The need for fun when coaching youth basketball

The use of games and various competitive small-sided games, relays and drills has long been on the planning agenda for basketball coaches (and for some other sports too). This approach (using relays, games etc.) presents a great opportunity to bring an element which is sometimes forgotten – the fun element! Everyone wants to play, to have fun! In this way, the potential boredom created by the repetitiveness of just doing drills after drills is eliminated. And this applies not only to the youth and junior basketball level but also at a senior and professional level too. They can be scheduled during any part of the session – during warm-up, main part, concluding part and even in the warming down.

The main advantages of using them (games, relays, fun competitions, etc.) include:

  • it allows rehearsing various forms of movement in a fun, enjoyable manner.

  • it develops creativity and decision making (“what” to do and “how” to do it?) alongside bringing in aspects related to team building/contribution to the team effort. It also develops thinking and tactical knowledge.

  • These games are usually inclusive – all players, irrespective of ability level, can take part and have a degree of success.

  • The element of competition is present.

  • It allows the combination of strategy and skill(s) that are required to perform in the situations that are created by the game.

Naturally, there are some disadvantages too:

  • The games require a certain level of understanding from the participants. As a coach, you need to choose a game that is appropriate to the level of your players. Games can be adapted and it is now down to coach’ ability to work within the context in which they operate (possibly with limited resources, not enough hoops, limited equipment, etc.).

  • Over-using them might lead to losing the focus on learning and mastering of other skills and abilities that are needed in the game of basketball.

Obviously, not all the players progress at the same rate in their learning – the better and more skilled participants will deal quicker and find more suitable solutions to the tasks. That is why grouping and teams selection is important so that you do not have all the better players in one team/group. Careful planning from the coach will mean the chances for success increase; good, clear and concise communication from the coach is vital in order to explain the task, to provide the rules and the instructions associated and generally what is required.

Usually, these games can be easily modified to suit different age levels and different abilities.

If you as a coach have not tried this yet – have a go. For sure you will see the difference it makes.

PS. Each week we will try to present a game. For this week the game of the week is: “Who keeps possession longer”.

Alex Radu is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching Basketball at University of Worcester (England/UK). He has coached various teams at different levels of the game at both club and national team level, including: Cardiff Archers (Associate Head Coach – in WBBL/Women Basketball League, UK); Worcester Wolves (Assistant Coach – in BBL /British Basketball League, UK); Romania U20 Women National Team (Assistant Coach) and Romania U18 Women National Team (Assistant Coach – at European Championship Division B); Wales U20 Men National Team (Head Coach) and Wales Senior Men National Team (Assistant Coach – at European Championship for Small Countries); Romania Women National Team (Assistant Coach – at Women Eurobasket 2015).


NAME: “Who keeps possession longer”

FOCUS: Passing; pivoting; getting open; finding your teammate(s).

DESCRIPTION: the whole group of players is divided into two teams (equal numbers). The purpose of the game is to make 10 (or 15, 20, etc.) consecutive passes. There is no dribbling allowed and no shooting at the basket. All other rules of basketball will apply (in relation to travelling, stepping onto the sidelines, 5 seconds, etc.). No fouls will be allowed (same as per 5 vs. 5 game situations). When a team makes the required number of consecutive passes that team will win (1-0) and a simple and funny punishment can be imposed on the losing team. The playing area can be set up as half of the court to start off with then expand to the whole court. If a team loses possession after let’s say 6 passes, the other team will re-start from the side line. As for defence, it is advisable to play a man to man system.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED: as a minimum requirement, the game can be played with one basketball on a full size court (or on any flat surface, free of any obstructions).

PROGRESSION: an element of progression can be added and the game can be modified by taking into account one of the following:

  • From half-court expand onto full-court.

  • Limit (or increase) the number of consecutive passes (10, 15, 20, etc.).

  • Modify the type of the pass (bounce passes only; over-head passes only; etc.).

  • Alternate the type of pass (no two consecutive passes to be the same – so, for example, after the chest pass the next type of pass needs to be different otherwise the possession is lost).

  • Add a time limit to each game.

  • The ball that is used can be a handball, a rugby ball and even a medicine ball (soft one – 1-2 kg).

By Alex Radu / 29th July 2020

Image by ElDrmano from Pixabay