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Ball Handling Skills
Ball handling skills are the key to teaching basketball, especially at young ages. These make great warm ups and help kids get used to handling the ball (and can help assuage the fear of the ball in kids who aren't used to them). Check out the gifs below (there are 11. Use the arrow in the image to see the next one).
Spread dots around the ground. If you don't have dots, the cheap solution is to use a deck of playing cards. The goal is to progress through the levels. Players dribble 10 times at a dot, then move to another dot and dribble 10 times again. Once they've done this at 10 dots, they have passed level one and can move to level 2. Check the game card below for the levels. With younger kids, I call it 50 bounces and only have them go to 5 dots before leveling up.
Setup: Divide kids into a couple teams (ideally 3-4 per team) and have a basketball for each team. Cones are helpful.
For younger kids (Kindergarten), they run to a ball, dribble 5 times, then run back to their team for the next player to go.
For 1st-3rd graders, they dribble up and around a cone, then back to their team.
Take it to the Bank
Setup: Divide kids into a couple teams (ideally 3-4 per team). A basketball for each team. Throw out a lot of things to pick up (I use fluff balls, but you can use playing cards or small toys). Call them "coins".
One player dribbles to a "coin", picks it up, and dribbles back to their team. The next player does the same. They must dribble the entire time.
If you're running low on "coins", have them exchange them for bigger items. For instance, I call the fluff balls "quarters" and when they get 4, they trade them in for a dollar (a dot).
Try the Mine Field variation. Give each team several objects (cones, dome cones, balls, etc) to set out in the playing area. These will be the mines that dribblers will have to avoid.
Lumberjacks & Planters
Setup: spread out a bunch of cones. Divide into two teams (A and B). Need a ball for every player. If balls are limited, just give balls to the Lumberjacks.
Team A starts as "Lumberjacks" and B starts as "Planters." The Lumberjacks job is to dribble around, knocking down cones with their other hand. Planters dribble around setting them back up. After a while, switch the jobs so that team B is the lumberjacks.
If there are enough players to have a third team, it can be helpful (especially with young players) to rest. They could be lumberjacks, then planters, then rest, then back to lumberjacks.
Dot Spot Shot
Setup: Toss out a bunch of dots (or playing cards) near the basketball goal. Divide kids into several teams (ideally 3-4 per team).
The first player dribbles to a dot, shoots a basket from that spot. If they make it, they take the dot (and ball) back to their team. If they miss, they just dribble their ball back to the next player. This is a good opportunity to have them pass the ball to the next player. The goal is to collect as many dots as possible.
Pro Tip: You can get by only setting a few dots (or playing cards) at a time. As shots are made and they're collected, set more out. This keeps the game going longer and allows you to keep the dots spread out, while encouraging shots from ideal locations.
Setup: Need 2 basketballs and one goal.
Imagine a race around a track where players line up at the starting line. Player 1 starts running around the track Then Player 2 takes off after them, trying to catch them. When Player 1 gets back to the starting line, Player 3 can go, trying to catch Player 2. If Player 3 passes Player 2, then Player 2 is out. The game continues until only one player remains.
Knockout is like this, except instead of running around a track, they're shooting baskets. The starting line is the free throw line. Player 1 shoots from the free throw line, then shoots from anywhere until they make it (then they pass to next player and go to the end of the line). As soon as Player 1 takes their first shot, Player 2 tries to catch up and make the basket as quickly as possible. If they pass the player in front of them, that player is out. If not, they keep shooting until they make it or the person behind them makes it and gets them out.
Players cannot interfere with the other player's ball. However when you shoot, your ball can knock out the other person's ball, saving yourself and making their job harder. Any interference results in being eliminated from the game.
Fun-Size Knock Out
I have a "fun-size" "gym" (about the size of a classroom), with 8 foot ceilings. I had to get creative to make Knock Out work. Turns out, this solution works great in small spaces but also allows more games in a larger space. You don't even need basketball goals. I started the game using 10-gallon water coolers.
Setup: Need 2 basketballs and a small basketball goal (a trash can or water cooler would work). Then make a box or circle around it with floor tape (or chalk or nylon webbing). The perimeter should be at least 2 feet away from the goal. I call this The Box. Then make a Free Throw Line. Optional, make a Lane from the box to the Free Throw line.
Paid links to my setup equipment.
Game Play: Just like Knock Out (above). Except you cannot shoot from inside The Box or The Lane (if you choose to use it. It's a good way to keep players out of the way of the next shooter). The official rule is that your feet and shoulders cannot be in The Box or The Lane. If they're inside those areas and they make the shot, it doesn't count and they'll need to shoot again.
In college, I coached 3rd-6th grade basketball and had so many players that thought they were on the AND1 Mixtape Tour. All they wanted to do was dribble and subsequently give away the ball. So the solution in practice was to not let them dribble at all in scrimmages. I've always been a big fan of Ultimate (Frisbee) so I just converted the rules to basketball.
If the ball touches the floor, it goes to the defense. If the ball hits the rim, any team can recover the rebound.
Of course, this gets rid of bounce passes, so you can also play where a single bounce is allowed. But if it bounces twice then it goes to the other team.
We became the best passing team in the league after my players embraced the game and realized how great passing makes them better together.
The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Four Square - Using mini-games to teach all the skills and rules
Ultimate Kickball - Kickball without all the problems that come with Kickball. Also insanely fun.
The Ultimate Sub Plan - A fool proof plan for emergency sub days
A Better Way to Make Teams - Give children the power of choice