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Coaching Basketball

Get the tools to coach America's game

Coaching basketball is one of those sports that the fundamental skills are not extremely challenging to learn by themselves. The challenge comes in putting them together at game speed with an opponent challenging every one of those skills.

Basketball is a great team sport. When the team comes first everyone supports everyone else on offense and defense. Not one player stands out. When you think of the great Celtics teams, yes they had their star players, but Bill Russel epitomized that team by his sense of team.

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Defensive Positioning


Recommended Programs

The Jump Manual


Five Fundamental Skills: Dribbling, Passing, Shooting, Rebounding, and defensive positioning

Coaching Basketball: Dribbling Fundamentals

So, what does everyone coaching basketball really need to run their team? A good ball handler is vital to a well run offense. Great teams have great point guards who can handle the ball. Not only do point guards need to handle the ball well, when you have a big man who can dribble up court your team is improved and has more options.

1) Coaching basketball: The Basic Dribbling Technique
  • Cup your dribbling hand with your fingers spread comfortably with the dribble being a push-pull motion of your arm, wrist and fingers.

  • Start the dribble by extending your elbow and flexing your fingers and wrist.

  • As the ball bounces back up, meet it with your fingers, and your wrist absorbing the force.

  • Control the ball with your fingers and pads of your hands, not the palms. Keep your non-dribbling hand up for protection and keep your eyes up.
Control is the key. While coaching basketball you will need your players to practice dribbling with their hand on the following areas of the ball:
  • directly on top,

  • in front,

  • behind,

  • right side

  • left side.

2) Coaching Basketball: The Control, or Low Dribble
  • Use this when you're closely guarded.

  • Keep your body between the ball and the defender.

  • Dribble the ball at knee level or lower and slightly away from your body

  • Advance the ball with a step and slide movement.

  • Keep your free hand up to protect the ball while keeping you dribbling arm close to your body.

3) Coaching Basketball: The Speed, or High Dribble
  • Use this type of basketball dribbling when you need to advance the ball quickly: quick drives to the basket, fast breaks or following a steal in the open court.

  • Lean forward slightly while extending your dribbling arm fully, pushing the ball out in front of your body.

  • Keep the ball near waist level or higher to help maintain maximum speed.
Once this dribbling technique is mastered you will get up and down the court about as fast as you can run.

4) Coaching Basketball: The Crossover Dribble

This technique is good to use when you're being overplayed because you can change direction quickly.
  • When your foot on the dribbling side contacts the floor, push off hard toward your opposite foot and bounce the ball across your body with a quick flick of your wrist and fingers (flick the ball with your dribbling hand by pushing from slightly outside the ball).
  • The lower you bounce the ball, the quicker your crossover.

  • Take a step with the foot on the receiving side as your receiving hand gets the ball on a short hop.
This dribbling technique requires quickness. You need to be careful because you do expose the ball to the defender.

5) Coaching Basketball: The Spin, or Reverse Dribble
This dribbling technique is good if the crossover isn't available because you're guarded too closely.
  • If you need to go left - stop, plant your left foot and pivot on it as you spin in the opposite direction with your back to the defender.

  • Keep the ball close to your body as you spin and switch it to your left hand.

  • As you complete the turn, dribble with your left hand and keep your head up to see the floor.

6) Coaching Basketball: The Change-of-Pace Dribble

The idea here is to make your defender think you are slowing down so they relax and allow you to blow by them.
  • As you slow down, straighten slightly, plant your lead foot and bring your head up a bit. This creates the illusion that you are about to stop and your defender will relax.

  • Then accelerate quickly and use a low dribble to get by the defender.

  • Practice this going from slow to fast and back to slow again.
It's very difficult to defend once you perfect it!

7) Coaching Basketball: The Behind-the-Back Dribble

By dribbling behind-the-back you can change direction and still maintain visual contact with what is in front of you.
  • If you're dribbling with your right hand, slide your hand to the outside of the ball as you put your weight on your right foot.

  • Flick the ball behind your back above the back of your knee and across the back of your thigh as you move your left foot forward.

  • Catch the ball with your left hand and continue dribbling.

  • Make sure to get your left leg forward so the ball has room to come under your left hand for a smooth transition.

8) Coaching Basketball: The Pull-Back Dribble
This will give you space you're double-teamed or the defender tries to run and jump at you.
  • Retreat two steps back as you use the control dribble.

  • Use a step-slide movement by pushing off your front foot and sliding back with your rear foot.
As always, keep your head up and keep dribbling until you can pass.

9) Coaching Basketball: The Between-the-Legs Dribble

This works well when you're being overplayed.
  • If you're dribbling with your right hand, keep the ball low and switch it to your left hand.

  • Bounce the ball through your legs with a quick flick of your wrist, fingers and lower arm.

Coaching Basketball: Great Dribbling - Harlem Globetrotters clip

There is no need for us to recreate the coaching basketball wheel, for great basketball dribbling drills including videos go here. Just remember, come back and visit us.

