How To Run A Youth Basketball Practice (Highly Productive)

How To Run A Youth Basketball Practice (Highly Productive)

How To Run A Youth Basketball Practice? In youth basketball, a coach usually has only one or two practice sessions during the week to get the team into shape before the weekend youth basketball games. Given this restrictive schedule, the opportunity for the coach to teach skill development and team concepts is obviously quite limited.

How To Run A Youth Basketball Practice

But there are some strategies that a coach can employ to make youth basketball practice plans more productive. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most useful drills and game preparation techniques that could help a group of inexperienced players plays basketball like the next dream team.

Discipline Is The Key

Even if you’re coaching kids, it’s still important to instill discipline. Of course, you probably wouldn’t bench a talented player for the entire game if he committed a blunder in the first half.

However, giving constructive feedback can be of great help in developing young players to play basketball. This level of disciplined and focused training should be present both in youth basketball practice and on-game situations for all the players.

Practice Pointers

Before each workout, the coach is responsible for setting up a practice plan with exercises and activities that should take place during each session. Otherwise, valuable practice time could be taken up by two hours of shooting mid-round.

Here are some of the most important activities that a coach should include in every youth basketball practice session:

Also Check: What Is The Basketball Post Position? Learn & Improve


Throughout my career in several sports, my coaches have consistently drilled in me the importance of relaxing and stretching before training. For athletes, this simple step can be crucial for preventing injury during youth basketball games.

Attack/defense formation

While there may not be a complete playbook at the junior level, it is extremely important to include some basic offensive and defensive plays in practice plans. For the offensive player side of the ball, I would suggest doing picks and high rolls and teaching the players how to block the ball.

What Is The High Post In Basketball?

Skill training

This is where coaches have some flexibility. For all ages, I recommend thorough training in boxing maneuvers. After watching hundreds of youth matches. I’ve seen countless teams show little or no boxing throughout the entire game.

Selecting drills

As I mentioned before, it’s important to realize that, for kids of certain ages, basketball is pretty much all about fun. After developing some basic knowledge, coaches can allow players to play a game like a knockout or some kind of team fight.

Cool down

Cooling down is just as important as warming up. It gives players a chance to lower their body temperature and it can be just as crucial for quick recovery and injury prevention.

Ending Practice On A Positive Note

We like to end practice sessions with something fun to build team spirit. With our varsity and teams, we ask each player to take a shot from half-court. If no one comes, everyone runs. If only one player shoots from half-court, NO one runs!

Priorities For Youth Basketball Coaches

As a youth basketball coach, your priorities should be:

  1. Character development and making basketball fun
  2. Sports development and skill development
  3. The concept of universal defense and attack. Offensive and defensive moves are best for long-term development at the teen level, but that’s not the point of this article.

Essential Basketball Skills For Youth Practice

Think about this: What do you want your players to learn before high school?

  • Athletics
  • Ball handling
  • Passing the ball
  • Lay ups
  • Footwork
  • Speed dribble
  • Lying on your back
  • Shooting form (From half court and the free throw line)
  • Offensive player basics
  • Defensive team basics
  • Correcting bad habits
  • Life lessons

The answer to that question should help you figure out what to focus on this year.

Introducing Ball Handling Drills

Ball handling is an essential skills for players of every level. Some of the most effective youth ball practice programs place a great deal of importance on handling, especially as it applies to a real-world playing scenario.

Many experienced youth coaches consider handling exercises among the easiest ways to develop overall playing ability in youth level athletes. Players that receive extensive training in stationary ball handling generally improve much more quickly and become better all-around players.

One of the good things about handling drills is that it doesn’t need a lot in the way of equipment. In most cases, all that is necessary is a ball and a flat surface. Even just a half court will do if that is all the space available.

Of course, learning effective handling at the youth level requires knowledge of certain key fundamentals. The first step is to ensure proper balance and correct position. The knees should be bent and the chest held up in the familiar defensive stance. This makes it easy for the player to face forward and watch the floor.

