Youth Basketball Drills

As a coach are you trying to find the absolute best way to help your players improve their skill level? Prepare them for an upcoming tournament or game? And want them to have fun?
It might sound difficult to do all three (improve skills, prepare for competition and have fun).
But, it can be done.

Why Coaches use drills to teach in basketball

Depending on your age group of players the need to learn the fundamentals is critical. Then having the ability to execute those skills is essential.
You may be thinking, “I want them to go out and play. We will do a few drills and the scrimmage most of our practice time.”
I hear a lot of coaches say this. Sure, it may be easier just to let them scrimmage and have shooting contests. Your kids seem to have more fun, and you don’t feel the pressure to teach a skill where either you are not familiar or not sure it is essential.
When you only scrimmage or play games, players do not get enough repetitions of a certain skill.
Especially in youth basketball where you may have a couple of players who have good skills and the rest of the team lags behind.
The kids who have the good skills will then take the majority of the shots, handle the ball most of the time where the rest of team watches. The other players are on the floor, but they don’t get the ball in their hands enough during competition to improve.
When you can get each player on your team to have a basketball and they can all be doing ballhandling and shooting drills at the same time the skill level will improve.
Basketball is not an equal opportunity game.
For most teams you don’t want each player taking the same amount of shots. You want your best players taking the majority of the shots. That goes across all levels. But in practice everyone should get the same amount of reps. This also allows the players to stay engaged.
In my career as a coach with professional teams, high major to small college teams and high school teams I know of no better way to get players to improve than by spending time on the fundamentals.
The great John Wooden said at least half of each of his practices were spent on the fundamentals. At least half!
I read that as a young coach and thought ok, that is what I will do with my practices. At the age of 26, I had my first head coaching job. I spent a lot of time putting my practice plans together. Knowing half, the time needed to be on the fundamentals. The plans were so detailed. I got better and better of putting them together.
It wasn’t until years later when I looked back on the plans did I realize I was missing the boat.
I was doing drills to be doing drills. The practice plans looked good on paper but were they serving a purpose.
How did I know my plans weren’t useful? Well, I saw what real plans looked like.
I saw Coach Wooden’s practice plans. I worked for Mark Gofffried for six years (3 at Murray State and three at Alabama). Mark hired me to come with him to Murray State just after was he on the staff at UCLA where they won the National Championship in 1995. While at UCLA Mark developed a close relationship with Coach Wooden.
Later on, Mark, opened the door for me get close to Coach Wooden.
Mark had copies of all of Coach Wooden’s practice plans. For six years I was side by side as we planned our practice sessions. Each when we sat down to plan practice, Mark would begin by looking over the many notebooks we had of Coach Wooden’s old practice plans. Using Coach Wooden’s template, our teams focused on the fundamentals and each year our teams improved as the season went along.

Here is why Coach Wooden’s plans worked.

  1. They were simple and sound.
  2. They focused on skills that would be necessary during a game.
  3. They made players use their mind as well as their athletic ability.

Let’s look at some Basketball Drills you can begin right away to use with your team. Also, here are some goals you want to reinforce with your team to keep them focused as they do the drills.

Passing and Catching Drills


Catching the ball

  • Show a hand target
  • Have your hands up where you can see the back of your hands
  • Catch the ball soft with the fingertips

Passing the ball

  • Step to my target
  • Aim your pass/throwing to a target
  • Make sure the pass has speed

Partner Passing

Each player has a partner
Line players up about 10 feet apart
They will pass on the command of the coach. This allows the coach to make sure players are stepping into the pass and their partner is catching the ball cleanly.
Work on the following passes:
Chest pass, Bounce Pass, One hand bounce, Overhead pass

Two Ball Partner Passing

Two ball passing with teammate. Basketballs stay moving the entire drill. Added emphasis for concentration is to have players move their feet while doing the drill. On their toes moving as if they are running in place.

Left and right hand passes. Keep the ball away from body so it does not hit the other basketball coming from teammate. Make each pass clean and each pass must have speed on the ball.


Catching the ball

  • Show a hand target
  • Have your hands up where you can see the back of your hands
  • Catch the ball soft with the fingertips

Passing the ball

  • Step to my target
  • Aim your pass/throwing to a target
  • Make sure the pass has speed

Partner Passing

Each player has a partner
Line players up about 10 feet apart
They will pass on the command of the coach. This allows the coach to make sure players are stepping into the pass and their partner is catching the ball cleanly.
Work on the following passes:
Chest pass, Bounce Pass, One hand bounce, Overhead pass

Two Ball Partner Passing

Two ball passing with a teammate. Basketballs stay moving the entire drill. Added emphasis for concentration is to have players move their feet while doing the drill. On their toes moving as if they are running in place.

Left and right-hand passes. Keep the ball away from body, so it does not hit the other basketball coming from a teammate. Make each pass clean, and each pass must have speed on the ball.

