Youth Basketball Principles

Jul 20, 2022

Great youth coaches use these 5 principles. They give your players a better chance to experience this beautiful game and it’s lessons. If you evaluate through these lenses, you’ll be glad you did. I use them to guide my programming for youth basketball camps, leagues, and training sessions. Let’s revolutionize the way youth basketball is taught and played, together.



(As Allen Iverson said) I’m talking about practice. It should look more like play. The majority of youth practice should be games. They need context for skills. They need to have fun. They need to touch the ball and build up experience points. These three keys will improve the games you choose to play. i) Keep them short. ii) Don’t teach until after. iii) Use constraints to direct desired outcomes. It is not the job of the gardener to force growth, but rather to create the ideal conditions for growth.


Youth basketball should prioritize movement, ball touches, scoring, learning & FUN! The right games are 3v3 FIBA style games to the exclusion of 5 on 5. Fast transitions and less players on a team lead to more touches. More space and less defenders allow for more success and scoring. SCORING = FUN. Two games of 6 allow for 12 to play on a full court instead of 10. 12 engaged players > 10. Do the math. 


Encourage and embrace the craziness of the game! The game always changes, but most change starts at the pro-level. Let's change it at the youth level. Let's give players the space they need to be creative and have fun! Sadly, we find youth basketball being 20+ years behind. Instead, we should encourage youth basketball to be at the forefront of the movement. There is no better place suited to experiment with a style of play or new skills than youth basketball. Exploration is fun, the sandbox should be big and mistakes encouraged. This can maximize growth and minimize adults taking the game too seriously. Throw up some half court shots and laugh a little.


Most youth practices I’ve seen have a coach constantly yelling & telling players to move faster, care more, or do some other outdated thing. Coach motivation is a hell of a drug… and it creates addicts for life. We don’t want athletes addicted to a yelling coach. We want self motivated ones. Sadly, I work with many athletes who wait for me to motivate them for them to move fast and play hard. Coaches and parents have ruined them by over motivating, talking too much, and demanding the effort out of their child. This fails to teach them to start their own engine. How can you help teach them to start their own engine?


Players will care more about what they choose to own. In any given practice, game or training, let them choose their position. Let them choose the game, the score, or color of their jersey. The more ownership you give them, the more invested they will be. Practice autonomy in youth basketball and they will build habits of ownership. That was a lot and I know there’s more. What would you add?


I’m here to help,


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