Teaching Skills

Teaching Skills

4 things you should NEVER do

By Greg Robinson

Program Setup Coordinator I Youth Football


Skills Training1.  Make a player feel bad about not successfully executing the drill/activity:

I wish I could give you a penny for every time a coach gets negative on kids. Have you heard these: “Come on Tommy! You’re killin us!” “We can’t win if you don’t catch the ball.” “You took your eyes off the ball!”

Remember, you are dealing with very fragile egos and confidence levels. Always be the encourager!

2.  Don’t assume the drill you are running is age or skill appropriate:

As an example, let’s say you are having the kids try to catch the ball before going out of bounds. This a very athletic task. If your players are only catching the ball 70-80% of the time just standing there, the success rate of trying to catch the ball heading out of bounds is going to be less than 50%. If you continue to permit this dropped pass rate at your practices, soon your players won’t even want to TRY to catch.

3.  Don’t worry about the details:

Yes, I think that is a double negative but you NEED to worry about the details. How do you get better at something? “Practice!” But make sure you are practicing the correct things. If you want your players to catch the ball at higher percentages, you must break down what happens when the player actually drops it. Are his hands or elbows too wide? What is he looking at when the ball comes to him? Are his pinkies or thumbs together? Is his confidence so low he is turning his head?

Do not continue to let your players fail at the drill without analyzing why they are failing. Break it down into small parts.

4.  Treat every player the same:

Shouldn’t I treat every player the same? Not in skill training. Every group you teach will be different. Very rarely will all of your players be at the same level. Do not make other players feel bad about their skills at the expense of trying to improve your best players. However, your goal should be to challenge every player, at his individual skill level. You can do this by splitting the group or making a drill more challenging for skilled players.

There is nothing wrong with telling your players that once you get good at this part of the drill (whatever that may be), you can graduate to more difficult steps/levels in the drill. Examples of making a football catching drill more difficult would be things like: catching with one hand, running a difficult route before making the catch, or doing pushups before the catch.

Coaching Addiction


Prolonged Exposure to Coaching can become Addictive


Danger SignThis past weekend I had the pleasure of traveling to Minnesota to meet with Coach Mike Rowe and in the process, see his Rocori Spartans play in the State High School 4A Semifinals in US Bank Stadium.  The Spartans quickly found themselves down 14 points early in the 1st quarter.  With so many things going wrong they continued to fight to the point that they held the lead until the final 1:21 of the 4th quarter.   Having gotten to know Coach Rowe over the last 4 years, I have no doubt his team’s resiliency in large part was a byproduct of his Character Program.  The Spartans ultimately ended up losing and in defeat Coach Rowe perfectly summed up how I feel as a youth coach after a tough season ending loss.

“So proud of these young men and how they handle adversity. Came up short today, but the loss is not why I am sad. All I ever want is one more day to coach these kids and hangout with my coaching peers.”

Getting a chance to watch our young players grow, become more confident, and to learn to fight through adversity are some of the most rewarding parts of being a youth coach.  Adding in the opportunity to build relationships with other coaches coaching can become quite addictive.

Youth Basketball Practice Plan – Part 2

Youth Basketball Practice Plan – Part 2

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Basketball PracticeWith the new basketball season upon us we thought we should expand on one of our previous posts concerning Youth Basketball Practice Planning and provide details on how we build our practice plans.  First, we determine what areas we want to focus on in every practice.  Like many Youth Basketball teams, we have limited practice and gym time so we know we can’t be great at everything.  Thus, we narrow our focus to 3 areas. For our teams that means attacking the basket off the break, defense, and rebounding.  If we do nothing else in a practice, we are going to work on those 3 areas.  Next we like to prioritize what other areas we want to focus on.  For example, half-court offense, out of bounds plays, press break, etc.  We then build our schedule in 5 – 10 minute segments.  It is worth noting that at times when we are introducing a concept or drill, we may go longer than 5 or 10 minutes, but we strive to go no longer than 20 minutes.  Below is a sample of the format we have used that has worked well for us over the years:

Wall Time Duration Drill Notes Drill Example Coach
7:30 PM 5 Defensive Closeout (No Ball) Coaching Points https://youtu.be/6iHZPCNR6Ac Coach

Wall Time

We include Wall Time help us keep on schedule.  As much as we plan and try to stay on plan, there are times where we might get off script.  When this happens and we want to get back on schedule we use Wall Time to simply determine where in practice we need to be.


