Here's the #1 Kid Basketball Rule: Youth basketball training should be fun!
The focus of practice for young players should be to awaken their interest, have fun, and learn basic skills.
Car Lot - Dribbling Game
That may sound obvious to you. But, I see it happen all the time...
Parents and coaches get so caught up in winning and making sure their kids get better and faster and stronger that sometimes the fun gets lost somewhere amid all the youth basketball training.
Sports psychologists have found that one of the two most important needs of young athletes is to have fun (the other is the need to feel worthy.)
Studies also show that one of the top reasons young athletes end up quitting a sport is because it isn't fun anymore.
What a shame!
It's important to remember that kids are not just mini-adults.
Their little bodies and minds are still growing and developing, and they cannot handle or benefit from the same training regimen that older athletes can.
There is a book I have used often throughout my career, Successful Coaching, by Rainer Martens. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in youth basketball training and coaching.
The author identifies 4 different stages of training that athletes go through. It's really important for the good of young players to keep these stages in mind when planning kid basketball training sessions.
Learn basic skills
Preparation for increased training
Special training (e.g., weights)
The benefit that an athlete gets out of training depends on his age and maturity. His body has to be physiologically ready.
Before puberty, kid basketball players don't get as much value out of intense conditioning drills as older players do.
Aerobic training, for example, is less effective for younger kids. Their bodies aren't very efficient, and they can't tolerate heat very well. In moderation, aerobic training helps athletes become more relaxed and more energy efficient, but hard aerobic training should be avoided until after puberty.
Kid basketball players don't get a whole lot of value out of anaerobic training either because anaerobic capacity is related more to strength and maturity than to training. Some anaerobic training helps develop neuromuscular skill, mechanical efficiency, and psychological toughness. But there shouldn't be a whole lot of emphasis on this before the age of about 13.
Strength training exercises do help increase strength in youth basketball players, but until they hit puberty there aren't any significant changes in muscle size. Weight training at this level should only include light weights and few repetitions.
There is one thing, though, that isn't dependent on age or strength or maturation.
For that reason, it should be the focus of every kid basketball practice...SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Improving your skills doesn't require you to be older or stronger or mature; it just requires you to practice.
You can start developing fundamental skills at a very young age. Learning new skills is fun! Performing new skills successfully is fun, too!
So, remember the goals for the little ones:
Awaken their interest – This is a new sport for them. Let them experience it and enjoy it without the pressure of having to be good. Just let them have fun!
Have fun – There should be lots of smiles and encouragement and kids feeling good about themselves. Leave them wanting more. You want them to be bummed when practice is over and excited to come back next time.
Learn basic skills – Give them a good foundation of skills, so they can have fun competing and have success on the court. But don't overdo it! This is not the age to over-coach and demand perfection. Keep it fun!
So, you get the idea?
Save the serious stuff for later on! The last thing you want to do is have your youth basketball player suffer burnout before she ever has a chance to really get started.
Check out How to Play Basketball to find links to excellent youth basketball drills, tips, and other topics that will help you coach kid basketball players.