To teach kindergartners through high school players the fundamentals and fun of basketball.

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Teaching and Coaching Junior Level Basketball

There are key elements to the game that every good coach will teach his kids and will reinforce every time they get together. These elements are detailed below along with recommended drills that will help teach the skill.

Each coach must plan his practice carefully to include solid fundamental drills to give players a chance to practice the fundamentals as well as including fun and challenging play. Use a variety of the drills detailed below at each practice. Depending on the strengths and weaknesses of your team adjust the time for each skill accordingly, but be sure to reinforce every skill at every practice, and never put an offensive system before fundamental skills.

Ball Handling

  1. BALL HANDLING - each player has a basketball and handles the ball for a full five minutes keeping the ball in motion. First have the players rotate the ball around their head for a few revolutions and then their waist behind their back as fast as they can. Then each player should do a figure eight around their legs. Hold ball in right hand and pass from front to back to left hand through legs. Then holding ball with left hand, swing around left leg and pass back through legs from front to back catching ball with the right hand. Then holding ball with right hand swing around right leg and pass to left hand. Continue for as long as needed.
  2. PRETZEL - stand with legs spread apart a little over shoulder width. Start with ball in both hands with one hand in front and one hand behind you about knee high. Make a slight toss with the ball between your legs and switch your hands from front to back and back to front.

Dribbling

  1. DRIBBLE - do right and left hand drills every practice. In a half court environment have each player with a ball and start dribbling forward up the sideline, then sideways (slide dribble) across mid-court, and then backwards down the other side and then sideways (slide dribble) to the starting point. Do this with each hand and then pick up speed as kids are able to go faster. Have races to create competition.
  2. DRIBBLE - dribble ball at full speed and then hesitate briefly and then continue at full speed, then hesitate then continue at full speed. This teaches a ball handler how to get away from being closely guarded.
  3. DRIBBLE - give every player a ball and have all dribble in the paint with right hand. Tell them to move around. Then have each player try to knock other players balls away with the last one dribbling the winner. Do this drill with both hands.
  4. DRIBBLE - speed dribble from one sideline to another, passing to a team mate after each trip. Have teams and keep score of who wins and reward winners. Add a lay-up if baskets are available.
  5. DRIBBLE - practice a reverse right handed dribble. A player dribbles to the right hand baseline from the wing, plants the left foot, dribbles the ball very low to the ground placing the hand more on top of the ball as it rises, reverse pivots on the left foot pulling the ball around with the right hand, spinning clock wise to the right and dribbling the ball again about 180 degrees from where it was last dribbled.. When players get adept at this they can turn almost 360 degrees and continue in the same direction, but the move is really designed to turn about 270 degrees, and to get around a defender who is lunging for the ball. A continuation of this drill is to have the player then make a bank shot.

SHOOTING

  1. RIGHT HAND LAY-UP - do lay-ups starting at the foul line without dribble. Hold ball in both hands and start with left foot, then right foot then left foot and lay the ball up. Add dribbling and left/right/left steps before lay-up. Add speed dribbling to lay-up.
  2. LEFT HAND LAY-UP - do lay-ups starting at the foul line without dribble. Hold ball in both hands and start with right foot, then left foot then right foot and lay the ball up with the left hand only or both hands to begin. Add dribbling and right/left/right steps before lay-up.
  3. SHOOTING - play "Knockout" with everyone shooting shots from the foul line. If shot is missed, shooter must retrieve ball and make lay-up before next player makes basket or they must sit out.
  4. SHOOTING - put two teams on each side of paint and have a contest with first team to ten the winner. If a shot is made the shooter rebounds his own ball and gives to next person in line.
  5. SHOOTING - have each player take a minimum of twenty foul shots at every practice, preferably when winded.
  6. SHOOTING - passer at sideline, line of passers at mid-court and shooter at elbow. Ball is passed from mid court to the elbow, shot and rebounded by shooter, passed to the sideline player who passes it to the first person in line at mid-court. First person in mid-court line moves to elbow, after initial shot, sideline passer moves to back of mid-court line and shooter moves to sideline location. Continue rotating for as long as desired.
  7. SHOOTING - have player in triple threat position with feet spread shoulder width apart and ball held firmly with both hands at the armpit of the shooting hand. Triple threat is pass, shoot or drive. First have player jab step at basket and pull back and shoot. Do this for several rotations. Then have players jab step and drive to the basket. Do this for several rotations. Then have players jab step right or left, crossover to the opposite side and drive to the opposite side before shooting.
  8. SHOOTING - stand one foot from rim under the basket. Have players shoot ball as many times as possible. Then have players stand at 45 degree angle to the backboard and shoot bank shots from two feet away.
  9. SHOOTING - the two ball drill is great for teaching a powerful finish for a forward or center. Put two balls on either side of the paint. Have one player go across paint, grab ball and explode to backboard to make lay up. Player gets own rebound, replaces ball, goes to opposite side of pain, picks up the ball and makes a power lay up. Drill continues for one minute and number of made baskets are counted.

