By: Ultimate Youth Basketball Guide

Many parents wonder – “How can I support and encourage my child, and at the same time help them succeed at the game of basketball?”

I have come up with 9 tips for youth basketball parents to help you support and encourage your child in their passion for youth basketball.

By following these tips, you are not only being a supportive and loving parent, but you are also setting your child up to succeed.

Tip #1: Give your child unconditional love, support and encouragement.
This is by far the most important step youth basketball parents you can take.

When your child participates in youth basketball, at any level, they need to know that they always have your love, support and encouragement. Win or lose.

It’s so easy to get caught up in making sure they do everything right or that they always win – the game, or scrimmage or contest. This is definitely the wrong approach to take. We have to remember as parents that our children are participating in youth basketball to have fun, to be with their friends and to compete.

Youth basketball parents have to remember that their most important role is to provide them with unconditional love, support and encouragement. By doing this, you are giving them the freedom to truly enjoy the game that they love!

There are some great books that focus on parenting and youth sports. Please check out our page on Youth Basketball books and videos to find out more on this important topic.

Tip #2: Do not pressure your child.
To me, this is an obvious one! However…we’ve all seen the parent that is “riding” their child from the minute the game or practice starts to the very end.

In this parent’s eyes, their child cannot do anything right on the basketball court. Now don’t get me wrong here, I believe when a child participates in a sport, they need to do things the right way (that is – the coach’s way). Are they going to do things right all the time? Of course not!

Everyone makes mistakes, in life and on the basketball court. As a parent, this is a perfect opportunity to teach your child and help them grow and improve their game. Adding extra pressure only makes their mistakes seem worse and often insurmountable.

This is the last thing we want with our children!

I’ve had my times when I’ve put extra pressure on my sons while they were participating in basketball or other youth sports. But when I step back and look at the big picture, I realize that this pressure is only hurting them. What I’ve learned to do is turn their mistakes into a teaching and learning experience – without adding any pressure.

Here’s an example for you: My son dribbles down the court and tries to make a behind-the-back pass to his teammate – but the pass goes out-of-bounds. Now instead of yelling at him and saying things like “What kind of a pass was that?!” “What are you thinking?!” “Get your head in the game!” I would simply take him aside after the game and say, “Now instead of trying to make that unnecessary pass, what could you have done different?” He would then think about it and say something like, “Well, I guess I could have just thrown a chest pass or bounce pass instead.”

As simple as that sounds, it is seldomly done. Most parents get on their child as soon as they make a mistake – and then the chance to teach and learn is ruined.

So please do yourself and your child a big favor – do not pressure them. Let them have fun and learn the game at their own pace. Your pressure will only hinder their progress and enjoyment.

Tip #3: Do not live vicariously through your child.
What I’ve seen over the years is that the parent that is putting extra pressure on their child is usually the parent that is also living vicariously through them. The two seem to go hand-in-hand for some reason.

I want to make an important point here. As parents, we have to remember that when our children are on the court – that’s their time to shine. It’s not our time to relive the glory days. We can’t push our children to go after the same goals we had during our playing days. Hey, if you were a star athlete – great! If you failed to get that college scholarship – that’s too bad. Either way, that has nothing to do with your child on the court.

As soon as parents start pressuring their child and trying to get them to attain their goals of yesterday…they ruin the entire process! Again please do yourself and your child a huge favor – do not pressure them!

Tip #4: Give your child more time with the basketball.
We all know the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” It’s so true. If you want to help your child improve their youth basketball skills, they need to work with the basketball as much as possible.

How often you wonder? That all depends on their commitment level. Your child will be the judge of that. Remember, they have to have fun with this. Your job, as a youth basketball parent, is to encourage them. Some children will practice for a few minutes a day, while others will practice for hours everyday.

That reminds me of a player I used to coach. He would dribble the basketball everywhere he went. When he couldn’t dribble, he would practice ball-handling drills. This was in addition to the many hours he spent playing the game. Needless to say, he was one of the best players in our school’s history.

So what does your child need for this practice time? Just a basketball! There are many great drills that can be practiced with nothing more than a basketball.

Dribbling, ball-handling, passing, shooting, footwork, and many more. Check out our Free Drills section for some great ideas.

Youth basketball parents should remember to encourage their child to practice, join them as often as you can – but never force them. Again, they will determine how often they want to practice.

Practice, practice, practice – it’s the best way to improve!

Tip #5: Learn the game yourself.
I think this goes hand in hand with Tip #4. By learning the game, at least the basic principles, youth basketball parents will be in a better position to help their child with their practice time and skill development.

Now do you have to go out and become a certified coach? Of course not, unless you want to. But I do think it is important to have a basic understanding of the game of basketball. I would recommend that you purchase some good books and videos on the game of basketball. There are many excellent books and videos out there that teach the basics of the game very well. This is a great way for not only you to learn the game, but also a great way to learn with your children.

One note on this, base your purchases on your level of experience with the game of youth basketball, your child’s level of experience, and what your child is hoping to learn at this point. Buy what is relevant to your situation.