Use left and right hand bounce passes. Pass with power and speed to reach teammate. Keep the ball low to the ground, but make sure it bounces up and is catchable. Pass should come up to teammates stomach area so clean catch can be made.

Half Circle Passing

Two basketballs in play. Passer must keep feet moving the entire drill. Using one hand passes. Pass the ball quickly once the ball is caught. Use all receivers moving left and right.

Passer must call for the ball and make the pass right back to the passer in the middle of the floor.

Players rotate to the right on coaches command. Keep half circle formation.

Defensive Basketball Drills


  •    Players know how to get into a proper stance
  •    How to Slide
  •    How Guard the Dribble

The best way to teach the proper stance and work on with your team is with the Big Step drill.
The reason this drill works so well is that your players are spread out, and you can see all of them across the court.
You start them in a stance and on your command or a player leading the drill they will slide, closeout, take a charge, and go up a for a rebound. But the most important things is they have to stay in a stance.

Entire team start in lines across the floor. Can either have coach lead the drill or a player.

Players must follow the lead player or coach. Begin the drill by slapping the floor and getting into a defensive stance. Players will go in the direction of the leader. If leader slides to the left, players will slide to their right. This way they are mirroring the lead player. Leader can call

“Big Step” and players take a big defensive step. The leader continues to have players follow him by making a “Big Step.”

If leader calls out, “Charge” each player has to take a charge from their position on the floor and immediately getting into a defensive stance.

If leader calls out, “Rebound” every player jumps up and imitates grabbing a rebound. Going up as high as possible and chinning the ball.

Once players learn the drill you can add in the “Stance” aspect. Players have to stay in a defensive stance (knees bent, back straight and palms up) for a period of time. Start with a minute and work your way up. If a player comes out of a stance then the time starts over

Zig-Zag No Offense

Defender starts the drill facing the baseline. Defensive slide up and down the floor. Have players slap the floor each time they get to the end of the slide. Slide-slap the floor-drop step-slide.

Zig zag back down the floor. Again slapping the floor each time they reach the sideline or lane line.

Devoe One on One

Defender (X1) starts with the ball on the block. Sprints out to the wing and sets the ball down on 3 point line. After putting the ball on the ground, X1 gets into defensive position. The offensive player follows behind ready to pick up the ball.

The offense is limited to three dribbles. The defender tries to keep the ball out of the middle of the floor. Key is not to let an offensive player get angles around for a drive to the basket. Keep the ball in front and make the offensive player take a jump shot and not get beat on drive.

The play is not over until defense gets the ball or the offense scores. Defender stays on defense if there is a score or offensive rebound.

Shooting Drills


  • Getting feet set
  • Body to the basket
  • Emphasize the proper technique

Baby Jump Shots

Practice the 8-10′ jump shot
Coach/teammate passes/rebound
The player works on catching, footwork, shot.
The player comes from the sideline, going to his right, catches with left-right footwork, up for the shot
Upon return from other sidelines, going to his left, catches with right-left footwork, up for the shot.

Group work: 1 shot, meet at other sideline

Shooting on the Run

Shooting drill off the run. Players make a pass from out of bounds to coach at the top of the key. Player sprints to the opposite wing then will quickly get feet set for shot. Use footwork catching a pass coming off inside foot. Can vary up drill with shot fake one bounce; shot fake get to the rim moves.

Utilize going over the top of the screens. When catching the pass work on getting feet set ready to shoot once landing on the ground. Can work on the same sequence; 3 point shooting, shot fake one bounce, shot fake get to the rim.

Shooting Lines

Run on both sides of the floor.
Baseline Jump Shots. The line of players starts out of bounds. Each player has a basketball. Players throw a pass to coach then step into shooting range (tell players where to shoot from, some will be three-point shooters and some need to step in to be in range)

Wing Jump Shots. Players step in bounds after pass to shoot wing jump shot.

Elbow Jump Shots. Players step in from out of bounds and shoot shot from the elbow.

Run to the elbow. The line starts near the half court line. Make pass to coach then sprint to the elbow to receive pass back for jump shot.
Play for highest player score or divide into teams and highest team total wins.

Rebounding Drills


Teach players to block out with hands up
Rebound every time with two hands
Chin the ball on the rebound

Blocking Out of the Circle

Can use the center jump circle or create a circle with free throw key and cones. Ball is set in the direct middle of the circle. Defender X1 is trying to keep the offense away from the ball.

Defense tries to keep offensive player from getting the ball by blocking out with proper form. Wide base, knees bent and arms bent at 45 degree angle with hands up. Keeping hands up can eliminate defender trying to reach and hold the offense. Defender must keep offense on their back and constantly moving their feet to maintain block out position. Offense is trying to use moves to get to the ball. Cannot dive for the ball. Make sure players are using quick feet to get in position. Defense keeps offense from getting ball for 5 seconds or when offense gets the ball.

Rebound Outlet and Score

Coach shoots ball to start drill. The player in the paint goes up to rebound and outlets to player on the wing.

