Questions From Subscribers...

Topic:  Very Basic Youth Basketball Drills

We are teaching 7 and 8 yr. olds. Some of these kids can't even get the ball to the rim when shooting. Any suggestions on shooting technique to help with this? Most of the book seems to be geared toward a little bit older age group.

First of all, you can check out this form shooting progression and these basketball drills for kids that I think you'll find helpful.

In addition, here are a few things to try...

1) Use small basketballs and lower the baskets. One of the biggest reasons that so many older kids have such poor shooting skills is because they used basketballs that were too heavy when they were young. The heavy ball causes them to heave the ball and/or shoot from the hip -- instead of using proper form. If they shoot like this enough, like many kids do, they'll develop bad habits that stay with them for life

For 5 to 8 year olds, I recommend size 5 basketballs for 9 to 11 year olds.

Here's a chart that breaks down the various ball sizes:

Size     Circumference   Weight   Recommended For
Size 7 29.5” 22 oz Men and boys ages 15 and up. This is official size for high school, college, and the pros.
Size 6 28.5” 20 oz Boys ages 12-14. Girls and women ages 12 and up. This is the official size for women’s high school, college, and pro basketball.
Size 5 27.5” 17 oz Boys and girls ages 9-11 years old. This is the standard youth basketball you find in most stores.
Size 4 25.5” 14 oz Boys and girls ages 5-8 years old.
Size 3 22” 10 oz Boys and girls ages 4-8 years old. Also known as "mini" basketball.
Size 1 16” 8 oz Boys and girls ages 2-4 year olds. Also known as "micro-mini" basketball.
Nerf Toy 9-20” 1-5 oz Great for toddlers 0-4 years old. And fun for young hearted adults too!

Using the mini-ball will help your young players discover proper shooting form. It's impossible for kids that age to shoot properly with a bigger ball. It might seem a little silly using small basketballs like that, but trust me, your kids will have much better form when they get older.

You should also use lower hoops. Lower the rim to 6 or 7 feet for very young players and move up as they get stronger.

2) Try these youth drills for both shooting and skills development:

  • Form Shooting - Good shooting habits are the most important thing for young players to learn because so many kids have bad shooting form and it's the most difficult thing to fix when they get older.

  • Jump Stops - This is a critical drill for all youth players. It improves balance, footwork, reduces travels, and improves confidence.

  • Basic lay up drill (with left and right hand) - For the standard lay up drill, simply form two lines on each side of the basket about 20 feet back. One line rebounds, the other drives in with the ball and shoots. The rebounder passes to the next person in the shooting line and goes to the end of the shooting line. The shooter goes to the end of the rebounding line. After a few minutes, stop the drill and put the ball on the other side for left hand lay ups. Left hand lay ups will be nearly impossible for youngsters who have not tried them. But this is a critical skill to learn. It will take time and is a must by middle school. Be sure to show your players the correct form -- they should jump off the left leg when shooting a right hand lay up. And shoot off their right leg when shooting a left hand lay up. It will be difficult but work on it. They should also dribble with their left hand when shooting left hand lay ups.

  • Cone or Chair Dribbling - Simply set up some cones or chairs about 10 feet apart. Instruct your players to weave in and out of the cones, changing directions each time they reach a cone. They can start with a basic cross over, switching hands when they reach each cone. Then you can progress to spin moves and behind the back. This is a really simple yet fun drill that helps young players improve their dribbling skills.

  • Basic partner passing - Have your players partner up, each group should have a ball. Have them pass back and forth, starting with chest passes, progressing to bounce and over head passes. Make sure they are making accurate passes and using proper form. As a variation, you can have them run up and down the court passing back and forth.

  • Triple threat drills - Simply form two lines around the 3 point arc. One line is for passing line and the other is for catching, pivoting, and driving to the basket. Once the receiver catches the pass, they should pivot with their knees bent facing the basket. Require them to pause in a triple threat position. They should be ready to pass, shoot, or drive. Knees should be bent and feet square to the basket. Once you say go, they should drive to the basket.

  • Basic defensive slides - This is the first defensive concept youngsters should learn. They are a variety of sliding drills you can use. You can try the zig zag drill or some of the sliding drills listed below. Just be sure to focus on proper form (wide base, butt down, knees bent, arms extended to he side, etc).

You can also take a look at some of these youth drills from the Winning Drills ebook that you already have. Some of these drills will be things can work towards in the future and others you can do right now.

Very basic drills you can probably use now:
  • Partner Shooting - Page 18
  • King of the Court (dribbling) - Page 72
  • Four Corners Passing - Page 83
  • Machine Gun Passing - Page 88
  • Musical Slide (defense) - Page 95
  • Defensive Slide - Page 96
  • Lane Slides - page 98
More challenging youth drills you can work towards:
  • Half Moon Shooting - Page 6
  • Knock out (fun drill) - Page 16
  • Above ground - Page 26
  • 1-on-1 Rebounding - Page 33
  • The Rebound Game - Page 37
  • Post Moves - Page 50
  • Drop Step - Page 60
  • Jump Hook - Page 61
  • Round the Block - Page 62
  • Pass and Zigzag - Page 68
  • Dribble Relays - Page 70
  • Dribble Mania - Page 77
  • Partner Passing with 1 Defender - Page 86
  • Close Out - Page 105
Most of the drills above should help you with the important skills. But there are many other good drills out there. 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).

I know these accomplishments seem like they will take a while, but these simple skills should be your number priority and your goal should be to help your players master these skills.

