Youth Basketball: Teach Individual Basics Before Teaching The Team Game

Most experienced coaches usually have a starting point planned for their early season practices. They generally know what they want to work on, how long to work on it and when they will begin to work on the team aspects of putting everything together.

Novice or less experienced coaches may have some real issues in getting started and in knowing what to teach, how to teach something, and when to teach different things. This is especially true when it comes to knowing when to begin working on the team aspects of offense and defense.

The individual fundamental aspects of learning basic skills and honing these skills must come before working on team aspects. Players must know how to pass, dribble, shoot, rebound, move without the ball, move with the ball and to play defense on a player with the ball and on their player without the ball. Until players have these concepts and skills well in hand, it does no good to try to introduce a 5-on-5 situation, because the players must have their individual skills to a level where they can function within a team atmosphere. AND, before a coach should even begin to think about 5-on-5, s/he should be teaching 1-on-1, 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 (where the game begins to be played). In the latter, is where a coach begins to introduce cuts, screens, double-team defense, etc.

I learned early on in my coaching career to pay attention to details in teaching my players strong basketball fundamentals and to play good and tenacious defense. This was to become my hallmark throughout my coaching career.

This attention to teaching the details of basic basketball play for the individual player, while weaving this into team play, and my heavy emphasis on teaching defense, is what I bring to the marketplace. All of this is brought together in my philosophy of teaching Basketball On A Triangle-the sides of the triangle being defense and fundamentals, with the base being discipline.

Here’s an example of detail teaching when teaching passing:

When we begin to teach passing, we teach the different types of passes and in which situation it’s best to use each type of pass. We pay attention to the delivery, the target (hand/s) for the pass, how to receive a pass, eye contact between passer and receiver, keeping the toes of the back foot in contact with the floor throughout the pass, etc.

When we’ve taught the “how” then we drill situations for using each type of pass. There are thousands of drills and it’s also easy to make up one’s own drills–especially for beginning players. The most important thing is that these kids learn the basic concepts and have fun doing it. Here the players might begin to learn how to pass on the run and off the dribble. (They will make lots of mistakes as they learn to adjust from making a pass while standing in place to making a pass when the passer and their target are on the move.)

When applying these passing basics to game situations, now we have to bring in some new concepts that take passing to yet a higher level. These would include how not to “telegraph” one’s pass, timing in getting the pass off, getting the pass to the receiver, passing with either hand, floor spacing (keeping the passing relationship between passer and receiver being not too close and not too far), and passing within an offensive setting i.e., passing from point to wing, point to center, wing to center. Then, the coach might introduce passing on the fast break, from out-of-bounds, off the rebound, etc.

In each stage, the previous set of skills must be taught and some semblance of accomplished skill level by the young players attained before moving on to the next and more skilled level. Always teach young players by plateaus. Teach them how to pass and what kind of pass to make before engaging them in a game.

From the beginning levels of basketball right up into the pros, what rankles coaches most are turnovers. These usually come as a result of a poorly thrown or poorly timed pass.

Teaching-coaches will spend the necessary time to teach and drill good passing in general and more specifically within their style of play. They will be rewarded with fewer turnovers.

Follow this concept of plateau building in every skill technique. Pay attention to and teach the details inherent in each skill and watch how much better your players perform these basic skills.

About the Author

Coach Ronn Wyckoff is an international spokesperson for youth sports being for the youth and the author/producer of 28 e-book and videos, including the 4-hr. instructional DVD, “Basketball On A Triangle: A Higher Level of Coaching and Playing”. More can be learned about Coach Ronn and his programs at his website http://www.Top-Basketball-Coaching.com