Coaching Youth Basketball

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As a youth basketball coach, you have one of the most important and exciting jobs in the world!

Picture by KityKity
You'll be teaching habits that will stick with these kids for the rest of their lives. And whether you like it or not, you'll be setting an example and teaching kid's lessons about life (good and bad). Kids are impressionable. They pick up on things.

You have an obligation and responsibility to teach them the right things - in both basketball and life.

When you think about it, teachers would do anything to get the enthusiasm that you get from your players. Kids actually like and want to play basketball.

Your players look up to you. They listen to you. And you have an amazing opportunity to make a POSITIVE impact on their lives!

You have a very important and rewarding job!
In this section of our website, we'll provide you with links to a variety of youth coaching tactics, plays, drills, and tips that will help you become a better youth basketball coach.

Here are some very important articles that apply to coaching youth basketball:

The articles discuss very important concepts to help you succeed. So read through each article, starting with the first one at the top.

Coaching Philosophy

Establishing Your Philosophy and Priorities

Youth Basketball - What Should You Teach?

Could 3 on 3 Basketball Be the Best For Youth Players?

What's Wrong With Youth Basketball Leagues? (And Suggestions To Improve Them)

Interview that All Youth Coaches Should Hear

Handling Game Situations

Motivating Players

Developing Mentality - Watch What You Teach

The Ultimate Guide to Motivating Players

Four Great Ways To Keep Your Team's Attention

Establishing Discipline and Getting More From Your Players

Communicating With Your Players

10 Tips to Keep Players Focused, Motivated, and Playing Hard

8 Ways to Earn Your Player's Trust

8 Secrets To Success & How They Relate To Youth Coaching / Parenting


The Most Important Aspect of Coaching & Leadership - Being a Good Role Model

Dealing with Parents - 19 Surefire Strategies to Avoid Problems

Important Lesson for Youth Basketball Coaches

Why It is Good to be a Salesman When Coaching Basketball

How Do You Always Keep a Positive Attitude as a Coach?

Do You Yell At Referees?

2 Simple Ways to Make a Positive Impact on Your Players' Lives

How to Become a Better Leader

Long-Term Player Development

3 Critical Player Development Tips For Your Offense

When Did Steve Nash Start Playing Basketball?

The Problems With American Basketball

Can Summer Basketball Lead To Injuries, Emotional Burnout, and Diminishing Skills?

Developing Passion For Youth Basketball Players

A Cheaper & More Effective Alternative to Summer Basketball Camps

Skills and Fundamentals

IMPORTANT: Focusing on the Fundamentals

Why Shooting Fundamentals are so Important for Youth Coaches?

Youth Basketball Shooting: 3 Things Youth Coaches Need to Adjust

Should We Teach Basketball Skills To Players Under the Age of 10?

Only 4 Things You Need To Know To Be a Great Ball Handler (It's Not What You Think)

4 Skill Development Techniques that Few Coaches are Aware Of

Basketball Skills and Fundamentals Main Page

Practice Planning

How To Plan For Success In Youth Basketball!

Youth Basketball - What Should You Teach?

Sample Practice Plan - 7 to 10 Year Olds

Sample Practice Plan - 11 to 14 Year Olds

Simple Tricks to Optimize Basketball Practice Time and Get More Done

Coaching Youth Basketball with Limited Time (1 Practice a Week)


What defense should you teach youth players (zone, man, press)? What age should you start man to man?

Outlawing Youth Zone Defenses

For The Frustrated Coaches That Turn to Zone Defense

What Is The Right Age To Focus On Wins and Losses and Start Playing Zone?

Man to Man Defense - Drills, Tips, and Articles

Youth Basketball Drills

If you don't have our free eBook yet, the first thing you should check out is our FREE Basketball Drills ebook. It includes 72 of some of our favorite basketball drills and it includes youth section so you can easily find the drills that apply to you.

We also offer videos with 60+ Youth Basketball Drills and Tips For Coaching Youth Basketball.

Also, you can view some of our favorite youth basketball drills here for free.

Important Tips:

When working with young kids and running basketball drills, there are three very important concepts you need to consider:

Picture by Shane Pope
1 - Kids need to be highly active!

