Coaching Basketball: Establishing Discipline and Getting More Out of Your Players
Consider this thought...

Don't punish, discipline with the intent to teach. Punishment for poor or inappropriate behavior only serves to fragment the teams focus and hinder their motivation. Not only that, it can cause kids to quit the team.

Instead, discipline with the intent to teach your players how to conduct themselves appropriately.

Rather than yell or punish players that aren't living up to their potential, ask them, "Is that the best you can do? Are you trying your hardest?" Often simply by acknowledging to you or to themselves that they're not trying their hardest, players will try harder, particularly if they know that you notice.

You'll find one of the toughest things as a coach (especially with young players) is keeping their attention and still keep things fun.

Most coaches really struggle with this and I'll tell you that most of them go about it all wrong.

Let me ask you a question.

Do you want your players to have fun and really enjoy themselves?

I would hope so. I certainly do.

Well, unbelievably, one of the best ways to get you players to enjoy themselves and get the most from this experience is by establishing the right kind of discipline.

That's right. Discipline, structure, accountability, and follow-through. Mean what you say!

Kids actually have more fun if they have some good discipline in place. They actually like the structure because it makes them feel more secure. They know what to expect and how to perform.

True, some will test you. Expect it! Be consistent and always mean what you say. If you tell your team that talking during a team meeting means a lap around the gym, then enforce it. Always and for everyone.

Have you ever watched the TV show Super Nanny?

It's funny because her teachings are really effective and reinforce many of the things I incorporate into basketball practices.

I recommend watching her TV show to help with your practices. But in the meantime, here are the things you need to do...

  1. Set rules

  2. Communicate those rules both verbally and in writing.

  3. Have a written schedule

  4. Have a written practice plan

  5. Follow through with your rules

It's actually quite simple but hardly anybody does it right.

Kids are smart. They know what they can get away with.

You must establish some very basic rules and expectations. You owe it to your players, their parents and especially to yourself. Do you really want to coach 20 kids without any discipline or structure in place?

When those rules are broken or expectations are not met, then there are consequences, every time. Not some of the time. Every time!

The behavior of your players will very quickly change if you are consistent with your discipline.

However, this is where most coaches screw up!

They let things slide here and there. They are not consistent in handing out discipline.

Most coaches (and parents for that matter) are continually giving our verbal threats to discipline. But there's rarely action behind their words.

Kids quickly pick up on this and will not listen to you. That's why there must be disciplinary action every time.

Don't be wishy-washy. And very soon, you won't even have to give out discipline because your players learned they can't get away with it.

To give you an idea, I like setting a precedent on the first day of practice. This works awesome!

When you're ready to start practice, you blow the whistle and tell the kids to bring it in.

It never fails. A few kids will hustle in and several others will mill around and slowly walk to you. And some might not even listen at all.

At this point, you immediately discipline them. I generally have them all get on the line and start running sprints. I run them pretty hard.

Then I blow the whistle and call them in again. Trust me, they sprint to me this time.

This is usually the last time I need to make them run for a long time. I might need to give them reminders on occasion. But they generally know I mean business and they learn what they can get away with.

I simply don't let them get away with things that are detrimental to themselves or our practice. And we still have tons of fun! Because that's what it's all about!

Now you might be worried about setting some discipline because you don't want to be the bad guy. And you want them to have fun.

I don't blame you.

Well, don't worry. They will actually like you even more after you get the discipline established.

Trust me. I've been there!

Here are some basic rules and disciplinary actions that have worked for me.

  • No talking when a coach is talking.

  • No lying. Period. There are very severe consequences for this.

  • Always be on time.

  • If you can't make practice always call.

  • Unsportsmanlike behavior is never acceptable.

It's also important to have a written schedule and some type of consistency. Kids enjoy the structure and it helps keep them in line.

You can also structure your practices with some regularity so that your players will know what to expect.

For example, if they know practice will probably start with some hard defense drills and then after 30 minutes they get 15 minutes of fun games that they really love.

The point is that it's important for you to get things under control, preferably right away.

If you're in the middle of your season, you can still have a "transition day" where you start fresh and give your players a brief surprise. Then stay consistent with your discipline from there on out.

Without the discipline, you'll be cutting your players short and struggling to reach your goals.

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anil says:
9/12/2007 at 6:19:50 AM

i am quite impressed with thease suggesations.


Coach Butler says:
9/27/2007 at 9:22:30 PM

I am a male and I coach a ninth grade girls basketball team. What advise can you offer to me?

Do you have any more coaching material that you can share with me?


Emily says:
10/25/2007 at 2:20:48 PM

This website has been very helpful. I am coaching a 3rd/4th girls rec league and I have 1 hr and 15 minutes with them. Do you have a proposed practice schedule?


Don Kelbick says:
10/25/2007 at 6:31:32 PM


This is a battle that all coaches fight. If left to my own devices, my practices would have been 17 hours long. One of the things I learned is that you can't coach everything every day.

I think you might be looking at your situation backwards. I think first you should decide what it is you want to accomplish in that practice, then decide how much time you need to spend on each aspect.

This is helped by sitting down before your season and devloping a master plan. Decide what you want to do for the season, decide by when you want to have each aspect completed and plan accordingly.

Coaching 3rd and 4th graders present special challenges, low skill level, limited strength and physical development and short attention span all conspire against you in your quest to turn them into passionate players.

My practices at your level would be 100% skill development. I wouldn't worry at all about plays. I might scrimmage a little bit, but not a lot. I would also start 3 on 3 and eventually work up to 5 on 5. When I did play, it would be half court and I wouldn't take a lot of time to do it. It robs you of your skill teaching time. I would, however, play some teaching games, such as dribble tag, to satisfy their urge for competition.

More importantly, I would keep my units very short. Maybe 5 minutes, 7 minutes tops. In addition, success is the greatest motivator. You should decide whether you want to use smaller balls and lower baskets. There are many schools of thought on this but I know this, it is difficult to teach layups or good shooting form if the kids can't reach the basket when shooting it with proper form.

I hope this helps you.

If I can help you further, feel free to contact me.

Don Kelbick
Contributing Editor Breakthrough Basketball


coach billy says:
10/30/2007 at 6:56:44 AM

I totally agree with you guys on this one. My team of u16 boys respond immediately to my instructions as they know what will happen if they don't. However, my assistant struggles with disciplining the boys. We just call it 'good drill seargent/bad drill seargent'. It's funny though because he's a marine.


Steve says:
10/30/2007 at 11:07:20 AM

I start every year the same -- first thing I teach is how to stand with your toes touching the baseline HOLDING your ball, not dribbling it.

Second thing I teach is when I blow the whistle, yell "baseline", and point to an end you better sprint, get your toes on the line, and hold the ball. Last kid does pushups. Dribbling rather than holding? pushups. Toes off line? pushups.

Then we start practice -- and randomly blow the whistle, baseline!!.... and it instantly becomes a contest to make sure you are not last.

I immediately have their attention and can talk. Also serves as a reaction drill and conditioning drill because they never know what baseline they need to sprint.

I actually have kids asking for more "baseline" calls as the season goes on.

If you don't establish discipline and order immediately you will always struggle with kids taking extra shots, walking, not listening, etc.... the net result is frustration for the coach and wasted practice time.

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Michelle says:
11/13/2007 at 10:29:15 AM

Consistency is the key!


Robert says:
11/25/2007 at 3:30:48 PM

I am coaching 1st and 2nd graders for the 1st time wondering if you have any pointers.


Jeff Haefner says:
11/26/2007 at 10:52:39 AM

Hi Robert,

When working with kids that age you should focus on almost all fundamental skills and keep things as fun as possible.

Keep things face paced and try to avoid kids standing around.

Don't worry about winning. Instead focus on improving, fun, and celebrating small successes. Some them how they can improve.

Kids this age don't always respond well to competition. They want to be in a position where they can succeed.

You can try stations and move constantly move groups of players every two minutes. Remember, 1st graders have a short attention span.

The kids will be learning habits that can stick for life, so teach things like proper shooting form, fun ball handling drills, passing, and simple pivoting footwork.

You should also use smaller balls and lower rims to avoid bad form and habits.

Read these pages for more tips with young players:

I hope this helps and good luck. Have fun with it.

Jeff Haefner


Nelita Menefee says:
12/12/2007 at 9:04:05 PM


First of all, I must say that I am thankful for this website. I am a first time coach of 2nd grade Boys. We have had 2 practices. I have been trying to be the nice guy, and they are out of control. Do you have a sample of basic rules and consequences I can pass out? Thank you for your help.


Joe (Co-founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
12/14/2007 at 11:49:24 AM

To keep it basic, here is what you can do for youth players:

You can use the same rules as posted above:

- No talking when a coach is talking.

- No lying. Period. There are very severe consequences for this.

- Always be on time.

- If you can't make practice always call.

- Unsportsmanlike behavior is never acceptable.

Others like to say, "No messing around." No pinching, grabbing, and so forth. Things that can occur with younger players.

At the end of practice, you should always have some scrimmage time, especially for youth kids! If they are misbehaving, tell them that this going to cut out of their scrimmage time.

EXPLAIN to them why you do this. When kids are understand the “why?” or the reason, they are more likely to listen and do what you tell them.

