Category Archives: Youth Basketball Posts
1 on 1 Competitions in Practice?
In my experience with younger basketball players I would have to say that consistently having 1 on 1 competitions in practice can definitely benefit teams when game time rolls along. Here’s some info and reasons why…
The main value from consistently running 1 on 1 competitions in practice is that it’s one of the best drills to assist young players with getting ready for game like conditions. In order to benefit from these competitions you must set some boundaries and some rules. Such as each player has 10 seconds to score, or limit the number of dribbles a player can take, no make it / take it, but most of all you must ensure that these competitions are run at game speed (always at game speed, no exceptions).
These competitions should always include player rotation. Do not make the mistake of always pairing the best 2 players together! Rotate the players so every player gets the chance to compete against taller, faster, athletic players. This can frustrate some of the lesser skilled players but even so – each player must still give 110% even when the odds are not in their favor. If you have that one player that always appears to beat everyone else easily – make them play against 2 weaker players (or find some other way to make it more competitive for them). Always keep it competitive, and at game speed.
Why run 1 on 1 competitions in practice? Because “skill development” can increase quickly, and results can be seen and realized during games. Here is the link to download this post – Click Here for 1 on 1 Competitions PDF
If only that last shot would have fell in, we could have won the game. The player who missed that last shot opportunity is either crying or feeling like the world has ended. This is where the coach comes in and explains how the game was really lost. This is where keeping game stats and understanding that winning or losing is a team issue comes to play. Yes, your team could have still won the game if the player had made that last shot, but that’s not why and where the game was lost. What about the poor rebounding, no boxing out, the 18 turnovers, 7 missed lay ups (I track these since this is the easiest shot in basketball and of all the shots, this one should be made at a very high percentage), no hustle on defense, the 17 missed shots in the first half? All these things contributed to the loss by taking away opportunities to score for your team as well as converting into opportunities for the other team. If you think about it, the game could have been won or lost in the first quarter due to the turnovers, or poor defense. If the coach and players understand this concept, work hard to fix areas that need improvement, execute and focus hard on the court at all times (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters) – there may not be a need for any more missed (or made) “last shots.”
As I was listening to the “Mike and Mike” show on ESPN radio, I was glad to hear that an interview with Geno Auriemma (the greatest Women’s College Basketball Coach of all time) was about to air. Geno pretty much just states how he feels about things, doesn’t use a lot of big words, won’t talk crap about other coaches, and is a very interesting speaker. When you listen to him speak, his expertise regarding basketball is unmatched, brilliant, and spot on. During this interview he made the statement that “players these days play year round basketball and when high school is over, they move to AAU, Travel Ball, go to show cases, etc.” He continued stating that although playing in actual games is great, he feels that there are far too many players not spending enough time in the off season working on the fundamentals. He also mentioned that he felt high school coaches aren’t focusing enough on fundamentals as much as they should. I am guessing there would be a very heated “debate” between coaches on what players should focus on in the off season. In my opinion it does appear that the “few” players that do focus on the fundamentals seem to be “complete” all around players and end up having a better chance at playing college basketball (and the top players from these “few” end up going to UConn to play lol). Players rather participate in a game or scrimmage than practice fundamentals, but the fundamentals are what allows players to “excel” in these games or scrimmages. Geno Auriemma UConn Coach makes a great point.
Exactly What Happened this Season?
At the end of each basketball season, I would attempt to analyze “exactly what happened” during the season that determined our wins and losses. To do this properly I had to make sure to log in all the statistics possible, and ensure that we had someone video taping the games. In order to properly accomplish this I would enlist the assistance of several parents. In order to figure out how to fix your teams deficiencies, you have to do two important things: a) Have plenty of accurate statistics, and b) Watch game video as much as possible. First, statistics will tell you specifically how your players performed on the court, and which areas they need to improve certain skills – Here are some examples. If your best shooter scored 24 points a game and shot 50% that’s a good stat, but if they scored 24 points a game and shot 20% then maybe they didn’t perform so well after all. Maybe your team only averaged 10 rebounds per game and only 3 of those were offensive rebounds. 20 plus turnovers per game is not a very good average at all, but a great stat to figure out which players need improvement. The one statistic I always checked first is how many missed layups the team had (this stat bothered me the most). All of these statistics tell the story of the game, and help coaches come up with a plan to increase players skills. Second, watching game video is a great coaching tool that is extremely valuable but is sometimes regarded as an unnecessary waste of time by some. Although watching game video may take away from practice time, I would argue that the benefits are much greater watching video. Here’s why – As a coach, I could explain to a player over and over that they are not executing a play correctly and they still will not get it. But once they see themselves on video making those mistakes in the game (those same mistakes that I have been explaining in practice) they usually get it. Statistics and watching game video tell “exactly what happened” in the game, they don’t lie! Use this information to improve your players basketball skills and you will improve your teams chances of consistent success.
Teach Plays 1st, or the team won’t be ready for the 1st game?
True or False? Well it depends. If you are coaching an experienced basketball team then go ahead and start with the plays, but if you are coaching an inexperienced younger basketball team I would have to say that you should teach the fundamentals first! This is a mistake that most rookie basketball coaches make that can actually hurt their team’s chances of succeeding. Youth basketball coaches can’t understand why a play is not working in a game, or why the players can’t set a screen, or even box out. Think about this – when you watch a movie do you start at the end of the movie or at the beginning of the movie? It wouldn’t make much sense to start at the end… Then why would a coach start teaching younger players, who do not know the fundamentals of the game of basketball, a bunch of plays first?