Coaching Basketball: Passing

Passing the basketball is essential for a well functioning offensive team. Passing well requires both a player with good technique so he or she passes the ball accurately with the perfect speed.

When coaching basketball teams you will need to teach how to receive a ball. Good passing requires teammates who are in good position to receive the pass, catch the ball well, and know how move to open areas on the court or use their body to gain position on the defender and be able to receive a pass.

Coaching Basketball Passing Tips

1) Step toward the player you are passing to with a short, powerful step.
2) Follow through with all passes. Keep your body moving in the direction of the pass after the ball has left your hands.

3) Deliver your passes above the waist and below the shoulders of your teammate.

4) Control the ball by using your fingertips and not on your palms.

5) For a moving teammate pass to where they are going not where they are.

6) For a stationary teammate put the ball where the defender would have to go through your teammate to reach the ball.

7) When using two-handed chest and bounce passes, be sure to snap your wrists out at the end of the passing motion.

8) Keep both hands on the ball until the pass is released.

9) Pass the ball firmly.

10) Never just pass towards your receiver. Have a specific target in mind.

11) Passes should be crisp, sharp and accurate. They should be delivered neither too soft nor too hard so they can be handled easily by the receiver.

12) Don't give away your pass by focusing too intently on your target.

Coaching Basketball Receiving Tips

Remember great passing teams must be able to receive the ball without losing control. Fumbling and turnovers are caused when receivers take their eyes off the ball or try to do something before they have caught it.

1) Keep your eyes on the ball at all times.

2) Show the passer where you want the ball thrown with the proper hand location.

3) Give the passer a good target by keeping the hands above the waist with the fingers spread and relaxed.

4) Catch and control the ball first, before doing anything else.

5) Move toward the ball to catch it.

6) To catch the ball develop strong, yet soft hands. Learn to give as the ball comes to you.

7) After catching the ball control it by moving it into the center of your chest and keeping it close to your body.

8) As the receiver, look to move to open areas. Work with your teammates to use screens to get open space.

9) Be sure your fingers and thumbs are good and relaxed just before catching the pass.

10) Use your body, your legs and hips in particular, to get into a strong and wide stance to shield the defender and be in position to receive a pass.

Coaching Basketball: Passing Instruction and drills

Coaching Basketball: Shooting the Ball

Yes, defense wins championships, but you still must score to win. Scoring means you must be able to shoot the ball. There are three basic shots to master: the jump shot, lay-up, and hook shot. Coaching basketball inevitably entails coaching shooting.

Coaching Basketball: The Jump Shot

All human actions involve three fundamental components to do that action. The actual physiology of the action, the mental strategies involved in the action, and the motivational component that is principally made up of the beliefs and values of the person.

In coaching basketball, in this particular case, coaching shooting, it is essential for a player to develop the maximum of their genetic make-up that they must have the proper mechanics (physiology), correct mental strategies, and the proper motivation characteristics. It means those coaching basketball, or shooting specifically, need to understand the mechanics of the shot, mental strategies involved in shooting the ball, and the motivational components of great shooters.

To do that well we need expert models. This notion of modeling experts to improve training has not been implemented to great extent, even at the professional level. The challenge has always been developing the model. The sciences of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, hypnosis, and Time-Line TherapyTM Techniques enables us to do just that and over time we will see better training models.

Until then, anyone coaching basketball will have to be aware of those components and do their best to get the information that will best enable their athletes to perform at their best.

One of the issues is determining your expert model. Many of the so called shooting experts model NBA players, good ones, but not the best of the best. A true model really needs to be the best of the best.

Modeling an expert involves much more than just watching video, yet that is what most professional instructors do. There are excellent programs that have been developed that will be of great help in learning the mechanics of the shot as well as one very small portion of the mental approach to shooting.

The Fundamentals of the jump shot:
  • Your knees should be slightly bent before shooting a basketball for more potential power
  • Your dominant hand should have its fingers spread out
  • Only the fingertips should be gripping onto the ball
  • Your other hand should support the ball on the side
  • The ball should be brought above the head in one motion
  • At the top of the shooting motion, just before releasing the ball, the angles at your armpit, elbow, and wrist is 90 degrees
  • While extending your knees, extend your forearm and snap your wrist
  • Make sure you follow through with your wrist movement.
  • Shooting strength and power comes from the legs.
In sum, you are shooting a basketball with energy being moved from your legs to your hands.  The wrist only directs the basketball and adds backspin to it.

Coaching Basketball Tips on perfecting the basketball Jump Shot
  • Always keep track of the distance between you and the hoop
  • Tuck your elbows inward towards each other when shooting
  • Shoot the basketball at an arc.
  • Square up your body with the basketball hoop
  • grip the basketball tightly with only your thumb and little finger
  • Aim with your index finger or middle finger only
  • Never hesitate due to the fear of a block shot.
  • Keep your eye on your target.
We have heard two schools on what the target should be which is one reason a model could come in handy. One school says to aim at the little hook that holds the net on the front of the rim and the other school says aim at that hook on the inside back of the rim. Our best shooters tend to aim at the front, but we have had some pretty good ones who aimed at the back.