The reason you do this is so you can teach them the game of basketball. By teaching this to them, it will help them become better basketball players. As a result, they’ll have more fun, because they know how to play the game. They’ll have more fun, because they’ll probably win more games as well. Tell them the reason you apply rules and discipline it to help them. You want them to be successful.

If you don’t have these rules and allow them to goof off, it results in less time learning the game and working on fundamentals that are crucial to becoming good basketball players. And they’ll lose more games that way which will be less fun.

Once, they get to be 12 or 13 years old. You can be a little harsher with the punishments. For example, make them do wall squats, sprints, or whatever you deem necessary. Everybody is different. What you choose to do, it’s crucial that you stick to your disciplinary actions and don’t let anything slide.

Useful tip to get youth kids to get organized and listen when you are trying to teach or demonstrate something:

- Assign each player a row and a spot.
For 10 players, you may have 3 rows. Two rows with three spots and one row with four spots.

- When you blow the whistle and yell, “go to your spots,” the kids should run to their spots and sit down. The group who does it the fastest gets 3 claps from the other groups.

- Then you can demonstrate what you need show them.


Steve says:
12/15/2007 at 6:55:26 AM


You need to get tough until your players behave. Establish the rules early and stick to them.

One season, I was assistant coaching a team, and some of the players behaved terribly quite often. From that experience, I've learnt how to deal with bad behaviour.

This is how I discipline for inappropriate behaviour:

1st time: Verbal warning
2nd time: Sit out of training for 5 minutes
3rd time: Sit out from entire training
Continued misbehaviour: Suspended for one game, parents notified.
If that doesn't improve the behaviour, I'd ask someone higher up than me to deal with the situation.

Good luck. It gets easier once you get in control. Sometimes it takes a while to gain respect, but when you have their respect everything is easier.


Curtis B. says:
12/20/2007 at 2:45:28 AM

I am a male coach for a high school junior varsity team(boys) and would like some pointers on a 2-3 and 3-2 defense. We have run these two sets and have had great success with them,but I am always looking for additional tips.



Joe (Co-founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
12/20/2007 at 8:03:43 AM

Hi Curtis,

It's been added to long list of things to do. Thanks for the input! We'll let you know when we have some tips available.


Joe (Co-founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
12/20/2007 at 8:22:18 AM

If you were interested in how to attack a zone defense, here are some links:


Bonitia says:
6/13/2008 at 1:22:24 PM

First off I want to say what a help your site has been. I am a first time coach of 3rd grade girls and we had a great season. Now entering 4th grade the girls see me and always ask when basketball is starting up again :) I really enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to a new season. One thing I would like to add is your advise about teaching only the basics at practice. I disagree on this one point. I have taught my team of 10 about 5 different offensive plays through the year which lead to many baskets. The girls loved learning them and were so proud when they could execute them correctly. They were very simple in nature but gave us a good start on how to move the ball around the court and find the open player. Anyway, keep up the good work and thanks for all the great tips and advice found on your site


Joe Haefner says:
6/14/2008 at 11:56:19 AM

Hi Bonitia,

Here are a couple of problems that could come out of teaching your players to run plays when first learning the game:

- It can take time away from teaching fundamentals. For more on this, you can reference a newly posted article on our blog -

- Players can tend be robotic and just run through motions rather than learning how to play the game.

I’m not saying that you can NOT teach players how to read the defense within a play. So, I’m not saying to avoid plays altogether. As you said, you used some “simple” plays, and that’s very important. If you teach them how to react to certain situations within a play, plays can still be beneficial to learning the game for youth players.

Another thing is that it makes things much easier on high school coaches if youth players already understand these fundamental of offense. As youth coaches, we have to remember that we are still preparing these players for the future.

I’m not saying that you’re doing anything wrong. For all I know, you do a great job of teaching the fundamentals. I just wanted to clarify what we mean and why.

Congratulations with your first year and that’s great to hear that the kids are still excited to play! All of us coaches need to make sure we keep things fun like you have, especially at the youth level.


Raymond says:
7/16/2008 at 8:09:54 PM

thanks for the infor. i''''m about to start training some 9-13year olds. this infor. will help a great deal, plus i feel more confident to be they coach now.


Bill Berry says:
9/13/2008 at 5:27:13 AM

I teach under 13 yrs girls and need advice on three basic defenses to run to keep it simple for them.....


Joe Haefner says:
9/13/2008 at 4:50:05 PM

Hi Bill,

In order to keep it simple, I would only teach one defense at that age. And that's man to man defense. At that age, you want to spend a ton of time developing fundamentals. If you only teach one defense, it'll open up more time for skill development and when the players are older, the high school coaches can spend a little less time on fundamentals and more time with game strategies and such which will help them win more games.

It is very typical to see zones and full-court presses at your age level, but I would try to avoid that and focus on developing the players rather than winning a few extra games.

Quite honestly, who remembers how many games you won when you're 13? However, they do remember their senior year.

If you want to learn more about man to man defense, you can visit:

You can also find a lot of information on skill develoment / fundamentals at:


corinne says:
9/21/2008 at 11:11:36 PM

I am coaching grade 5 girls team and my biggest challenge is my own daughter. She makes comments about what drills we are doing and about what we are doing next. I have made her sit out from drills a couple of times but that makes her resent it even more. Please suggest how to deal with her lack of respect. If anything, I had hoped she would be a positive example to the others. I do not single her out during practices nor am I any more critical about her skills than with anyone else. Help!


Joe Haefner says:
9/23/2008 at 8:01:36 AM

Hi Corinne,

This is section is posted above in the article: "You must establish some very basic rules and expectations. You owe it to your players, their parents and especially to yourself. Do you really want to coach 20 kids without any discipline or structure in place?

When those rules are broken or expectations are not met, then there are consequences, every time. Not some of the time. Every time!

The behavior of your players will very quickly change if you are consistent with your discipline."

I think you need to have a reward and discipline system. If you don't have one and let some stuff slide, her behavior will never be where you want it.

Second, have you sat her down and explained to her how you want her to act and WHY you want her to act that way? Sit down and talk to her about it. Try not to lecture her, because it could turn her off.

It's hard for me to judge why she's acting that way, because I'm not there. But she could be acting that way to look "cool" in front of her friends. It can actually be very tough on a kid when his/her parent is the coach.


Andrew says:
10/22/2008 at 6:14:46 PM

I have an 8th grade basketball team that seems to have a lot of behavioral problems in school, I was wanting to send out an Academic Conduct sheet to all the teachers to make sure they are behaving, do you have anything along that line or can your recommend anything that would help me out. I would greatly appreciate that1


Edvaldo Ribeiro says:
11/11/2008 at 12:18:16 PM

I am going to be coaching basketball for the first time. I understand that setting up rules and being consistent is a must according to what I have read from you. Can you tell me the sequence of skills I should be using with 7th and 8th graders. And what drills can I use to reinforce those skills and to make activities more fun. Do you also have any suggestions on what else can I do to increase their motivation and accountability.


Joe Haefner says:
11/11/2008 at 5:51:49 PM

Hi Edvaldo,

We have dedicated this section to middle school coaches:

You'll be able to find a lot of useful drills & tips.


Bonitia Symons says:
11/12/2008 at 7:47:44 AM

Just something quick to add to your comment. I have a similar problem but my daughter is great most of the time. She has has 2 outbursts at practice. The first time I tried to handle it myself but the second time I handed her over to my assistant coach. That worked wonders. She came back out on the floor with a positive attitude and didn't feel like "mom" was picking on her. Just thought I would share that :) Love reading all the comments in here. They are so helpful.


Jeff Haefner says:
11/12/2008 at 7:56:42 AM


Check out this new article we put together. It's still a rough draft and we might tweak a couple things, but I think this is exactly what you're looking for (what skills to teach youth players).

Hope this helps.


bob coackio coach says:
11/14/2008 at 9:23:22 PM

I like what you said.
I just want to ask some questions.
How do I make my young team (who is really bad) win every game?
And how do I get everyone to listen to me as soon as I say come in guys.


bob coackio coach says:
11/14/2008 at 9:29:33 PM

Did you read my last comment it would be great if you could answer my questions thanks. :)


bob coackio coach says:
11/14/2008 at 9:32:33 PM

Does anyone answer questions? Or do i need to go somewhere>?


Joe Haefner says:
11/15/2008 at 3:00:38 PM

Hi Bob,

There is no secret formula to win every game. That's part of the art of coaching. One of things that you can do is work on fundamentals. You can find plenty of fundamentals we find very important at this link:

For your hustle issue with the players, here is what I have done in the past that has done wonders for me:

1. Blow your whistle for players to come in.
2. If the kids do not sprint to where you are standing. Say, "Well, it doesn't look you guys are warmed up."
3. Put them on the line and make them run until they can't run anymore. Make sure to tell them that any time you blow your whistle and motion for the players to come in, they should stop shooting and immediately sprint to you.

The next time you blow your whistle, you should not have the same problem. If you do, make them run again.


Coach Bob coackio says:
11/15/2008 at 8:20:04 PM

Thanks very much, do I need a whistle though? Because it becomes very noisy for the other team.

And do I have to punish in order to get them to run in is there any other nicer way?


