The Top 10 Basketball Drills for Building Skills in Youth Players

Every youth basketball coach knows how important drills are. They allow players to work on the fundamental skills necessary to become stronger, more adept and agile. They also increase a player’s sense of physical control as well as mental focus. In short, practicing drills consistently is an essential ingredient for a team’s success.

In this article, we will elaborate on the top 10 youth basketball drills out there, and why they’re so important. Drills vary depending on which skills you want to sharpen. A holistic view when it comes to practicing drills will help create the most well-rounded players.

Working on drills might seem tedious, but these are the building blocks of great ball playing. The better you know the basic, intrinsic movements, the better you’ll commit them to muscle memory, thus the better you’ll be able to focus on the strategy of the game.

Footwork Drills

In a game that depends so much on footwork, these drills are essential for both beginners as well as older players. Good footwork provides the player with a foundation from which to play, no matter the position. As with any stance, feet should be hip width apart and arms should be tight to the sides, as flailing arms will impact your speed negatively. Remember to bend not just your knees, but your arms as well. In fact, all of your joints should be bent.

Triple Treat Offensive Stance Drill: Your goal is to protect the ball, keeping it close to your armpit. Make sure to keep your back straight.

Defensive Stance Drill: Obviously this stance is much different. For one thing, your feet are moving. For another, your hands are moving too — up or down depending on whether the offense is shooting/passing or dribbling. You want to make sure your hands have the best opportunity to grab the ball.

Quick Stop Drill: You basically go from hopping on one foot to landing on both feet. Make sure your base is secure and stable and that you end up standing with your feet flat on the ground. Whenever you aren’t moving, your stance should be solid and stable.

Passing, Catching and Ball Handling

In terms of passing, it’s not just the right force that makes for good passing skills, though that is very important. Perhaps the most important aspect of passing in basketball is that you keep your feet firmly planted. Many players tend to jump while passing the ball, and this will automatically result in a travel. The earlier you can learn to keep your feet planted, the better this habit will become.

When it comes to catching the ball, you’d think it would just be a matter of getting your arms and hands ready — however, catching the ball is a full-body experience. You should catch not only with your hands, but with your eyes and your feet as well. Stance when catching is especially important, because once you catch the ball, you need to be ready to pivot and either shoot or pass. Ball Handling drills will help you practice your passing and catching skills.

Two-Ball Dribbling Drill: This drill is mainly to make sure that your non-dominant hand gets dribbling practice. Too often, players only dribble well with their dominant hand, which limits them when it comes time to play in an actual game. For beginners, start with a stationary two-ball dribble. As players grow and become more advanced, you can integrate two-ball dribble with movement, and speed the movement up as the players progress. This dual dexterity will help tremendously when it comes to games, where the unexpected often happens.

Continuous 3 on 2: This is another passing drill that helps with decision-making as well. There are three offensive players and two players on defense. Once the defenders get the ball either by rebound or stealing, or because the offensive team scores, they switch to offense and one more player is added.

Layup Drills

The 2-line Layup Drill is an old standby, and very simple to enact. Form two lines on either side of the hoop. One line is the shooting line, the other is the rebound line. After the exercise, the lines will switch and the shooters will become the rebounders and vice versa.

Start with the first shooter, who will dribble the ball into a layup. The first in the rebound line will catch it and bounce-pass it to the next shooter, until everyone in the shooting line has had a turn. The lines then switch. This is a great exercise for beginner players, as it’s both simple and effective.

Shooting Drills

The Bean Bag Drill can be practiced at all levels, and tweaked to include increasingly advanced skills. After placing the bean bags in the middle of the court, the players shoot and if they make the shot, they grab a bean bag. Whoever gets three bean bags first wins. This drill is great because it allows for complete player participation at all times. None of the players are standing around waiting for a pass or waiting to shoot.

Another fun and effective shooting drill is Pivot Shooting. In this drill, players chest pass to their coach, running to the free-throw line and turning to catch the ball that the coach is returning to them. They then have to pivot and square off with the basket to make the shot.

Improving Defense Skills

A simple and effective drill for improving defense skills is the Mirror Drill. In this drill, players get into groups of two, one being the offense and the other, defense. The offense moves from side to side via a sliding motion. The defense player learns how to follow his opposing teammate with both speed and creativity in terms of footwork.

Lastly, the Defensive Specialist Drill works to hone all defensive movements, including sliding, sprinting, backpedaling, etc.

Of course, there are many other drills that are both fun and effective. The important thing is to develop your players’ skills holistically, and have an all-around focus to make sure all aspects of the game are addressed.

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