The spotlight is on the varsity coach, but the toughest job may be that of the youth basketball coaches in your program. If you don’t believe me just try keeping the attention of elementary age players who sometimes know what a basketball is and sometimes are only there because mom or dad made them come. No matter what age and skill level a youth coach is coaching here are three great tips to pass on to make their life just a bit easier. Don’t forget to say thanks for their hardwork and time, too.
Have Them Race
Every kid loves to race. The first one to the side, the first one to the basket, the first one to make a shot. It doesn’t matter what form you put it in, when it’s a race the kids love it. Knowing this can be the change your practice needs to keep the players attention just a bit longer. One things for sure, the kids will be excited. They will also be working on those fundamental skills they’ll need as they move up in the program.
Here are some races you can use at your next practice.
- Dribbling Races - race around the cones, around the gym, etc. (have players dribble two balls to make it more difficult)
- Relay Races with teams (be sure they tag hands for the next racer to start and they all sit down so you know who is the winner)
- Obstacle Course Races - incorporate passing, dribbling, defensive slides, lay-ups, short shots, etc. (time each kid and declare a winner by who has the fastest time)
- Penny In The Cup - Put a handful of pennies next to a cup at half court and have the kids dribble to the cup and put one penny in the cup. They continue to the end of the court and turn around and do the same on the way back to their group. The key is to keep their dribble when bending over to pick up the penny.
Coaching Tip: Reward the winner(s) or the player(s) who beat their previous score. With a little positive reinforcement you’ll see kids have fun and working hard as they work on their skills.
Play 3v3 Games
There is no better way to improve skills and concepts than playing 3 v 3 basketball. All the races your players just did from above can now be put into practice against a defense. You can choose whatever skill or concept you want to emphasize. If you’ve just taught players about rebounding have them play 3 v 3 and count rebounds as a way to keep score. If you are teaching your players how to pass and cut they will have a lot more open court in 3 v 3 than they will in 5 v 5. What makes 3 v 3 even better is that players get to perform these skills over and over in game like situations.
Situations for 3 v 3 Games
- No dribbling.
- Every player has to touch the ball before the ball can be shot.
- Teams can add a point for every steal they get.
- Each player needs to dribble the ball before making a pass.
Coaching Tip: Try not to correct everything you see them doing wrong. Focus on one or two concepts only. The younger the players the more important this will be for their understanding.
Compete Against The Clock
Have players compete against the clock. When players know they only have a certain amount of time they will try harder. You can give them a specific goal to meet in the time allotted or you can have them repeat the same drill again and encourage them to do better the second time.
Here are some ideas on how to use time in practice:
- Make as many lay-ups as possible in 1 minute.
- Dribble down to the end line and back in less than 13 seconds.
- Perform ten perfect passes in 30 seconds.
- Make 4 free throws in a row in less than 3 minutes.
Coaching Tip: At the youth level you will get some kids who are more advanced than others. The goal doesn’t have to be to win, it can be for the player to compete against themselves and improve each time they perform the drill.