Jeff Haefner says:
11/16/2008 at 6:13:46 AM


Yes, you'll need a whistle. Is there a nicer way? Probably, but I've never found one that works. Keep in mind, I have never had to make then run more than once. In fact, I would not want to do it often at all. Punishing negatively is not a good thing. But in this case, one harsh instance of discipline often is the best thing for them because it allows you to regain control for the rest of the year. Then you can have very fun practices that are controlled.

The key is consistency. I suggest that you read the article above again and maybe watch Supernanny (as suggested above). It might sound silly but those same concepts in the TV show actually work. Kids are smart and if you not consistent and take control, they will exploit it.

Also, you mentioned that you work with young kids and you want to win every game. I would suggest that winning is NOT important with youth teams!! And most importantly, you should not give your kids the feeling that winning is really important to you. That sends the wrong message and trust me kids will pick up on what's important to you.

Instead of winning, your goals should be:

  • Teach your players the skills and fundamentals they need to be successful in the future! Help them improve their skills. If you focus on winning now, you will without a doubt teach the WRONG things! Just like anything in life, you must have a sold foundation and learn fundamentals before you can be successful.

  • Allow your kids to really enjoy themselves and remember youth basketball as a very happy experience!

  • Teach your kids how to be successful in basketball and the rest of their life -- no matter what they do in the future. This means you, as a coach, will have a very positive impact on their life by teaching discipline, honestly, how to focus, priorities, being proactive, attitude, helping others, teamwork, life is what you make of it, and other life lessons.


  • Coach Bob coackio says:
    11/16/2008 at 9:41:10 PM

    Thank you for your help, I am now wondering why winning is not important though? I will teach them the skills and fundamentals but is winning a few games really bad?
    And also how does that give the wrong message?


    Jeff Haefner says:
    11/17/2008 at 7:13:45 AM

    No, winning is certainly not bad! But you should NOT be overly concerned about winning. It's all about what you demonstrate that is important. If you teach your team that winning is the most important thing, that is NOT a good thing. However, if you teach your team that "teamwork" and "good sportsman ship" is the number 1, most important thing!! Don't you think that is sending a better message?

    In addition, if winning is your #1 goal right now, then you should full court press, run a zone, and teach things like that. Then you'll win a few games now and you're team will be really bad when they get older. Pressing and running zones teaches young players really bad habits. Plus, you'll be wasting time teaching zones and presses instead of teaching skills that work when they get older. Big mistake.

    The #1 biggest mistake I see youth coaches make is they are TOO concerned about winning!!!

    I'm not saying don't win a few games. If you practice the right things and have a little talent on your team, you will win a few games, maybe a lot of games.

    Just worry about teaching the right things and eventually winning will become a by-product of teaching those things.

    Just be patient!!! Teaching fundamentals takes time. You probably won't win games right away. But you'll be setting a foundation for those kids to be successful in the future.

    Good luck.


    Dave says:
    11/26/2008 at 1:00:46 PM

    I am a first time coach who is coaching a set of 8-9 YO boys...1-2 of the 8 have some fundamental skills, most do not (prob. not uncommon) - how can I structure the practices to keep things interesting/fun, while satisfying their need/desire to scrimmage?

    What are effective 2 on 2, or 3 on 3 to practice with kids this age?

    What drills/fundamentals should I focus on first?

    Please help.


    Joe Haefner says:
    11/27/2008 at 8:00:38 PM

    Hi Dave,

    I would check out this page:

    It helps you decide what skills to teach your youth players. It also has some sample practices at the bottom of the page.


    Mark says:
    12/1/2008 at 12:04:32 PM

    I have inherited a 6th grade boys team a few weeks into the season. The team is very difficult to keep their attention and they are often horseing around instead of listening. I have held a couple weeks of practices with them already. How do I get this team under control and focused on learning basketball? Will disciplining work at this late stage?


    Joe Haefner says:
    12/1/2008 at 4:05:06 PM

    Hi Mark,

    Make your expecations of their behavior clear and concise. If they do not follow, they will be disciplined.

    I also use these tactics to get their attention.

    1. Make a rule, when you clap, they have to clap twice. Do this a few times, it usually gets their attention.

    2. Don't say a word and just look at them until they become quiet.

    Not saying my way is the best way, but this is usually my last resort. If nothing works and they are completely out of control, run them and make them do wall squats until they can't move anymore. After doing this once, I usually do not have a problem the rest of the year.

    Discipline is better later than never.

    You can find a lot of useful tips throughout this article and comments left by others.


    Curios Coach says:
    8/9/2009 at 11:26:07 AM

    Wow - a lot of great stuff!

    I have recently began coaching a high school team that is extremely talented - most play the sport year round. Top colleges have picked 3 of the athletes all ready. It is a small school - but, still produces very quality athletes. They are favored to win state. Like I said - I am new to coach them. Discipline is their biggest hindrance. I feel, although, they are amazing athletes and players - nobody has taken the time to teach teamwork or team respect/coach respect. Suggestions? We have lost games because of team dynamic and disrepect.


    Jeff Haefner says:
    8/10/2009 at 9:33:36 AM

    Coach - It's all about what you emphasize. If you talk about teamwork constantly, reward good teamwork, and display the importance of teamwork through your actions, you're players will pick up on it.

    You can't do everything ( ), but if "teamwork" is THE critical thing for your team, make it a big focus and emphasis for you. Read some books about developing teamwork. I'm sure there are plenty of good resources out there if you search.

    Also, if you set a good example and demonstrate superb integrity, then you're players will develop respect for you. This will make what you emphasize even more effective.

    Good luck!


    Jim says:
    9/30/2009 at 11:01:52 AM

    What is a good number of sprints to start with? This is my 1st year coaching and it's been a while since I've been to a practice...what's a good number to start with?5, 10...? Even for conditioning after a practice what's a good number to start with?


    Jeff Haefner says:
    9/30/2009 at 8:24:56 PM


    I don't run sprints at the end of practice anymore because of several reasons...

    - If players know condition is coming at the end of practice they will pace themselves and not give 100% during the normal body of practice.

    - Running is not much fun for players and that’s what they’ll be talking about in the locker room. They’ll be moaning and groaning about Coach making them run – or if it’s a youth team, they’re getting in the car with Mom and Dad talking negatively about practice.

    - You want you’re players to be excited about basketball and feel good about it. That why it’s so important to end on a positive note!

    Instead, you should include conditioning as part of your regular drills and practice. This way they go HARD the entire practice and it just becomes a habit.

    If you MUST run sprints for discipline reasons, you can start with a 2-3 sprints. Depending on their age, they may or may not be tired.

    Also, I recently solicited the help of a bunch of experienced coaches to put together an extremely thorough guide to motivating players. It's almost done and you'll definitely want to check it out. Make sure you're signed up for our newsletter and you'll get the report for free.


    Drew says:
    11/11/2009 at 12:36:10 AM

    I''m 21 years old and I coach high school basketball for a small private school that I used to play for when I was playing basketball. I only have 1 two-hour practice with them every week (working on getting a 2nd two-hour practice). As you can imagine - its hard to get in everything that is necessary (conditioning, drills, plays, and if enough time, scrimmage). What would you suggest for my situation as far as practices go? Should I try to get a little bit of everything in every practice? Or should I focus on two or three things each practice instead?

    Also, I have a great bunch of guys and we have a good time, but there''s one guy who I causes 80% of the problems. When I need the guys to work or when I''m trying to talk to them, many times he''s joking around which usually means he''s talking/distracting someone else. I''ve made the whole team run sprints before because of him and its been somewhat effective but I still feel like I''m not getting through to him. I don''t wanna waste too much practice time running them for discipline since my time is very limited but I can''t just let him get away with it either. Any suggestions??


    Jeff Haefner says:
    11/12/2009 at 2:24:09 PM


    For your first question, look at this article:

    For your second question, that is not something I have been forced to deal with. For what I reason I felt like I had good control (maybe I was lucky). One thing that can change behavior is bench time. If the kids wants to play, they will stop acting up. You could stick them on the bench and see what happens. Anyway, I suggest asking your question in our forum:


    Don Kelbick says:
    11/12/2009 at 3:38:23 PM


    I believe the answer to your first question lies inside the question. Think about what you are doing when you say "everything that is necessary." You have then 1 day (maybe 2), that means you don''t have them 5-6 days. How much of what "is necessary" going to carry over to your next practice. Will the plays? Probably not. The conditioning? Definitely not. Your best bet is to work on things that they can and will continue to work on when you don''t have them. I always believe in concentrating on players over plays. I would recommend skill work 75% of the time, presented in a manner that is fun and they can replicate when they are alone or with their friends. Spend the other 25% of the time scrimmaging to teach them the game and where those skills fit in. That will also help condition them as well. Don''t let it frustrate you. You cannot out-coach your limitations. You took the job knowing what they were so take advantage of what you have and don''t worry about what you don''t have.

    In regard to your one player who is causing all the problems, he is exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior almost assuredly brought on by either boredom or insecurity. Maybe he doesn''t want to be there. Remember, you only have him 1 day per week, the forces in his life have him the other time and will have more effect on him. You have to spend some time getting to know him and then putting him in a position where he can feel useful and comfortable so wants to be there. If you can''t do that, you either have to ask him to leave or roll with the punches.

    It is never a good idea to punish an entire team for the action of one player. It creates animosity and removes the incentive to do the right thing from the non-offending players.