Just by using fast paced drills and keeping things moving, your players will have more fun and get in better condition. Your kids should be breathing hard and their hearts should be pumping. It's good for them!

Avoid standing in lines as much as possible and keep the ball in their hands as much as possible.

2 - Kids want to feel successful!
With very youngs kids, competition doesn't always serve as a motivator. You should always provide activities that help them build their skills and confidence. Strive to focus on the learning process instead of measuring up to those around you.

You'll want to avoid adding pressure and competition until the players have developed their skills, confidence, and become proficient with the basics.

Put them in situations where they can succeed.

3 - Kids want to have lots of fun!

This is an important stage for young players and your actions could determine whether they enjoy sports or not.

It's important to make things fun so they can improve and become confident.

Youth basketball drills don't have to be boring. Almost any drill can be modified to provide high activity, high success, and high enjoyment.

Youth Basketball Offenses

I believe that using a very simple motion offense is the way to go for youth teams because it teaches them how to move and the players will begin to learn how to get open and play the game.

Motion offense also allows you to spend more time teaching fundamentals and skills (which is very important for young players).

The challenging part about motion offenses is that there are SO many options that it's hard for players to know what to do. But you can easily solve that problem by making simple rules and starting with the basics.

For example, you might want to just with just a couple simple options for your motion offense. You could start by teaching the players proper spacing, away screens, and v-cuts. Once they master those skills and get VERY proficient at cutting properly and setting good away screens, then you can start adding more options and building on your foundation.

You can add ball screens, rolling, and so on. Just don't go too fast! Make sure they have good fundamentals before you start adding stuff.

You can learn about developing motion offenses by looking at these resources: Offensive Theory & Introduction to Basketball Offense

Teaching Basketball Motion Offense

5 Out Cutters Offense - Easy to teach and it is a great building block for the motion offense.

You can also try this very simple patterned offense that you can use as a play or your entire offense:
Youth Offense - Michigan

Press Breaker Offense - Breaking the Press in Youth Basketball

3 Critical Player Development Tips For Your Offense

Youth Basketball Plays

When it comes to teaching plays to youth basketball players, it is typically better to teach them concepts on how to play the game of basketball.
  • Triple Threat - How to get in triple threat position every time a player catches the ball.
  • Footwork - Quick stops & pivoting
  • Cutting - Basket cuts & back cuts
  • Screens - Off the ball & On-ball
  • Eventually, reading screens.
To read more on this topic, please read:

Youth Coaches: Destroy Your Playbook and Do This Instead

Should Youth Coaches AVOID Plays and Patterned Offenses?

Here are some very basic plays:

1-3-1 Cutters


Swing Variation

Zone Shallow

Zone Overload

Quick Hitter Vs. 1-3-1 Zone

Best Overall Advice for Youth Basketball Coaches

1) Keep things fun!
Did you know that the #1 reason kids quit sports is because it's not fun anymore?!? It's very important to play plenty of games and keep a positive attitude.

Be positive and make things fun. Even if the kids get cut from the team or decide not play basketball at an older age, they'll still have a positive image of basketball and may continue to play it recreationally when they get older.

If you act like a drill sergeant when coaching a bunch of 10 year olds, the kid will get a negative image of basketball and have negative emotional feelings when thinking of basketball. Kids will also get sick of basketball if they play TOO many games each year. As a result, they will not likely play basketball when they get older. It can even affect their feelings towards fitness in general. If a person dislikes fitness and becomes inactive, they are more likely to be unhealthy!

60+ Youth Basketball Drills and Games

2) Be Positive & Do NOT Correct Every Mistake!
Don't be too critical and stop them to make a correction on every mistake. Let them play and learn themselves. If you stop or correct them on every mistake, you'll get a basketball player with low confidence that is always unsure of what to do, instead of a confident player that reacts to the defense.

Now, if they continue to make the same mistake over and over and over, show the player a better way to do a certain thing. For example, if you see one of your players stand straight up every time they touch the ball and a defender crowds them and causes the offensive player to travel. Say to the player, "Way to hustle, Johnny! Let me show you something that will help you when the defender crowds you. When catching the ball in this position, keep your hips back with your knees bent, and pivot. Be ready to attack. Then if the defender comes to crowd you, it will be easy for you to dribble right by him!" Notice, I did NOT focus on the negative and say "Stop bringing the ball up!"

