The Importance of Clear Direction in Youth Drills

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Name of Post The Importance of Clear Direction in Youth Drills
Original Poster BW-Ryan
Date of Post 2013/02/18
Post URL
Post Topic Coaching Discussion

One of the most challenging things I have to do as a coach is switching age groups during a summer. I often work weekly clinics and every year it takes some time to adjust when you have a major age change between weeks. Going from high school juniors and seniors during one week down to 3rd-6th the next is a drastic change in coaching style, terminology, and focus. Here are some of the reminders I've given myself when moving down in the age bracket that apply to all ages but are even more important when dealing with youth of highly varied skill levels.

Not only may they not understand the terms you were using last week they often won't be confident enough to speak up and ask for help. It's important to understand that a knowledge base must be built and these players will come from a wide range of basketball backgrounds. You'll have one kid who's been playing in travel leagues for years and has a Coach for a father/mother, and then you'll have another that's never played before. It's essential to build a knowledge base for all players and to take it slow enough where all players are able to progress. Allow the players with the knowledge to help you! Ask questions of your group to gauge not only their collective level but it will allow those who do know to feel pride in their grasp of the game.

Take one major concept and make that the emphasis. A kid who doesn't know what the basket line is generally isn't going to grasp help side and help side rotation concepts in a single drill. A player who's behind the curve in technical skills will have a million things you want to fix but they're only going to pick up a few things at a time. Give them clear direction on where their focus will be and create your drills around this direction. Once they get an opportunity to play live reinforce the concepts you gave focus and encourage their application in play.

Example: If you're going to focus on closeouts, break it down even further:
- Closing out on a shooter off ball rotation: Footwork breakdown. How do you want them to contest? Teach how to initiate contact for a box out without fouling during the shooting motion.
- Closing out at triple threat players off ball rotation: Quick feet, on the toes, firing the feet. Get wide and athletic, ball side hand up to contest.
- Closing out at a driving player in transition: Ready to take the intercept step to block the driving lane, establishing position, protecting the paint, etc.

All of the above concepts could be broken down into individual drills to be taught as a progression in how to do the single skill of the closeout.

Throwing 10-15 guys out there and saying, "Alright let's do some 1v1 closeouts!" is only going to be so effective. Break down your drills and give them clear direction that apply to game situations.

Be positive! It's easy to cringe at the things that are going wrong but it's your job as a Coach to fix them through preparation! Giving the players positive reinforcement on the aspects where they have improved will help to establish their confidence that working hard in drills will aid them in improving their game. This isn't to say that you should avoid correcting mistakes but do it in a manner that will reinforce your clear direction.

Avoid: "We worked all practice on closing out on a shooter, why aren't you doing it?" (Coach frustration)
Positive reaffirmation - "Remember when you were closing out on that other player in practice and you boxed out that shooter? [Reaffirm clear direction of skill concepts] We really need to keep that focus as a team."

Keeping the direction in drills clear will allow for a progression off of what you have done in the past. Once you've applied the knowledge base you can begin to build and learn from what has gone well and what hasn't. Coaches should offer a simple path where all players can understand and succeed.