If you're new to youth basketball training, you may feel a bit overwhelmed and perhaps even a little nervous! Don't worry!
Here are 10 practical coaching tips guaranteed to help you run the type of practice your players will love!
Basically, coaching youth basketball can be summed up in 2 words: "What" and "How"
First, let's look at the "WHAT"... What do young players need to know?
The cool thing about ball handling drills is they're appropriate for everyone. Kindergarten basketball players as well as those in college get a lot of benefit out of them because no one can ever have too much ball handling practice.
Young players love learning how to do ball handling routines. They are a great way to see immediate improvement and experience some early success!
Basketball is a team game. It's usually much quicker to move the ball around the court by passing it as opposed to dribbling it. Here are some good passing and catching drills to make sure your young players can get the ball to a teammate and catch it when it comes their way.
Youth Basketball Training
I recommend teaching the basic mechanics of basketball shooting form as early as possible. At first, most kids will need to use two hands to shoot, and they may try to sling it from the hip. That's okay. They don't have the strength yet to shoot with one hand. You can still focus on other important parts of the basketball shot like what their eyes, knees, or feet should be doing.
Make sure you set reasonable success goals. Youngsters won't be able to reach a regulation size goal, and they may not have much success with an 8-foot goal.
To keep them from getting discouraged, measure success in other ways. For example, mark a target on a wall and have them shoot to the target. Or have them shoot into a trash can.
Praise them for good-looking basketball shooting form and encourage them that when they get bigger and stronger their shots are going to go in.
Teach them some fun shooting drills and games.
Youth Basketball Training
Don't expect basketball defense at the kindergarten and elementary basketball level to look very good. There are a lot of technical skills players won't understand until they get older, but you can start introducing them to some basic defensive principles. Don't overload them, but pick a few concepts to start with and introduce new ones as appropriate.
When you're coaching youth basketball players, you need to start by introducing them to some basketball basic rules. Don't throw all of the basketball regulations at them at once, but teach a few as they relate to skills you are working on.
For instance, as you introduce basketball dribbling drills, you could talk about traveling or double dribbling. Many officials in youth basketball games teach players the rules as they commit fouls or violations during the games, which is a good way for kids to learn.
If you can teach your youth basketball players how to get their feet off the floor when they go after a rebound, they will dominate the game. Young kids are often very hesitant to jump after the ball. There's a lot of standing and a lot of reaching, but little jumping. With the help of some rebounding drills, your young players will learn how to grab more rebounds and get more shots as a result.
Youth Basketball Training
Teamwork games are a great way to help childrens basketball players learn how to have fun working together.
If kids are going to enjoy their time at practice, they have to feel like they fit in with the team, and the team has to have fun interacting together.
There are 5 positions on a basketball team. Physical size, athleticism, and fundamental skills help determine what position players are best suited for.
In my opinion, youth basketball is not the time to pre-determine what position a young athlete will play 5 years down the road. There is a time to specialize, but it is NOT in elementary school.
During youth basketball training, expose all players to all basketball positions and give them opportunities to play all over the floor.
Everyone needs a chance to bring the ball down the floor. How else are they going to learn to handle the ball?
Every player needs a chance to shoot from the wing and to play underneath. Players gain different perspectives from every spot on the floor. Give them a broad range of experience at different positions.
Young kids' bodies are very different from the bodies of adults. They can't handle the same type of physical stresses that the mature athlete can handle. No doubt, kids that are in better cardiovascular shape will have more fun and success on the court than those that tire easily, players start dreading parts of practice, there's a good chance they'll start to show symptoms of burnout.
Kids can run hard for short periods of time, and then they need a rest. That's why tag games are so popular with them. They could play tag games all day long because they enjoy them.
Remember that when it comes to conditioning.
There are all kinds of fun basketball shooting and dribbling games you can do that will give them plenty of aerobic activity without them even thinking about it!
Though physical strength is an important part of basketball conditioning, it shouldn't be a part of training for young players until they're about middle school age. Children's bodies aren't physiologically ready for the stress that lifting weights puts on their bones and muscles until after puberty.
Alright, after you've got a handle on what your players need to know...
...the next step is the "HOW"
If you need some help planning and organizing your practices, I think you'll find these youth basketball training plans to be a tremendous resource. They'll help you get up and running by providing you the tools and confidence you need.
If you want some other useful basketball pointers for working with kindergarten and early elementary basketball players, check out these 10 things I've learned from experience.