Basketball for Kids
10 Basketball Coaching Tips Cont'd...

Coaching Youth Basketball

Coaching basketball for kids is a lot different than working with older, more mature and skilled players. 

Below we are continuing with #6-10 of our list of 10 important youth basketball coaching principles.

Want to see what you've missed? Click here to see all 10... 

Though applicable for kids playing most sports, these tips are perfect for coaches of youth basketball teams.

Basketball for Kids
6. Try the "sandwich" technique to correct mistakes

It's an unfortunate part of human nature that we lock onto every negative word that's tossed our way. We may receive 20 compliments, but we'll remember that one mean thing that was said.

This is an important concept to remember when coaching basketball for kids.

When you need to correct a mistake a player makes, sandwich your critical comment in between 2 positive ones

For example,

"I love how you dribbled the ball down the court so quickly."

"Next time, try to keep your head up so you can see what's happening on the floor."

"Your ball handling is getting so much better!"

101 Ways to be a Terrific Sports Parent

By tucking the correction in between two positive statements, it becomes much easier to swallow.

Plus, kids love to get compliments from coaches and parents!

Basketball for Kids
7. Not every kid loves basketball

I have friends who excelled at basketball when they were younger and now find it very hard to swallow the fact that their child doesn't share their same excitement for the game.

I've had players come to my basketball camps who just wanted to try something new. They had fun for the week, gave it their best shot, but decided it really wasn't their favorite thing to do.

That's okay.

Youth is the time to experience new activities and explore undiscovered talents. Even if basketball doesn't turn out to be your child's thing, he will gain skills that will transfer to other areas of his life.

Your job coaching kids basketball is to introduce young athletes to the game and give them the chance to have some success in the short period of time they're with you. 

Basketball for Kids
8. Success does NOT equal winning

When participating in basketball for kids, or any other little league sport for that matter, please don't get caught up in the number of points on the scoreboard.

Now, before I go any further, let me go on the record as saying that you won't find a more competitive person than I am.

I HATE to lose!

It took me years as a young athlete to learn how to keep my temper under control when it came to losing.

Double-Goal Coach

But please remember, at this level, success is determined by individual player improvement, not the final score count.

Before they can be very serious about competition, young players need a solid foundation of basic skills. It takes years to develop these skills.

Basketball for kids should focus on teaching the basic rules, providing an opportunity to play in organized game situations, working together as a team, and developing fundamental skills.

Having said all that, let me get on my soap box for a second...

I think it's important to keep score. Kids can learn some great lessons about winning and losing and handling disappointments in the world of sports.

When I see those leagues that don't keep score, I personally think you're actually cheating the kids. Besides being plain silly (since the whole point of competition is to defeat an opponent), kids miss out on some fantastic learning opportunities.

Winning and losing is a part of life.

Kids need to learn how to win... and lose.

How else are they supposed to learn if we deprive them of the opportunity?

I mean, can you think of a safer place to deal with disappointment and feelings of inferiority than on a sports court or field when they're little and the stakes are low?

The Kids Book of Good Sportsmanship

One of the best things coaches can do for young players is teach them how to handle coming out on top and on bottom without being overly caught up in either one.

And you know what I've noticed with my daughter and many other young athletes I've been around?

No matter how hard the adults try to pretend that the score doesn't matter, the kids in the game know exactly who is winning.

Bottom line: Don't measure player and team success by the number of wins and points scored.

There's so much more kids can learn about sports and life at this level.

Basketball for Kids
9. Keep the high pressure out of youth sports

Shame on the adults in our society for creating such an overly competitive environment for youth sports that way too many kids drop out before they're teenagers!

Kids show symptoms of burnout and quit organized sports for one simple reason: They don't have fun anymore.

How can that be?

When it comes to basketball for kids, please remember that team sports provide a tremendous platform for teaching important life lessons to kids.

Just Let the Kids Play

If done right, young athletes can learn about success, failure, disappointment, and getting along with others all within a framework of fun competition.

If done wrong, kids can get stressed out, burned out, and hate the game.

See the big picture: Youth sports coaching is so much more than winning the elementary school basketball championship.

It's about giving every child the opportunity to have fun as they experience success with their new skills in game competition.

Basketball for Kids
10. Modify, modify, modify

Remember when coaching youth sports, all coaches have a responsibility to look for ways to ensure your young ones have both success and fun.

When it comes to basketball for kids, there are some specific modifications youth basketball coaches can make to help their kids be successful.

basketball for kids

Trying to perform kindergarten basketball drills with a regulation-size basketball and a 10-foot goal is setting your kids up for failure.

Young players have very small hands, and they will be more comfortable handling a youth-size basketball.  

youth basketball goal

They also lack the physical size and strength to reach a full-size goal. They would be much better off with a 6-8 foot goal and a smaller basketball court size.

Youth basketball rules allow for these accommodations.

When it comes to basketball practice, coaches might need to make further modifications if the kids are still having trouble.

Try a playground ball or some other smaller, lighter ball. I've used beach balls, foam balls, and mini-basketballs with very young players and players with special needs.

If they still can't reach the goal, try a trashcan or another target of some type. Sometimes, you might have to be very creative. I've used buckets, hula-hoops, and boxes.

And certainly don't be afraid to modify drills and games as much as necessary so kids don't get frustrated.

This might involve...

  • slowing down the speed of movement
  • reducing the level of competition
  • matching players up by skill level
  • jumping in the drill yourself to create the exact scenarios that will help players be successful
Basketball Fun & Games

Other helpful articles for youth basketball coaches:

Court Management Tips: Practical Keys for Effective Practices

Basketball for Kids: What Young Players Should Know

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