Rebounder must run to the top of the key make a V Cut and gets the pass back for a lay-up. Can have a player post up and make a power move, a one-foot layup off the pass, or two-foot layup off the pass. Can use a blocking dummy, extra player or coach making player going for the rebound block out. Then on the pass coming back to the basket can have defense on the shot.

Competitive Rebounding

The coach will start the drill by shooting the ball. The most competitive way to run this drill is to make the defense get three rebounds in a row. Replay the shot is made or ball goes out of bounds. If defense does not chin the ball or travels with the ball before it is thrown back to the coach no point is given.

Defender goes to block out the offensive player on the release of the shot. A new offensive player comes on each time.

Ballhandling Drills


Keep head up
Be able to dribble with either hand
Go at a quick pace

Stationary Ball handling without the Dribble

Line players up along the baseline or sideline. Can do drills as a team or individually.

  1. Toss and Catch. Throwing the ball up in the air and being able to catch the ball. Working on eye-hand coordination.
  2. Ball Slams. Getting hands warmed up by starting with ball in right hand slap the ball with the left hand. Continue to change hands back and forth.
  3. Finger tip control. Start with ball between arms that are extended out in front of the body.
  4. Finger tip control moving the arms up and down in front of your body. Down by the waist, to the feet and extend above the head keeping arms extended and ball moving side to side.
  5. Around the waist. Take the ball all the way around the waist and on command rotate the direction. Begin with the ball in front of your waist take it behind your back and hand it off to your other hand. Bring the ball back to the front of your body and continue to go at a quick pace.
  6. Around one leg at a time
  7. Around the ankles.
  8. Around the knees.
  9. Around the head.
  10. Figure 8. Around the front of right leg, go between the legs then back around front.
  11. Hike. Two hands on the ball in front of body, hike the ball back and forth between legs
  12. Spider-Cupping the ball, start with ball in right hand in front, left hand in front, then right hand in back of legs, left hand in back of legs-let ball suspend in the air when hand not on the ball.
  13. Toss the ball up and catch behind the back.
  14. Total body drill. Around the head, around the waist, around the knees, around the ankles.

Stationary Ballhandling with the Dribble

Stationary Ball handling drills using the dribble.

  1. One hand dribble in front of body. R/L
  2. Control dribble. Arm bar up, legs bent. R/L
  3. Around the right leg. R/L
  4. Dribble low, medium and high. R/L
  5. Figure 8.
  6. Crossover dribble in front of the body.
  7. Push pull on side on the body. Keeping hand behind the ball on the pull. Keeping hand on top of ball on the push. R/L
  8. Side to side in front of body. Making sure hand stays on top of the ball. R/L
  9. Behind the back.
  10. One dribble in front, then crossover. Going back and forth from right side to left side.
  11. Crossover behind the back. Keeping dribble low to the ground.
  12. One on knee and dribbling between the other leg, crossover back and forth.
  13. Punching bag dribble.
  14. One hand figure eight dribble.
  15. Spider dribble. Ball between legs, dribble with right in front, left hand in front. right hand in back, left hand in back. Key is to keep the dribble hitting the same spot on the floor each time.

Ball handling on the Move

A great way to start practice or workout. Whether beginner or advanced player working on dribbling on the move is an important skill.
Concentrate head up, control the ball and using the right hand down the floor and left hand on the way back
Walking control dribble. Players dribble and walk up the floor. Trying to maintain control of the basketball.
Walking crossover dribble. Work on using the crossover dribble while walking up and down the floor
Jogging dribble. Players jog up the floor and keeping their dribble alive as they move.
Running dribble. Players will dribble the basketball while running and keeping control of the basketball.

Hesitation dribble. Dribble up to cone, make hesitation move by using head and shoulder fake to make defender get off balance.
Inside Out dribble. Keeping the ball in the same hand and keeping hand on top of the ball. If using the right hand, attack the cone and while keeping the dribble take the ball from the right side of the body all the way across to the left side of the body, then bring back to the right side of the body and attack.

Crossover dribble. Keeping the ball low to the ground make a quick crossover dribble from one hand to the other hand. Dribble has to be low to not get stolen by the defense. It has to be a quick dribble from one hand to the other.
Spin Move. Starting with the ball in the right hand dribble up toward defender or cone. When you are at your spot to make spin move, plant with left leg. Then spin with reverse dribble by bouncing the ball next to outside of your right foot. Make pivot away from defender or cone. On pivot dribble with left hand to finish the spin move keeping hand on top of the ball.

Two ball dribbling Half-court and back or full court back.
Change speeds
Zig Zag
Inside out
Alternate high dribble with one ball and low dribble with other ball
Speed Dribble
Behind the back
Between the legs

For any drills you use in practice sessions in order for your players to truly get the most benefit make sure they do drills at a quick pace. Going game speed in practice is one of the best ways to prepare players for what will occur in a game.

Also make drills competitive. The more competition you add in will provide tremendous carry over from Drills to becoming Skills.