When you are coaching youth basketball it can be a challenge to get the kids into formation and moving like a team. While it might not be difficult to teach an individual kid how to dribble and shoot a ball, teaching a whole team to do this and operate in sync is something different. The best way to bring this all together to have a functioning and effective team is through the use of drills.

What Are Drills And Why We Use Them

Basketball drills are similar to those found in other sports. Drills are defined as “repetitive training activities which do or do not use equipment. They are intended to stimulate a part of a complex movement (e.g., an upper arm movement) or an elemental segment of a movement chain...Each drill that is practiced should be considered to be a discrete activity. The greater the similarity between a total competitive skill and a restricted practiced drill, the greater is the likelihood of negative transfer between the two. The learned drill will compete with and disrupt the competitive skill… Drills originally were only meant to be preliminary activities to be used as a step in a progression on the way through to learning a ‘terminal behavior.’ But now they have become training items which means that athletes' progress is halted at a less than terminal stage of skill development and competing patterns of movement are established.” (Source).

As noted by Breakthrough Basketball, a well known source of basketball education and training camps, all drills should have four specific traits or elements, also called characteristics. These four are as follows:

  • The drill should have a specific purpose.
  • The drill should address the purpose [and] stimulate the exact same situation as it does in the game.
  • The drill should be efficient, keeping in mind that the fewest repetitions of the specific action you are seeking to improve defines the maximum efficiency.
  • The level of difficulty should match the players ability, such that the drill should produce a 50-60% average success rate. (We know that some players will have higher and lower response rates).

“Perform drills that force your players to think” – Bob Knight, famous college basketball coach.

As noted by Active Kids.com, thinking is only one part of the equation. “When it comes to kids the drills should also focus on what we want to see developed in youth.  While it may be hard to remember what it was like living in a smaller, growing body, it's essential as parents and coaches that we acknowledge limitations so we can help younger athletes reach higher expectations. There is a big difference between working with young athletes and their bodies versus an adult's fully developed body. Kids learn the very basic aspects of sports like flexibility, motor skills, hand-eye coordination and balance are being fine tuned between ages 5-10. The basic areas of growth we want to target are strength, endurance, flexibility and coordination for young athletes--or anyone hoping to play on an intramural team without embarrassment.”

Kids Lay-Up Drill

This lay-up drill has a long history in basketball and is probably the most basic exercise out there to teach kids how to do a lay-up. It is the 2-line lay-up. Defined by dozens of different sites and play books but all with the basic description, it goes like this:

You divide the kids into two separate lines on each side of a half-court, a shooting line and a rebounding line. You start with the first player dribbling to the basket and doing a layup, the first rebounder, on the opposite line, rebounds and passes to the next shooter on the opposite line. Shooters and rebounders switch lines after their move. This way every player gets a chance to shoot and rebound. You can have the kids switch sides after a bit so that they are now having to do left-handed layups.

3-Point Shot Drill for Kids

USA Basketball defines this drill as Warm-Up Speed. It is the most basic of their three different speed drills that help youth develop a shot.

Have the player jog through the shots. Starting around 5 feet from the hoop shoot until they make an all-net shot, then move back one step. Do this again until they are at the 3-point line. The drill continues until they make an all-net 3-point shot. To enhance the drill, they suggest: “Initially, do this from the baseline and work your way back to the 3-point line in the corner. Then do the other (right or left baseline) and finally go down the middle and finish with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Finally, do your normal stretching routine.”

Defense Drill for Kids

The BUM, or Ball U Man, drill is a simple way to teach less experienced kids how to have a solid defensive game on a man-to-man level. Stack.com gives these easy to follow directions:

Set up three on defense and three on offense:

  • Set 1 - defending the pass, jump to the ball, and be in help or passing lane.
  • Set 2 - defending the drive, help and recover to your man, stay low and sprint.
  • Set 3 - defending the ball screen; let teammate know what side screen has been set, hedge out, open up, and sprint back to your man.
  • Set 4 - defending the screen away; going under the screen against a non-shooter, stay low and get over top of the screen against a good shooter.
  • Avoid switching as much as possible so your team can maintain effective matchups. In case of a "necessary" switch, make sure to switch back when play is on the perimeter or next defensive set.