Saturday, February 28, 2009

Youth Basketball: Passing Drills

Some readers may know I coach youth basketball on Saturdays. Today, my team finally started passing the ball effectively. (Not quite as good as the L.A. "Showtime" Lakers, but our team is indeed named the Lakers.) The first month of coaching, it's so hard to get the kids to do anything other than basics. Most of the kids don't know each other, and some personalities may clash, but after a few weeks, coaches should move the focus from basics to teamwork. In short, if you want your kids to play effectively, teach them to pass well.

One drill I use to teach kids to pass is "2 on 3." I pick a kid to play defense with me and the rest of the team forms a line in front of us. Then, the first three kids in line have to score against me and my defensive teammate. There is always one offensive player open because it's 2 defensive players against 3 offensive players. If either defensive player swats/blocks the ball, the entire non-defensive team does five pushups. Once there is a change of possession, the next three kids play offense, while the first three offensive players go to the back of the line.

Initially, I make sure any kid who doesn't take a wide open shot gets his shot swatted with authority (I've always wanted to use the phrase, "swatted with authority," in a sentence). After the entire team does pushups several times, no one wants to get his/her shot blocked again. As a result, this drill creates a team culture/peer pressure against taking covered shots.

After about five minutes of this swatfest, I ask who wants to play defense. By this time, the kids are either tired of doing pushups; think it's fun to block shots; or just want to follow the coach. Thus, the drill also manages to make playing defense fun. I highly recommend this drill.

The other passing drill is "2 on 2," with the offensive team having to pass the ball at least three times before taking a shot. The kids move from defense to offense and go through the line. The passes must be at least three feet away--no handoffs are allowed (I call this rule, "No football"). If anyone does a handoff, both offensive players do 10 pushups and move to the back of the line. For some reason, "2 on 3" is much more effective than "2 on 2."

Passing is the key to having an effective youth basketball team, and unfortunately, it is the most difficult skill to teach. Good luck to all the coaches out there, and please post a comment if you have other effective passing drills.

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