Most young kids have a tendency to look down at the ball and their hands while they are dribbling. This should be avoided as it prevents seeing what is going on elsewhere in the court.

Finally, it is generally best to dribble the ball with the fingertips rather than the entire palm. The fingers should be spread out to cover more of the ball and improve handling and control.

It is also advisable to restrict the dribbling motion to the arms instead of using the entire body. Players just starting out should focus on dribbling as quickly and as vigorously as possible without being too concerned about committing errors. If the ball bounces away, the player should just run after it and continue with the drill.

The Most Basic Youth Basketball Positions

Warm-Up And Ball-Handling Drills

How To Run A Youth Basketball Practice (Highly Productive)

Here are some warm-up and ball-handling drills that a coach could spend time
with to help improve offensive player skills in young players.

Remember to have your team practice these often for maximum improvement. All of these don’t take up too much space, and can be done even with a half court.


Ball slaps

The player begins by slapping the ball as hard as they can with one hand. Meanwhile, the other hand should maintain the grip on the ball. Hands should be rotated with every slap.

Finger tips

Players should extend their arms outward and push the ball with their fingertips in the defensive stance.

After becoming comfortable with the feel of the ball extended out, they could switch to moving the ball high overhead and bringing it down low in front of their ankles, maneuvering the ball in a similar movement.


The ball should be wrapped around the head, around the waist, and then around the ankles. These movements should be done separately and then one after the other as a single rep.

Figure 8

The ball should be wrapped around the legs, first going between them and then around the knee. The ball should then be brought to the front between the legs and then behind the other knee. This sequence of motions should be done continuously.


Pound dribble (1 ball)

The player dribbles the ball as vigorously as possible with one hand while in the defensive stance. The player should not allow the ball to go much higher than the knees. The dribbling hand should be alternated after every 30 to 45 seconds.

2 ball dribbling

This is similar to the one hand pound drill with the difference being the use of both hands simultaneously. Players can do 2-ball rhythms and 2-ball alternating sequences for 30 to 45 second periods.

Single leg dribbling (1 ball)

The players should stand with their feet slightly apart at shoulder width. They then dribble the ball with their right hand, making circles around their right leg. They then switch to the left hand and leg, performing the same motion before moving to the next drill.

Figure 8 dribble (1 ball)

This is similar to the Figure 8 warm-up. The difference is that the ball is now dribbled instead of being wrapped.

Organizing Your Training Program

As a coach, I tend to divide my training into offensive, offensive, defensive, and melee skills. It usually looks like this:

  • Develop stamina and attack skills – 30 min
  • Defense – 15 min
  • Attack – 15 min
  • Scenario – 30 min

Basketball Skills Focus Areas

Primary skill focus

Ball handling and footwork

Secondary skill focus

Passing, shooting, lay ups

Tertiary skill focus

Creating a practice plan template and drills to use

This approach may require an extra two to three hours at the start of the year. But it will save you time during the off-season and beyond if you decide to coach for multiple seasons.

Consider creating a practice plan template for two practice sessions. This should include your main and secondary skills.

Should You Have An Assistant Coach?

How To Run A Youth Basketball Practice (Highly Productive)

Depending on the size of the team and the scope of your responsibilities, it may be beneficial to have an assistant coach. They typically support the main coach, perform administrative tasks, and ensure that all the necessary equipment is in good working order. They may also schedule and supervise practices, take care of the equipment, and set up team events. With the help of an assistant coach, you might find it easier to hold productive practice sessions and become a more effective coach.

Final Thoughts On Basketball Practice Plans

Youth basketball is a recreational activity, but your effectiveness as a coach is key to setting your players on a path to progress and success. This is why it is essential for the coach to evaluate the performance of the team after each game.

Also, if you want to keep players focused on improving with each practice, avoid overdoing a particular exercise. If you’ve been working on a drill or maneuver for ten minutes and the player still isn’t nailing it, it might be best to move on.

Finally, if there is one thing I would like to share with other youth coaches, it’s the importance of staying active throughout every basketball practice session. Maintaining a busy practice schedule can be challenging, but the benefits on the entire team can be significant.

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