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Keys to Coaching Youth Basketball with Limited Practice Time

Daniel Biehl, Breakthrough Basketball

When working with youth basketball teams, itís fairly common to only be given one hour a week for practice. This is a difficult format for many coaches who love to have drill after drill after drill, but, with some practice, this format can still be used effectively. There are a few keys that must be followed if you want to make the most of the time available.

1) Keep Everybody Moving!

With such a limited amount of time to practice, one traditional aspect of a basketball practice that is immediately thrown out the window is time for conditioning. Unfortunately, running sprints takes up a valuable amount of time that is not very effective if only done for a few minutes once a week.

To overcome this, practices need to have an intensity that isnít usually seen. Players should be moving at all times. Drills should be designed so that everybody is participating at the same time. Once your team has finished warming up, it is time to get moving immediately!

2) Focus on Skills!

If you want your players to win at basketball, fundamentals are always the most important thing for your players to improve. Dribbling drills are a great use of your time, as they are generally quick, they usually involve running, and they help to improve a very basic part of the game.

Try to avoid running plays as much as possible. Installing plays takes up a valuable amount of time that you just donít have, so itís much more important to focus on drills that improve the fundamentals.

Run drills that are as close to a game situation as you can. The most effective drills have multiple skills that can be coached, such as setting a screen leading to a jump shot or outlet pass where somebody is underneath ready to box out for a rebound. This will eliminate a lot of time setting up a new drill, and will still allow players to improve on multiple fundamentals as they rotate through.

3) Let the Players Play!

Players only play as well as they practice. If you spend 40-45 minutes working on drills, you can then allow the players to scrimmage for the rest of the time. This is usually their favorite part of practice anyways, and it allows you to coach in a game-like setting.

Many of the things taught by running a play can be taught just as easily in a scrimmage, such as offensive spacing. Have each coach focus on a different aspect of the game, such as defensive techniques or rebounding.

Make sure all players are involved at all times, and encourage a high amount of ball movement. Donít keep score during scrimmage, but instead make sure your players treat each possession importantly.

Itís often very difficult to coach basketball in limited amounts of time. There are so many aspects of the game that coaches can spend hours working with their players on. Do not fall into the trap of feeling like you have to design the perfect playbook. Instead, focus on the fundamentals of the game so that your team can be good basketball players. These skills taught will carry over to their future teams, unlike plays which will be discarded when your season ends. As you involve everybody, your coaching will be maximized, and your players will see the most improvement.

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