The most common question I receive from parents is, what drills should my child do to improve their game the most. And that answer definitely varies from child to child because different kids need to work on different things. But since I have been asked this question so much I wanted to give parents a list of what I believe to be the best drills for young players to use that will give them the best results in different areas of basketball.
Working on your game is a wonderful thing that can help you out tremendously. But if you are doing drills that will not translate to the game or your working on things that you don't currently do in games or things that you aspire to do in games in the near future, Then you are wasting your time. So check out some of the best youth drills that will have the greatest impact.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN IN THIS POST
How to perform some of the most effective drills around.
Why basic fundamentals are the building blocks to all the spectacular moves you see on television.
Why working on small things can lead to big results.
Why focusing on your strengths is the key to success on the court.
1. FORM SHOOTING
If shooting is the most important skill in basketball, then form shooting is the most important basketball drill.
If done correctly, form shooting builds muscle memory and reinforces correct shooting form that translates to game shooting.
This simple drill is critical for youth player and can greatly improve shooting for all who consistently apply this drill when training.
It is very easy to rush through form shooting without thinking, but that defeats the purpose of the drill. Every shot needs to be carefully focused on with attention to detail and attempted to be done exactly the same. This drill is all about developing perfect shooting form, so once you get in a game you use the proper form automatically.
Stand close to the basket, only about 3 feet from the basket.
Square your feet up with the basket around shoulders width apart with your shooting hands foot slightly forward.
Bend your knees slightly, not as much as you would to shoot your normal jump shot, but get some good knee flex.
Place the ball in your shooting pocket. Which is usually around your waist or stomach area.
Bring the ball up to your shoulder area with your shooting arm directly under the ball in a straight vertical line.
Your non-shooting hand should be on the side of the ball. Make sure it is not on top of the ball or in front of the ball, this is a common mistake.
The ball should only be touching your fingers and the top part of your hand. It should not touch your palm.
Spread your fingers wide but not to the point of being uncomfortable.
Your middle of your shooting hand should be in the center of the ball.
Shoot the ball all while making sure your arm, feet, and everything are in the correct positions. Make sure you use your legs as well.
You should go from the ball in your shooting pocket to your shot in one smooth motion.
At the end of the shot, you should be up on his toes. This is important because you generate strength from their legs to shoot the ball.
Lastly, hold your follow through high pointed in the direction of the basket with your fingers pointing down. A lot of coaches call this the gooseneck or reaching in the cookie jar on the top shelf.
Get the ball out of the net and repeat the process.
There are other variations to this drill and they are all extremely helpful. One is one-handed form shooting where you apply your shooting technique with just one hand and excludes your guide hand from the equation.
Also, there's form shooting where you spin the ball back to yourself and walk into your shot and form shooting where you pivot into a shot. These are all helpful and are designed to have you focus on your shooting form, so you can make every part of your shot as perfect as possible without thinking about it.
2. THE MIKAN DRILL
George Mikan was the first superstar of the NBA. He was a big man that dominated close to the basket. This drill is geared toward finishing around the basket with either hand and footwork.
Finishing at the basket is a crucial skill to have, all of the best offensive players are extremely good at finishing plays over and around the defense with both hands.
Kyrie Irving is one of the best finishers below the rim, he uses lots of spins and weird angles and still manages to get the ball in the hole. For a young player, this is a crucial skill that can make you an elite scorer. This drill is the best at getting you comfortable finishing with both hands.
This is the best drill to work on shooting close to the basket, it's a great warm-up drill as well. When doing this drill be sure to focus on your footwork as well as finishing with both hands.
Start directly in front of the rim close enough for a layup.
Take a big step with your left foot towards the right side of the basket and jump off of that same left foot.
Lift your right knee up as you shoot your layup off the backboard with your right hand.
Get your rebound as it comes through the net.
Immediately take a big step with your right foot to the left side of the basket, and jump off that same left foot.
Lift your left knee up as you shoot your layup off the backboard with your left hand.
Get your rebound out of the net and repeat the process again.
Other variations of this drill that are also helpful are the two foot, Mikan. This is where instead of jumping off one foot for your layup you take a one-two step and jump off of two feet for your layup.
There is also the reverse Mikan, this is where you face the opposite direction towards the other end of the court. The footwork is the same the only difference is that you will shoot your layups back over your head for reverse layups. With this drill, you will be finishing in the around the basket like a pro.
3. FULL COURT 2-ON-2 AND 3-ON-3 BASKETBALL
I think playing full court 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 basketball is one of the best things a young player can do for their game.
While in college during the offseason our coach did not allow us to play 5 on 5. The most players on a team he wanted were three and he always wanted it to be full court.
Many of us complained about it and I eventually asked him his reasoning behind this. First off he said it keeps you involved in the game, with only one or two teammates your going to be involved in almost every play on offense and defense. Therefore you are getting more practice because there are no plays where you just stand in the corner or the wing for the entire play.