    Don Kelbick


    Drew says:
    11/12/2009 at 8:16:00 PM

    Thanks for the feedback and advice on the planning of practices - I really appreciate it!


    I believe that my disruptive player is TOO comfortable, not the other way around. Most of these guys are seniors and are my brother's age. My brother is also on the team but I've basically grown up with these kids around and I believe that therein lies the issue. I think he may be having trouble seeing me as a coach and someone who's in charge because his whole life I've been just another one of the guys. Any advice on this? has anyone encountered anything like this?


    Doug Stroud says:
    1/12/2010 at 11:42:59 AM

    All comments on here are dead on,, I have the discipline thing down and it works, they respect you more, they listen more, and they actually feel bad, if you simply just give the look, because they know what you expected of them, and they didn't perform.. I handle this with " What did you do, Did you know what was expected of you, could you do it the right way, and give 100%? Ok then lets go after it now and fix it...

    Also I have a question I have a daughter who has got the team concept down, so much in fact that anytime, there is one player who has to run laps, or having to do pushups, or anything like that, she also does the punishment with them... however the oddest thing is no one appreciates it, or they dont understand why she does it.. Should I make her stop doing this?


    Joe Haefner says:
    1/26/2010 at 6:04:41 PM

    Hi Doug,

    I may make her stop, because you don''t want her to be an outcast with you the team.


    Andrew says:
    2/9/2010 at 7:36:33 AM

    Hey guys,
    Just wondering if you know a really effective boxing out drill that I can teach my guys. I have tried a few different ones but it just doesn't seem to stick with them and we're giving up way too many 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and sometimes even 5th chances to our opponents. Any insight would be greatly appreciated! thanks



    Coach T says:
    5/18/2010 at 3:31:04 AM

    I know the feeling. Try to get them to step to (contact)the people they must boxout before turning to box.
    Another strategy I've had success with is teaching the bigger post players to box opposing bigs under/behind the hoop with the perimiter players crashing in to clean up the boards.
    Hope this helps...Any thoughts from anyone else?


    Matt says:
    10/20/2010 at 10:15:02 AM

    Coaching 6-7 year olds. Want to establish some basic ground rules, especially about listening and respecting the coach. I have a 3 strikes and 5 minute timeout rule. But what other types of discipline can you use with this age group? Are they too young to make them run laps or a few sprints? Do you make the instigator run alone? Is that too mean? What if it happens as they are leaving to go home? Do you carry it over to the next session?


    Joe Haefner says:
    10/21/2010 at 8:54:09 AM

    Matt, if you are working with 6 & 7 year olds, I'm sure it feels like you're trying to herd cats.

    Based on how they are developing cognitively, they can't even pay attention and sit still if they want to. Their neural circuits are firing off like crazy. They want to explore and experiment. That's why they don't listen.

    No running. Heck, I dislike running kids until they're in about 7th grade. I'll do it the first practice every year, because it gets their attention and gets them to play hard.

    With this age group, their learning should be based on what's called "guided discovery". Meaning that you give them a task and let them try to perform it. For example, “Okay now. Try to dribble with your right hand all the way through those cones.”

    By the way, work on a ton of ball handling and some footwork at this age. It will be relatively hard for them to do anything else.

    It’s going to look ugly. They’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but that is the best way for them to learn and develop.

    Now, when you get to 10 or 11 years old, they’re ready for a little more technical instruction. For example, “When you plant your foot on a crossover, keep the step short. If you get too wide, you will not be able to cut as hard.” I still like to have them do and make mistakes.


    Michael says:
    11/7/2010 at 5:33:46 PM

    Just one thing I come up when punishing is when you tell kids to sprint, they not necessary sprint or not running full speed and are able to get away with that.

    I know, first step is to punish and let them do something. Let''s take sprints. You give all team to sprint but few ''smartest'' are just running and laughing. If you make them sprint again, rest of team stands out and we waste time. Plus they won''t run full speed anyway.

    I tried putting a time limit on how much time do they have to complete the ''suicide'' but if you have your best athlete messing around and you put a team-low player time to do it, he won''t feel the punishment either ''cos he''s able to jog at the sprint speed of the last guy.

    Than again you can not put time limits only for him as he might be only the co-trouble maker.

    And suspending him from not putting all his effort can''t be right either. As he will always find an excuse that he is TRYING.

    Any comments/suggestions on this guys?

    Thanks a lot


    Jeff Haefner says:
    11/8/2010 at 2:05:07 PM

    Michael - how old are these players? I don't think players want to run and be punished, whether they are going all out or not. But it's hard to give suggestions unless we know more about the situation and age.

    I also very very rarely make players run as a punishment. There are lots of comments and opinions about that on this site.


    Matt says:
    12/9/2010 at 1:17:18 PM

    I have a HS team that's very inexperienced and continues to turn the ball over. 24 the last game. We drill it in practice but they don't recreate in games, would rather play street ball. Just get rid of the dead weight despite them being the best athletes?


    Ken Sartini says:
    12/10/2010 at 11:26:00 AM

    To all the coaches that are thinking about winning vs teaching the game -

    Players & teams with good fundamentals will win some games, its a by product. So, l don't worry too much about the Ws - they will come IF You do a good job of teaching the game.

    As for the use of running for punishment..... the longer I coached the more I realized how important my practice time was... and I sure wasn't about to waste it on just running - for conditioning OR punishment. Any time you feel they need to run or you want some condtioning, do it WITH a ball.... let them learn a skill while doing that. It works better and they don't even know that you are conditioning them.

    Your practice plan is of utmost importance when it comes to this..... a couple of hard drills then a shooting drill.... automatic conditioning. We even took water breaks off the practice schedule... 2 or 3 five minute water breaks add up and its a giant waste of time. Our rule was simple, you want or need water - raise your hand and if you are not involved in the drill or we aren't teaching you can go.

    MATT -

    We had one drill that we called "Man Maker" that taught being strong with the ball, getting open and playing tough defense.

    The drill is a 3 on 3 NO dribble drill..... 3 offensive players on the end line... 3 defensive players at the free throw line extended. (think of the floor sectioned off in 3 lanes and you can not go out of your lane ) The defensive player in the middle has the ball, he passes the ball to the offensive player in the middle and the drill begins. The offensive players must advance the ball past half court without dribbling and going out of their lanes. So they have to cut and replace, freeze the defender and get open any way they can. The player with the ball has to triple threat and keep ripping it until one of the other players get open.

    There is NO time limit, what we wanted was NO turnovers. Trust me, they had to bust their butts to get this accomplished. We told them in games, DO NOT throw the ball away, we will take a 5 or 10 second call before we turn it over, we can defend the ball when they take it out of bounds, we can't defend breakaway lay ups.


    Ken Sartini says:
    12/10/2010 at 11:30:48 AM

    Forgot one thing.....

    The number 1 Goal for youth coaches is FUN.

    Think about this.... when you go to a high school game and one of your x players that you worked with when he was 10 or 11 etc. is on the Varstiy floor, THATS when you will feel good.


    Ken Sartini says:
    12/10/2010 at 12:01:51 PM

    Sorry I missed this part Matt -

    I think as coaches we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the dirty bath water. How old are these kids?

    "We drill it in practice but they don''t recreate in games, would rather play street ball. Just get rid of the dead weight despite them being the best athletes?"

    IF I was their coach I would take this as a personal challenge and I would ask myself some questions.... why am I not able to reach these kids? What do I need to do as the coach to correct these problems.

    Trust me, you are not alone when it comes to things like our post game meetings we tried to limit the negative things... I just put them into the next few days practice plans to correct them. They knew right away why we were working on them.

    There were years that we had some great ball handlers and other years... put nets up around the court to keep people from getting hit with errant passes. :-) When I had the less talented teams I tried to simplify the game plan for them and try to get them easier shots without making 6 passes. Their rule was simple, IF you get the ball in a position where you can make a shot, please shoot it. (beats turnovers)


    Professional Sports Fan says:
    12/15/2010 at 12:32:54 AM

    You will find that your most successful basketball players are those who gave up many hours of their time to practice. They not only practiced during the season, but worked hard developing their game all year round. Working with a plan is a requirement of success.


    Ethan says:
    1/25/2011 at 10:44:21 AM

    I have my kids do push ups which i feel like you would take as to severe a punishment by what you have been saying and they take it as a fun thing so some actual discipline is good and helps them pay attention and still have fun


    Ethan says:
    1/25/2011 at 10:44:21 AM

    I have my kids do push ups which i feel like you would take as to severe a punishment by what you have been saying and they take it as a fun thing so some actual discipline is good and helps them pay attention and still have fun


    Keith says:
    1/28/2011 at 11:14:00 AM

    Great article. It follows suit with how I handle discipline for my teams.

    My daughter plays Varsity basketball and there is a tremendous amount of inconsistentcy in how they handle discipline - from practice to practice and from player to player.

    One young lady has been a consistent source of problems all year long. Despite many attempts from team Captains to addresst this - the coach doesn''t want to discuss it.

    The last situation was her being caught on camera making an inappropriate gesture while his back was turned. Despite this - he still refused to listen to his team concerns.

    I heard the excuse the she comes from a broken family and lacks any family structure. To me - that is a load. What she needs more than anything is boundaries where she can feel safe and within those boundaries are rules - she breaks them - she pays the price.