Duration is simply the number of minutes we are planning for that portion of the practice.  Again, we strive to keep these in 5 to 10 minute segments wherever possible.


The name we use to refer to the Drill.


We use the Notes section for any Coaching Points we may want to emphasize for that Drill.

Drill Example

Video link showing an example of the Drill.


Coach assigned to running the Drill.


To further illustrate we have included a complete Sample of one of our early season practice plans:

Fullscreen Mode

If you are curious to learn more about the system we use, we encourage you take a look at our Attack the Tin System. If you need more drill ideas, we recommend you visit our library of youth basketball drills.

Maximizing Youth Basketball Scrimmages

Youth Basketball Scrimmages

(Mini Games)


Youth Basketball Scrimmage

For many Youth Basketball Coaches practice time is at a premium and if you are like us, you may struggle with balancing working on individual/team skills with scrimmaging.  Because practice time is limited when we do scrimmage we want to make sure we get the most out of our time.  One of the methods that have worked well for us through the years is playing a series of short games to 4 points with the losing team having to do something like sprints or push-ups.  Since we are constantly emphasizing rebounding we add the rule that a score off an offensive rebound counts as 4 points.  This really creates a sense of urgency and puts pressure on the players to play hard and since we are a pressing and fast breaking team this also has the added benefit of hiding some conditioning.

If you would like some other ideas to make the most of your Youth Basketball Scrimmages, we encourage you to take a look at the Maximizing Basketball Scrimmages article from coachingtoolbox.net.

Youth Basketball Drills – Pit Drill

Youth Basketball Drills

(Pit Rebounding Drill)


A drill we like to use to work on our rebounding skills is the Pit Drill.  This is a competitive drill that works on both defensive and offensive rebounding skills. Below is a youtube example of the drill:



Because we don’t like to have our players stand idle for too long, we have put our own little twist on the drill.

Youth Basketball Drills - WAR Rebounding Setup

Youth Basketball Drills – Pit Rebounding Setup

Drill Setup

  • Two lines on the base line for Guards and Forwards/Centers (Defense).
  • Two lines on the elbows for Guards and Forwards/Centers (Offense).
  • Coach at the free throw line with a basketball.
  • The first player in each defensive line positions themselves about midway up the lane.


Drill Execution

  1. Coach takes a shot making sure to try and miss.
  2. Defensive players block out their offensive player and try to secure the ball.
  3. Offensive players work to beat the block out to get the ball.
  4. Rotate players after each shot.
  5. First team to 20 rebounds, offensive or defensive, wins the drill.
  6. We switch defense and offense when the combined score of both teams equals 20.

If you need more drill ideas, please take a look at our YouTube library of youth basketball drills.

Youth Basketball Drills – WAR Drill

Youth Basketball Drills

(WAR Rebounding Drill)


Over the years one of our favorite drills to run has been the Michigan State WAR Rebounding Drill. The drill stresses blocking out, as well as transition offense and defense. Below is a youtube example of the drill:



Another drill we like to use to emphasizes both defensive close outs and blocking out is the Scramble Box Out Drill.  Below is a youtube example of the drill:



Combining the two drills above we have come up with our version of the WAR Rebounding drill.

Youth Basketball Drills - WAR Rebounding Setup

Youth Basketball Drills – WAR Rebounding Setup

Drill Setup

  • 1 Basketball
  • Split players into two equal teams.
  • Assign each player a position number (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
  • Place the team starting on Offense in the corners, wings, and point.
  • Place the team starting on Defense in a single file line starting just in front of the basket and under the free throw line.



Youth Basketball Drills - WAR Rebounding

Youth Basketball Drills – WAR Rebounding

Drill Execution

  1. Coach passes to an Offensive player and calls a Defensive player’s number.
  2. Defensive player executes a close out on Offensive player.  For example, Coach yells 3 telling #3 to close out on the shooter.
  3. Offensive player immediately takes shot.
  4. All Defensive players locate an Offensive player to block out.
  5. Play continues until Offense scores or Defense secures rebound.
  6. If Offense scores, the team on Defense executes their secondary fast break.
  7. If the Defensive team secures rebound, they execute their fast break with the Offensive team transitioning to Defense.
  8. Once the original Defensive team either scores or is successfully defended, the teams flip roles on the other end of the floor (i.e. Offense goes to Defense, Defense goes to Offense) and we restart the drill.

