21 BEST Youth Basketball Drills for BEGINNERS

If you are reading this article, you (most likely) need help…

The first couple years of basketball can be tough as you’re still developing skills! And if you’re a coach, teaching kids who have NEVER played basketball before, it can be even TOUGHER!

So where do you start? And how do you improve as fast as possible?

Beginners should always start with the fundamental skills of basketball!! These are skills that will help you no matter what coach or team you play for.

And to be a good basketball player, you need to practice fundamentals in a logical and progressive manner.

In this article, I’ll show you exactly how to do that, so you can improve AS FAST AS POSSIBLE and establish a really STRONG foundation!

We will start by following this progression:

  1. Dribbling
  2. Defense & Footwork
  3. Layups
  4. Shooting
  5. Passing

Phase #1: Beginner Dribbling Drills

Why dribbling first?

It is the easiest skill to learn! Even infants can learn how to dribble!

But WHERE do you start?

We have EIGHT drills to IMMEDIATELY progress each kid’s dribbling acumen.

Note for Coaches: you WILL want a basketball for every player on the roster so every stays busy and improves faster.

Drill #1 – Full Body Wraps (10 reps)

Full body wraps is a tried-and-true method to develop a feel for the basketball and improve finger pad control.

It is a great drill if there is not a lot of court space or if the previous event is cutting in your practice time!

Or both!

It also is a great warmup for the forearms, wrists, and shoulders!

Drill #2 – Single Leg Wraps (10 reps each direction)

This is a more challenging version of the full body wraps introduced in the previous drill.

The key is to handle the ball with the fingertips instead of the palms, which will improve hand-eye coordination and grip strength.

Drill #3 – Figure 8 Wraps (10 reps each direction)

Doing these figure 8’s is a tried-and-true way to improve overall dribbling skills.

By this point, you WILL be struggling to complete the drill. It is OKAY to make mistakes.

Remember: the faster you go, the better you will get!!

Drill #4 – Pound Dribble Series (5 reps with each height and hand)

To summarize the video, the goal is to dribble the ball 5 times at each height with both hands:

  • Shoulder level
  • Waist level
  • Knee level
  • Sock level

It is a MUST to pound the ball as HARD as possible and with the ball going into their fingertips each time. Like for Figure 8 wraps, making mistakes is OKAY at this time.

The goal is for each kid to consistently look at eye level without staring at the ball or on the floor.

Drill #5 – Half Circle Dribble Series (10 reps with each hand)

This drill is a more advanced version of the stationary pound dribble series that really improves your ball control and ability to manipulate the position of the ball!

Rotating while dribbling the ball in a half circle will increase each kid’s hip flexibility and further challenge their dribbling skills.

Drill #6 – Crossover with Step (10 reps with each progression)

The series of crossovers in this drill is the application to what was developed over the last five drills. I would start with the previous five drills before drill #6 is introduced in order to give them a mental snapshot of what skills they are progressing.

Drill #7 – Zig Zag Crossovers (10 reps)

Now we’re starting to put all the pieces together… working on crossover change of direction moves going down the court.

Key points for this drill:

  • Don’t look down, keep your eyes UP
  • You want a quick and low cross over — snap the ball quickly
  • Accelerate after you cross the ball over, quick first step
  • Start each rep from a triple threat stance

Drill #8 – Dribble Sprints (10 reps)

The key is to go FULL SPEED as each kid is dribbling down the court.

Push the ball in front of you and try to get down the court in as few dribbles as possible.

For younger kids, I would recommend making this into a relay race. It would be a fun way to end practice while also building up conditioning.

Phase #2: Beginner Defense & Footwork Drills

Why is defense 2nd on the list?

  • Reason #1 – Practicing defense improves your fundamental movement skills & agility… which is critical to become a great basketball player! One of the best ways to improve is by focusing on defense. This improves your foot speed, balance, foot coordination, and more!
  • Reason #2 – Defense can be learned quickly. Just like dribbling, very young players can get very good at defense. And it can be learned fairly quickly, thus building confidence.
  • Reason #3 – It’s something you can practice, even if you don’t have a basketball. HALF of the game does NOT need a basketball at all.

Here are four key progressions to ensure each kid has a general idea of how to play defense.

Progression #1: Quick Stance

Defensive stances are easy to learn, and hard to do.

As hard as it may be at first, each kid MUST stay in a defensive stance for 5-10 seconds.

Their habits on defense DEPEND on it!

Those habits?

  • Staying low (as if sitting in a chair)
  • Wide stance about shoulder-width apart
  • Staying on the balls of their feet

Progression #2: Push Steps

Some tips before starting this progression:

  • Push off the opposite foot as to where you want to go (e.g. if going right, push off left foot)
  • Face your lead toe directly to where you are going (e.g. if going right, right toe should face right)
  • Keep your hands moving at shoulder level

When you play defense, make sure you stay down in an athletic stance!