JUMP STOP AND PIVOT

  1. PIVOT - start with a line of players lined up along center court with the coach with the ball about five feet above the top of the key. On command each player, one at a at time, sprints to the foul line, jump stops and reverse pivots (start facing basket, leave right foot stationary and turn to left eventually facing mid court). As the player is pivoting the coach passes the ball to the player After catching the ball, the player forward pivots (facing mid court with ball, keep right foot stationary and turn to right to eventually face the basket, or keep left foot stationary and turn to left to eventually face basket) off either foot and dribbles to basket for a lay up.
  2. JUMP STOP - players line up at mid court, drive from mid court dribbling ball, jump stop at foul line and shoot.

FAKING

  1. HEAD FAKE - have players lined up each with ball in triple threat position. Feet shoulder width apart, knees bent slightly, ball held firmly in both hands near the shooting side armpit, ready to either pass, shoot, or drive. On command, each player sharply jerks their head upward as if they are going to take a shot. They then take a quick jab step toward the basket and one dribble. To be effective the head jerk must be quick.
  2. BALL FAKE - have players lined up each with ball in triple threat position. Feet shoulder width apart, knees bent slightly, ball held firmly in both hands near the shooting side armpit, ready to either pass, shoot, or drive. On command each player raises the ball sharply to about one foot over the shoulder as thought they were going to take a shot. They then take a quick jab step and one dribble toward the basket.
  3. BALL FAKE - Hold the ball with both hands six inches over the head. When faking using an overhead motion, step, using the non-pivot foot, toward the location you are faking and bring arms down sharply toward that location while holding firmly to the ball. Bring the ball back up to over the head and pass in another direction.

REBOUNDING

  1. REBOUND - the most effective drill for rebounding is the 3 on 3. Set up teams and keep track of progress throughout year or reward/punish at each practice. One team is offense (outside position) and one is defense (inside position). The coach dribbles to either side to evaluate how players react to position of ball and takes a shot. Defense should see a man, make contact by touch, reverse pivot and put "butt on knee" (stress that contact must be made) with arms raised, and then find the ball. Offense should fight for position by putting an arm over top of the defenders arm, stepping around and trying to get inside position. If defense gets rebound they keep ball over their head holding on with two hands and outlet pass to another player on the side line. Do this for ten shots, rotating offense and defense each shot and keep score. Defense rebound=1, offense rebound=1, offense put back=1.
  2. OFFENSIVE REBOUNDING - have one player stand in rebounding position ( head up, butt out, arms up with upper arm parallel to ground) (player 1) and another player (player 2) behind being boxed out. Player 1 puts the left arm over top of Player 2's right arm and lifts the left leg over the Player 2's right leg to gain inside position. Immediately, Player 2 gets in rebounding position and Player 1 tries to gain position. This is repeated for at least ten reps to give each player a chance to feel what it is like to go from behind to in front. Keep doing this for a couple of minutes each practice.
  3. REBOUND - have each player stand in a line to either side of the basket and toss the ball to the backboard like a shot. Each player must rebound the ball, grasping it in two hands, keeping the ball as high as possible (stress not bringing ball down), and put the ball back up jumping as high as possible.
  4. REBOUND - post players are in line under the backboard. The first faces the backboard, tosses the ball up and rebounds it with both hands at the peak of the jump, keeps the ball overhead and makes a two-handed outlet pass to the sideline. If a full court is available, the passer follows the ball, sprints to the other end, gets the rebound after the pass receiver makes the fast break lay up and outlets again to the same man sprinting down the opposite sideline.

