Coaching Youth Basketball
Teaching the Art of Passing

Coaching youth basketball can be frustrating, no doubt, especially when you want to push ahead into some aspect of the game - strategy, perhaps, or more advanced offensive skills - but you find your players just don't have a strong enough base of fundamental basketball skills to handle the more advanced skills. But we need to keep in mind that we are one step in the player development process, and at the youth level, a big part of that development is going to be skills like passing.

If all players were taught basketball fundamentals properly from the beginning, life would be so much easier. So many players, by the time they get to the varsity level, have picked up so many bad habits, from playing at the neighborhood basketball courts, from watching too much And One, or from simply never being taught the basics to begin with, that every year seems to begin with breaking bad habits and instilling good ones, introducing proper form when we should be extending already ingrained basketball skills.

Maybe passing is the most important offensive skill to teach, since everyone on the team needs to know how to pass well. Not everyone will need to shoot well, especially if the player will be playing inside the key most times. And not everyone needs to be terribly proficient at dribbling - as long as you have a couple of good ball handlers on the team, that should do it. But every player needs to know how to pass the basketball properly, because every player will need to pass the ball in every game.

Coaching Youth Basketball
Basics First: Teaching the Fundamentals of Passing

coaching youth basketball - passing fundamentalsFundamentals First

Start off every season with a review of passing fundamentals. Break down the four main passes - chest pass, bounce pass, one-handed push pass, and overhead pass - demonstrate proper form for each to your players, and then set them up in some basic passing drills so you can watch their form and make changes wherever necessary. Really concentrate on proper fundamentals as you coach these drills - the more often they pass properly, the more their muscles learn how to pass and the more likely they will pass properly in the game.

While this is essential when coaching youth basketball, it is also important to do with older players - in the off-season, it always seems that proper passing skills are the first thing forgotten!

Are good passing fundamentals important? You bet they are! If you want some proof, watch the NCAA. Good college ball can be a great teacher of basics done well. Skip past the NBA unless you are looking for some entertainment - too many players in the pros have long ago forgotten good fundamentals and only focus on the highlight reel, although to press home the point, if you check the lists of league and team MVPs in the NBA, you are less likely to find the flashy players and more likely to find names of players who use the basics exceptionally well.

Coaching Youth Basketball
Introducing Advanced Passing Drills

coaching youth basketball - advanced passing drillsThe No-Look Pass

Once you have spent a couple of days focusing on basic passing drills, hammering home good passing fundamentals, and you feel your players have a good grasp on basic passing skills. The shuffle drill is a good extension from the basic drills listed above, and a good "middle ground" before introducing the three man weave.

Another advanced drill that helps develop good fundamentals but also quickness and hand-eye coordination is the point passing drill (this is also a good drill to use before games, to get players warmed up on the sidelines.)

And since we are on the topic of passing drills to use during pre-game warm ups, a half court 3 man weave does a good job of getting players warmed up and in game mode. There are versions of the weave in which everyone gets to shoot, which could be applied in pre-game warm-ups, but I prefer not to use them since they tend to be slower and in the warm up I want players to move a lot, to get loosened up and a little excited.

Coaching Youth Basketball
Some Final Thoughts

You may want to check out this great package of drills demonstrated by a very successful coach as well, to add to your arsenal of fundamental drills. There is lots of video in this package, which some coaches find very helpful. And the focus tends to be on basic fundamentals.

Stay focused on the fundamentals - not just in passing, but in all basketball skills. I think too often we, as coaches, get excited and focused on creating or implementing that next brilliant game strategy, but end up sacrificing time on perfecting the skills necessary for any player to succeed.

Strategy is necessary, of course, but teaching basic skills - especially when we are coaching youth basketball - is absolutely essential. You have to be constantly tweaking your players' skills, teaching and pushing them to perform better, to execute the fundamentals properly.

And it needs to happen at every practice, because it's muscle memory you want - players can't be thinking about how to shoot or pass properly when they are in the middle of the game - it has to come second nature.

Even if a player doesn't possess qualities like aggression and intuitive play - qualities that are necessary to become a great player - he can still learn good form and become proficient at performing the skills necessary to play the game well and contribute effectively to the team effort. Focus on proper form in these drills and ingrain the movements in your players' muscles and minds, and maybe next season won't begin with habit breaking.

"It doesn't matter who scores the points, it's who can get the ball to the scorer."

- Larry Bird

Threading the Needle: 50 Tips and Drills for Passing

Championship Productions DVDs