Pre-season Middle School/Youth Basketball Practices

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."
Middle school team huddle

This article is to help youth and middle school coaches prepare for their upcoming season. A novice middle school coach recently asked me for help in planning his practices. He has seven one-hour practices before his season starts and only has access to half-court each practice. So I have based this page on that schedule. Obviously your own schedule and court availability may differ and you can adjust.

This plan could also apply to 5th-6th grade teams.

See "Tips on Coaching Youth Basketball" for many important considerations. In structuring your practices, focus on teaching fundamentals every practice - ball-handling, dribbling, passing and shooting.

Also teach man-to-man defense (on-ball, help and recover, helpside, etc). You can probably win more games at this level playing 2-3 zone defense by packing the paint and forcing outside shots from players who not yet good, strong outside shooters. However, the focus of youth and middle school basketball should be to teach players the important fundamentals that they need to progress to the next level, not wins and losses. All players need to learn how to play good man-to-man defense.

Work rebounding fundamentals into your defense instruction.

Use a simple offense. You could use a free-lance style of 4-out offense, or 3-out 2-in offense, or the "Slam Motion Offense". If you like the "Read and React" offense, you could simply use the first two or three layers of that offense.

Another simple offense, with some pattern, is the simple 1-3-1 offense. This can be used against man-to-man defense, and the "motion-2" option can be used against zone defenses.

Because the above-mentioned coach's league permits full-court pressing, I have included a simple press-breaker. Later, you can add a simple 1/2-3/4 court trapping press defense. Personally I do not think that pressing should be allowed at the 5th-6th grade level.

You will also need a couple simple baseline out-of-bounds plays, which we put in just before the first game. Your choice.

The practice plans below should help you get started. Subsequent practices during the season should still continue to focus on fundamentals and defense, but you can add a simple play or two as the season progresses. And you can tailor your later practices to go over problem areas, weaknesses, etc.

As always, have fun! But at the same time, these practices are designed to move quickly from one drill to another. Don't spend your whole practice on just a few drills. If they mess up a drill at first, it's OK - move on. They'll have a chance to get the drill right the next practice.

Notice that I did not include any stretching/warm-up exercises. Court time is precious and shouldn't be wasted. Have players arrive 20 minutes early and do their stretching/warm-ups on the sideline or in a vacant hallway or other area.

Seven Pre-Season Practice Plans

These are presented in both pdf and excel (spreadsheet) formats.

Practice #1
   pdf    Excel

Practice #2
   pdf    Excel

Practice #3
   pdf    Excel

Practice #4
   pdf    Excel

Practice #5
   pdf    Excel

Practice #6
   pdf    Excel

Practice #7
   pdf    Excel

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