Our mission is to stimulate coaches’ thinking regarding best practices and to help develop better coaches and players. Youth basketball coaching and youth basketball coach education has been a passion of ours since launching Basketball Immersion in 2014.
With this course we want to stimulate thinking about if there is a better way? Is there something that someone may have never heard about or never thought about in a certain way? The opportunity to stimulate coaches’ thinking from the NBA on down to youth grassroots is one of the things I’m most grateful for with Basketball Immersion. A lot of the things that I share are not about what to coach, but how to coach and to stimulate coaches thinking in that way.
This course will present ideas on improving youth basketball using education-based, evidence-informed ideas and with a focus on solution-based coaching around four factors that impact youth basketball development. For a broad coverage of the topic we consider youth players primarily in the prepubescent age group. We understand that this is a broad inclusive age group.
Four Factors that Impact Youth Basketball Development
- Zone Defense
- Best Player Isolation
- Shooting Challenges
We consider these four factors the most important youth basketball development concepts because if I wanted to win at the youth level, I would press, play zone and isolate my best player.
So the best way to develop a youth player to experience success and increase their long term participation is to prepare them to handle these four factors. This course will cover these four factors to give you a better understanding of how to build them into your youth coaching.
How to Use this Course
Each category of youth development links to a dedicated page that will provide you a pool of basketball drills, skills and concepts that are age appropriate for a prepubescent male and female basketball player. A blank practice plan template is provided, as well as, a number of sample practice plans. All the practice plans are based on a one hour practice.
Each practice is divided into two parts. Individual player development and team development are the two parts. Individual player development drills are focused on the development of positionless basketball players, and requires only the player and a ball, the player and a passer who is an active participant in the learning process, or a one-on-one drill. Team development drills are focused on those things that will help the team succeed, and require multiple players in a drill.
Lessons from Coaching Thousands and Thousands of Young Players
After coaching thousands of young players around the world at youth camps, it’s evident that, for most young people, fun is improvement, shared experiences and competition. Fun doesn’t just mean frivolous games. When I talk about improvement, I am talking about a player feeling that they are improving, and having others notice they’ve improved. So coaches need to be able to keep athletes engaged and on-task, and then understand the value of noticing and acknowledging their progress. Youth basketball players think it is fun to improve. Create an environment for them to improve within practice, and do your best to inspire them to lead themselves to improve when they are not in practice. Player led development has to be a focus for a player to get as good as they dream about being.
The best coaches at all levels create safety, specifically psychological safety, for their players. That doesn’t mean they don’t challenge their players. That doesn’t mean not pushing them to get better. That doesn’t mean not coaching them. It means creating an environment where mistakes are allowed, mistakes are encouraged, and mistakes are corrected. Failure needs to be normalized. We all make mistakes. We all fail. This is a normal part of the learning process.
Winning and losing also needs to be normalized. We need to teach players how to lose, as much as how to win. I am an advocate of competition at young ages. Competing is healthy if it is put within the context of improvement, and shared experiences. Playing with other players, and sharing the experience of competing towards a goal is a positive biopsychosocial-spiritual model that will provide a blueprint for future collaborations and connections for life. In practice and games, discussing winning and losing as a normal part of the learning cycle is important to helping players understand that we all win and lose everyday in the things we do in our life.
Players often would be better served if we gave them the freedom to simply figure things out. As coaches, are we presenting our players with absolute solutions or providing them the framework to explore all the possibilities? This is not to say we shouldn’t coach and provide answers. Our answers can help give a framework, but there are usually other solutions within that answer. Coaching, and playing, is best defined by the possibilities. Do you really care what type of lay-up your player shoots as long as it goes in? How can they get to that outcome? There’s three or four different solutions for that outcome, or just one? Now, should we start from teaching one outcome and one solution? Often, yes, but then from there, we’ve got to create an environment where youth basketball players can develop beyond that one absolute.
At the end of the day, the beautiful dynamic of coaching is that it’s both an art and a science. As coaches, it’s our responsibility to learn not just the technical and tactical aspects, but also the relational and psychological aspects so that our youth players learn to love the process of developing and competing.
The practice plan template consists of four sections.
Notes – These are pre and post practice notes that you want to address with players. And pre and post practices drills that you want to do with players. Things like a dynamic warm-up and side dribbles can be done off the court prior to the formal start of your practice time. Post practice is a time to address organizational and administration needs so that you don’t take away from practice time. It is also a great time to ask questions about the practice to check for understanding and to challenge your players’ thinking.
Practice – The body of practice is outlined in this section.
Things We Did Well – Post practice is an important time for reflection. Whether done as a team activity or on your own as a coach, I encourage you to take 5-10 minutes post practice to review and reflect on what you and/or your players did well at practice today. Reflection impacts future planning and team/individual development.
Things We Need to Improve – As with the “things we did well” reflection, reflecting and what we need to do better is best done post practice. Players can be active participants in this process, as well as you taking time as a coach for personal reflection on how you can plan, organize, instruct and manage the practice better.
Here are some ideas on general youth basketball practice plans: