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Topic:  Youth Basketball - Tips for 1st & 2nd Grade Coaches

Question from Robert:
I am coaching 1st and 2nd graders for the 1st time wondering if you have any pointers.

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Answers and Comments

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Jeff (Co-founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
12/16/2007 at 3:14:01 PM

When working with kids that age you should focus on almost all fundamental skills and keep things as fun as possible.

Keep things face paced and try to avoid kids standing around.

Don't worry about winning. Instead focus on improving, fun, and celebrating small successes. Some them how they can improve.

Kids this age don't always respond well to competition. They want to be in a position where they can succeed.

You can try stations and move constantly move groups of players every two minutes. Remember, 1st graders have a short attention span.

The kids will be learning habits that can stick for life, so teach things like proper shooting form, fun ball handling drills, passing, and simple pivoting footwork.

You should also use smaller balls and lower rims to avoid bad form and habits.

Read these pages for more tips with young players:

I hope this helps and good luck. Have fun with it.

Jeff Haefner


Matt says:
11/21/2011 at 9:04:38 PM

Coaching 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade basketball team. Ran our first scrimmage today, 4x4 as I have 8 kids. The game was very chaotic as kids where overly aggresive on defense and only two or three of our kids can handle the ball under this extreme pressure. I did not run any plays as some previous coaches said kids this age will not understand them. However I think after what I seen today a at least three very easy plays may be needed. I am trying to find info online of what types of plays will work for kids this age but can't seem to find anything. What type of advice would you have for this rookie coach? Thanks.


Tom says:
12/22/2011 at 7:43:20 AM

Matt, I''ve been looking for the same info. Most of what I have read, viewed or purchased is not addressing these problems. I have just finished Flag Football and could not believe what the kids took in. To say they won''t understand, is nonscense. I''ve been trying to keep the hands down at shoulder height & the defensive player at least an arms lenght away. If the kid doesn''t listen he sits for 5 minutes. Another thing is the excessive traveling, if they don''t stop and pass, explain the rule and what you want. Next time they sit.


Ken Sartini says:
12/23/2011 at 6:27:45 AM


First and second graders have a very hard time staying focused... keep your drills short, a little competitive (kids love to compete) and most of all

Sitting or extra running accomplishes nothing... they need repetitions to correct any problems you might have... you need the patience of a Saint here... God Bless you for working with this age group because I cant even imagine how hard it must be to keep their attention.

Good luck.


Donovan says:
5/28/2012 at 2:34:09 PM

What are the. Teams


christina bandy says:
12/18/2012 at 4:11:53 PM

Help!! I have never played basketball and barely understand the lingo. Yet, I am coaching my sons 2cd grade basketball team. Could anyone recommend some good ideas and readings so that I can start to understand this game??



Ken says:
12/18/2012 at 7:28:03 PM

Christina -

Take a look at this DVD by Bob Bigelow... this would be perfect for you.

He is great at explaining how to coach young kids. Good luck.


Chris Peters says:
11/11/2013 at 11:07:38 AM

Coaching 1st grade boys basketball for the first time. My son also has a twin sister playing for the first time on another team.

Should you begin trying to teach proper shooting form even at their age? They all seem to weak to shoot other than a two handed push shot, even at an 8ft rim.

  1 reply  

Coach T says:
12/17/2014 at 11:46:36 PM

don't spend to much time on shooting as you point out, some aren't strong enough....focus on dribbling, passing and playing defense...also teach them to pass and cut toward the basket...


Joe Haefner says:
11/11/2013 at 12:08:50 PM

Congrats, Chris. We hope you enjoy herding cats. :)

Here are some articles to reference to develop your own approach. Some coaches will advise to teach shooting form. Some won't. Even our website contributors will have slightly different opinions.