Secondly, since you are involved in every play and running full court you have to be in top condition. after playing 3 on 3 full court 5 on 5 is a piece of cake because there are much more opportunities to rest in 5 on 5.
And the last reason he gave was that it makes you more aggressive. Because there is much more space on the court with fewer people and also less help defense it only makes sense to attack the basket. Once players get tired you will see more and more contested jump shots going up. But fight that temptation of taking the easy way out dig deep and fight to get layups.
I decided to leave out instructions because I thought 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 where pretty self-explanatory. If you have a gym full of people I would make the games to 3 or 5 points ones and two's with the losing team off and the winning team continue on against the next challengers. This is extremely fun and can keep you in the gym for hours playing for bragging rights and improving your skills at the same time.
4. MARAVICH BALLHANDLING DRILLS
Pistol Pete Maravich was one of the best ball handlers in the history of the NBA. He was known for his entertaining still of play with tricky ball handling and passes, these drills focus primarily on ball-handling, hand-eye coordination, and hand quickness.
These are stationary drills where you stand in one spot while taking the ball around your body or dribbling it around your body.
Ball Slaps - Take turns slapping and gripping the basketball alternating left hand then right to help get a feel for the ball.
Finger taps - Hold your arms out straight from your body with the ball on your fingertips. Tap the ball back and forth from one hand to the other. next with your arms still straight take the ball up over your head then down below your knees while tapping the ball back and forth. This also helps you get a feel for the basketball.
Circles - These are done around your head, waist, and knees. You simply move the ball around your head in a circular motion from one hand to the other as quickly as possible. After you finish going in one direction reverse the ball and take it around your head in the other direction. Next repeat this process around your waist and then your knees.
Around The World - This is just like circles except your taking the ball up and down your body, you take the ball one time around your head then one time around your waist and one time around your knees. Then you go back up your body from knees to waist to head again and keep repeating this process.
Figure 8 - Make a figure 8 through your legs with your feet wide apart, taking the ball around one leg then the next.
Right, Left Leg Circles - Spread your feet apart and take the ball around your leg in a circular motion. Be sure to go in both directions around each leg.
Figure 8 Dribbling - This is the same as the figure 8 above except this time you are dribbling the ball around your legs in a figure 8 motion. keep the ball low below your knees and be sure to dribble with your finger pads.
Side To Side Dribble - Get in an athletic stance with the ball in your right hand and dribble the ball in a V formation in front of yourself. Repeat with your left hand and make sure to dribble the ball hard and crisp.
Front To Back Dribble - Get in an athletic stance with the ball in your right hand and dribble the ball in a V formation on your right side. The ball should bounce by your foot on the right side. Repeat on the left side of your body with your left hand.
5. BEAT THE PRO
Beat the pro is a very fun game that helped me improve a lot while I was growing up. The best benefit was that beat the pro kept me in the gym for long periods of time. I would not leave the gym until I beat Joe Dumars, Dominique Wilkins, or whatever star I was playing against. Hopefully, it can be just as helpful to you on your basketball journey.
First select a player you want to play against, Lebron, Steph, Harden or even a teammate or neighbor. They don't have to be around for you to play against them.
Next, select what type of shot you want to compete with. It can be corner threes, one dribble pull-ups, or any type of shot you can think off.
Now you must decide how many points the pro gets when you miss. The pro should get more points if your good at shooting from the spot you chose and less if your not as good at shooting from that spot.
Finally, start shooting from your predetermined spot and you get one point for a make and the pro gets whatever you decided on, and you keep shooting until you or the pro has twelve points.
The second benefit I got from this game is that it is fun and grew my love for basketball. Days when I didn’t have anyone to play basketball with I would get my ball head to the park and play against Jordan, it was very exciting to me and I would love to play even if I was all by myself.
Another benefit I got from this game is that it made me a better shooter. When I first started playing this game I would lose all the time and that was frustrating so I had to focus on shooting and how to become a better shooter so I could win the game. It made me value every shot If I was going to win I needed every point.
Lastly, the game can grow with you. You will never become too good to play beat the pro. If you usually can make 12 shots in a row you should have your pro get 12 points per your miss. That way if you miss one shot you lose. You can also adjust your pro points depending on where your shooting from. If your great at shooting from the elbow your pro can get 4 or 6 points when you shoot from there. If your less efficient shooting threes your pro can get 1 point per your miss.
Beat the pro is a great game and I had a lot of fun playing it and still do. I hope this game can help you take your game beyond your limits. Watch the video above for more info on how to play the game.
