Youth basketball coaches often ask me what the most important basketball fundamental they should be teaching their team is. My reply is always the same, “The first three letters… F-U-N.” Yes, it is nice if young players can learn some shooting, passing, and dribbling fundamentals If they associate basketball with fun, they will continue to play. Playing more and more is the best way to improve.
Let’s take a look at three basketball drills for youth players that are also a lot fun.
Knock out. Players line up at the free throw line, or in closer depending on the age level and shooting range. You can have as many as you want in line, but if you have more than 8 or 10, it is probably best to split them into two baskets. The first two players in line have basketballs. The first player shoots and follows his/her shot. As soon as the first player shoots, the second player shoots. If the first shooter misses, he gets his own rebound and tries to make a shot before the second player makes one.
If the player behind you scores before you do, you are knocked out of the game and have to sit out and wait until a new game starts. If you score before he/she does, you get the ball and pass it back to the next player in line. Then, go to the end of the line and wait until you are up again.
Point a Pass 3 on 3. This is a fun drill to work on passing. Play 3 on 3, but in addition to the normal scoring for baskets or free throws, the offense also gets a point for each completed pass. They can only pass back to the player who passed to them if it is a give and go. It also makes the defense work harder to stop the passes. If players are old enough to understand pass fakes, you can introduce those as well. They like playing games and this game puts an emphasis on passing.
Full court layups relay. We have been doing this with young teams as long as we have been running clinics. We always saved it for the end because it is a great way to end practice on a fun drill. You will need at least 6 players to do the drill, but you can have more than that if you have them.
Split your players into two teams. One team in a line at one end and the court and the other team at the other end. Yes, even if that is only three or four players per end. When the coach yells “Go!” the first player on each team dribbles to the far basket as fast as they can. When they get to the opposite end, they shoot a layup. If they make it, their team gets a point. Make or miss, they get their own rebound, dribble back to their line, and give the ball to the next player who repeats the process.
Then a player from the other team is shooting at the basket in front of you, you can make as much noise as you want, you can yell the player’s name, or you can yell “Miss It!” No put downs allowed and no taunting if they do miss. If the coach hears anything negative, the guilty player must sit out the rest of that relay.
The drill runs for two minutes. The winning team is the one that made the most layups. The drill really forces players to dribble hard, using a speed dribble. If you have a youth clinic, split them up at all 6 baskets and run the relay. It is a lot of fun when you have 40 or 50 youth players that are into it and really having a good time!
Fun is a very important part of youth basketball. It is even more important that they learn teamwork, sportsmanship, playing by the rules, and respect for authority. But, those life lessons and basketball skills will stick much better if they have fun. That is why FUN is the most important youth basketball fundamental.