I have a personal example of this. When I was coaching our 7th and 8th grade basketball teams, I purchased a book by Bobby Knight of Indiana University. The book was an incredible resource filled with information on the motion offense and pressure defense. Great book – but only one problem. My 7th and 8th graders weren’t ready for this information yet. I read the book and saved it for future reference.

Youth basketball parents should learn as much as they can about the game of basketball. By doing this, you are in a better position to help your child with their skill development and enjoyment of the game.

Tip #6: Play basketball with your child.
I believe this is the most enjoyable part about youth basketball, or any other youth sport. Just being able to get out their and play with your child. This is an incredibly special time for both the parent and the child. I think it’s a time when you can really develop some very special and lasting memories.

Having said that, I do think it is very important for youth basketball parents to approach this with the proper mindset. Our role as parents is to encourage and support our children as they play youth basketball.

When youth basketball parents play with their children, whether it’s a one-on-one game, shooting contest, or just shooting hoops – it’s important that they keep the following things in mind to make it more enjoyable for everyone.
  • Have fun and enjoy your time together.

  • When your child is younger don’t block their shot or steal the ball from them. As they get older, you can play tougher defense to challenge them more.

  • Play with your opposite hand. This will make the game more even. As your child gets older and improves their skills, you may not be able to do this anymore!

  • Try not to run the score up on your child. This will only discourage them.

  • Do not spend a lot of time calling fouls and violations. Remember this is supposed to be a fun time together. Calling every foul and violation will make it to serious and not as enjoyable.

  • As you play, give your child brief explanations and pointers about their performance, but avoid long explanations and lectures. Boring!! It’s a great idea to sit down and talk to your child after the game. Discuss their performance and what they did well during the game, and also point out what they need to work on.

  • As your child gets older and improves I think it’s fine to challenge them a little bit more. Play stronger defense and make the game more competitive. Again, your child’s skill level will determine if they are ready for this – don’t rush this!

  • As your child becomes a better player, help them work on specific drills that will help improve their basketball skills.

Tip #7: Attend youth basketball games.
Watching the game of basketball, at any level, is a great teacher. Our family has always enjoyed attending the local high school and college basketball games. Watching others is a great way to learn.

As you are watching, discuss what is going on in the game. Discuss topics that your child is familiar with or what is relevant to what they are currently working on. Again, that will be based on their skill level and level of competition.

After the game, talk about different plays, strategies or skills that the players used. It’s important to let your child voice their thoughts, opinions and views at this point. This is a good indicator of their understanding of the game of youth basketball.

This is a great way for youth basketball parents to bond with their child and really enjoy some quality time together!

Tip #8: Watch basketball on TV.
This is almost as good as being at the game. Sometimes it’s even better, especially if the commentator is knowledgeable and easy to understand.

I prefer watching NCAA basketball over the NBA. I think the games are more fun to watch. The fundamental skills and team concepts are more noticeable. I also think that youth athletes can identify more with a college basketball player, who might only be a few years older than them, rather than an NBA superstar.

Whichever you prefer, I think you can enjoy a game on TV in the same way you would enjoy one that you are attending. Get the most out of it and talk to your child about what is happening during the game. Again, a great time for youth basketball parents to bond with their child!

One note: Half-time and the end of the game are great times to go out and shoot hoop with your child!

Tip #9: Invest in training tools.
Basically, anything that improves your child’s basketball skills is considered a training tool. The two main tools that I will talk about here are a basketball and basketball hoop. Let’s start with an age-appropriate basketball. It’s important that your child practices with a ball that is the right size for their hand. This allows them to get comfortable with the ball, get a better feel for the ball, as well as handle and control the ball better. The size of the ball will be listed on the box it is sold in, as well as right on the ball.

A basketball hoop. There are so many styles, models and price ranges to choose from. It’s important to have a good hoop to shoot at. If there is a local park that your child can play at, use that. If not, I would invest in a basketball hoop. Buy what you can afford and what is appropriate for your child’s skill level.

I’ve seen many youth basketball parents run out to buy the top-of-the-line basketball hoop for their child, only to find a few months later that they have lost their interest in the game. Again, buy what is suitable for your needs.

I would recommend the adjustable type basketball hoops. These can adjust from ten feet down to usually seven feet. This makes it much easier for younger children to practice shooting at the proper height. Just like with the basketball, we want them to use equipment that they are comfortable with. This improves their chances of success and enjoyment tremendously.

Note: What should you do if you don’t have room for an outdoor basketball hoop? Use a basket, barrel or bucket. Use your imagination – there’s always a way to practice shooting hoops. If you are inside, use a laundry basket and rolled up socks, clean ones please.

These are the two most important training tools your child will need to improve their basketball skills. It is truly amazing the number of skills you can develop with a ball and a hoop.

There are many other training tools that are designed to help improve your child’s basketball skills. Every skill that is needed to play the game of basketball has some very specific training tools to help your child improve.

Source: Steve Nash Youth Basketball Blog
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