PASSING

  1. PASSING - have players face each other and make chest, bounce, overhead, one handed left and one handed right passes back and forth. Do each pass at least one minute and be sure players are stepping into pass properly and getting enough zip on passes. Be sure catchers are catching ball with finger tips up so they are ready to pass or shoot the ball on catching it. Move players farther apart and throw one handed baseball passes with dominant hand as far as possible accurately.
  2. PASSING - put a third player between two passers as a defender. Have the middle person try to deny the pass or block it, hustling back and forth between passers. Passers must aggressively fake a pass to one side and then step with their off leg to the side they are passing to and pass around the defender. Make passers do one handed passes from both left and right side.

MAN TO MAN DEFENSE

  1. MAN TO MAN DEFENSE - each player is assigned a man based on matching size, speed, quickness or general ability. The main idea is to keep your player from scoring and that is accomplished most often by keeping the defenders body between the ball and the basket. Play five on five or four on four and stress keeping a defender's body between his man and the basket as much as possible.
  2. WEAK SIDE HELP - each player is still responsible for a man, but when one player beats another, help is available as in a zone. The elements to teach are as follows:
    1. Push ball to one side or another and try to keep it out of the middle. All players have their body in between their player and the basket at all times.
    2. Defender on ball handler, or a player one pass away from the ball, must be playing man to man.
    3. Defenders two passes away from the ball should have both feet in the paint and in a position to see both their man and the ball.
    4. No player should be above the "line of ball" on the court. So if the ball penetrates to the foul line, for example, all defensive players must be defending inside the foul line extended, using the rules above, which provides maximum defense.
  3. MAN TO MAN DEFENSE - do the "Z" drill which requires players to get in the defensive position. The defensive position requires players to turn at a 45 degree angle with belly button facing the ball side of the dribbler, knees bent, back at about a 45 degree angle, the right hand low with palm upward reaching for the ball and the left hand high blocking the passing lane. As the ball is dribbled, very slowly at first, to the dribblers right (defenders left), the defender steps with the left foot and drags the right foot in the same direction near the left foot, being sure never to cross the legs (defensive shuffle). This is continued for several dribbles. When the ball handler "crossover dribbles" to the dribblers left hand, the defender plants the left foot and swings his body 90 degrees to the right so that the belly button is facing 45 degrees to the right (ball side) of the dribbler, the left hand drops low with palm up going for the ball and the right hand is held high blocking the passing lane.. The defender then picks the right foot up and moves it dragging the left foot in the same direction being certain not to cross the legs (defensive shuffle). This move is repeated side to side.
  4. MAN TO MAN DEFENSE - quickness and rapid feet movement are the best way to play man to man defense so any agility drill is helpful. Big men must be taught to keep their center of gravity low while small quick players should pick man to man up easily. Sometimes playing tag on the basketball court is a good drill to teach rapid foot movement and quick turns to avoid being tagged.
  5. LATERAL MOVEMENT - line up all players at mid court facing the side of the court. On command all players use the defensive shuffle to go to the foul line extended as fast as they can and then back to mid court.
  6. TRANSITION DEFENSE - a good conditioning drill is to line everyone up facing the base line at about the top of the key. On command they sprint to the baseline and then backpedal as fast as they can to the starting point. Do for one or two minutes depending on condition of players

