Basketball is a great sport for your child to play; it encourages hand-eye coordination, fitness, teamwork, and most importantly, it is lots of fun! But there are some important basketball skills your child will need to know before they can become the next Lebron James. Read on to learn some of the essential basketball skills and drills for kids to master.
Ball Control Skills
Ball control skills are an integral part of youth basketball skill development; all players need to feel comfortable with the ball when playing basketball and this can be achieved by handling the ball as much as possible by practicing the following ball control skills:
Catching and Passing
Catching and passing are the most essential skills to learn and perfect when playing basketball. While catching is a basic motor skill typically developed by children at an early age, practice and repetition is advised and this skill can be incorporated into other drills and games to help players improve their skills.
Passing the ball is also integral to playing basketball and there are a variety of different passing techniques, including chest pass, push pass, bounce pass, and overhead pass.
- CHEST PASS
The chest pass is often the default pass, best used when you are a reasonable distance from your pass target, by passing the ball from your chest with two hands, aiming for your teammate’s chest.
- PUSH PASS
This pass is similar to the chest pass, except you push with one hand while taking a step to create space from your defender.
- BOUNCE PASS
The bounce pass is frequently used when your on-ball defender has their hands high, or when they are taller than you and you still need to make a pass. Aim for the bounce to occur at the ¾ mark of the distance between yourself and your target, so the ball arrives at their chest.
- OVERHEAD PASS
You can use the overhead pass to quickly move the ball from one side of the court to the other.
If training in a team, have two lines of players set up at one end of the court in pairs, about 3 metres away from each other, and facing their partner. Players both start running down the court parallel while passing the ball back and forth. It’s important that players mix up their pass types, (chest, bounce etc) and move quickly. This can also be done with yourself and your child, and to make it competitive, each time a pass is missed or dropped, both players have to do one burpee to encourage accurate passing and catching.
Dribbling is another important skill when playing basketball; essentially bouncing the ball repeatedly with control. The purpose of dribbling is to move the ball around the basketball court when a pass is not possible or to improve a player’s position before passing or shooting. A player may dribble the ball with either hand and can change hands but cannot dribble with both hands at the same time. Once a player stops dribbling, they must pass the ball or shoot; they cannot dribble again. It is important to be able to dribble while not looking at the ball; you need your focus to watch for other players and obstacle.
Set up five chairs or cones down the basketball court in a row, about a metre apart. One at a time, dribble as fast as possible up the court while weaving around the obstacles. This drill forces players to use both hands while keeping their eyes off the ball to watch for the obstacles. Make it more competitive by timing players to see who can compete for the best time, or if training alone, have your child try to beat their own best time.
Shooting is the most significant basic basketball skill which all players need to practice, after all, scoring points helps teams to win! Practice where possible with a standard basketball hoop and backboard, the rectangle on the backboard provides a helpful guide of where to aim when you are shooting within the key area; if the player is standing directly in front of the hoop, then the player should aim to hit the centre of the rectangle on the backboard. If the player is standing on the left of the key, then they should aim for the left-hand top corner of the backboard, and vice-versa for the right hand side. With enough practice, shooting hoops should become easier.
HORSE is a very fun and simple game you can play with a whole team, or just two players. The rules are relatively simple, whichever player was chosen to go first will choose a spot to shoot from. If their shot makes it in the net, all of the remaining participants must attempt the exact same shot. If any of the players fail to make the shot, they will receive a letter of the word “horse,” starting with “H.” When a player misses five shots, acquiring each letter of HORSE, they are eliminated. The winner is determined when there is only one player left standing. This game is fun to play and encourages healthy competition between players, while also encouraging players to practice shooting from different and more challenging positions.
Players should always “follow the shot” when shooting in case the ball does not go in so that they can be in a good position to contend for a rebound. Rebounding is all about positioning; as soon as a shot goes up, the defensive player should turn, facing the basket to watch where the ball goes, while being aware of the offense player, aiming to keep them away from the ball.
Drill: Three players, one on the left corner of the free-throw line, one in the middle of the free-throw line and the other at the right corner set up a defensive position, while three other players take an offensive position, opposite the defenders. The coach shoots the ball and the defensive players practice blocking the offensive players while all six go for the rebound. This can also be done to some extent one on one, where your child can practice defending the rebound from different positions, while you shoot, and your child can block you from taking the rebound while aiming to secure it for themselves.
Defence and strategy skills
There are two basic defensive strategies in basketball: man-to-man, and zone. Each has different advantages and drawbacks.
In this defense strategy, each player is assigned to guard a player on the other team.
When playing, the defensive player simply follows wherever his or her offensive player goes, limiting their opportunities to shoot, rebound, and pass to teammates.
The easiest way to teach players to keep track of who they are guarding is by memorising the opposing player’s jersey number.
The advantage of this defence strategy is that it is easy for players to ensure the other team is covered and enables the defensive team to put effective pressure on the offensive. The disadvantage mainly lies where players are mismatched, and slower or weaker defenders may have trouble keeping up with their offensive opponents.
Zone defense is a strategy in which each player covers a specific area of the court, and the defender begins to guard an opponent when the opponent enters the defender’s designated zone. Once the offensive player leaves the defender’s zone, the defender continues guarding their zone instead of following the offensive player as they would in a man-to-man defense.
There are many in the basketball world who believe zone defense can be detrimental to young players, and indeed some leagues have even banned using this defense tactic for younger age groups, because it can limit the development of individual and team skills. That being said, once teams have mastered their fundamental skills and have man-to-man defence down pat, zone defence can be a useful tactic to have up your sleeve.
The main advantages of zone defense are that it requires less endurance, so your team should have more energy throughout the game, plus this defensive strategy makes it harder for the offense to exploit a team’s weaker defenders since their teammates can step in to help them.
The best drills for learning these two defence types, are simply to play the game! Organise some friendly games with another team, or if your child’s team is big enough, they can play 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 games to practice the different defence strategies.
By practicing these basic basketball drills for kids, your child’s confidence playing basketball will grow. Now that you have the basic skills for basketball, your child will need the proper sporting equipment as well!
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