Practice Planning For Success In Youth Basketball!

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"What do I do? Where do I start?"

"How do I incorporate all of these skills into practice?"

"What offense should I run? Motion? Dribble drive? Flex? Princeton? Swing? Shuffle? High-Low? Set plays?"

"What plays should I run? Should I run any? Are these too simple? Are these too complicated? How many out of bounds plays do I need? What about a press breaker?"

"What defense should I run? Man to Man? 3-2 zone? 2-3 zone? Amoeba? 1-3-1 zone? Match up? Full court pressure?"

After your head is ready to explode, you're probably thinking, "I shouldn't have volunteered to do this!"

Almost everybody who has coached youth basketball has had these thoughts and feelings go through their head at one time or another. Because coaching youth basketball can be quite overwhelming.

But don't worry. Take a deep breath and exhale because we're here to help. You can learn from our successes and mistakes.

Here are some ways to simplify it and make things easier for you.

For youth basketball coaches, your priorities should be:

  1. Character development & making basketball enjoyable
  2. Athletic development and skill development
  3. Universal defensive & offensive concepts (Motion offense and man to man defense are the best for long-term development at the youth level, but that's not the point of this article.)

Once you know what your priorities will be and what you should work on, the first thing you should do is develop a long-term plan (two to five years) and season plan.

Here is what I would do if I were starting to coach a team whether it was 7th grade or 2nd grade.

First, what would do you want them to develop and learn before they reach high school?

Here is a list of things I would want my own children to develop.

  • Athleticism
  • Ball Handling
  • Passing
  • Footwork
  • Lay Ups
  • Shooting
  • Basic Offensive Concepts
  • Basic Defensive Concepts

Your list may be different based on what you believe and how much time you have available.

Second, what should you focus on this year?

I split my practice between offensive skills, offense, defense and scrimmaging. It usually goes something like this:

  • Athletic development and offensive skills - 30 minutes
  • Defense - 15 minutes
  • Offense - 15 minutes
  • Scrimmage - 30 minutes

You could also look at it like this:

  • 1/3 skills and athletic development
  • 1/3 offense and defense (small-sided games)
  • 1/3 scrimmaging

Now each year, it is a good idea to have a primary focus and secondary focus for each section of practice.

One of the biggest reasons to focus on one or two things is the coaches and kids will see clear improvement by the end of the year. This motivates the players and makes it fun!!

If you try to do everything equally, you might improve a little but it will barely be noticeable.

If you focus on ball security for example (ball skills - ball handling and footwork) and dedicate 20 minutes to every practice and emphasize the concepts in games, you will certainly see improvement from day 1 to the last game. You can see it on film, show it to players and parents, and everyone feels good about the improvement that was made.

Typically, I will work on the primary focus every practice. I will work on the secondary focus every 2 to 4 practices.

Now, if you do this for 3 or 4 years with your focus shifting and progressing, that's when you develop basketball players!

Here are some examples of primary and secondary focus for a 3rd to 5th grade team:

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.

Third, create a practice plan template and drills to use.

This might take you an extra 2 to 3 hours at the beginning of the year, but it will save you many more hours during the season and beyond if you decide to coach for multiple seasons.

Create a practice plan template for 2 to 4 practices. It will include your primary skills and secondary skills. You are not worried about specific drills and small-sided games here, just the categories of skills and concepts you want to work on. For example:

Practice 1 Template:
Athleticism - 6 minutes
Ball Handling - 10 minutes
Footwork - 6 minutes
Form Shooting - 4 minutes
Lay Ups - 4 minutes

1 v 1 Defense - 5 minutes
Defense Positioning - 5 minutes
Defending Cutters - 5 minutes

Cutting and Getting Open - 10 minutes
Special Situation - Inbounds Plays - 5 minutes

Scrimmaging - 30 minutes
- 3v3, 4v4, 5v5
- Use different constraints

  

Practice 2 Template:
Athleticism - 6 minutes
Ball Handling - 10 minutes
Footwork - 6 minutes
Passing - 4 minutes
Lay Ups - 4 minutes

1 v 1 Defense - 5 minutes
Defense Positioning - 5 minutes
Defending the Post - 5 minutes

Cutting and Getting Open - 10 minutes
Special Situation - Press Breaker - 5 minutes

Scrimmaging - 30 minutes
- 3v3, 4v4, 5v5
- Use different constraints

Organize Your Drills to Save Time!