6. JUMP STOP AND PIVOT DRILL
A jump stop is a technique of hopping from one foot and landing on 2 feet. This is an excellent drill you can incorporate into your training and watch your footwork improve. This is an absolutely critical drill for your development. This drill will lower the number of times you travel, improve your balance, and improve your ability to pivot and create space. It's very simple, but also very important and effective.
Start on the baseline with a basketball
Dribble towards the other end of the court at about half speed.
When you get to the free throw line jump stop and then pivot three or four times until your facing the original way you were when you first jump stopped. Make sure you work on all the different pivots they are front pivot left foot, front pivot right foot, back pivot left foot, back pivot right foot.
Start dribbling again and jump stop and pivot at half court, the other free throw line, and the baseline.
Turn around and repeat this process many times.
Make sure you focus on not traveling, stay low when pivoting and keep your knees bent and butt down in a triple threat stance. Master this drill and you can cut down on your turnovers tremendously.
7. CONE SPRINT, BACK PEDDLE, SLIDES
A lot of time on the court is spent changing direction, and transitioning from sprinting back peddling and sliding and that's exactly what this drill works on. When kids first start working on this drill they usually fall a lot but don't worry about that just get up and continue the drill.
Set up cones zigzagging down the court from the lane line to the sideline 8 cones should be enough to reach the whole court.
Start at the first cone and sprint to the next cone. Try to change direction as quickly as possible plant your foot push off and head to the next cone until you're at the other baseline
Next time instead of sprinting the cones you are going to back peddle (this is where many people bite the dust) through the cones and after that it will be defensive slides.
Next time you are going to transition from one thing to another your options are sprinting to sliding you will sprint to the first cone. When you get there pivot and slide to the next cone pivot and sprint. You can also sprint to back peddling, slide to sprint, slide to back peddle, back peddle to sprint, and back peddle to slide.
8. CONE ZIG ZAG DRIBBLING
This drill is designed to working on changes of direction and different dribble moves. It's a simple drill with basic moves but it builds a good foundation and gets you familiar with these common moves.
Set up cones zigzagging down the court from the lane line to the sideline 8 cones should be enough to reach the whole court.
Start on the baseline with the basketball dribble towards the first cone with the ball in your outside hand as fast as you can go under control.
Once you get to the cone perform a dribble move Crossover, Between the legs, Behind the back, or Spin move.
Change directions and head to the next cone repeat this all the way down the court.
Repeat this process with another dribble move.
Once you have mastered these basic dribbles and can add triple moves at each cone and the possibilities are endless. you can do a double crossover between the legs, or crossover between the legs behind the back. It is up to you and your imagination as to the combinations you want to try.
9. CHASE CONTEST & TURN AROUND CONTEST
This is another drill that you need a partner to do. Its possible to be a really good shooter in practice and not so great in the game. This can be because while your training no one is trying to stop you or block your shot. Well, these drills can fix that and there extremely fun.
First is chase and contest, put cones at the elbow and the low block on the same side.
you start at the elbow with the ball while your training partner starts at the low block.
toss the ball across the free throw line with backspin on the ball. The ball has to make it to at least the other elbow. Run to catch the ball and shoot.
As soon as you toss the ball that's the cue for your training partner to chase you around the elbow cone and try to block your shot.
You can switch back and forth between you and your training partner and go up to a certain amount of points.
Next is Turn Around Contest, This time you start at the three-point line. Your training partner starts with his heels on the free throw line facing the basket.
You take one dribble right or left and take a pull-up jump shot.
Once your training partner hears the ball bounce he turns around and tries to block your shot.
Switch back and forth between you and your training partner and go up to a certain amount of points.
These drills are great fun and a fantastic way to get used to shooting with a hand in your face. Practice this enough and jumpers in the game with a defender closing out will be a piece of cake.
ARE YOU READY TO BECOME A GREAT YOUTH BASKETBALL PLAYER?
Now that you have the keys to improving your game, it's time to get out there and practice them. If you have desire and access to a ball and rim there is no excuse for you not being a great youth basketball player.
There is no time like the present to start taking action.
Let me know in the comments if you need more help.
FITDECK CARDS- These cards are great for creating your own workout and for the price it cant be beat.
DRIBBLING HEADS UP SPEC’S- I'm sure you have seen these around, and for good reason. They are great for training you to keep your head up while dribbling. They maybe a little challenging for beginners but they will be a great benefit and a great investment in the end.
DRIBBLEUP SMART BASKETBALL - the best smart basketball on the market for improving your ball handling.
COMPLETE CONDITIONING FOR BASKETBALL- This is a very comprehensive book on basketball specific training schedules and methods. The author keeps it simple and does not try to overload the reader with too much. He gets straight to the point.
How To Be Better At Basketball In 21 Days- This book has basketball drills that can help you develop basic skills, tips on how to increase your basketball shooting accuracy, and how to toughen your mental state so that you play with confidence, courage, and control.
Audible- You can listen to them if you don't like to read
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