Through my years of experience as the Director of Head Start Basketball I have created a list of 5 essential skills that I believe every youth basketball player should work to develop as they are learning the game.
1. Shooting Form
It is critical that young players learn to shoot with proper technique. I start every one of my individual skills training sessions with form shooting 3 feet in front of the basket. Helping young players to develop good form is critical their future success as a shooter. Watch young players shoot when no one is around and they’ll be throwing the ball up towards the basket from the three point line with horrendous form. I try to get kids to focus on developing form while they’re young and then work their way back as their shot improves and develops over time.
Put a ball in every young player’s hands as much as possible. This means dribbling in the basement, the garage, the driveway, on a family walk. During practices every kids should tons of reps with the ball. Practices should be designed to maximize opportunities to dribble, pass, catch, and make decisions with the ball. Pay close attention to working on your young player’s weak hand. It doubles their options in a game and the more confident they are with their weak hand, the stronger player they will be.
Skips, gallops, jump rope, cartwheels, carioca, running, jumping, throwing, shuffling, kicking, catching, starting, stopping or any combination of them. Young players should focus on a variety of gross motor skills so that they develop athleticism that will continue to benefit them for years to come. Add in dribbling or passing while doing these movements to increase the challenge. Solid footwork is a key to long term basketball success. Don’t overlook it.
This goes hand in hand with coordination. When a young player can move quickly through space they have advantages that translate to any athletic activity, not just basketball. Simple games of tag at the start of practice encourage the development of speed, quickness, and elusiveness that all athletes need. Once they have learned the correct technique for a skill, encourage your young player to practice at game speed.
5. The Ability to Make Mistakes
Make sure that you encourage your young player to make mistakes while practicing their basketball skills. By this I mean pushing themselves beyond their current skill level. The only way for growth to occur is to challenge the body to do something new and more difficult. The type of practice that occurs at the edge of a player’s capabilities is the most beneficial. Encourage your young player to get out of their comfort zone. Make sure they understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process. If they are comfortable pushing themselves to that point without worry that a coach or parent will criticize them for those mistakes their skill level will improve dramatically.
Focus on these 5 areas in your young player’s skill development and watch their game elevate to the next level.