Youth basketball is all about the basics. Players at 6 and 7 years old are usually just beginning their relationship with organized basketball. These players should be taught the game's basic fundamentals. Complex offensive and defensive strategies will only confuse them. Youth basketball players also need to learn how to play as a team. There are many drills and coaching techniques specific for youth basketball.
Teaching proper shooting form to youth basketball players can be challenging. Most youth basketball players want to shoot immediately when they get the ball, heaving the ball toward the basket, hoping it will go in. Teaching proper shooting form takes patience, as many players become frustrated when it doesn’t work right away. Teach the kids to use one hand to shoot the ball and the other to help guide it. Many children will struggle with this initially because it demands more strength than they're used to. Teaching them to shoot with proper form will help them develop their muscles faster.
Most players 6 and 7 years old throw the basketball instead of passing it with proper form. Strength again becomes an issue. It’s tough for player to properly throw a chest pass or bounce pass long distances. Start training them to throw short passes first. This won’t take nearly as much strength, allowing them to practice their form. Increase passing distances when their form becomes more efficient. Some players won’t progress as fast as others. Allow players who progress faster to increase their passing distance during drills. Pair up players during drills by skill level. Younger players won’t benefit much from practicing with someone who is overwhelmingly better.
Teaching dribbling might be the toughest challenge you face as a youth basketball coach. A lot of players will be able to dribble well with their strong hand, but almost all will struggle with their weak hand. Have the children dribble with their weak hand as much as possible. They will struggle and get frustrated at first, but they will eventually get better. Teach them to dribble with their eyes forward and head up, and have them dribble while walking up and down the floor. Dribbling while standing still will help, but not as much if they practice dribbling while moving.
While players will understand to stay in front of the person they are guarding when that person has the ball, off-the-ball defending is tough to teach. Teach them to leave a little room and play the passing lanes. A good rule of thumb is to stand close to your assigned player when they are one pass away. Teaching weak-side defense will be a struggle. Choose the complexity of your drills by how well the majority of your players understand the concept. Teach all players to bend their knees and shuffle their feet when guarding.
Younger players sometimes forget they are playing with four other players on the court. Six and 7-year-olds get the ball and immediately dribble to a corner or toward the basket. Teaching them floor spacing and ball movement will help shape them into good team players over time.