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Author Bio: This article was written by Kyle Ohman. Kyle Ohman was a thousand point scorer at Liberty University (div. 1), was ranked the 19th best shooter in the country by Fox Sports his senior year. Kyle has also played professionally in Spain. Most recently he coached a high school team that played on a national level and beat the 12th ranked team in the nation. Coach Ohman is the Co-Owner and founder of BasketballHQ.com. Connect with him via twitter @BasketballHQ.
Being a youth basketball coach requires you to have a delicate balance with your players between having fun and teaching them the fundamentals of the game. If you push the players too much and only do skill development, training, competition, etc. you will burn them out and push them away from the game. It might not happen right away, but the players will never have that time of pure joy and love for the game itself and it will cause them to burn out later on.
On the flip side though there are coaches that are only concerned with making it a fun environment for the players and there is no emphasis on developing the players. The outcome of this is players that love the game, but are not able to make the team when they get older because their skill set is so far behind everyone else. They missed out on the chance to build a strong basketball foundation when they were younger and because of this their skill development was stunted.
These are not situations that any youth basketball coach wants for their players, and that is why it is important to find the right balance between having fun and teaching your players the skills that they need to learn. Here are a few tips to make sure that you are finding the right balance.
Basketball Drill Selection
When you choose what basketball drills you are going to do make sure that you pick drills that will challenge the players, but that they will also be able to do. Make sure that you stress effort and not results when doing the drills. As long as the player is giving their best effort that is all that matters. Later on in life results will be stressed more, but it is important that they first learn how to give their best effort.
Keep the drills fresh and interesting to keep the players motivated and working hard. If you do the same drills every day or every week then the players are going to get bored and turned off. However if you keep a rotation of fresh drills in the mix then they will always be doing something relatively new and interesting. This will keep them excited about working hard and getting better.
Competition and Fun
A great way to keep the players motivated and having fun while doing the drills is to turn it into a competition and make it fun. If you are doing a drill that is working on layups then make it a challenge and the first team to make 10 layups wins, or if it is a ball handling drill make it a relay. Whatever you want to do to mix it up and make it more fun for the players is good. You don’t have to do this for every drill, but mixing it into your basketball workouts is key in keeping the players engaged.
Basketball IQ and Teaching
A lot of youth coaches neglect teaching their players how to think the game and why they are doing something. When you teach a player a certain skill like keeping their eyes up while dribbling, take the time to explain to them why they are doing it. This will help keep them motivated to do it. Just like you would want to know the reason behind why you are doing something and how it benefits you, your players are the same way.
In every practice or workout you should take 10-12 minutes to talk about and explain a certain part of the game to your players. Their attention span will not last much longer than 10 minutes so I wouldn’t go much longer than that, but teach them about the game. Explain to them why it is important to space the floor, cut hard, set screens, etc. They may not get it at first, but it will really help lay the foundation for when they get older. If they are only learning about setting a down screen when they get to high school then someone failed them as a youth coach when they were younger.
As a youth basketball coach you have a responsibility to your players and what you do could affect the rest of their playing career. You have the opportunity to invest in your players and give them the jumpstart that they need for the rest of their basketball careers.
by Kyle Ohman