I have found at the youth and high school levels you must keep things basic. Some may argue that you cannot fully challenge an athlete if you keep things basic but I am not implying that to the least.
What I am saying is keep the game simple, meaning stick to the fundamentals and discipline that creates winners – terrific ball handling, timely passing, disciplined defense, control of the boards, and a motion offense that delivers high percentage shots.
When you keep things simple, you create a brand of basketball that is both basic yet challenging. The challenging nature presents itself through the coach, the individual responsible for driving the athletes and pushing them to limits they never thought possible. Your job is to find the potential of your players and then demand they reach that point of expectation.
John Wooden said he never let his players get satisfied, he never let the coaches get satisfied, and he damn sure never became satisfied.
Basketball, like any sport, is a series of challenges to improve your individual game and the success of the entire team.
Basic Basketball Tips: Ball Handling
A lot of coaches prefer to begin each and every practice with some simple ball handling drills. I agree with this philosophy for several reasons. Ball handling is absolutely integral to the game much in the same way “dribbling” is in soccer. Your guards need to handle the ball consistently or you’re in for a long season. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Championship teams win because they take care of the ball better than their opponents. Challenge your forwards and even center to handle the rock with care.
Basic Basketball Tips: Passing
Don Meyer, the highest winning coach in NCAA men’s basketball says that, “timing + accuracy + quickness + deception = passing.” Passing is so important to the game of basketball yet often overlooked in practice. Players need to understand the importance of passing and the many types of passes available at this disposal. Do not forget to preach ball fakes, a lost art in the game today.
Basic Basketball Tips: Disciplined Defense
Different coaches have different philosophies in regards to defense. Some coaches will stress intense ball pressure while others prefer a zone or a safe and conservative brand of D. Teach the basic defensive principles and technique.
Unfortunately, defense is a lot less hands on for the coach because the majority of success on defense results from effort. Either your team will give you the effort you need or your team will be poor on that end of the floor. Make this point clear. It’s all about focus and effort.
Basic Basketball Tips: Control the Boards
You can eliminate turnovers but if your team is killed on the glass, you’re almost giving them an invitation to win. A lot of people believe solid rebounding is merely a result of height. This is not true. Sure, it helps to have a huge team but if they still do not box out, they are prone to getting beat to the ball. Small teams can rebound the rock highly productively with a lot of effort and discipline.
Remember, a great defense will force low percentage shots but it’s all in vain if you do not box out for the rebound and they get second, third, or even fourth chances.
Basic Basketball Tips: Motion Offense to High Percentage Shots
If you play disciplined defense and control the boards, the only two things left are to take care of the ball and work for a high percentage shot. The three point line is a very valuable tool but unfortunately players often misuse it in today’s game by jacking up poor shots. It doesn’t matter what type of offense you run, but you need terrific movement (both with the ball and off-the-ball) in order to work for a high percentage shot. Work on shot mechanics by continually preaching the importance of being ready to shoot before you receive the ball and the value of a follow thru (two lost arts in shooting).
Basic Basketball Tips: Intelligence
Some things you cannot teach. Intelligence of the game, or a high basketball IQ, is generally the result of a player taking extra time to study the game and learn about it on their own. Some players have a natural instinct or feel for the game, and some do not. One thing you can do with your team every year (as borrowed from Don Meyer) is to hand out a contract at the start of the year to each player and ask them to circle one:
This year I want to be:
“A Player, Coach, or Official.”
It’s important to constantly remind the players that their job is to play, your job is to coach, and the ref’s job is to ref. You only expect them to play not to coach or ref.