Jason says:
9/10/2014 at 10:34:09 PM

I am directing a 1st/2nd grade rec league. These problems are very precedent as all mention above. My question is if you know of anyone or would think that having a coach play point guard with the teams to side directly with the plays, an easy outlet for passing and to be a part of the game? I ask as it seemed as though the point guard always shot no matter if open or not. Thanks

  1 reply  

Coach T says:
12/17/2014 at 11:31:25 PM

encourage all of the players to pass and creates motion (gets the kids moving on offense) an enables all of the kids to touch the ball...each kid passes and cuts toward the basket...the cutting kid will be open half the time...the better passers will eventually pass them the ball...mandate that the kids pass the ball 5 or 6 times before anyone can shoot...this is particularly effective in youth leagues that use a free zone where passes cannot be intercepted....


John says:
11/5/2014 at 5:38:59 PM

Matt or whoever can benefit. I have played basketball through the college level and I have coached everything from JV ball to first graders. First and second graders are hard to teach because many of them do not understand the game of basketball and the fundamentals. Practicing Dribbling, Passing, Shooting, should be a priority and will show the most rewards of your teaching at this age.
However I coached the first graders last year and moved up to second graders (the same team) this year and I will give you a tip on an offense we use. In our league only 4 on the court at once. It is very important to identify the best dribbler on your team. If you have a kid that can dribble with his head up (sometimes) and can protect the ball, then you have someone that can run an offense on the floor. Without that an offense is pointless. Try a diamond type offense by categorizing your kids into Point Guard, shooters, and big men. Have your point guard (dribbler) bring the ball up with 2 shooters on each wing and a big man under the basket. Allow your dribbler to pick a side and either pass to either shooter or dribble to the goal. if he passes to the wing men they can dribble to the goal or pass down to the big men for an easy layup. There is many continuations of this for instance if the ball goes to one wing the other wing can come across to the high post as another passing option but it just depends on how much your kids can handle. I could talk all day so message me if you need more info.

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chapa says:
11/11/2014 at 10:55:52 PM

First time as a parent volunteer coaching my daughter's 2nd grade team. What can my tryout consist of? Anyone help?


Coach T says:
12/17/2014 at 11:24:25 PM

I have coached 1st and 2nd graders multiple times. These are my recommendations:

1) keep it very simple
work on dribbling...dribble with your finger tips...with one hand...while looking up...get every kid a ball and have them just dribble...get them to look up at you by calling their name or asking them to tell u how many fingers they have up

2) have them run..get them tired...they are more likely to pay attention if they are somewhat tired...have them run from the baseline to the foul line and then to the half court

3) play keep away. have 4 kids stand at the 4 corners of the lane....they pass the ball (no dribbling) amongst, put 1 defender in the lane who must try to get the ball as the 4 players play keep, put a 2nd defender in the lane...helps the kids to make good decision making when passing

4) play 3 on 3...

5) as far as an offense...keep it very basic...for 1st and 2nd graders..the concept is pass and cut...pass the ball and then cut to the basket....the cutting creates motion and teaches the kid to move without the ball...the kid who passes should cut to the basket...eventually they will learn the give and go...the kids who don't have the ball should be taught to come to the ball

6) keep defense basic...always teach man to man at this level using these simple concepts
a) find your man - harder than it sounds for 1st graders
b) face your man - teach them to face the player they are guarding.
c) butt to the basket. teach them to stand between their man and the basket
d) also watch the ball advanced concept for 1st graders....

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

JR says:
1/6/2015 at 4:30:36 PM

Coach T,

What you wrote is closest to what I try to do. It is complicated as our league is 1st, 2nd and 3rd girls only, which I think is a terrible mix. 3rd graders start to get "it" and can do everything, dribble, pass, shoot, catch, etc... 1st graders in general really can't do anything, which is fine and even amusing. We were all 6 once.

First off, at least 2/3's of my practices are skill based drills that I try to make fun and slightly modify as needed. Progress in these skills is obvious as the season progresses, but doesn't translate in 5v5 games for the younger kids.

