How can you maximize your youth basketball practices for your team to keep them engaged?

I have had the privilege to be able to coach both high school basketball and youth basketball practices the last 11 years. Unlike high school, where you can practice every day for 2-3 hours 6 days a week, youth/rec ball, you may only get 1-2, maybe three days tops and maybe 1-2 hours of court time per practice. What I have learned over the years, is to use drills that have multiple components to it. To be able to hit 2-3 skills in training, to maximize the time you have on the court, so you can pack as much into your youth basketball practices as you can.

There are two drills that I like that hit a lot of the fundamentals that need to be hammered home at the youth level. The first exercise is called “Fundamental lines” and the second drill is called “Star shooting drill”.

Primary Lines:
This is a great drill to warm up with. It focuses on Dribbling, jump stop, Passing and communication. It also focuses on being ready to receive a pass, and catch it in a triple threat.

How the drill works:
• Establish two lines on the base at the lane lines. (depending on how many players you have, 3-4 per line is ideal. More reps and the line moves quicker)
• The first player in the line has a ball.
• Player A dribbles hard to the Foul line and comes to a jump stop, chinning the ball.
• The player then pivots back toward his line facing the next player in line. (you can choose which foot is pivot foot or what type of pivot. I typically start with front pivot, R-Foot, L-Foot, then reverse pivot)
• Player A now throws a strong chest pass to the next player in line. Before they move the ball, player A must call out player B’s name. (Key for passing is a good step toward your target, fingers pointing at the teammate and thumbs down. The reason I have the player call out the players name is to get them use to talking. A quiet gym is a losing gym).
• Player B, now receives the pass. Catching the ball in a Triple threat position, then repeats the drill.
o The big thing here is to start the drill out slowly. First time through really exaggerate and stress each movement of the drill. If a player is not doing any part of the exercise, stop, correct and direct. A common problem is the players go through the motions on the drill and go through it quickly, and bad habits can emerge.
o Typically I run this drill 5-10 minutes, going through progressions.

Featuring Tara Vanderveer

  • Head Coach, University of Stanford
  • 4-Time National Coach of the Year
  • 10-Time Pac 10 Coach of the Year
  • Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
  • 2-Time NCAA Champion

This drill is a great shooting drill that encompasses passing, following their pass, catch and shoot. The video link above from Coach Tara VanDerveer does an excellent job of explaining the drill. I use this drill at the end of my youth basketball practices. It is a great conditioning drill as well as coming at the end; they have to focus. You can add things to the drill as well beyond just catch and shoot. I have added shot fake, dribble pull up, shot fake, dribble drive layup, you can add what you think your players need work on offensively.

In closing, if you have limited time, maximize your youth basketball practices using drills that are multi-faceted.

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