Don't focus on the negative. Focus on the way to help them. Let's be positive as coaches!

3) Allow your players to be successful!
Sometimes competition is not a motivator for young kids. However ALL kids need to taste success (and hopefully lots of it). Now this doesn't mean winning. It means getting better and succeeding in practice. Allow your players to run drills that they can succeed at and feel good about. Celebrate small accomplishments and successes with your players.

4) Teach life lessons in your practices!
Read this article about teaching life lessons and improving team bonding.

5) Don't worry about winning!
You don't have time to worry about winning. There's only time to do the right thing... If you do things "right", winning will eventually be a by-product of your actions. Be patient. True success takes time to do things right. It doesn't happen overnight.

You must first build a SOLID foundation for these kids to build on. Taking the time to build that foundation will cause you to sacrifice winning some games. Trust us. This is better for your players in the long run.

6) Avoid year-round basketball and play other sports!
There is a reason that NBA GM's don't like their ELITE, PROFESSIONAL basketball players competing in the summer World Championships and Olympics. It's been scientifically proven that playing a sport year-round leads to tired muscles and a tired muscle has a much HIGHER chance of injury. Now, if these PROFESSIONAL athletes with proper nutrition and training are supposed to avoid year-round basketball, don't you think that a DEVELOPING, young athlete (most likely without proper nutrition and training) should be avoiding it as well?!?

If you force your child to play, it can also lead to burnout, injury, and resentment of the sport or fitness altogether. People are much more driven when they choose to do something they enjoy, rather than being forced to do it. If you want your child to enjoy basketball, play GAMES with him when they want to, and watch basketball-related activities with them. 9 times out of 10, kids enjoy sports that their parents enjoy if approached the right way.

At this age, it is best to improve overall athletic ability which is done by playing multiple sports, such as gymnastics, baseball, soccer, martial arts, football, track, volleyball, softball, swimming, and so on. Keep in mind, that you want to have seasons for these sports. Avoid playing 2 or 3 sports at once and multiple practices on the same day. If you want to focus on one sport at age 16 or 17, GREAT. Not at age 10 or 11. And who knows what your child will take an interest in or show talent in at age 10? Most of the time, things change a lot in the next 6 or 7 years!

7) Don't press or play zone defense!
You can read why and get advice here.

8) Use small basketballs and lower rims!
Using rims that are too high and basketballs that are too big will RUIN your players shooting form. They are NOT strong enough yet.

Do we send 6 year olds to Yankee stadium and start throwing from the big mound? No, we start with tee-ball, then parent pitch, then little league (close bases), and move up.

It's ridiculous to throw 5-10 year olds on a full size court with 10 foot rims and youth basketballs that are way too big! It's no wonder so many kids have horrible shooting form when they get to high school!

9) Teach the right things!
Just keep in mind that if you can teach your young players the following skills, then you should feel good that about what you accomplished and know that you're teaching your player the right things (that they need to be successful)!

Your young players should be able to:

  • Dribble with their left and right hands equally well.
  • Make lay ups with their left and right hands equally well -- and jump off the proper foot (left foot when shooting with right hand, and vice-versa)
  • Perform a jump stop without traveling.
  • Pivot on their left and right foot without traveling.
  • Perform accurate chest, bounce, and overhead passes.
  • Perform a defensive slide (feet wide, good balance, staying between the offensive player and the basket).
  • Shoot a basketball with proper form.
These simple skills should be your number priority and your goal should be to help your players master these skills. Once they have truly mastered these skills, you can start building from there.

Questions & Answers

If you have any questions about coaching youth basketball, post your questions on our forum.

A group of very experienced and knowledgeable coaches monitor the forum and answer questions.

Recommended Youth Coaching eBooks, Books, and DVDs

Here are the books and DVDs that we recommend to youth coaches:

The Youth Coaching System (By Jim Huber)

60 Fun Youth Basketball Drills

Motion Offense

Basketball Shooting Tips & Drills

M2M Basketball Defense Tips & Drills

Simplified Post Player Development

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