At my first basketball practice when I coach a group of inexperienced players I follow this strategy:
a) I start with the fundamental basketball skills of passing, catching, cutting, triple threat, boxing out, setting screens, fakes, ball handling, and any other youth basketball drill that will help develop the players.
b) Then, when I feel its time to demonstrate the plays (I start with a basic zone defense, and then a basic zone offense) I always show the players how these fundamental basketball skills “apply” to making the plays work properly in the game.
c) Lastly, I scrimmage each and every practice. Nothing can replace live game situations when teaching the younger players (scrimmaging also keeps the younger players excited about coming to practice – they look forward to this part of the practice).
First Basketball Practice – Do you start teaching Plays or the Basics and Fundamentals? Without knowing the skill set of your players, I would have to say “It Depends.” Evaluate your players first before you make this decision – it could make or break your team? Good luck!
When attempting to work on and demonstrate “boxing out, post drills, fronting” and other “contact” related skill work it can sometimes prove very difficult being aggressive with the younger players (especially younger players). It’s easy to tell an 11 year old girl to box out and be aggressive, but difficult to teach without physical contact. How can this player “block out” and be “physical” in the game if they can’t practice being physical at practices? Yes, they can “softly” box out their team mates, but it’s not the same as playing against someone your not used to. How can you remedy this? Get a some Blocking Shields (also called Blocking Pads). Just like the ones they use in football. I purchased a couple of blocking shields for my youth basketball team, and ended up using them quite frequently at practices. A lot of “game like” conditions can be worked on and simulated at practice. The blocking shield can tell a coach many things – because now players don’t have to hold back and be as aggressive as they need to be (or can be?). You will easily find out which players are going to be physical and aggressive, and which players are not! There are no more excuses.
Blocking shields are great for bumping post players in the paint (while they are working on post moves, shots, etc), and bumping players during lay up drills (I don’t mean knock them down, just get players used to a little physical contact). Use blocking shields during defensive drills, 2-line lay up drills, and any other drills that require “contact” and / or aggressiveness. The cost of a blocking shield is around $40-$75 each. The cost of watching your players box out, secure more rebounds, and aggressively “front” the other teams best post player is PRICELESS! Blocking shields are well worth the investment.
One of the best compliments that I ever received about my daughter Morgan was when a coach came up to me and said “I’ve watched your daughter play for two years now and I just now figured out she is right handed, I really thought that she was left handed.” She handled the ball equally with both her right and left hands so it was difficult to tell if she was right or left handed until she was taking a jump shot (as she could also do a left handed lay up with ease). She worked very hard on her ball handling skills and it showed on the court. The main reason for this post is to communicate to coaches and players (both guards, post players) that ball handling is the most critical of all the basketball skills. If you can handle the ball with either hand – it will open all kinds of doors for you in your basketball career. Ball handling is just as critical to a post player as it is to a point guard. The more players on your team that can handle the ball well – the more success your team will have. Ball handling is the first skill that a coach will notice when players walk into the gym at tryouts. I have seen many a coach “pencil in” a player on the roster just by watching them handle the ball (and can’t tell if they are right or left handed). Never seen them play defense, shoot, or pass – ball handling was all they needed to secure them a spot on the team. Why? A player that can handle the ball well had to put in a lot of time to develop those skills. Good ball handling skills encompasses hard work and dedication to the sport. Check out our page on Ball Handling that will help your players learn the basics – make ball handling a priority! Can you tell if your players are right or left handed?
Youth coaches must ensure that their players understand not only how to “Press” but how to “Break the Press.” Players that understand these fundamental concepts of a basketball press, and how to break the press are always more successful on the court. Knowing the best places to trap on the court will help a player also understand the places they should not go when they are trying to break the press. These fundamentals should be taught at the younger ages. A team that can execute a good basketball press can end a game early. On the other hand, a team that can execute the press breaker effectively can change the tempo of the game quickly. First and foremost coaches must teach their players how to break a press. Why? Mainly because of those other coaches out there that use the basketball press as a way to humiliate and “beat down” their opponent (you know, that coach that is ahead by 35 and is still running a full court press with his starters against your 2nd team). I am all for pressure defense, but I feel I always knew when enough was enough. I’ve also been on the other end of the press where my players just gave up because the other coach would not “call off the dogs.” Youth basketball can be competitive without humiliating your opponent. Use the press to help your team win the game, or help get your team back in the game – that’s what I used it for. I pressed my opponents each and every game – sometimes with success, sometimes without. Coaches need to know when it’s time to press, but more importantly – when it’s time to stop! Check out more information on the Press – Pressure Defense Basics and more information on Breaking the Press – Press Breaking Basics
Every one of my daughters were dedicated to developing their shooting skills. They could shoot the basketball from many different spots on the floor, and most of all make their free throws and hit three pointers at a high level. I always heard comments like “I wish my daughter could shoot like yours” and “Man, your daughters were born with a gift.” Well, I can assure you none of my daughters were born with a the gift of shooting. It comes down to one thing, taking lots of shots at different spots, and working hard all year long. It was a daily routine for every one of my daughters to shoot over 150 shots per day (at least 5 days per week). You must be thinking that this must of took up all of their spare time, but I can assure you, it didn’t. It only really took about 20 minutes (longer in the off season). Either myself or my wife got the rebounds and filled out the paperwork – all my daughters had to do was “catch and shoot.” So they got a lot more “reps” than just shooting by themselves in the back yard. These are the forms that we used – Shooting Routine for Guards and Shooting Routine Log. We logged in all the made / missed shots and checked where the improvements were and where they needed to make improvements. The most important thing that we did was to make it fun for them. It got to the point where they couldn’t wait to see their progress, and this also turned out to be a big confidence builder as well. So I can tell you from experience that the gift of shooting skills comes from hard work, dedication, and consistency. It is the only way to develop the gift of shooting skills.