    In time, I hope the coach realizes that by cutting slack to this type of behavior he has failed the player, the team and his own credibility as coach.


    Jodi says:
    9/14/2011 at 2:31:00 PM

    Ok so I played basketball back in the old days like the 80's when 6 on 6 was popular. I am now on the verge of coaching my daughters 7th grade bball team. I am a little nervous but I know I can coach them.

    My question is where can I go to get some drills especially for the girls that haven't played basketball before?

    Plus, I am a strong believer in discipline and Im not afraid of having the girls run. My concern is at this age would it be good to get in writing and have the parents and players sign a form that states that each girl will play but the amount of time she plays will vary?

    Thanks alot from a first time coach long time basketball fan.


    Jeff Haefner says:
    9/15/2011 at 10:33:14 AM

    Jodi - You'll just need to browse around for drills that seem like a good fit for your players and the system you'll be putting in.

    Coach Sar gives some good advice her about choosing drills:

    Here are suggestions on dealing with parents and including something like that in a letter:


    TJ Shaughnessy says:
    11/8/2011 at 3:24:07 PM

    I've been coaching youth bball for the past 5 years. Very fortunate to have great kids that listen and try to execute as we tell them. This year I am coaching a talented travel team. I have one player, who is highly skilled, but feels he doesn't need to listen, is disruptive in practice, and feels it's OK to talk back to other players and coaches. I've addressed this directly with him but have not seen improvement. What's the best way to communicate this to the parents?


    Jeff Haefner says:
    11/9/2011 at 8:24:05 AM

    I think most high school coaches will tell you to sit the kid on the bench. If you don't listen, if you talk back, etc, you sit on the bench and miss games. No exceptions. That almost always solves the problem. I don't know how old this kid is or what the dynamics are. But you might want to consider that. The rule is "don't do anything disruptive to the team". Break the rule and coach can hand out discipline however they want.


    8&9th Grade Coach says:
    11/21/2011 at 12:58:48 PM

    I'm not good at the discipline thing. I've tried and had some kids run all over me in the past. Its rec league and the kids are supposed to be "guaranteed" playing time. You have kids who are on the travel team and I read their attitude to be that they can't be bothered by this coach who isn't as good as the one they are used to. They don't go hard for the drills and then everyone follows their lead. I guess I can say - 1) guys, I wasn't impressed with the level of cooperation I got during practice last week. If we get that again this week, you will run sprints. 2) If you shoot hoops while we are scrimmaging, you won't get to scrimmage. Feedback?


    Joe Haefner says:
    11/21/2011 at 6:55:53 PM

    To be honest, that kind of attitude and effort from kids makes my blood boil, especially with 8th and 9th graders even if it is recreation.

    At the very first practice, the first thing I talk to the kids about is listening with their eyes and ears, having a good attitude, and giving their best effort at all times.

    If they do not do this, there will be consequences. If they do not sprint to spots, go hard during drills, and play hard during the scrimmage, I simply tell them get a basketball and get on the line. If they do not sprint to get a basketball and get on the line, they get to run even more.

    For the springs, I have them dribble down with their right hand and back with their left hand. Basically, it's a speed dribble. I will time it and tell them if they do not meet a certain time, they need to do it again. I also tell them that if I feel like a certain player is not going hard, we'll do it again. I do things like 10 court length sprints. Something that will get their attention.

    In regards to sprinting to areas, I usually have to reinforce this 3 to 4 times a year. After you do it a couple of times, players on the team will remind each other.

    Something else that helps them remember to sprint to areas is that when I give instructions I will say, "Sprint. Get the basketball. Then sprint to your spot."

    I hope that helps.


    Katy says:
    12/13/2011 at 10:56:15 AM

    I coach middle school girls bball (7th/8th combined) and have started to receive reports from teachers that they are having disciplinary problems with a few of my girls.

    What is the best way to handle this? We've already had the "you're held to a higher standard as a basketball player" and "we respect our teachers" talks, and I have also started sending behavior reports with them every week to be signed by teachers. The teacher are now turning to me as a last resort of discipline because they aren't able to get the girls in line.

    Is running the bad behaviored kids after practice really the most effective way to begin correcting that behavior? I'm trying to think of other ways to address and encourage and correct, but am not really sure what else to do.


    Ken Sartini says:
    12/13/2011 at 11:11:06 AM

    Katy -

    I like what you said to them already.... one problem I have is the other teachers wanting you to discipline the kids because of what's happening in THEIR classroom.
    If they are unruly or acting out, they should be the ones to deal with this ... if its too much for them... the behavior should go to the principal for his decision as to how to handle this.

    Now, with that off my chest..... forget the running... playing time is a great motivator ... if they cant get their act together, let them sit part or all of the game until they understand what is important. Maybe those kids are not ones you want in your program. Maybe you suspend one to see how the others react or suspend them all for a game or two... just some random thoughts.......... oh the joys of coaching today.

    Better to have fun with good kids and have an average team than to win a lot with trouble makers. JMO

    One year I told the entire sophomore team not to bother coming out for the varsity next year... it was because they were less than stellar individuals, forget the fact that they weren't great bball players...


    Teen player says:
    1/4/2012 at 5:47:41 PM

    i am a tenth grade boy who is consistently late to practice for reasons that are to long to explain. my coach told me to think of a fair punishment for missing this morning and that i have to do it tomorrow in the morning.. or im off the team. any diciplinary ideas like running so forth would be nice. i have thought about 20 laps and 20 down and backs and 10 laders but idk if thats to easy on myself or not. please give me some ideas!


    Ken says:
    1/4/2012 at 7:20:42 PM

    Teen P -

    If you are in 10th grade and cant be on time to practice, maybe you need to ask yourself IF this is really for me?? OR, its there something you aren't telling us?

    How many times have you been late? How late are you? Your ideas seem a little overboard but again, we don't know the whole story.

    Do your running and then make a commitment to be on time for the rest of the year..... OR, are you going to spend the rest of your practice time running.

    What do you think?


    Ben says:
    1/17/2012 at 10:16:10 PM

    I coach 8th grade boys and 8th grade girls. The difference between the two is night and day difference. The boys are always getting in trouble at school, not hustling at practice, and have tempers in the game. The girls are amazing. They listen, work hard, don't get mad if they lose, etc... It make me think that coaching 8th grade boys is not worth the headache.


    Ken says:
    1/18/2012 at 11:53:16 AM

    Ben -

    They have the BMOC syndrome - they need someone to set limits for them and then... stick to your guns. As soon as they see that you mean business, I would bet that you will see a change in their attitude.

    Kids are kids, they will test your limits all the time - hang in there and show them the way.


    Lisa says:
    2/6/2012 at 11:19:45 AM

    This is great info! As I have a 8 year old that tries at times and then other times makes a spectacle out of himself while running down the court playing basketball. He is always checking to see if his father and I are watching (which we always are). This weekend he barely ran down the court, although after talking with him he wants to continue to play next year.. he does this with all sports except baseball season. He seems to think ahead and tries to get the coach to put him where HE wants not where the coach wants, we practice with him and he is good and has fun but, what are we doing wrong? why does he do these silly things in public that he knows is not full effort? he disappointing his team and his family.. I like to see him enjoy himself NOT do what he is doing now. Any help would be great! TY


    Ken says:
    2/6/2012 at 12:08:31 PM

    Lisa -

    First of all, he's 8 years old... they have the attention span of a chicken... they are all over the place.

    His coach should be the one to deal with that behavior first of all ( not that you cant discuss it with him ) and maybe he can give him a little less playing time... the bench is a great motivator. Kids will test you all the time, I'm sure you know that already. BUT, if the coach from day one lets them know his expectations... usually they fall in line.

    The goal for kids of this age should be to teach them some fundamentals and let them have fun.

    Hopefully he will grow out of this as he gets a little older. Is he the only one that acts like this? How does he act in practice? .


    lisa says:
    2/7/2012 at 8:18:04 AM

    He is the only one that does it on the court and we told him next year the coach will bench him especially this year in baseball as he will be in the majors.. He seems to take baseball seriously and has the dreams like every other 8 year old in NH, to be a red sox player! But as far as basketball goes I think you are correct in the coach unfortunately our group only has the gym on sat's and practice 25 mins prior to the game and the coach has never spoken to the children about behavior such what he expects, etc they don't listen on the bench when waiting to be subbed back in to the game, they are running around and acting silly. So, this doesn't help as you can see. When the coach means business he doesn't act up its when the coach doesn't say anything at all, like this year is when he acts like this. I appreciate your help and you are correct on testing!! lol We have discussed this with him and explained giving your all 100% for himself and his team, as the old saying goes there is no I in team.. :) thanks again you really put this into perspective


    Ken says:
    2/7/2012 at 9:01:32 AM

    Lisa -

    Glad I could help you............ 25 minutes of practice before a game doesn't give the guy much of a chance to do anything.... no wonder his mind wanders.

    There is so much to teach and he has NO time to do it in...... 25 minutes of fundamentals is just about what he has time for... then you have a semblance of defense and offense, inbounds plays 0UCH!!

    IF he could get the players there earlier, he might be able to cover some of those things, behavior on the bench, on the floor etc.

    Again, good luck with this, I hope your son (and the rest) will get the idea as they get a little older. I bet his baseball team practice a lot more than this....


