Youth Basketball Drills to Improve Skills

Youth Basketball Drills to Improve Skills


Participating in youth basketball offers many benefits for young athletes. Not only does it provide exercise and help develop teamwork skills, but it can also be a lot of fun! As a youth basketball coach, it’s important to develop drills that will help your players improve their skills. Here are some of the best youth basketball drills to incorporate into your practices:

Ball Handling Drills

Strong ball handling skills are essential in basketball. Help your players improve their control and comfort level with the ball using these drills:

  • Dribbling drill – Have players dribble the ball in place, switching hands and changing speeds. See how long they can go without losing control.
  • Figure 8 drill – Set up cones in the shape of a figure 8. Have players dribble through the cones, weaving in and out while maintaining control.
  • Dribble knockout – Players dribble around in a confined space. They try to knock other players’ balls away while protecting their own. The last one dribbling wins.

Passing Drills

Sharpen passing accuracy and technique with these youth basketball passing drills:

  • Chest pass drill – Partners stand 8-10 feet apart. They make strong chest passes back and forth, focusing on form and accuracy.
  • Baseball pass – Just like playing catch in baseball, partners make one-handed passes back and forth, throwing from the right and left.
  • Passing circle – Players form a circle and pass the ball clockwise or counter-clockwise around the circle. Require passing with the right and left hands.

Shooting Drills

Developing a consistent shot is crucial for basketball success. Try these shooting drills:

  • Form shooting – Have players stand 3 feet from the basket and practice good shooting form and follow through without a ball. Then give them a ball to shoot.
  • Pass and shoot drill – Station a passer with a ball at the top of the key. Have another player start under the basket, run out to a spot and receive a pass to shoot in one motion.
  • Rapid fire – Player shoots from different spots around the key as quickly as possible for 30 seconds. Partner rebounds and passes the ball back.

Defensive Drills

Solid defense is just as important as offense. Incorporate these drills:

  • Mirror drill – Players partner up and mirror each other’s movements, staying in good defensive stances and working on footwork.
  • Rebound battles – Designate an offensive and defensive player. The offensive player shoots then both fight for the rebound. Switch roles after each shot.
  • Defensive slides – Set up cones in a zig zag pattern. Players shuffle through the cones laterally while staying low in a defensive stance.

Team Drills

It’s important to combine individual skill work with drills that get your players working together. Here are some go-to options:

  • 3 on 2 fast break – 3 offensive players grab a defensive rebound and go on a fast break against 2 defensive players down the court. Rotate positions.
  • 5 on 5 scrimmage – Split your team into two groups of 5 and play out games focusing on skills learned in practice. Stop play often to coach.
  • Shell drill – 4 offensive players pass and screen while 1 defender guards the ball and 3 defenders zone up downcourt. Develops teamwork.

Youth basketball drills should focus on teaching skills, building confidence and keeping things fun. Mix up the drills you use during each practice to keep players engaged. Challenge them but also allow successes. With well-designed drills and committed coaches, young athletes will thrive on the court!

Why Youth Basketball Drills Are Important

Incorporating focused drills into youth practices is important for several reasons:

  • Drills reinforce proper technique and skills
  • Repetition through drills develops muscle memory
  • Drills build confidence by allowing players to successfully perform skills
  • Drills prepare players for executing skills in games
  • Drills teach important concepts like spacing, positioning and footwork
  • Well-designed drills maintain engagement through fun competitions

Basketball relies heavily on player development. Using targeted drills tailored to your athletes’ skill levels will ensure they gain competency with dribbling, shooting, passing, defensive positioning and other fundamentals. Building these skills will allow them to maximize their talents as they progress.

Age-Appropriate Drills

The types of drills you select should be age-appropriate for your players. Here are some key considerations by age:

Ages 6-8

Focus on:

  • Basic dribbling/passing/shooting technique
  • Having fun!
  • Simple 1-on-1 and 2-on-2 competitions
  • Basic footwork and agility

Keep explanations simple and demonstrate skills yourself. Use engaging competitions to reinforce skills. Keep players active throughout.

Ages 8-11

Focus on:

  • Ball handling skills like crossovers/pivots
  • Passing and shooting technique
  • 1-on-1 moves like jab steps
  • Footwork/agility with weaves and shuffles
  • Defensive slides and positioning

Introduce more complex individual skills but keep practices active with lots of ball touches. Competitive shooting/dribbling games will be key.

Ages 12-14

Focus on:

  • Advanced dribbles like behind-the-back
  • Passing on the move
  • Shooting off the dribble
  • Explosiveness and lateral quickness
  • Team defensive concepts like help D

Drills can mimic more advanced game situations. Focus on applying skills in live competitions. Conditioning becomes more important at this age.

Matching drills to athletes’ maturity levels will optimize skill development while also keeping practices challenging and engaging.

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Drill Recommendations by Skill

Here are some of the top drills to incorporate in your practices based on specific skill development:

Ball Handling

  • Figure 8s
  • Dribbling knockout
  • Ball taps (alternating hands tapping top of ball)
  • Dribble obstacle courses
  • Partner and coach passing drills


  • Chest pass variations
  • Baseball passes
  • Bounce passes
  • Passing circle
  • Pass and cut
  • Pass and screen away


  • Form shooting
  • Rapid fire
  • Dribble up and shoot jumpers
  • Partner passing and shooting
  • 3-man weave into jumpers
  • Shooting games/contests

Footwork and Agility

  • Defensive slides
  • Box/cone agility drills
  • Ladder drills
  • Jump stops and pivots
  • Close-outs (sprint, stop, defensive stance)


  • Mirroring
  • Rebound battles
  • Defensive positioning
  • Help side rotations
  • Close-out contests
  • Shell drill

Using a combination of skill-specific drills and competitive, engaging games will develop your athletes while also keeping practices active and fun. Monitor skills and adjust drills based on development areas.

Final Tips for Effective Youth Basketball Drills

Here are some final tips for optimizing your youth basketball drills:

  • Demonstrate proper technique before each drill
  • Keep players active – minimize standing around
  • Mix in competitions to keep kids engaged
  • Adjust complexity based on skill level
  • Use coaching stops for immediate feedback
  • Keep it fun! Incorporate games when possible.
  • Review key concepts before ending practice
  • Make practices active and keep drills moving

Well-designed practices using focused, age-appropriate drills will develop skills safely and effectively. Remember to keep things active and fun! Proper skill development through drills will give your athletes confidence and prepare them for basketball success.


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