When teaching basketball skills to fifth graders, one of the most important factors is to keep it uncomplicated and engaging. Young kids will end up discouraged or confused if you push them too hard. Practice drills should focus on the fundamentals of basketball such as dribbling, passing, shooting, defense and teamwork.
Begin each practice with dynamic warm-up drills to prepare the kids for more rigorous activity and prevent game injuries. These drills can include a simple jogging and stretching session or you can make it more basketball-focused by requiring the players to dribble the ball while jogging and stretching. Using the ball for figure-eights around the legs also engages the muscles of the entire body, while helping to improve ball-handling skills.
As a paramount skill for every basketball player, starting kids dribbling early can help to make them first-rate ball handlers. One effective dribbling practice requires the kids to dribble up and down the floor in different patterns. For example, have them dribble straight up and down, zigzagging the court and alternate dribbling between the legs and behind the back. Have each fifth grader practice dribbling while a teammate plays defense so that they are comfortable with the pressure of an opponent.
Sharp, crisp and accurate passes provide one of the most effective ways to move the ball around the floor and avoid turnovers. The three-man and five-man weave drills offer a useful way to practice passing, as well as enhance coordination and communication between team members. Once the kids reach the end of the court, they can transition into a two-on-one or three-on-two scenario to bring the ball back down the court or simply continue the weave drill. A clean game of keep away also helps improve fifth graders' passing skills. Have the kids implement the bounce pass when possible as a good practice exercise.
The only way to improve elementary players' shooting skills is to have them shoot the ball repetitively. Engage them in free throws drills during every single practice. Have them practice shooting form from different locations around the key and floor with no defense. Put your players into game situations by having them shoot over a defender or putting time on the clock and seeing how many shots they can make in a designated amount of time. Shooting games such as "Horse," "Around the World" and "Lightning" are enjoyable ways for your fifth graders to become better shooters.
If you've been coaching basketball for a while, you've heard that "defense wins games." This isn't just a saying, as without defense your team will get outplayed and outscored every time. Since fifth graders are just starting out in their basketball careers, it's important to teach them the fundamentals of defense. Drills that help them master the movement of the defensive slide are a good place to start. Set up cones and have them slide back and forth between or around them, emphasizing proper technique. Have your players keep their hands behind their back to encourage use of the body rather than the hands for defense; this may help keep them out of foul trouble in games.
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