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Make early-season basketball practices fun and effective

This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Basketball, Fifth Edition by ASEP and Don Showalter.


Coaches will get the information and tools needed for their players to succeed on the court with
Coaching Youth Basketball, Fifth Edition.

5-6 years old

Early-Season Practices

Early-season practice sessions should establish that basketball is a fun game. Limit the time for each drill to 10 minutes or less. Try to keep players moving during drills and moving from one drill to another, allowing time for them to get a drink between drills.

Early-Season Practice Plan

Date: ______ Time: ______ Practice number: ______

Warm-Up (10 minutes)

Warm-up time should involve activities such as running, pivoting, executing jump stops, and performing V-cuts up and down the court. Players may use basketballs at some point during the warm-up if their skill level is high enough.

Coaching Points

  • Players need to be lined up and organized for warm-ups. Using the same format for warm-ups each practice will enhance the discipline of the group.
  • The coach can have a different player lead warm-ups each day; this will help the players develop leadership.

Four-Line Jump Stops and V-Cuts (10 minutes)

Organize the team into four lines on the baseline with no more than four players in each line. On the coach’s command (whistle), the first player in each line runs and comes to a stop at the free-throw line (or free-throw line extended). The players should be in balance when executing the jump stop. On the next command, the first group of four runs to the half-court line and stops, while the next group of four runs to the free-throw line and stops in balance. On the next command, the first group goes to the opposite free-throw line, the second group goes to the half-court line, and the third group of four goes to the free-throw line. The drill continues up and down the court on the coach’s command. Once all groups have performed jump stops down and back, the drill is performed using continuous V-cuts; the players run and change direction in a V-cut pattern down the floor.

Coaching Point

Players tend to have a difficult time stopping in balance, so check that the feet are shoulder-width apart, the hands are above the waist, the head is not leaning forward, and the chin is up.

Freeze Tag With Proper Jump Stops (10 minutes)

Have one player be It. This player chases the other players around the court. When touched by the It player, the other players must jump stop (freeze) in a proper ready position. The coach can unfreeze a player by touching him when that player shows good ready position.

Coaching Point

After one or two minutes, the coach should choose a new player to be It.

Stationary Dribbling, Right- and Left-Handed (10 minutes)

Each player has a basketball (if this is not possible, players can be split up into two groups, and the drill can be performed by one group at a time). The players begin the drill by dribbling with the right hand first. On the coach’s command, the players switch hands, now dribbling with the left hand. In this drill, players can work up to alternating hands with each dribble.

Coaching Points

  • These young players may try to dribble with the palm of their hand instead of the pads of the fingers and hand.
  • The elbow should stay in close to the hip and should not be away from the body.

Form Shooting While Sitting Cross-Legged (10 minutes)

Have players sit cross-legged on the floor in pairs facing each other, with one ball per pair. Instruct the players on how to hold the ball when shooting; the shooting hand should be underneath the ball, and the guide hand should be on the side. On command, the player with the ball shoots or pushes the ball to his partner, releasing it above the eyes and snapping the wrist down goose-neck style.

Coaching Points

  • This drill can be done with the players shooting against a wall if there are enough basketballs for each player to have one.
  • Emphasize that the hand below the ball should be the only hand that shoots the ball.

Pair Passing, Air and Bounce (10 minutes)

Players pair up, and each pair stands about 6 to 8 feet (183 to 244 cm) from each other. On command, the player with the ball passes to her partner using an air pass (a pass that does not touch the floor) or a bounce pass. Both hands and arms should be used to make the pass; the elbows should be close to the body, and the thumbs should be down with palms out after the pass.

Coaching Points

  • Show the players that a bounce pass should be caught by the partner at the same level that the ball was passed from.
  • Note that young players tend to bring the ball above the head to pass; emphasize that each pass should be made from the waist.

Mass Defensive Slide (5 minutes)

All players set up in a scattered formation around the coach, who is in position for all the players to see. On command or by following the coach, players move in a defensive slide to the right and left, keeping the knees bent and the hands above the waist.

Coaching Points

  • This is a good time to play follow the leader. Have one player positioned in front of the group to lead the other players in the defensive slide drill.
  • The coach should make sure that players’ feet do not cross or come together during the slide; players should instead use a step and push action with the legs and feet.

Defensive Mirror (10 minutes)

Ask players to pair up, with one player on each side of a line on the court (such as the free-throw line or baseline). One player is designated as the offensive player; this player will move in a quick manner back and forth on her side of the line. The other player is the defender and must slide her feet and try to stay with the offensive player as she moves. The offensive player should remain in a 6- to 8-foot space as she moves back and forth.

Coaching Point

Tell defenders to keep their eyes on the waist of their offensive player as they move to stay with her. Also teach defenders to avoid crossing their legs.

One-on-One No-Ball Tag (10 minutes)

Ask players to pair up. Start with one player at the free-throw line and the other player in the middle of the lane. On the coach’s command, the player at the free-throw line (the offensive player) tries to get to the baseline without getting touched by the other player. The offensive player must stay inside the sidelines and cannot go out of bounds.

Coaching Point

This drill teaches the players to move their feet and stay in proper ready position, keeping their knees bent for better balance.

Dribble Freeze Tag (10 minutes)

Each player has a basketball (if this is not possible, players can be split up into two groups, and the drill can be performed by one group at a time). One player is designated as Michael Jordan, LeBron James, or any other star your players may know. On command, all players begin dribbling, and this player tries to touch the other players (all players are still maintaining their dribble). Once touched, a player must freeze, still dribbling while stationary. After a specified number of dribbles (to be determined by the coach), the player may be unfrozen.

Coaching Point

Limit the area for the game to one half of the court or even from free-throw line to baseline so the designated player has more success.

Announcements: ______________________________________________________


Read more from Coaching Youth Basketball by the American Sport Education Program (ASEP).


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Coaching Youth Basketball 5th Edition eBook
Focuses on long-term athlete development by creating an environment in which your players can learn, progress in their skill development, increase their understanding of the game, and, most important, have fun.
$19.95
Coaching Youth Basketball-5th Edition
Focuses on long-term athlete development by creating an environment in which your players can learn, progress in their skill development, increase their understanding of the game, and, most important, have fun.
$19.95

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