panaggio — June 13, 2008 @ 10:34 am

    Too many programs exist for the gratification of adults rather than the youth they should serve.

  2. Mauro Panaggio — June 13, 2008 @ 10:41 am

    The Deacon was right on the money and I agree 100% with him.

  3. Coach Ray — June 13, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

    Mauro,
    Please stop advertising here!… I was almost tempted to check out your book and website but you’re too pushy…you sound desperate.
    Please get off this website!… get your own.
    Coach Ray

  4. coach john s. — June 14, 2008 @ 8:47 am

    Coach Ray Lighten-up on mauro. You know as a coach we are always looking for good material. Look you took santini’s material on your web site. easy we are all here to help the kids.

    mauro if you are a class guy you should send me and coach ray a copy of your book without charge or shipping.

    coach john S

  5. Jeff Haefner — June 14, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

    Just to clarify for Coach John and everyone, this is NOT Coach Ray’s website. Coach Ray is simply a newsletter subscriber that chimed in.

    We really appreciate everyone’s comments and loyal participation.

  6. Elijah Kelly — June 15, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

    I agree with your comments hole heartedly. Kids need to be taught their fundamentals early and given the opportunity to practice their learned skills often, by entering weekly/monthly tournaments.

  7. Joe Haefner — June 15, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

    We have started to have a problem with people trying to advertise their products on the site, so we decided to take all self-promotion and advertising off. Thank you everybody.

  8. Stephanie — June 17, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

    I was just needing some advice on what I need to do..My daughter is in the 6th grade and has played pee wee bball for the past 2 years. Her coach is an awesome person but is not as hard on the girls as I would like. He wants them to have and that is good but he has not taught them a whole lot of fundamentals. I played ball all through JR and SR high and I know how the game is played but as far as coaching I don’t think I know where to start.I am thinking about taking on the responsibilty of coaching these girls. What would be the first thing I should do? Thanks!!!

  9. Mauro Panaggio — June 17, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

    Coach Ray,
    There was no attempt to advertise, but simply a source where one could
    find information relative to some of the problems that diminish the true objectives that youth programs should promote, rather than the
    gratification of the involved adults. Coach, if you will send me your address, I will be happy to send you a free copy of my Youth Basketball
    book. (signed if you wish)

  10. Mauro Panaggio — June 17, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

    Jeff and Joe,
    I think it is great that you have provided an avenue where coaches and
    others interested in the game of basketball have a chance to exchange views and opinions. It is healthy for the game even when it sometims provokes negative comments. Keep up the great servise to the sport.

  11. ariel rabe — July 3, 2008 @ 12:34 am

    I would like to share this. Robert Fox says in his 1987 book on basketball skills – Talent is a promise of potential but fundamentals are a foundation of excellence. Indeed.

  12. Ken — July 19, 2009 @ 8:09 am

    Stephanie,
    If you decide to take the team, teach fundamentals.. there are a lot of good sites out there that can give you a bunch of good drills and ideas. They still need to have fun, but your goal should be to get them ready to play at the next level and fundamentals is the way to do that. Good luck.

  13. Lee — January 19, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

    I coach at the Pee Wee level and we only have 50mins of practice time a week.Does anyone know of some drills that could maximize the 50 mins I have? I spend about 10 mins running through the 2/3 zone. I wish I had time to teach m2m! I spend about 10 mins on offense. Simple motion. Basically teaching them how to keep spaced out and to move to the open spot. Lee

  14. Jeff Haefner — January 20, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

    Lee – Have you seen these articles?
    http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/blog/index.php/coaching-youth-basketball-with-limited-time-1-practice-a-week/

    http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/articles/basketball-time-management.html

  15. Eddie — October 16, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    I fully agree with this. I have a lot of parents that don’t like the way I coach. The laughing having fun and makin sure the kids don’t look at the score. And i find that with doing this they play a lot more loose and stay with their fundaminal of the game that is taught instead of feeling the preasure of I have to win.

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  18. Coach Darrick Wells — October 18, 2014 @ 9:21 pm

    Thank you Coach Sartini for sharing this!

  19. landonpatrick — March 4, 2015 @ 2:10 pm

  20. Julie Burnstein — November 1, 2016 @ 11:44 pm

    I am coaching a group of 2nd grade girls with a dad (I am a mom). We basically have enough girls for two teams; they practice together then we split them into 2 teams for games. Dad coach wants to put the best players all one one teams and the less good on the other. Leave it this way for the whole season. What are your thoughts?

  21. Jeff Haefner — November 2, 2016 @ 6:32 am

    Julie – I have seen teams slit, mix, and everything in between. Here’s what I would do…

    - mix them
    - play 3v3 games… ideally both full court and half court (no or very few 5v5 games)

    I think 2nd grade is pretty early to split teams up into A & B. I would keep them mixed for a little longer. This won’t work for everyone but I waited until 6th grade. With that said, all our players had good attendance, were not distractions, etc. I know there are some players in recreational leagues that because of lacking commitment, etc… don’t mix well with the more serious players.

    It’s never an easy decision or always a clear answer. It depends on the league, team, location, facilities available, culture, and other dynamics.

  22. Jason middlebrook — November 17, 2016 @ 11:21 am

    Hi! My name is Jason, and I’m about to coach a church basketball program for kids. To my understanding, the age range of the players will vary from K-2ND grade. I’ve never coached before and in fact I don’t know much about basketball. I’ve been reading up n taking notes but I’m nervous as to how well I’ll do n Wat my strategy needs to focus on, not only for the kids, but for the parents of them as well. Please email me some feedback or advice. Thanks

  23. Jeff Haefner — November 17, 2016 @ 1:24 pm

    Jason – Check out this page. Lots of good tips for youth coaching here.
    https://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/coaching/youthbasketball.html

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