Coaching Points

  • Scoring:
    1. 1 point – Offense scores on initial shot.
    2. 1 point – Offense secures rebound on initial shot.
    3. 2 points – Offense scores off of Offensive rebound.
    4. 1 point – Defense secures rebound on initial shot.
    5. 1 point – Defense scores in transition.
  • Execute drill for set period of time (e.g., 10 minutes).  At the end of the drill the losing team either runs or does pushups.

If you need more drill ideas, please take a look at our YouTube library of youth basketball drills.

Pack Line Defense for Youth Basketball

Pack Line Defense for Youth Basketball

Youth Basketball Defense


If you have followed College Basketball the last couple of seasons there is a good chance that you have heard of the Pack Line Defense utilized by the University of Virginia.  Because of the makeup of the Pack Line Defense we believe it has great application at the Youth Basketball level.  Over the past several years using many of the Pack Line defensive principles with a few nuances for Youth Basketball we have developed what we call the Brat-Pack.  The Brat-Pack Defense plays to the percentages that most Youth Basketball players are neither great outside shooters, ball handlers, or passers.   We believe it combines the best qualities of Man and Zone defenses:

  1. There is constant pressure on the ball.
  2. Gap and Help defenders protect the paint/lane area and limit the number of layups enticing the opposition to shoot lower percentage shots from the outside.
  3. It takes offensive players out of their comfort zone by constantly forcing them to their weak hand.
  4. There is no confusion on box out assignments.
  5. It keeps kids engaged and involved.
  6. It is simple to learn and can be taught with limited practice time.
  7. It helps average teams be more competitive.

Below is a brief video of one our Youth Basketball teams using the Brat-Pack Defense:



If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to take a look at our Youth Basketball – Brat-Pack Defense eBook below:


Beating the Press in Youth Basketball

Beating the Press in Youth Basketball

7 Tips for Youth Basketball Coaches


The Press in Youth Basketball can be both devastating and demoralizing for your team if not properly prepared for.  Below are some Coaching Points we use when teaching our Youth Basketball teams how to handle the Press:

Tips for Beating the Press in Youth Basketball

Tips for Beating the Press in Youth Basketball


  1. The best way to beat the Press after a made basket is to attack it before it can set up.
  2. The Press is beaten with the pass and not the dribble.
  3. Teach the inbound passer to avoid initiating the Press Break from behind the backboard.
  4. Teach the inbound passer that after a made basket they can run the baseline if needed.
  5. Teach your players to face the Press and not turn their backs to the defense.
  6. Show your players where the Danger Zones are on the court and teach them to stay out of them.
  7. Don’t fear the Press, but rather see it as an opportunity to score.

If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to take a look at our Youth Basketball – Attacking the Press eBook below:

Youth Basketball Practice Plan

Youth Basketball Practice Plan

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” – Benjamin Franklin


Youth Basketball Practice PlanAs a youth basketball coach we often don’t have all of the practice time we would like.  Because of this fact practice time is precious and should not be wasted.  Consequently we feel one of the most important things you can do as a youth coach is have a written practice plan for every practice.  When developing your basketball practice plan consider the following:

  1. Practice Priorities.  What must you get accomplished for that practice.
  2. Drills and their lengths.  We try to keep our between 5 and 10 minutes.
  3. Coaching points and responsibilities for Assistant Coaches.
  4. Water Breaks.


When choosing drills for your basketball practice plan consider the quote below:

“Don’t mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden


Understand the purpose of a drill and what it teaches and how it fits into your overall plan.  Don’t run into the trap of using a drill just because it was what your former coaches used when you were a player.

If you would like to learn more, we encourage you to take a look at our Youth Basketball – Coaching Guide eBook below:

Youth Basketball Practice Plan – Part 2

Youth Basketball Coaching Clinics

Youth Basketball Coaching Clinics


Coaching Youth BasketballTo expand our clinic offerings to Youth Basketball we have added the following series of clinics to our Clinic Schedule:

We are also looking for Youth Basketball Coaches that share our passion for the game that would also be willing to share their knowledge.  If you might be interested in hosting a clinic with us, please contact us using the form below:


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