TRAPPING

  1. TRAPPING - the first drill to teach when discussing trapping is "herding". Like the name implies, you must teach your players to position themselves properly on the floor to "herd" the opposing player to the location they want then to go. That is done through putting two defensive players at each side of mid court and the ball handler at the base line. The ball handler should try to get by the two defenders while the defenders must try to "herd" the player to a trapping location on the floor, designated by the coach, by using body position ( 45 degree angle facing toward the direction you wish to herd) and good footwork (defensive slide) to cut off the ball handlers angles.
  2. TRAPPING - trapping is made easier by using a side line in the back court, or the mid court line, once the dribbler has crossed, and a side court line to help contain the dribbler.

ZONE DEFENSE

  1. TWO THREE ZONE - a simple zone defense has the two guards positioned at the three point line on each side of the free throw line. The forwards are positioned about even with the "low blocks" with the center in the middle. and the 3 and 4 outside the paint.
  2. The primary rule of a zone is to "stop all splits" of players in the zone, which means don't allow any ball or dribble penetration between defenders into the center of the zone. This is accomplished by good footwork and teamwork to close any gaps created in the zone through rapid ball movement by the offense.
  3. If the ball gets inside a zone the nearest players must converge on the ball to stop a shot, if possible, while other players rotate to guard offensive players positioning themselves for shots in areas of the zone that have been vacated.
  4. To practice a zone defense, the coach should pass the ball to certain spots in the zone and then direct the players where he wants them to be to fill up spots in the zone. This is usually pretty obvious but requires practice to make sure the players understand the correct positions.

HALF COURT OFFENSE

  1. SHORT CORNER - a popular play against a zone defense is to flash a forward from the weak side to a position about five outside the paint near the baseline, the "short corner". The ball is dribbled by the wing toward the corner in an effort to draw his defender and the defender guarding the forward in the "short corner" to the ball. The high post player sets a screen on the inside man in the zone and moves to the strong side elbow as the ball is passed to the player in the "short corner".. The player in the "short corner" is trying to get the center in the zone to guard him which will free the high post driving to the basket down the lane unless the zone rotates very effectively to the ball. If the center chooses to guard the high post player, the low post player should be open to take the easy 10 foot shot from the baseline.
  2. OVERLOAD - another popular play against a zone is an overload where more offensive players flow to one side then there are defenders. Normally an overload puts four players on one side with one in the low post, one at the elbow, one at the low wing, and one at the foul line extended outside the three point line. The idea is that one of the four players will be open and can be passed to for an easy score, or it is possible that the remaining weak side player could be unguarded with an easy scoring opportunity on a skip pass across the zone.

Additional Coaching Tips

At the first practice of the year, set up the practice to test all the skills at the appropriate grade level. To minimize stress we would suggest that you administer the test as though you were conducting practice and not giving a test. Just keep scores so that you know the skill levels of each child you are coaching.

As the year progresses be sure to include elements of the skills required in your practices. You do not necessarily have to test again during the middle of the year, but you should clearly reinforce the concepts you are trying to teach. There is nothing wrong with testing to see progress, it just is not required.

At the next to last practice of the year, conduct a final test of the kids and score each category on the EXCEL spreadsheet (LEVEL X SCORE CARD) below. Any child who scores 3 or better on all the skills qualifies to receive the Certificate of Achievement for that level. A child who does not qualify with scores of 3 or better, may be given a lower level Certificate of Achievement, only if they qualify for that level.

Once a child completes the above skills, for the appropriate age level, the coach provides names to the league commissioner who in turn provides number of players at each achievement level in that league to the Basketball Operating Officer. Certificates of Achievement will be signed by a VYI official and provided to the League Commissioner. The presentation can occur during the season, at the presentation of Participation Awards, or at a team party at the end of the season, at the discretion of the coach.