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Coaching youth basketball is a huge time commitment and challenge at any level. Once you have signed up to coach, you have to determine what specifically you will teach to your players.
I have been coaching organized basketball since 1993, and at times I am overwhelmed at determining how I should spend my practice time. Some things to consider as you develop a plan for the season and for individual practices.
In an ideal league, the board of directors will provide each coach with curriculum of skills to be taught along with drills that will help develop age-appropriate skills. I have coached the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade so far and have not been provided with any guidance as to what I should be teaching. These blogs are my thoughts on the best way to teach 3rd and 4th grader players how to play.
Here are some questions that I have considered since the start of the season.
1. What do the players already know? As a youth coach it is best to start with the assumption that they do not know anything. In one 3rd and 4th grade recreation league game, there were over a dozen travelling or double dribble violations in the backcourt. In this league, there is no pressure in the backcourt. So do these player know how to dribble successfully? The majority do not.
Determine what the majority of players can do and start from there. My Town Tutors is  have a fundamental checklist for each grade level. It is a work in progress, but it might be useful to look at to determine the skills your players possess.
Each week a coach can evaluate the areas of the game the players need to improve. At most younger levels, the answer will be ALL AREAS! Do not be frustrated, start with the basics and build on the skills they currently have. Remember the #1 goal is for the players to have fun and improve.
2. What CAN they learn? After a few weeks, many youth coaches might answer NOTHING! This may very well be true for some or even all your players, but your job as a coach is to try to help the players get a little better each week.
The more experience you have coaching youth sports, the better you will be at determining what specifically players can learn. Identify the most basic skill the majority of players lack and focus on creating drills that will help the players become better at using this skill.
Given the fact that practice time is limited, (my team has 25 minutes of practice once a week just prior to our game), you can only focus on a few areas each week. After the 1st three weeks I have determined that most players cannot shoot correctly at a regulation size basket, so I will not be teaching the players the proper BEEF shooting fundamentals.
Many players can not possess a ball for more than 10 seconds with have a violation, so I will spend a great deal of time over the next few works working on dribbling, passing, and catching.
Defense is also a skill many of the players can understand. I will review a good defensive stance, explain ball side (or strong side) and help side (or weak side), as well as BUM (ball – you – man) defensive positioning.
3. How can I best utilize the time, space and equipment?
This is probably the most challenging part. Given the fact that so many players lack so many skills, how do you determine what is most important what can you accomplish with very limited practice time?
The space and number of baskets will have a huge impact on the practice plan. My practice space is limited to half a court with one regulation basket.* Some coaches have the luxury of 3 – 6 baskets and these coaches should try to use as many baskets as possible. In this case a coach could complete individual lay-up drills like the mini Mikan, Mikan Drill, Reverse Mikan Drill, 2-ball Mikan, or 2-ball reverse Mikan Drill depending on the skill level of the players.
* I am convinced that 3rd grade players should be shooting at a 9 foot basket and they should not be playing with 4th grade players, however the board of directors in my town does not agree. (Here is the letter I sent to the board of directors).