Also, you can check out the Youth Basketball Coaching section of our site and our video with 50+ Youth Basketball Drills and Games.

Here are a couple other resources we think are good:

Coaching Basketball Successfully by Morgan Wooten - One of the best basketball coaching books ever written. We highly recommend it for all coaching levels.

Coaching Youth Basketball: A Baffled Parent's Guide - A great book for youth basketball coaches.

We don't have any affiliation with these products, we just think they are good.

Hope this helps!

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions then please leave your comments below.

Joe Haefner

Answers and Comments

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Ashley says:
2/20/2017 at 12:37:08 AM

My 8 yr old daughter is playing her 2nd yr on a tournament ball team whose coach has just now made it clear that she wants a 'play to win' team instead of a 'play to learn' team. The issue I'm having is the coaches are teaching these 8 yr old girls screen plays & very few are understanding &/or performing them correctly, but the coaches are deciding who plays based on their ability to remember & run them. But unfortunately our team has a very mediocre passing game.

Do you feel these types of plays are too advanced for this age group? What kind of plays are within their age mentality?

  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
2/20/2017 at 2:24:56 PM

Without seeing the plays, it's hard to say. With our youth teams, we don't run plays. We just teach them basic spacing and cutting concepts to start. Then let them run motion. As we go, we add screening to our motion. But that is usually 4th-7th grade range

The biggest issue I have with "plays" is the practice time required for players to learn and memorize them. I would much rather have my kid practice skills like dribbling, passing, pivoting, agility, etc... things that will help them no matter what coach they play for in the future. If learning the play is taking much time from skill development, then I would say they are too advanced and not a good use of time.


Nerf Herder says:
5/17/2016 at 5:12:39 PM

Is it OK if a 5 year old has a bigger basketball? And also should I be teaching him layups? His form is perfect, I''ve been working in that with him and he is progressing. I''m using words of encouragement and tell him good job every few shots. I''m no coach and I''m only teaching him the basics like jump when you shoot and use form and also I''m teaching him not to bring it over his head. Is this good enough training or is it to much for a 5 year old?

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
5/18/2016 at 4:05:46 PM

At this age I encourage very small and light basketball because i have never seen a young kids strong enough to shoot with proper form.

Beyond that lots of dribbling, passing, catching, and playing multiple sports to develop athletically is the best thing for him. First step is develop coordination, balance, athleticism, and a love for the game. It's ok to work with them but those 4 things are priority. Steve Nash didn't start basketball until he was 13... so he has plenty of time and keep things fun!


Ellen says:
4/12/2016 at 3:15:31 PM

These coaching tips and tricks are great. Thank you for posting.


Ricky Wilson says:
12/11/2015 at 10:36:49 PM

Thank you Joe this is very helpful information. Its my first time coaching basketball. And the age group is 5 thr7. So were all learning.


Ken Sartini says:
10/19/2013 at 10:53:57 AM

Coach -

Lets talk about setting screens first ...... there are a couple of philosophies regarding this.. Some will say go to a spot and then the person that is receiving the screen is responsible for utilizing it. As for myself... we were kind of head hunters - meaning that we wanted our players that were setting the screen to make sure that he got a piece of the defender.

So, to get the best of both worlds lets start with the screener..... we wanted him to find the guy he was screening and raise his fist as he went to set the screen trying to find the path the defender was going to take --under the screen or chase.

The player accepting the screen HAS to set his man up by making a good V cut and then coming off his player that is setting the screen.... go right off his shoulder, slight contact. You can have him put his chin down on his shoulder to see where the defender is going.... IF he is chasing, then I will curl - IF he is going under I would fade.

You can set up the drill by having someone defending the player receiving the screen.....( on the wing ) another player setting the screen and another passing (both around the top of the key)

I hope this is clear for you.

( guess I was doing something right :-) ) ***** This seems like the easiest to understand and you can show this to your kids *****

And one more -

I hope this helps, let us know what you think.


Emmanuel Ochago says:
10/19/2013 at 2:31:05 AM

i am a basketball coach at Lugulu High School and my team has a problem when it comes to setting screens and also defending screens.What are the simple drills for teaching basic screening and rolling?


Ken Sartini says:
10/14/2013 at 9:22:00 AM

Check these pages out ...

As for coming up short on 3 pointers, try stepping into your shot and getting a little more lift from your legs. Hope this helps.


dan rodriguez says:
10/14/2013 at 12:08:32 AM

Hi...I am currently 5''9 139pounds and am a shooting guard for my high school team. And as u know in high school the kids are bigger and the games faster. My coach wants me to shoot over head (the way the profesionals do it) and I''m fine with it..I''m perfect from mid range but I have problem getting the ball to the hoop for three pointers. I''ve tyed lifting weights to strengthen my arms but It doesn''t seem to work. What should I do?

  1 reply  

Shawn McClurg says:
12/7/2015 at 9:14:55 PM

Try working on your vertical. Not only does it increase your range, but it prevents most players from blocking your shots. Also, always remember to keep practicing.


Ken Sartini says:
6/8/2013 at 12:35:20 PM

I can remember messing around on 8 foot baskets so we could dunk and take some easy shots.... didn't hurt my shot.... I would think that IF you go out and practice on the 10 foot basket, your shot would come back quickly.

This could depend on how much you are shooting on that basket too. How often do you shoot on that one?


that 3 point shooter says:
6/7/2013 at 5:52:38 PM

Will shooting on 9 and a half feet hurt my shooting on ten foot?


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