Gravity and Teaching Youth Basketball Skills

Here is an effective tip for teaching skills in youth basketball. I picked this up from Bob Bigelow years ago.

With youth basketball players, itís usually easier for them to learn skills that require the least resistance against gravity.

Footwork requires no gravity. Dribbling works with gravity. Passing works slightly against gravity. Shooting works against gravity.

So we advise to put more focus towards the skills where your players can see a greater improvement.


1 - Youíre more efficient and effective with your time.

When it comes to shooting and even passing, there are limitations on the progress you can make regardless of the amount of time that you spend.

This is mostly due to natural physical and mental maturation. Things that you have little control over.

While with ball handling and footwork, your ceiling is much higher because it doesnít have as many limitations due to maturation.

So letís pretend you have a scale of 1 to 100 for rating the proficiency of skills. 1 being the worst. 100 being the best.

With shooting, your max might be a 40.

With ball handling, your max might be a 70.

2 - Players are more motivated.

From a psychological perspective, it's also motivating because your players see more improvement.

This tends to happen when you spend more time on skills that have less resistance to gravity like footwork and dribbling.

I would even advise to film the first practice and maybe the first game. That way, your players and parents can visually see it.

Should you ignore the other skills like shooting and passing?

Absolutely not! I would still spend a significant amount of time on passing and shooting lay ups.

However, you probably want to minimize the time of shooting off the catch and shooting off the dribble.

Also, from a developmental standpoint, it's hard to work on shooting form due to strength and coordination.

Thatís also why we recommend smaller basketballs and lower hoop heights for youth players. You can spend a few minutes on form shooting this way.

If you donít have access to lower hoops, you can also do form shooting against a wall.

Here would be an example of how you might approach practice planning with this mindset. This might work well for players that are 12 years old and under.

    Skills primary focus - Ball handling and footwork

    Skills secondary focus - Lay ups, passing, shooting

    Offense primary focus - Cutting and getting open - V-cuts, L-cuts, basket cuts (give and go), and backdoor cuts.

    Offense secondary focus - Introduce ball screens, introduce screens away from the ball, baseline out of bounds play, sideline out of bounds play, press breaker.

    Defense primary focus - Defensive stance, 1v1 defense, positioning when 1 or 2 passes away, moving on the pass, sprinting to areas.

    Defense secondary focus - Defending cutters, post players, ball screens, screens away from the ball.

Of course, there are exceptions. An advanced group of 11 and 12 year olds might be ready to emphasize more shooting and advanced concepts.

Then as the players mature and get older, you can shift more practice time towards shooting form and more shooting drills.

Around age 12 or 13 is when you can start to focus more on shooting form. The time put in leads to greater improvement and it can actually have a lasting impact. This often coincides with when players reach puberty.

Iíd really like to hear your thoughts and experiences on the topic by sharing them below. Also, please list any questions you might have.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Nathan says:
12/28/2019 at 11:18:36 PM

Appreciate the advice. I was pulling my hair out with the lack of progress my 11 year old is having with shooting despite lots of practice. Might focus more on footwork and dribbling skills until he matures.


Mike Hofer says:
12/27/2019 at 10:06:14 AM

Comment on filming first game -
I think filming games in youth basketball is a great tool for the kids to help them learn faster. A lot of the youth players don't fully understand what the coach is talking about when they correct them on mistakes they have made. But when they see it on game film and the coach can point it out, example: out of position on defense, dribbled into a trap, missed the open team mate because head was down dribbling, not boxing out ( I could go on and on here), they start to see the game differently and start to understand how to play basketball correctly.

I started filming all games at the 4th grade level and up, having a couple of film sessions through out the season (when time permitted) but all games were posted on a youtube channel for the kids to watch on their own or with their parents.

  1 person liked this. 2 replies  

Mark Laudadio says:
12/27/2019 at 11:34:49 AM

What camera are you using ?


Jeff Means says:
12/27/2019 at 3:32:39 PM

Video-ing games (& practices if possible) is crucial... I've literally had players tell me "that's not me/that can't be me" when they see the mistakes they make on the court. Now that my sons are both in high school I no longer am coaching them, but I do video-record their games. I use an I-Pad because the 'view-finder' is large enough for my old eyes to see it LOL, rather than a traditional camera anymore.

Then I upload it to my YouTube Channel in an 'Unlisted Status' so only parents/kids & coaches with the Link can watch it. Keeps "scouting" to a minimum too, it can be very time-consuming (especially if you also do stats off of the game-video) but some kids see the value of it and the improvement amongst those that use the video as yet another tool is immense.


jim says:
12/27/2019 at 9:47:47 AM

Hi Guys:
I believe your right on. The fundamentals are where it's at. If you can make it mentally fun for them at the same time with some simple drills, that's when you really see the skills improve. I try and keep almost everything within 12' to 15' of the basket. And practice correct shooting up against a concrete wall if possible "stressing" reverse rotation crossing the fingers on the seams of the ball. Might I add again "across" the seams of the ball. We start in close and very slowly move out. Both hands, both feet, step shoot. I love it, so many good players in such a short time. When I said the wall, I also must add the board as we live there if possible on instruction. Thanks guys , and the best of everything for what you are trying to do for all children. Got to love it.

Love Jim


Chad Clore says:
12/27/2019 at 9:35:50 AM

I couldn''t agree with this philosophy more. Especially how you''ve prioritized the practice plan. Only comments I would make... (1) The sooner you can start practicing layups against defense the better. Young players definitely need some reps getting their footwork down on layups first, but I wish we would''ve practiced 75% of our layups against defense over the last 5 years. (2) Let ''em shoot!! Early focus should be on shot selection not shooting form. As they get into that 11-13 year old range, encourage them to continuously be working on improving form. Kids love to shoot. Let them. There is no substitute for the confidence gained by seeing the ball go through the hoop.

Always appreciate your articles Coach Haefner.


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