However because games are just so sloppy, I keep looking for tips to run an offense to help with our games, but anything I've tried doesn't work. All 1st and most 2nd graders just can't do much of anything yet. All I think I can do, is let them play and the stronger girls end up with the ball most of the time and after they score a bunch I ask them to pass the ball and set picks. This doesn't really result in any scoring, but it gives the 1st and 2nd graders a chance at doing something on offense. And maybe the 3rd graders develop a sense of pride and teamwork.


Kevin says:
1/5/2016 at 10:24:50 AM

I am coaching 2nd grade girls. the league plays 5 v 5 and most teams like to play some form of 1-2-2 or 2-1-2 trapping zones. We are limited to 1 hr practice a week which isn't much. So we spend the majority of our time working on dribbling and passing. I have them "attempting" to run a basic pass and cut offense. 2 gurads, 2 wings, and a post at the free throw line.

The problems I am having is number 1 people like to trap at half court and we just don't have ball handlers who can beat it yet. Number 2 the girls cover each other so close that we never complete passes. They normally get dropped, knocked loose, or stolen. Then when we do complete passes the wings or post gets trapped or triple teamed normally resulting in a turnover. Any suggestions?

  1 reply  

Jeff Haefner says:
1/7/2016 at 8:28:15 AM

Kevin -

This may not be feasible, but I suggest you find a different league. It is absolutely ridiculous that coaches are running zone trapping defenses in the 2nd grade. You have to be kidding me.

It sounds like you are doing the right thing. There really isn't much you can do. Coaches and the league are simply being ignorant and/or irresponsible.

I coach a fairly talented girls youth team. They win the majority of their games and hold their own playing up or against all star club teams. But at that age (2nd grade), there is no way the could have handled double teams. They can now... as 5th graders and could a little bit as 4th graders. But in 2nd grade there is no way they would have been strong enough, mentally developed to recognize, or skilled enough to handle double teams and a zone defense.

In a couple years you can run drills like this for handling double teams... then it won't be a problem. But 2nd grade is too early for this drill. We just did lots of different 1v1 advancement and then starting the double team stuff in 4th grade.

Again, other than emphasizing spacing in the offense you are running and continuing to work on skills, there's not much you can do.


Brian M says:
12/18/2017 at 11:05:16 AM

**Just passing along what we work on**

Boys - 1st and 2nd graders
- 3 on 3
- Broken into 3 squads (of 3) based on skill level -- A's, B's and C's
- they play kids their same level on game day
- Man to man only
- One practice a week for 1hr.

First practice of the season is a "get to know" them practice. Basic dribbling, passing, layups and skill games. This gives me a chance to start a preliminary grouping of skillsets and to gauge how well they will take instruction.

After that, I quickly start into simple "pass and pick" motion. The kids all start outside of the 3pt arch. Pass left or right, then run over to set a pick. The player with the ball then drives for the basket. Very, very basic. Once the concept of "pass and pick" is there, I will start one player down by the free throw "box". This time the point guard passes to the wing. The base player comes up and sets a pick from behind.

These two are my basic offense plays. From there I will try to improve their basketball IQ. For instance...what if the defense starts cheating the pick by trying to get to the outside early? Dribble to the opposite side away from them with a cross over and cut. How about pass and pick to the opposite side? Getting that player open for a pass? How about picking for the ball handler instead of running around the court shouting for the ball?

For defense, I work on simple basics. Good defensive stance and side shuffles. Hands up when preventing a shot. Help your teammate if they get beat by collapsing on their player.

Finally boxing out. Once they know how to box out, I then keep them sharp during their layup drills. I stand on the "rebound" line side. They need to get down to me, setup a good box-out and push me back from the rim. Then hustle for the ball after the layup. I shuffle around behind them to make them slide and keep me contained.

This all starts to come together around mid season. I want the kids to have fun, but learn. My biggest joy is watching the kids who are timid and emotional become confident and strong by the end of the season. I don't want them to be intimidated by the game or competition. At this age, the first impression is biggest.


Brian says:
10/26/2018 at 12:10:49 AM

just played 3 on 3 with out team . Worked out great . Thanks . 5 on 5 gets sloppy and everyone doesn''''t touch the ball .


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