Common questions from new youth basketball coaches include, “What plays, if any, should I teach my youth basketball team?” It really depends on the age of your players. Coaching youth basketball involves working with parents as much as your players.
On offense, basketball plays involve getting players free to shoot without defenders’ hands in their faces. Defense involves keeping opponents from getting free of harassment to shoot freely.
If you’re coaching 5- & 6-year olds you need plays that keep it very simple. These players cannot retain more than two or three basic plays–and only after you practice them many times. Teaching strategy is counter-productive as until your players become 9- to 10-years old, they cannot develop the basic skills or mental acuity to remember many plays until they get a bit older.
Basic Play Theory
- Clear lanes for cutters to make layups. Have four players cutting, taking defenders with them. Create open lanes for ball handler to drive or take pass while driving to hoop, resulting in uncontested layup from two to five feet from basket.
- Give and go. The traditional give and go, used by high school, college and NBA teams, works for young players, too. Pass ball to player in the post or lane. Passer breaks for the basket. Post player gives the ball back (usually a bounce pass) to the cutter for an easy layup.
- Wing player free shots. Teach players to keep moving to get free and “create space.” Depending on player ages and sizes, get the ball to players on the wings, from seven to fifteen feet from basket. You can designate a specific player (best shooter) or instruct the player with the ball to get the ball to the first open person, who then takes the shot.
These three simple plays can be practiced over and over. Even six- to eight-year olds can remember these plays and you can use these as fun practice drills. You can then use scrimmage time to call the plays and walk through the process or go at full speed. Your players will develop skills and muscle memory that can be used in games.