3 Reasons Youth Coaches Should Stress Fundamentals Over Plays

Keith Smith is a youth basketball coach for boys and girls.  He is the co-creator of “The Edge” and Best Youth Hoops.  For more information, visit http://www.bestyouthhoops.com/blog and receive FREE Special Report, "TOP PRIORITIES FOR A NEW YOUTH BASKETBALL COACH"


When I first thought about the title, a quick story came to mind which put this in proper perspective.

During my first year of coaching, my team was playing a lower seeded team in the playoffs.  It was a close game going into the 4th quarter when the opposing coach yelled out a play to his point guard.  

The guard shouted the play to her teammates while we were set in our 1-2-2 zone (that’s another story… none of my teams play zone anymore).  The guard shouted the play again, nothing happened.  The players looked at her as if she was speaking a foreign language.

After the 3rd play call, and seeing the dazed look upon on his players’ faces, the coach yells out to the guard to call the play again. The guard turned around and said, “What do you think I have been calling?  We have no idea what you are talking about”.  After some brief laughter from the parents in the stands, the coach chuckled and called time out.

Did I mention to you the kids were 7-9 years old?

This leads to the 1st reason for teaching fundamentals over plays--

1)  Coaching Youth Basketball (age 7-13) is easy.  

We adults like to make it complicated.   If your players aren’t adept at the basic fundamentals, i.e., ball handling, footwork, shooting, how do you expect them to run a weave?

It’s much easier to coach the basics than plays.

Would you take a beginning math student, teach him basic arithmetic for 2 weeks, and then move onto Algebra?

2) Youth Players require lots of repetition.

Using the math example above, how many times did you have to review to multiplication tables before you were able to have it memorized?

It’s the same with basketball.  The players need to be actively dribbling, moving, and shooting over and over to feel comfortable.  First, you demonstrate, then you have them do it slowly, then faster, finally performing at game speed.

This may take a series of practices over a few years!

3) Teaching Plays is Time Consuming.

What do coaches all want? More practice time!

Teams nowadays usually have to share gym space and some us only have 90 minutes a week of practice time.

One caveat:  What I mean by plays is, when you require players to memorize positions and movement from one spot on the court to specific spot under varying circumstances.

I don’t consider passing and cutting to the basket a play, just fundamental movements.  The same goes for setting picks.

Spending too much time on plays, takes away from valuable time for the teaching of basics.

By the time your players start learning plays, hopefully they will be fundamentally sound.