    Demarcus Wilson says:
    5/7/2012 at 12:17:26 AM

    I''m 19 years old I only played one year of organized Ball but I have a younger brother going into the 7th grade he has been playing organized since 3rd grade via YMCA and I have been showing him tips and tricks but this sight has helped me help him explode his game thank you.


    shaggy1234 says:
    5/22/2012 at 8:39:53 AM

    What about a coach that is inconsistent, unapproachable, lacks structure, discipline, etc. My 9th grade daughter really likes the players on the team. She has worried us lately with a self destructive demeanor. She has negative thoughts about her play and tells us she must be the worst player on the team. What to do?


    Ken says:
    5/22/2012 at 9:08:33 AM

    Shaggy -

    This is tough and there are always two sides of the story...... but the first thing you need to do is to explain to your daughter that there are good and bad in every walk of life. Take whatever good things she can from this coach and then move on.

    Tell her this - DO NOT let a coach / teacher or anyone else tell her that she is not a good person or a bad player. She is young and this year is supposed to be all about learning the varsity system and more fundamentals.

    Is her season over now or is this the coach she has to play for next year? Have you witnessed this behavior by the coach? How about other parents? Is he a rookie coach or someone with a lot of experience that is on the way out?

    You say he wont talk to anyone? Have you tried setting up a meeting AWAY from the court at his convience? IF he wont do that, and other players are experiencing the same thing, maybe its time to sit down with the AD.??

    I hope this helps.


    Bianca says:
    7/21/2012 at 10:10:48 AM

    Hi Joe,

    In regards to discipline for a girls'' high school team, what do you think about sitting a player out for a portion of a game? Say for instance, if a player is late for the team bus, the rule is she will sit for the first quarter or first half? I''m not sure how I feel about this type of discipline and was wondering what your thoughts were?




    Ken says:
    7/21/2012 at 12:25:16 PM

    Bianca -

    I think you need to have some rules in place before your season begins. Have a pre season meeting and let them know the consequences for breaking them.

    I for one do not believe that sitting her for one quarter for being late for the team bus is bad. That should stop her tardiness, if it happens again.. maybe an entire half would get her attention.

    I sat and didn't dress three starters when they were 30 minutes late to a morning practice (before a game) They were warned....... what really ticked me off is that they came walking across the floor (NOT RUNNING and not even dressed..... I could have - well, you get the idea. We were playing for a piece of the conference championship ..... it was one of those life lessons.


    Bjoern says:
    12/13/2012 at 5:45:32 AM


    Thanks for the site and all the good advice from the website owners as well as the contributing readers!

    I'm coaching 12-13 year olds, with a handful of VERY "special" characters in the mix. Discipline definitely is the key, but I don't like the regular "push-up", "line sprint" punishment scenario, at least most of the time. What often works for some of the more difficult kids is giving them bench time (inlcuding an explanation WHY, of course) and then switiching to a fun drill, like 2 vs 1 - 1 vs 2 or something else the team loves to do.
    Obviously, this is not a magic trick, but in some occasions really helpful to teach them the consequences of inapproriate behavior.


    Sean Beverly says:
    2/5/2013 at 10:10:59 AM


    I am 18 and am coaching basketball with 2nd/3rd grade boys and girls. I am coaching because in my high school, we have senior project. It is a project when your a senior that you do in english class that takes all year and gets you real world experience in different careers. I for one, am coaching basketball. If I do not pass my project I fail senior year! Right now I have a kid on my team with ADHD and he is a real nice kid, but his ADHD prevents him from learning and listening as well as the others on the team. He also doesn't learn. For example, during the game I give everyone in the game a man to stick to on defense, and he always never knows who he is guarding, and when I say "Tyler! Thats your man, stay on your man!" he doesn't seem to notice, then ill say something like, "tyler stay on your man and keep your hands up!" and he will start jumping in circles with his hands up. I notice that at practice he at least knows who to guard but i can't figure out why he can't in the game. It is a struggle for me as an 18 year old coach in high school, and all i want is for him to learn and improve. Any suggestions?
    P.S. I am doing a 6 page research paper on controlling kids for my senior project. Any tips or good websites i could use for information?


    Ken says:
    2/5/2013 at 10:31:53 AM

    Sean -

    Interesting project.... and its with really young kids to play this game.... you should get an A just for the choice.

    I was a Special Ed teacher myself and I know what its like to work with someone who has ADHD. You might talk to his teacher to see if she has any tips that might help you. IF he is truly ADHD and is NOT on meds... he will have a hard time staying with a task.... so, what is the difference between practices and games? Probably because he knows that person....

    Do the kids you play against have numbers on their jerseys? That might help him focus... or something like cover the tallest kid, shortest, long hair, different colored shoes, etc.

    You seemed to be focused on Tyler, is he the difference between passing and failing your class? Don't forget to work with the rest and then try to work Tyler in situations where he might be successful.

    IF you can do this, your project should be a success. OR, am I missing something?


    Ken says:
    2/5/2013 at 10:34:02 AM

    By the way, If you look at the top of this page, Jeff has given you several suggesstions for controlling kids and establishing discipline.

    Just relate it to life or the classroom.

    Good luck


    Felecia Day says:
    3/14/2013 at 9:30:25 PM

    Hello, My husband is the coach of a boys 5th grade team and our son plays on the same team. My son does not want to app;y the skills and moves that his dad has taught him when in practice and it seems to be a lack of focus. My son also gets upset when ever my husband tries to correct him or give him advice on what he should do on the court. How can they fix this problem? We are both at the point of making our son quit because we don't think he is as serious as he should be for a traveling team. What are are your thought?


    Ken Sartini says:
    3/15/2013 at 7:35:08 AM

    Felecia -

    This is always difficult since we are not there.... and coaching your own son is not an easy task at times.

    Do you or your husband have a better relationship? One where you can sit down with him and have a little talk without it becoming a threatening situation. I DON'T think that quitting is the answer.

    You have to find out what's bothering your son.....Whether its you or your husband that can sit down and have a heart to heart talk about the team/practices and attitudes about being coached/corrected.

    Maybe your son feels funny about your husband being the head coach - your husband being too hard or him being percieved that he is getting preferential treatment? (in his mind or the other players? Who knows what they are saying.)

    Does your husband have an assistant to help? IF he does, let him do the correcting of your son along with a few other kids.

    At that age they should be learning fundamentals and how to play the game... but mostly.. HAVING FUN. They should finish every practice with some sort of fun drill or whatever. That way, they all look forward to coming back for the next practice/game.

    So, try to find out whats bothering your son... then...... keep basketball and home life separate. Practices and games stay there.... when they come home... stop for a pop, ice cream or pizza or something.... someplace where they can just enjoy each other. Don't bring up basketball unless your son does.... UNLESS you can make a positive comment about what he did that day. Then let it go. Its not always easy coaching a son/daughter or someone you care about.

    I hope this helps, IF not, you can ask more questions.


    Tim says:
    4/23/2013 at 8:13:57 AM

    I haven't read all the reactions, but what consequences do you use in case of unsportsmanlike behaviour or lying?


    Ken Sartini says:
    4/23/2013 at 11:35:22 AM

    Tim -

    As far as lying goes.... I told my players this... tell me the truth, I might not like it but I will handle it. IF you lie, you HAVE to remember what you said.... IF you tell the truth, its the SAME all the time.

    Unsportsmanlike behavior gets them a seat on the bench, maybe the worst seat, the one next to me, until I am done talking .... then he can sit at the end of the bench. NOW, how long he sits there depends on how bad the behavior was an his attitude to me when I talked to him.



    Bree says:
    5/26/2013 at 9:26:48 PM

    Hi, I am a team manager of 13/14 year old girls team. We have one girl in our team who constantly makes negative or nasty comments to 4/5 team mates on court. She has her favourites that she only passes to and is not negative to them. Her mother is assistant coach and is in denial that her daughter is doing anything wrong. I spend too much time on the bench during a game counselling and lifting the spirits of the girls on the receiving end of her comments. Our coach is aware and we have spoken to the girl and mum, but things have not improved. I am looking at team building exercises and discipline for whole team, but worried that I'm disciplining some girls for no reason. This girl in question is a great aggressive player, but blames everyone else on court when things go wrong. Can you help?


    Ken Sartini says:
    5/27/2013 at 9:35:30 AM

    Bree -

    If this were me, I would sit down with the coach and discuss the situation.... and you might suggest this....

    Do some scrimmaging and have her play with the 4/5 kids she likes to berate. Play a no dribble game and /or
    (if there are 5 players on each team) Everyone on the team has to score before any play can score the winning shot.

    This will force her to be a team player and a leader.... and in her case, I would NOT let her score the winning basket. Good luck


    Sven says:
    8/4/2013 at 4:13:34 AM

    Nice article! very helpful.

    When you discipline and make them run, do you discipline the entire team or just the specific players?