After you create a template, you can find your favorite drills and small-sided games.

Next, you organize them. It doesn't matter if you put them in a spreadsheet, software program, or print them out and put them in a binder. You can do all of the above!

That way, you can look at your template before each practice and pick out your appropriate drills. This will save you a ton of time throughout the season. And if you coach multiple seasons, this is an absolute no-brainer.

Now, if I only could get back all of those hours the first few years that I coached and I wasn't doing this.


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




Comments

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Rhianna Hawk says:
1/31/2019 at 12:55:24 PM

I appreciate your tips for playing in a youth basketball team. My son wants to try learning basketball, and your tips for how to divide practice times will really help with that. We'll be sure to look for a coach that has the priorities you mention are important, as well.
http://sdnbp.com/index.html

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Todd says:
1/5/2015 at 10:46:35 PM

Very helpful information for setting up practice schedules and season goals for player improvement.

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Joe Haefner says:
10/23/2014 at 8:33:56 AM

Here is another helpful article:

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/blog/index.php/should-we-teach-basketball-skills-to-kids-under-the-age-of-10/

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Joe Haefner says:
10/23/2014 at 8:32:40 AM

Dan, they are pretty much the same as any other sport.

Moving side to side. (lateral movement)

Running forwards and backwards (linear movement).

Stopping and starting. Side to side. And forwards and backwards. (Lateral and linear)

Jumping - 1 leg, two legs, different body positions, twists, etc.

Balance - 1 Leg

Squats, lunges, pushes (horizontal and vertical), pulls (horizontal and vertical), twists, and planks will help build foundational strength.

Skipping, MACH drills (running form drills), crawling, combo runs (ex: backwards run, then turn) will help build coordination and rhythm.

Jump stops would be something that might be specific to basketball.

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DAN says:
10/15/2014 at 5:12:45 PM

I lead a "moving one's body properly" for fourth graders.

Cae you advise we what recognized bodymovementts are involved with moving properly when playing basketball? ?

Thank you.

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DAN says:
10/15/2014 at 5:12:44 PM

I lead a "moving one's body properly" for fourth graders.

Cae you advise we what recognized bodymovementts are involved with moving properly when playing basketball? ?

Thank you.

Like
   

Ken Sartini says:
5/9/2014 at 10:36:06 AM

A lot of this depends on the age group of the kids. As for the younger kids, keep things simple and basic.

But I took this from the top.

For youth basketball coaches your priorities should be:

Character development & making basketball enjoyable
Athletic development and skill-work
Defensive & offensive concepts (Motion offense and man to man defense are the best for long-term development, but that's not the point of this article.)
Once you know what your priorities will be and what you should work on (hint, hint, look above), the first thing you should do is develop a long-term plan (two to five years) and season plan.

Here is what I would do if I were starting to coach a team whether it was 6th grade or 2nd grade.

First, what would I like them to develop and learn before they reach high school?
Athleticism
Ball Handling
Passing
Footwork
Lay Ups
Shooting
Basic Offensive Concepts
Basic Defensive Concepts

Here is a whole list of drills.... you can find a lot of things at the top on the left which is where I got this.

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/drills/basketballdrills.html

I hope this helps.

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Voneita W. says:
5/9/2014 at 9:34:27 AM

Do you have a basket curriculum or a set of drills? I am new to this and it would be helpful. I'm scheduled to start an afterschool basketball league on May 20, 2014 at my school.

Your help is greatly appreciated..


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JESSICA HAMRICK says:
2/19/2014 at 8:03:21 AM

I LOVE ALL THE GREAT TOOLS TO HELP ME TEACH THE KIDS.

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Charles Parker says:
12/22/2013 at 10:39:12 AM

Thanks this is very helpful, I've been asked to be a head coach for my areas parks and rec league but I turned it down and stayed as an assistane coach. With this information i feel better about becoming a head coach next year. The article was what I needed to help organize my practices. Here my other issue, parks and rec league only have 5 to 6 practice, the players changes every year, and you only have one hour of practice time. What areas would you focus on to develop your players who has little to no experience? This could be for any age group.

Thanks

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