Children can have painfully short attention spans. Youth basketball is no exception to this rule. However, youth players also have the ability to focus and learn key skills given the proper circumstances. Today, we will be reviewing how to select basketball drills to keep your practices fun, interesting, and beneficial to your players.
Making an Active Basketball Practice Plan
Most parents and coaches already understand that it is hard to predict what will hold our kids’ attention for a long period of time. Really, you want to watch somebody play minecraft online? One way to lose a child’s attention is to have a gap in activity. Halting the momentum of a basketball practice to regroup and decide what’s next is a great way to lose your player’s interest.
Thankfully, this problem can be easily mitigated by developing a detailed practice plan. Consider the length of your practice, the ability of your players, and what basketball drills will best suit your team’s needs. Consider working with assistant coaches or parents to assign responsibilities during practices. For example, one assistant coach could be responsible for maintaining a dribbling drill while another could show the kids how to play H-O-R-S-E. When one cycle of drills is complete, transition quickly to the next set of drills to keep the players’ attention focused on the fun.
Some coaches even find that it is beneficial to over-plan their practices just in case a particular drill or activity may not be going as well as intended. Developing a detailed plan is one of the best ways to give young basketball players the opportunity to have fun and develop their skills.
Fun Basketball Drills to Keep Your Kids’ Attention
A key factor when determining the right drill(s) for your basketball team is their skill level. What may be considered fun for a more advanced player could be a slog for others. Try to choose basketball drills which will be both fun and productive for your squad. Examples of some great youth basketball drills include:
Lay-up Line (Shooting and Passing Drill)
A simple, effective, and fun way to practice dribbling, passing, and close-range shooting is the lay-up line. Think of the warm-ups you may have seen at any high school, college, or professional basketball game. Players stand in two lines at the top of the key. The “shooting” line dribbles towards the hoop and attempts a lay-up. The “retrieving” line grabs the rebound and passes to the next shooter. Rinse and repeat.
Sharks and Minnows (Dribbling Drill)
A bit more complicated, this youth dribbling drill entails the minnows (ball handlers) trying to dribble the ball down the court while avoiding the sharks (defenders). Rather than traditional defense, the “sharks” are essentially playing a game of tag, trying to touch the ball handlers.
Red Light, Green Light (Footwork Drill)
Another lighthearted drill, red light, green light is actually used for players of all ages to develop good footwork habits. Players line up along the baseline with a basketball. A coach will call out “green light” and “red light” to direct players to start and stop. On a green light, all players will dribble towards the center of the court. When it is a red light, all players must pivot and take a shot at the nearest basket without traveling. This is a great way to teach kids about pivot foots, shooting from all spots on the floor, and footwork in general.
Zig Zag Drill (Defensive Drill)
This drill can be run in a number of ways, but essentially entails your players using the slide step and drop step to maneuver around the basketball court in a zig-zag pattern to practice footwork and positioning. Kids often enjoy this drill because it can be made into an obstacle course and includes non-traditional movement patterns. For younger players, this could also be called “crab-walking” or any other creative name to keep kids interested in the movement.
Keeping Youth Basketball Practices Simple and Easy
At the end of the day, we want our kids to have fun and develop their basketball skills. Planning out a detailed practice schedule and selecting the right drills are both crucial. One of the most overlooked aspects of this is selecting drills within your players’ ability. While there is a time and place for difficult drills, they can often lead to frustration and a break-down of your practice.
Keep drills simple - Kids enjoy a challenge. What they don’t enjoy is being confused. Choosing a “simple” drill is often better than choosing an easy one. If your basketball players understand the game and understand their goals, they are more likely to be willing to challenge themselves throughout the practice. Unclear or overly complicated instructions can stop activities in a hurry.
Keep drills easy - There is a reason NBA players still practice lay-ups - because it works. Choosing easy, fundamental drills is ultimately a great way to not only keep your kids’ attention, but also to make them into better ball players. Each team and set of players have their unique skill levels and interests. Keeping practices fun can be a challenge, but it is certainly doable. By planning ahead, choosing fun drills, and keeping things simple, your basketball team can have great practices all season.