Progression #3: Drop Steps

Offensive players will inevitably change directions. You need great footwork to handle this.

Drop steps are intended to cut off an opposing player’s drive to the basket.

Progression #4: Closeouts

Closing out on the ball is meant to NOT let your man SCORE.

Chopping up your steps were NEVER intended to make your shoes squeak loudly.

They were meant to SLOW YOU down so you can quickly get into your defensive stance to STOP your opponent.

The key is to get the one hand to contest the shot to coincide with your lead foot.

Yes, you can contest the shot AND quickly drop step to cut off the initial dribble-drive against the closeout.

Phase #3: Beginner Layups Drills

Making or missing layups is often the deciding factor in the outcome for most low-level youth basketball games.

Think about it? If layups are the easiest shot in basketball, then why are there so many missed layups?

Learning HOW to make layups is very IMPORTANT!

Here are three keys to making layups more often than not:

  • Mastering how to pivot with both feet and with both sides on the court
  • Discerning when to jump stop or to take two steps
  • Putting the right amount of spin and velocity

With that said, here are several layup drills to start with…

Drill #1: Isolated Layups (10 reps each side)

It is best to do 5 reps with both one-footed and jump-stop finishes.

Start with jump stops because it is easier, then progress to one-footed layups.

Drill #2: X-Layup Drill (10 reps per side)

Similar to the previous drill, start with 10 jump stops and then progress to 10 one-footed layups.

Place the cones at the elbow (where the lane meets the free-throw line) to show clearly where to go.

Drill #3: Free Throw Line Extended (10 reps per side)

Now it’s time to teach 1 on 1 skills!

Take the dribbling and finishing skills and apply it to a more live setting.

Phase #4: Beginner Shooting Drills

For beginners, putting the ball in the basket is HARD. Why not teach them HOW to shoot?

It WILL be a challenge to keep each kid shooting the ball correctly.

So I urge you to take your time, focus on good technique, and understand that shooting is a LONG term skill that takes years of committed practice to develop! Stay close to the basket to avoid bad form.

Here are beginning shooting drills to get you started on the right track…

Drill #1: Shooting Footwork (5 reps)

You make your shots with your feet! Let me explain…

Your feet square your entire body to the hoop. Your feet also put you in the right shooting position.

Drill #2: Shadow Shooting (20 reps)

Ah! The classic drill that kids practice when they have a ball but not a hoop!

Shadow shooting is ESSENTIAL for beginners.

If your kids are really young, this is a crucial step to teach them HOW to shoot.

They can develop a muscle memory of how to shoot the ball correctly without getting frustrated over missed shots. Once their shooting form is solid, transition to this next drill…

Drill #3: Form Shooting (3 reps at each spot)

Form shooting is how MANY great shooters learned how to shoot. For young players, this WILL give them confidence as they WILL put the ball in the hoop more often than not.

If they shoot the ball correctly as they are doing this drill, then they will assume shooting the ball correctly means the ball will go in.

Phase #5: Passing Series (20 reps each pivot foot)

This is another tried-and-true drill to learn the basics of passing. You can do this by yourself. Or if you’re a coach… you can get turn this into a partner passing drill… or give everyone a ball and send them to the wall.

The focus should be on stepping into ALL the passes, putting as much power into each pass as possible.

As a young player, you might not have the strength to make full-court passes against the inevitable full-court press. To break the press, short quick passes to the middle of the court and then up the sideline will be the way to go.

Here are three types of passes to go through as you are doing this drill – and when to use them in a game (especially for young players). We are skipping baseball passes as that is an ADVANCED pass to make.

  1. Chest Passes – the preferred method of passing at this level; the chest pass will be the safest pass to make for beginner-level players
  2. Bounce passes – the bounce pass is most accurate whenever the target is closer than 10 feet away from the pass.
  3. Overhead passes – this pass is intended to go over the defense; only do this when there is NOBODY between the intended recipient of the pass and the goal.

Go with the following progression:

  • Do 20 reps with the right foot
  • 20 more with the left foot.

Like making layups, it is CRUCIAL that kids at the youth level know how to pass with both hands and off both feet.

That WILL advance their game that is much more relative to their peers.

When and How Should You Use the Drills Above? Here’s a Beginner Workout Schedule and Bonus Drills

As a beginner, you should practice 3-5 times per week and follow a logical progression.

Download this FREE Beginner Workout Schedule for a recommended plan to follow. The PDF gives you all the beginner drills and a recommended workout schedule to utilize. Plus you get a few bonus drills not included in this video.

I urge you to stick to these fundamental skills in this article. They will give you an amazing foundation of basketball skills for you to build on.

Now leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to help you if you have any questions. And be sure to check out the PDF download with the Beginner Workout Plan.

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