2 Critically Important Guidelines for Your Youth Basketball Practice

There are two things that ALL youth coaches should make happen at EVERY practice. It drives me nuts when I see coaches making this very common mistake...

#1 - Kids should NOT be standing in lines!

Standing in lines = BOREDOM! Your players should be getting lots of touches and reps or they're going to lose focus FAST.

Not to mention, how will a player get better if he/she is standing in line? They must be doing something and working on a skill to get better.

Your lines should be very short and your practices should be fast paced!!!

How often are players standing around during your practice? I'll bet 9 out of 10 coaches will say... "Way too often!!"

Keep ALL of your players busy if you can. Of course, there will be times when you have an activity that doesn't allow for participation of the entire group. During these times, give your players "busy work" drills they can do on the side with little supervision.

Here are some ideas for "busy work" drills and/or activities to keep your players active and learning at all times.
  • Jump rope (for quickness and conditioning)
  • Two Ball Dribbling
  • Mikan Drill
  • Free Throw Challenge
  • Partner Passing
  • Lay up drills
  • Rebounding drills
  • Spider Dribbling
  • Figure 8 Dribbling
  • One on One
  • Form Shooting
You can almost always come up with the right combination of drills to keep everyone busy.

You should also choose drills that require little standing around.

#2 - Every player should have a ball.

This is really important because it allows each player to get more touches and makes practice more enjoyable for the players.

It pains me to see practices when two players have a ball (or maybe none) and a bunch of players are standing around. Sure, there are things you can do without a ball. But when it comes to skill development (which is really important for young players), how do you expect players to get better if they don't have a ball in their hands?

Kids need lots of touches! They need to be passing, dribbling, and shooting as much as possible. They all need a basketball to do that.

Source: eBook - 60 Fun Youth Basketball Drills

What do you think? What are your experiences? Do you have any thoughts, ideas, and suggestions?


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Natty says:
12/11/2012 at 2:52:44 PM

It is a good point. However, i beg to differ on the second point. I coach in a high school in Africa (Tanzania). i have five balls for 30 students. We cannot afford to buy balls that are enough for everyone. Therefore, i try to be creative with drills during training sessions inorder to make sure that everyone will have a chance to play adequately. Thats why am always on a lookout for new creative drills and coaching tips. I would have loved if i could do the two but somethings cannot like in my case afford many balls.


Andrew Feltham says:
10/21/2010 at 1:42:22 AM

I dont think training needs to be fast paced all the time.
I do, however, believe that training needs to be very competetive. If youth (Under 14 year olds) are going a million miles an hour, they will develop bad habits. Slowing them down a bit and adding in competetive aspects to training will help them develop good habits but maintain an intensity for competition.
KIDS WAITING IN LINES ARE BAD. so minimise the amount of kids behine cones/in lines and maximise their time in the drill and with a ball.

We need to learn to crawl before we can run.

NOTE: I am only talking about really junior players here. There definately is a need to have fast paced training at stages too and especially for older youth (Above 13 years old.).


Craig says:
10/19/2010 at 2:30:31 PM

I agree I coach K through 8 grade teams and our main goal is time spent with the ball. Our other goal is Fun Fun Fun!!

After a brief Skill intro and Demo I usually break every one up in to four lines no more than 4 at a line with the last players in each line doing stationary ball handling drills or passing with a partner until they are the second one to go.
This as worked well with 12 17 kids.

By the way I love this message board its great to bounce Ideas and pick up tips.


coach P says:
10/18/2010 at 2:23:01 PM

I also wanted to say that I also incorporate fitness education to the kids via practice. For example I use competitive games to teach the kids how to do perfect form push ups. The losing team does X amount of push ups a kid with good form is the example for everyone else and I reinforce the proper technique, kids get a kick out of it! The games create fun competition, intensity and teach sportsmanship!


coach P says:
10/18/2010 at 2:13:58 PM

With shortened practices associated with youth basketball you absolutely have to incorporate conditioning into the drills to maximize limited practice times. When my kids do drills where lines are required, they're not idle, they all have a ball in hand doing something!


Steve V says:
10/15/2010 at 4:49:16 AM

Yes, I totally agree with Jeff. I believe it's especially counterproductive to make kids run suicides as punishment [for not making enough shots in shooting drills etc]. It cements the idea of running as a chore, and associates it with failure, rather than a fun part of the game that leads to success. Drills and mini-games should be played at flat out game speed. I've seen far too many coaches run dawdling line drills with lots of standing around, then send the kids on punishing runs because they think they need it for fitness.


Steve Graham says:
10/13/2010 at 3:03:31 PM

Yes, I too hate seeing players standing around. It''''s necessary to have more than one coach when coaching youth teams. If you don''''t have an assistant coach then get one of the parent to run a simple station drill with your instruction on how it should be done.
This why some team are more aggresive than others because your practice dictate the pace your playesr will play in a real game. Your practice should include alot of fast pace drills.


James Dossett says:
10/13/2010 at 2:37:12 PM

A coach can provide all the necessary fitness development during practice and small sided games play.Many "tag" games and games of "invasion" can provide all the running necessary to help them be successful in game situations. Games of "keep away" and "advance and score" will keep kids moving and solve tactics as they play. After all, basketball is just a simple game of keep away, attacking and goal scoring.


Jeff Haefner says:
10/13/2010 at 7:13:34 AM

Vince - That is a very good point about running.

To take things a step further (and better in my opinion) I have learned two things from the experts when it comes to running/conditioning...

1 - All your conditioning should come in the context of your drills. There are lots of drills that are great conditioners like 3 lane rush, intensity lay ups, mchale taps, etc, etc. This way players develop skill and get in shape at the same time.

2 - Do NOT do sprints/run at the end of practice. If you save your conditioning for the very end of practice, many times kids don't play 100% throughout the body of practice because they know, "I'm gonna run 10, 15, 20 sprints at the end and I need to save myself for that."

If players know they have to run at the end of practice, they will pace themselves throughout your drills because they know RUNNING is coming. You don't even realize this is happening.

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.

Plus, 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 your players to be excited about basketball and feel good about it. That's why it's so important to end on a positive note!


Vince UK says:
10/13/2010 at 3:50:16 AM

I agree with the 2 points above, and definitely it can be a challenge not having kids standing around especially when numbers are high.

I have started a new technique this year as fitness becomes more important - suicides are always done with a ball, with a change of hand at every direction change. It's more fun for the kids, and they are practising high speed dribbling (and you can always say: 'anyone looks at the ball, we all go again'!).


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