Youth basketball practice drills need to focus on fundamentals more than anything else, but you also want to introduce strategy as your players develop.
And while it is common enough to find coaches wanting to put a play into practice as soon as possible, my outlook has always been that younger players shouldn’t be taught set plays. What they need to know is how to read the game and act accordingly.
Develop Solid Skills With Basketball Practice Drills
My main issue with teaching set plays to younger players is that they focus players on following a pattern –
move to this spot, and wait three seconds, if you don’t get the ball, move to this spot, set a pick, then cut to the top of the key…
But that doesn’t teach them the flow of the game.
Once the pattern is broken – and a good defensive team will figure out a way to break it – a player who only knows the pattern is at a loss for what to do and often falls apart on the court.
Instead, coaches should focus on teaching younger players fundamental offensive moves. These fundamental moves form the base for every set offense, so by learning these moves, when to use them and how to execute them well.
we are preparing players for whatever offense they are given at their next level, and to handle whatever pressure the defense throws at them.
As a continuation of that thought, I’ve always felt that younger players should use solely a freelance passing offense for their offensive set, but we’ll save that discussion for later. This practice drill helps develop both ball handling and one of the most common fundamental moves – the give-n-go.
- Set up three cones in a line from the half-court to about the three-point line.
- Set up the fourth cone at the top of the key, at about the elbow of the key
- Players practice their dribbling skills, moving around the three cones and coming to a two-foot stop after they have passed the third cone
- Players should mix up the dribbling moves they use, choosing a different dribble each time they go through the drill – cross over, between the legs, spin, around the back – all under control and with proper dribbling mechanics
Then the Give ‘n Go
- From the two-foot top, the player passes to the coach on the wing
- Remind players to use a good strong chest pass
- Immediately upon passing, the player jab steps to the left of the fourth cone, then cut down the foul lane on the right
- The coach returns the pass and the player takes it hard to the basket
- Note that the player shouldn’t need to dribble to complete the drive – s/he should receive the pass close enough to the basketball hoop that dribbling would be unnecessary
A Few Thoughts
This is a fairly simple drill that builds on previous drills – i.e., we would have practiced the various dribbling moves previous to this, using the cones as targets. We also would have introduced and worked on the givegive-n-goore adding this drill to practice as well.
But as I’ve mentioned before when discussing the value of using combination drills in practice, we want players to realize that these skills don’t happen in isolation, and we want them to be able to move from one skill to the next fluidly, without having to think about it.
The more combination drills we can throw at them, the more fluid their play becomes. And of course, with any of these youth basketball practice drills, there should be a consistent focus on improving fundamentals.
E.g. when players are dribbling around cones, ensure they stay low, keeping the dribble below knee level, protecting the ball with their free hand, and keeping their eyes up so they can see the court.