At higher levels of basketball, defense is at least as important as offense, as college and pro teams typically score on close to half of their possessions. Youth games, however, tend to be low scoring because it takes time for beginners to learn the fundamentals of handling the basketball. As a result, kids generally begin learning about basketball by performing a variety of shooting, passing and ball-handling drills.
The obvious first thing for basketball players to learn is how to dribble the ball, which can be a challenge for very young children whose motor skills are developing. Typically, each player receives a ball and simply begins bouncing it. Once they learn to control the ball while standing still, formal dribbling drills can follow. Passing drills come next, with players being taught both straight and bounce passes. Once the players can move the ball around the court by dribbling and passing, they can learn how to shoot, starting with layups and short set shots. Beginners may also receive some rebounding practice as part of a shooting drill, since there will be plenty of missed shots. Defensive drills will eventually follow, but at the start most players will simply be told to position themselves between the girls they’re guarding and the basket.
Divide your players into two or more teams and line them up, evenly spaced, on one of the court’s baselines. Have the first player in each line dribble to another point on the court, depending on the girls’ skill level. If they’re fairly comfortable dribbling, for example, have them dribble to the far baseline and back. Otherwise, select a closer target, such as the half-court line or an extension of the free-throw line. The returning player gives the ball to the next player in line, who dribbles the same distance. The pattern repeats until each player has dribbled the designated distance as the teams compete to see which can finish first. As the players improve, make the drill more challenging by having them dribble down the court with their right hand and back with their left hand.
Players should be taught the fundamentals of how to throw a chest pass, a two-hand overhead pass and a bounce pass before beginning formal drills. “Monkey in the Middle” is a common passing drill in which three or more players spread out around a circle -- such as the free-throw circle -- while a defender stands in the middle. The passers throw the ball back and forth while the boy in the middle tries to intercept or deflect the ball. Once he touches a pass, he switches places with the passer. Otherwise, set a time limit for each player’s turn in the middle. If you perform the drill with more than five players, the passer cannot throw the ball to the boys directly at his sides. Encourage the passers to fake some passes and to throw both direct and bounce passes. The drill is mainly designed to build passing skills, but also offers some defensive training for the “monkey” in the middle.
Set the players in two lines, parallel with the sides of the lane. Position raw beginners just outside the lane, perhaps 10 feet from the basket. The first player in the shooting line shoots a layup, taking just one or two dribbles, while the lead player in the second line rebounds the ball and passes to the next player in the shooting line. The shooter joins the end of the rebounding line, while the rebounder goes to the end of the shooting line, so each player alternates between shooting and rebounding. If your players are comfortable dribbling and passing, start the lines farther from the basket so the shooter must dribble farther to reach the hoop while the rebounder must throw a longer pass. After each player shoots several layups, move the shooting line to the other side of the basket. To make the drill more challenging, have players alternate their shooting hands and have the rebounders alternate between chest and bounce passes.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.