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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Coaching Basketball for 5th and 6th Graders (Practice Plan Included).

Since my posts regarding the 2nd grade league and the 3rd and 4th grade league have gotten a lot of hits, I figured that I'd share with you some insights from having 4 practices for our 5th and 6th grade league team. Our first game is on Saturday. We only get 1 hour of practice a week, so very minute counts. We create (and it takes all of 5 minutes) a detailed practice plan so that we don't waste a second. Our resources in our town are limited -- we get a half court for 1 hour -- so we do our best to help the kids improve.

First, all kids still need work on fundamentals. We stress dribbling, passing, rebounding, defense and shooting, and we run different drills depending on what we see in practice or what we'll see in a game. We only have 1 practice per week, so we want to balance the fundamentals with some drills that are designed to give the kids a clue as to what to do on offense.

Second, here's a suggested practice plan:

Part I

Talk to team about goals of the practice -- 1 minute.

Defensive slides -- 1 minute.

Dribbling --

Going from 1 side of the court to the other (first w/ strong hand, return w/ weak hand) -- 3 minutes.

V dribble drill -- up and back with each hand -- 2 minutes

V dribble drill -- sideways with each hand -- 2 minutes

Rebounding drill -- 4 minutes (one kid stands near foul line, another under the basket with the ball. The kid w/ ball passes it to the kid at the foul line, then both chase the rebound (the kid underneath should try to box out the shooter).

Passing drill -- 2 lines (like layup lines). Kids move sideways toward basket throwing crisp chest passes, only the last pass is a bounce pass for a layup. -- 3 minutes.

2 on 1 drill -- 3 minutes (the goal not to set picks, but to draw the defender and create an easy basket). (Players take turns being the defender; everyone somehow wants to be the defender).


Part II

Shoot-off-the-blocks drill (2 lines, each starting 5 feet behind the low block on either side of the lane). One ball on each side, and the kids proceed to shoot off the backboard -- 5 minutes. (This teaches precision, good form and shooting in traffic).

Pick-and-roll drill -- 5 minutes (one line at top of key, the other on the side, with 1 kid playing defender. Kid at top of key fakes an overhead pass, throws bounce pass to kid on the wing, then runs, does a jump stop and picks the defender. The recipient of the pass then dribbles around the pick to score, while the screener rolls to the basket for a pass.

Give-and-go drill -- 5 minutes. One line near top of key, one line on wing, w/ a defender near the line on the wing. Player at top of key fakes overhead pass, throws bounce pass to player on wing. He then fakes left, and runs down the lane. The recipient of the pass throws a bounce pass to the initial passer for a layup.

Rotational shooting drill -- 5 minutes (in groups of 3, w/ 2 basketballs, and this requires coaching patience). One kid is on the left at 10 feet, another on the right wing at 10 feet, another at the foul line. There are two shooters, so the kids with the ball shoot and go to get rebounds. They then find the open player (w/o a ball) at a spot to shoot from, throw a crisp pass and then run a spot to shoot from. This is like the 3-man weave, and once it gets started the kids are in constant motion, passing and shooting. Do it in 45-second intervals w/ different kids. Be patient with this drill. The first time we ran it, my son offered that it was "controlled chaos." It does get better.


Part III


We spent 10 minutes on Play 1, 10 on Play 2. We run a 1-4 stack offense. Translated for the less-than-fully-initiated, we have a point guard near the top of the key, two post players, one at the right elbow and one at the left elbow, and then we have two wing players, one on the right wing and one on the left wing. (Again, for the uninitiated, the left elbow is where the foul line meets the foul circle on the left side of the foul line, and the right elbow. . . well, you can extrapolate from the definition of the left elbow).

Play 1 is where the PG fakes an overhead pass to draw movement from his defender, and then he throws a bounce pass to one of the post players, say the player at the right elbow. He then takes a quick step left and moves hard to his right toward the post player, being careful to brush as closely by the post player as he takes a handoff and zooms in for a layup. The reason to brush closely by the post player is to run the defender into a dead end. The PG then converts the layup. If the right wing's defender offers help defense, the PG can dish to the player on the right wing for a bank shot.

Play 2 is where the PG fakes the overhead pass and then gets the ball to either post player. For purposes of this example, let's say he passes it to the left post player. After the passes it left, he'll run toward the defender of the right post player, do a jump stop and set a screen. The right post player will come around the screen and take a pass from the left post player, and move in for a layup or a short jumper. If help defense comes in, the right post player can hit the open man.

In future weeks, we'll add some high or low screens to free up players for what we hope are easy baskets.

(Note: Who really knows in Week 1 whether either play will work in a game. If the team gets disorganized, we'll have various players screen and move. That said, our general theory when rebounding a missed shot is to run the fast break. Or, as one Civil War cavalry general said about why he won so many battles -- "we got their first with the most men." That works in basketball too).

There are dozens of drills out there, and what we typically do is identify a weakness or two in a game and drill especially on that in the next practice. Early in the pre-season, we worked on shooting form, on jump stops, on the "triple threat" position and pivoting. We've moved away from that now to more complicated stuff, but a re-emphasis on the basics for a portion of practice never hurts. If you need some help, I would recommend buying former Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher's book on coaching youth basketball or go to Sysko ( to purchase a DVD or a book. I purchased Ed Schilling's DVD on practicing the fundamentals, and I found it to be very helpful.

Good luck with your teams. We always emphasize hard work, communication, team work and, most important of all, fun.


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