    Jeff says:
    1/7/2014 at 2:37:53 PM

    Hi.I have a daughter who is playing 7th grade basketball.This is her 2nd yr basically and I have sent her to numerous camps to continue to improve her skills.The coaches have basically settled on the starting 5 and maybe 2 others,She is usually the last one in the game ,and sometimes not at all if game is close.She has improved dramatically from last few yrs,but she lacks confidence and aggressiveness,which I think is more playing time.I actually put her in a ymca league last summer so she could play more.They the other girls don''''t even try to pass the ball to her and if she does get it she won''''t drive to the hoop or shoot at all.She seems confused on offense but is ok on defense.I coached the ymca team she was on and her jr high team needs a rebounder,if I could get her to be aggressive I think she could crack the lineup as a rebounder.I;m sending her to more camps but what will make her more aggressive.Thanks


    Jeff says:
    1/7/2014 at 2:55:34 PM

    Hi.Continuing with 7th grade girls basketball problems.Daughter has played with these girls in a inhouse league since 5th grade,and now jr high.The starting 5 and parents think they are divas and actually have only 2 good players,1 being an 8th grader.They don't play as a team,they try to run plays but it usually break down and its just playground basketball.She only gets to play 3-4 mins a game,most of the time not at all.She's confused on offense,usually because the game is winding down and they don't run any plays and the 2 pt guards are just trying to get they're pts.I've gone to the coaches after practice and asked them their strategies on playing only 5 girls and why they don't play her more,even when they were losing by 20.they say her skill level isn't up to the other girls levels,but shes not far behind them,just needs playing time.They have no rebounders,if I could get her to be aggressive in this area,maybe she could play more.I'm sending her to more camps and ymca to play more.Will this help?I told her she has to show the coach in practice .Any more suggestions?Thank you


    Dave says:
    1/10/2014 at 12:30:37 AM

    Is it acceptable for a 5th grade basketball coach to throw the ball at the back of the head of a player?


    Ken Sartini says:
    1/10/2014 at 9:41:44 AM

    In ONE word..... NO!

    It is not acceptable to throw anything at any player of ANY AGE.

    Aside from the fact that it is just plain wrong, it could cost you your job.


    geoffrey says:
    9/2/2014 at 7:04:45 AM

    Wao! that was awesome cant wait to get more from u..truly u are a get help for me.


    Coach Jay says:
    9/23/2014 at 11:00:48 PM

    Wow. Great advice. We used it today and I got to say it work out really well. Even the parents appricated the change in coaching style. I coach 5 to 7 yr old kids in pop warner flag football. Here is what we implemented.


    To help eliminate the problems we had during our last practice, I plan on explaining some rules and disciplinary actions to the kids and parents. 1. When the Coach talks, be quite and listen.2. No fighting or bulling. 3. Practice hard by focusing, hustling and trying your best.

    Disciplinary Actions
    Player will get a verbal warning first. Coaches need to make it clear what the player did wrong and explain to the child that is his first and only warning. If the problem continues, player will run a lap. If the problem still continues, player will sit out the remaining practice. If player sits out ANY two practices, he does not play the next game.

    We need to be fair but firm with the kids or the problems are going to continue to get worst. We have a talented team and a bunch of good kids. They just seem to be acting up lately.

    We emphasized this at the beginning and end of practice. In addition and as a result of our last bad practice, we made the kids do alot more running drills. We explained to them that we are doing this because of their actions. And if they wanted to go back to a normal practice, they would have to behave themselves. We also individually spoke to the specific kids asking them to be a leader in the team by setting a good example.

    So far this has worked out great. I could see and feel the change in additudes even with the more difficult kids. And the parents all appricated the tough love.

    Thanks for helping our team.


    Stan says:
    10/2/2014 at 11:05:29 PM

    All these responses that involve running as a discipline are misguided and harmful. Having any school age kid taught to fear running and treat it as a negative is poor and lazy coaching. Running should be taught as an early age to be fun and a useful form of exercise. Not feared as a punishment. If a kid is a distraction or goofing off I sit him down for 10 mins. If he is not a practice to get better he is certainly not going to interfere with those that are. If he doesn't get better, he doesn't play. If the team is not doing a drill correctly, I incorporate that drill into running. If soccer, its kick the ball up and down the field. If basketball, it can be a dribbling drill up and back. At least they are using a skill and not just learning to fear and hating conditioning. Coaches that using running laps as discipline are lazy and misguided and cause kids to quit sports for lack of joy.


    Jeff Haefner says:
    10/4/2014 at 10:56:28 AM

    Stan -

    I agree that running as a discipline can cause negative results and is something you should be careful with.

    If you read my article, you'll notice I only made them run once the entire year. I still feel the huge benefit of this far outweighed any negatives of running one time the entire year.

    But here's my question... how do you discipline the group? I agree that when one player is acting up you can discipline them by sitting them out. In fact that is almost what I always do. And with older kids you can use playing time as a discipline.

    But what if the entire group needs discipline? You can't really sit them all out. You can do push ups.... but do you want them to dislike that exercise too? You can do intensive ball handling and running... but do you want them to dislike the skill development?

    I tend to mix things up... sometimes it's push ups. Sometimes burpees and running sprints combined. Etc. But I'm not exactly happy with that solution...

    And I have not found what a consider a great discipline action for the group. Do you have any good ideas that works? I'd be interested in other ideas that work.

    Now keep in mind, we don't discipline often. But there are times when I feel it's needed and best for the group.


    Stan says:
    10/5/2014 at 10:14:04 PM

    You ask good questions and I certainly don't claim to have the answers. What i read in the post was you saying "I run them pretty hard." I read quotes above from coach Jay that says making 5-to-7 year olds run laps. To each their own, but that is sad to think at such a young age when kids are just out to have fun and learn a sport that they are disciplined by running.

    Ask yourself this....When is the last time your "entire group" needed to be disciplined. That just doesn't happen. If you are telling me the your entire team needs to be disciplined at once that might be more about the coach losing control than the group of players.

    I coach 8 and 9 year olds in baseball and assistant coach in soccer If the group on the field needs to be corrected i coach the situation better and re run the drill. Some times over and over. It is rare, if ever, that the entire team requires discipline. I don't run them for the sake of running sprints or otherwise. I don't make them do push ups or anything else negative either.

    If they are not listening, acting up, or simply being lazy or not doing what I ask I warn them first. If it happens again I sit the player or players down. First for ten minutes. They are not allowed to sit together. I sit them far apart. The second offense they sit for the rest of the practice. This is very powerful. The boys sure do not like it when their parents come to pick them up and see them sitting and I get to explain why. If this leads to the entire team sitting at some point then thats what we do. Discipline comes first.

    My kids are taught to enjoy running. I encourage parents to sign up together as a team for local 1 mile fun runs, 5k etc. Exercise is good at all ages and should not be taught as a negative. Just my opinion on how i handle things.


    Jeff Haefner says:
    10/6/2014 at 7:03:38 AM


    Good thoughts.

    In the article it says, "I run them pretty hard"... that was for high school players. Definitely not youth!! I hear ya there.

    I should probably update this article to clarify. It doesn't say but this article is quite old, and at the time, the majority of my experience was coaching at the high school level. And some of what I wrote was with high school players in mind.

    There have been a number of times I discipline the whole group, but I suppose I could find other ways and go about things differently.

    Keep in mind that right now I coach three basketball teams and have been coaching for I don't know how many years. Not to mention my help with kids soccer. So I see a lot of situations.

    One thing that happens throughout the year (I'd say maybe once every 10 practices or so), is the group just loses focus and they just get out of hand. It's hard to say exactly which kids should sit out. So sometimes I'll just talk to them about focus and if that doesn't get their attention we do push ups, burpees, quick sprints, or something to get their attention. This happens with 1st graders all the way to 18 year olds in high school.

    That quickly reminds them that we don't tolerate that behavior of messing around when coach is talking, etc. And they are usually good for quite a while after that. Maybe there is a better way to handle things.

    Here's another example. With real young kids (1st – 4th graders), I have learned that you can get them to listen. Most coaches just try to herd players and just accept that for the most part they won't listen and/or behave.

    I have found that setting precedence right away allows me to get their attention and keep them "locked in" all year...

    I explain the importance of listening and eyes on coach whenever a coach is talking (along with a couple other key points like hustling and helping others).

    Then I get them spread out on the sideline and tell them to warm up by jogging to the other side when I say "GO". Then I blow the whistle. They all jog to the other side. I explain the first rule... listen carefully,.. yada yada. It’s when I say "GO". Then I have them do 5 push ups. I repeat the process until everyone figures out I have not said "go" yet. Usually takes about 3 whistles and they all get it.

    They realize right away, this coach was serious when he gave us those guidelines. And they are locked in for that one hour practice. And with some occasional reminders and consistency on my part, they stay locked in the whole year.

    Everyone is amazed that we can get a group of 30 six year olds listening, learning, and behaving so well.

    So I use push ups for this technique and it works wonders. I wish I could think of something other than push ups. But I don't think I could give up the technique unless I found something just as effective.

    It literally changes the whole season for us and allows us to have a really big and positive impact on these kids. We get to teach so many life lessons to these kids because they are locked in and listening. It's a very positive experience and in no way are we mean about things.

    I'm always on the lookout for better methods. So that's why I'm sharing what we do and keeping the conversation going.

    Thanks for the thoughts and if you have ideas, let us know. :)

    BTW, I think your points about sitting players are great! They definitely don’t like explaining why they are sitting to their parents! I sit players too but your notes remind me I should do it more consistently and rely on that method more exclusively. We’re pretty good about it and do the same as you. But we can do better. Thanks!


