I had a discussion recently with a youth coach about what young basketball players need to train.  My thoughts cover not only on-court basketball skills, but also what training aspects should be trained.  Below I’ve outlined my list of 5 skills that every young basketball player should develop.

1) Speed.  If you’re under 18 (or you’re coaching athletes under 18) you MUST work on improving certain aspects of speed.  Developing the quality of speed is actually done during many of the younger years in life; according to the IYCA Developing Essentials handbook, Drabik (1996) conducted research which showed that there are certain windows for developing the ‘potential’ of specific athletic qualities.  This means that you only have certain times in a young players life to develop those skills.  That’s not to say that a kid won’t get faster when they’re not in those phases, but it does say that the long-term potential is not as large.  Knowing that, I make it a priority to work on speed with all my athletes but put extra emphasis on it during:

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2) Weak Hand.  When I was in the 5th grade I broke my right arm.  Six weeks later when I got my cast off I was a new man!  During that 6 week period I was forced to use my left hand for the majority of my basketball and a great deal of everyday tasks.  In hindsight it was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me.  When most kids my age were still struggling to go to their weak hand, I was actually able to go as effectively to either side – my options were doubled.  If I was consulting with a young player right now, I would say to make sure you spend 10-15 minutes everyday focusing on using your weak hand.  I’d include lay-ups, ball handing, and passing in that mix.  The more confident you are with your weak hand, the stronger player you’ll be.

3) Develop Strength.  When I work with young athletes I always work on certain aspects of strength.  Despite the old belief that strength training would stunt your growth, current research seems to show that it has no effect.  That doesn’t mean that I have 9 year olds loaded up with a bar on their back and they’re squat heavy weight, instead it means we’re developing strength intelligently.  With young athletes I recommend a variety of tools including, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands/tubing, body weight, cables, and medicine balls.  More importantly, with young athletes all of our movements are done in more athletic positions; I rarely if ever have an athlete not on their feet and in some type of machine.  Young kids need to be up and moving to develop.

So how young is too young?

I wouldn’t start doing much until athletes are about 9 or 10.  At that age you also want to make sure that it’s more free play based and not quite so organized.  It should look a lot more like a gym class or recess (with actual exercises however) than a strength training session.  Once an athlete is 12ish, I’m ok with coaches to start adding training tools and extra weight.  Lastly, make sure to keep it simple, kids get nothing out of complex descriptions and movements.

4) Work on coordination.  I’m going to keep this short and sweet: skips, jump rope, cartwheels, carioca, running, jumping, throwing, shuffling, kicking, catching, or any combination of them.  This means that you have athletes focus on a variety of tasks so that they develop athletic qualities that will continue to benefit them for years to come.  Want ideas beyond the above?  Dribbling while skipping.  Rotational jumping and catching/throwing.  Shuffle and throw.  Don’t be afraid to get creative and think out of the box with drills that are challenging.

5) Shooting Form.  One of the single biggest weaknesses in today’s game is shooting.  If you’re a young athlete and are looking to improve your game, worry more about your shooting form, and less about how many go in (at first).  I see more kids with horrible form out shooting 3’s assuming that in 15 more years they’ll be the next Ray Allen because they’re already shooting in his range.  I’ve got news for you, you’ll make more progress is you focus on developing form while you’re young and then work your way back as your shot improves and develops over time.

Source:  http://stevenashyb.wordpress.com
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