    Sharnee says:
    11/15/2014 at 3:54:50 AM

    I coach Under 16 boys.... i have this one boy who is really inconsistent. He''ll say hes coming to training and then never show, or he wont call and just not show up, and when he does show up he just mucks around disrupting the other players. Ive tried almost everything to get him to stop, from telling him that if he keeps not coming and not trying his best he''ll be placed in a lower grade to not playing him much minutes in games.

    do you or anyone have any suggestions? im getting really desperate. Thanks


    Jeff Haefner says:
    11/15/2014 at 6:41:41 PM

    Sharnee - Here are a few suggestions on handling the situation...

    - Talk to the player. Try to get to know them a little and find out why he behaves like that. Does he not like basketball? Is he looking for attention? Is he afraid of making mistakes?

    - Set clear expectations for the player and communicate clear consequences (ex: he sits out). And immediately follow through once he does not meet expectations. If he mucks around and distracts played, sit him immediately. It will be up to him on whether he complies or sites out.

    It's important to follow through because all players will test you to see if you are bluffing.


    Coach Eric says:
    12/16/2014 at 9:11:16 AM

    I am coaching girls JV having never played basketball before. This site has been outstanding. Thank you to all who have contributed.


    KJ says:
    1/22/2015 at 1:05:52 AM

    Can anyone give me advice on good reasoning to tell my players why individuals don't need to wear head bands and wrist bands at high school level.

      1 reply  

    Joe Haefner says:
    1/22/2015 at 8:54:41 AM

    I'm reaching here... Promotes individuality in a team game.


    Jim says:
    2/1/2015 at 12:57:50 AM

    I coach a recreation team ages 11/12, my star player is a poor teammate. He is a ball hog and thinks he is the best on the team and thinks he can do everything by himself and doesn't trust any of his team mates He talks down to the other players on the team when they make mistakes but when he misses a shot or makes a mistake nobody says nothing to him, he has a attitude with all coaches and is dogging it in practice. The other kids on the team are starting to resent him and dislike him and don't want to play with him and our team is falling apart. Remember he is a great player and in this league you are required to play 2 out of 4 quarters so I can't bench him. Our team has lost 4 straight games after starting out 5-0. What do I with this player, I need help?

      1 reply  

    Jeff Haefner says:
    2/1/2015 at 8:10:21 AM

    I'm not sure I can offer much help because I have always had the "bench" as a tool to motivate. If you are currently playing him 3-4 quarters, you could just have him play only 2 quarters when he doesn't follow your instruction.

    Most likely you will need to utilize and try a number of different things. You can use some of the following as motivators and influence...

    - stats
    - get to know the player... ask questions... show interest and try to better understand his motivation and decision process
    - play no dribble drills and run your offense with no dribble (he will be forced to learn how to move without the ball and rely on team mates to succeed). this can work wonders.
    - talk to league administration. maybe they allow you to suspend players for certain games? I would be amazed if they didn't. If a player got in a fight, swore at a teammate, bullied a teammate, or did anything un acceptable.... you need to have consequences.

    Also, check out this article. It might provide other ideas.


    RC says:
    2/11/2015 at 1:32:35 PM

    I am a parent of a 5th grade all-star player. She was doing great playing for her school as Forward. Her team got along great together. She was stealing balls left and right, rebounding, shooting. I was so proud of her. However, when she got on this All Star team she rapidly fell apart. It was so bad I had to take her off the team this weekend. She was on the bench most of the time and made so many mistakes I couldn't count. She had 4 games that day and every one I had to go outside and cry because this was not the same player I knew 6 weeks ago..... After I took her off the team because I thought she didn't belong, she then opened up and said there were two twins on her team that were bullying her to death about her playing, and the coach was doing nothing about it. He was punishing her instead of the twins. My daughter was intimidated so much by these twins that she couldn't play. It was sad, sad, sad!!!! After I told her it was over, she wrote on her hand with ink "I LOVE BASKETBALL!". She's gonna have to face these same girls next year in Middle School but she will have a different coach. How can I help her when there are players on her own team holding her back???

      1 reply  

    Jeff says:
    2/11/2015 at 3:40:50 PM

    I would do some research.. maybe on google on how to handle bullying, as this doesn't sound like a basketball specific issue.

    Regarding basketball, I think it's important for players to understand that mistakes are ok. Mistakes are part of the game. The best players in the world at the NBA and WNBA levels make dozens of mistakes every game. Missed shots, turnovers, misread defenses, etc are all part of the game. If Lebron James makes dozens of turnovers getting paid millions of dollars. I think it's ok for a 5th grader to make mistakes. Just play through them and have fun.

    I think that ideally lessons start with the coach in practice and is reinforced at home by the parent. Just let them know you love watching them play. That's it.


    Sheila says:
    11/9/2016 at 1:40:57 PM

    Since we are a small school and have one gym our elementary teams have to share it with the high school so our time in the gym is limited. Our newly established rec basketball assoc has put in place some rules, one being players must meet 75% of practice attendance to be able to play in games. I am good with this rule and I understand why we have it but my dilemma is that since we are such a small school we have to pull up players and that sometimes occurs after we have began practice. I have girls that at this time will not meet the requirement so I have attempted to (when gym time outside factors allow) offer a bonus/make-up practice of either 30min shooting or now I want to offer extra running but I'm having trouble figuring out how many running laps around the gym would be appropriate for the girls to do right after practice. The girls range in age from 9-10. Thanks for your advice. Oh and no I was not going to have them run for 30 min just a set amount of laps that would justify an make-up practice.

      1 reply  

    Jeff Haefner says:
    11/11/2016 at 7:50:14 AM

    For 9-10 year olds, I would not have them run many laps... if any. This is am age when they are learning to either like or dislike sports. You want to help foster a love for the sports. So if you feel laps are the right things to do, maybe 10 laps at most. Ideally you sit players out when they are late so you avoid making them think that "running" is a bad thing and a "punishment". But if time is limited, that is not ideal either. Playing time could be reduced too. Each situation is different. I would handle things much different but we have lots of kids that WANT to be there and it's just a different dynamic. Good luck!


    Pat Cutts says:
    11/29/2016 at 2:42:50 PM

    My Grandson, who is on the JV boys basketball team, missed 2 practices due to being out of state for Thanksgiving holiday, and was thrown off the team. He did notify the coach by text that he would not be there.
    He comes from a divorced family, whose Mother made the arrangements to go. His father is extremely upset, but feels the coach is being to harsh. He should have a consequence, but not thrown off the team.


    Mohammed Laribi says:
    1/7/2018 at 7:24:07 PM


    Due to limited resources, I have only one two hour session where it has 35+ people a week. In this session we have various levels of abilities, ages from 12-18 and both genders. This session also caters for our U14 Narional league team and our U18 Local league Boys and Girls

    What would be the best way to break down a session to meet the needs for everyone with out having to change the level of coaching for the players at a higher level?

    Also with my three teams they have been given their offencive sets and defencive sets. When asked they are able to run their defensive sets with ease but all three teams are hesitant of running their offensive sets during games . How can you make your team run their sets more often during games?

    Coach Mohammed Laribi

      1 reply  

    Jeff says:
    1/9/2018 at 12:58:08 PM

    You choose drills that anyone can do but the lower level players go slower and higher level players go faster or get an extra challenge.

    As an example, if all 35 players have a ball and do the very basic stationary cross over drill... the lower level players might dribble slower and might struggle to lift eyes up. The high level players should have eyes up, keep the ball really low and wide, and dribble extremely fast. Even with the basic cross over if you go hard the best players can challenge themselves.

    Everyone should practice dribbling, pivots, passing, shooting, finishing, etc. But when you practice those skills, the challenge is increased and higher level players just go faster and push themselves.

    For offensive sets, we do not have any. We just run motion offense and there is almost nothing to memorize.


    Emily says:
    3/2/2019 at 4:38:02 PM

    Looking for some advice - my 11 year old son has had a coach this year without a plan, set discipline, respect for himself or others. It's been a frustrating and not so fun year as expected.

    The coach yells at the boys often and is easily frustrated, but today during a game it was taken a bit too far - in my opinion. After getting frustrated with my son for "taking it to the corner", which I never saw and neither did my 15 year old son who played traveling A team in middle school, the coach took a time out and yelled at my son. The first half finished and my son was sitting on the bench getting a drink of water trying not to cry because he said he was truly trying his best and not taking it to the corner but he wasn't going to argue with the coach. The coach proceeded to come over to the bench, knelt down, placed both his hands on each side of my sons head and was in his face telling my son not to be disrespectful and asked my son if he understood. Of course by this time my son was crying as this is also taking place in front of the bleacher section and once he was crying the coach proceeded to hold on to his head speaking in his face that he was fine...

    As a parent I don't feel comfortable with this type of adult behavior, especially because the coach has never established clear expectations but gets extremely frustrated when things are going the way he thinks they should be going. If my son is being that disrespectful I would appreciate a conversation because respect if very important in our family. If my son truly isn't being that disrespectful and hence that is why my I haven't been approached by the coach, I feel it's his behavior that is in question.

    I've been at every game and practice but (2) and I haven't ever seen / heard my son be disrespectful. I'm certainly not saying that it isn't a possibility as he is an 11 year old boy, but I haven't ever witnessed it because if I had I would have dealt with it immediately.

    What are your thoughts from a coaching perspective?

    Thanks in advance


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