One final thought, if "it ain't broke, don't fix it." If you have someone with an unorthodox shooting style and he or she is making their shots and not getting them blocked I would hestitate to change it.

Coaching Basketball: The hook shot

The hook shot came into being over half a century ago with George Mikan and the Minneapolis Lakers. This shot is used mainly by post players close to the basket, near the blocks or in the paint. The post player receives the ball inside with his or her back to the basket. Here are the steps:

1. Hold the ball with both hands.

2. Keep your body between the ball and your defender.

3 Pivot your body so your shoulders are perpendicular to the hoop. [The non shooting shoulder is closer to the hoop than the shooting shoulder.]

4 Transfer the ball to your shooting hand.

5 Extend your shooting arm and ball sideways rather than in front of you.

6 Use your non-shooting elbow to create a little space between you and your defender by raising and pushing it out.

7 Raise your shooting elbow to the height of your shoulder and your shooting hand slightly above your head.

8 Keep your pivot foot on the floor, but lift your other foot up as you start raising your elbow.

9 Flick your wrist to shoot the ball.

Coaching Basketball: Shooting the layup

While many top male players of all sizes seem to be able to dunk the ball the layup is still an essential shot that needs to be made a high percentage of the time. If a player can't make a shot down low, even a contested shot, more than half the time he or she won't go very far.

1 Stand at the far right-hand edge of the free throw line.

2 Dribble the ball with your right hand.

3 Concentrate on shooting the ball off the upper right corner of the square painted on the backboard.

4 Approach the basket slowly, dribbling the ball.

5 Stop dribbling when you're 3 to 8 feet from the basket (the distance will depend on your size).

6 Pick up the ball while you're stepping with your right foot.

7 Take another step and plant your left foot, then jump off it.

8 As you jump bring your right knee up toward your chest.

9 Aim for the upper-right corner of the box on the backboard.

10 Shoot the ball with your dominant hand first. Once you have mastered that work your other hand.

11 Practice slowly increasing your speed as you make more and more baskets.

Coaching Basketball: Layup Tips
  • Smoothness is the key. Pick up the ball, take your step, jump and shoot in one fluid motion.
  • If you have trouble running and banking the ball off the backboard first practice shooting while standing 3 to 4 feet from the basket.
  • Practice both left- and right-handed layups. It will be more difficult with your weaker hand, but worth the effort come game time.

Coaching Basketball: Rebounding

Rebounding is one of the most important aspects of the game. Controlling missed shots, offensively or defensively is crucial for effectively coaching basketball. You show me a team that consistently gets out rebounded and I will show you a losing team.

You do not have to be a big guy to be a great rebounder. One of the best all-time was Bill Russel and he was only 6' 9". Larry Bird was another great rebounder and he was only 6' 9" and Oscar Roberston was only 6' 5".

Develop a rebounding mindset.
  • Over ninety percent of all rebounds are taken below the rim.

  • Make up your mind that you want to rebound, go after each and every one

  • master box out techniques
  • assume that every shot will be missed

  • want the ball - take pride in getting the ball
Always be in a rebounding position.
  • always keep your hands up at least shoulder high when getting ready to rebound. Shot goes up-hands go up!

  • Concentrate on the ball.

  • Anticipate the flight of the ball.

  • Use your body to defend your position
Basketball Coaching: Defensive Rebounding

Boxing Out
  • Go towards your man and make contact.
  • Pivot so you “Put your butt to their gut” and just slide with them, keeping them away from the rebound.
  • When boxing out, keep your man from pushing you in towards the basket, so you can maintain good rebounding position.
  • Then go get the rebound!
Basketball Coaching: Offensive Rebounding

Get the inside position on your defender by
  • being quicker - better anticipation 
  • or make some kind of move to get that inside position such as a jab step, change of directions or a spin move to get to that position.

Coaching Basketball: Defensive Position

We can't emphasize it enough. Defense wins championships. The Celtic Dynasty of the 60s was a defensive powerhouse. Team defense begins with each individual learning good solid defensive positioning. Coaching basketball well means teaching defense.

1 Give your opponent about an arm's length distance from you.

2 Get low and be on the balls of your feet.

3 Place your back foot 2-3 feet behind your front foot.

4 Point your shoulders at a 45-degree angle to your opponent and be in a position to force them to their weak side.

5 Hold your arms slightly extended in front of you.

6 Keep your palms angled up for quick flicks at the ball.

7 Move with your opponent, keeping your body between him or her and the basket.

8 Slide your feet as you move. Avoid crossing your feet whenever possible.

Coaching Basketball: Defense Positioning Tips
  • Never Give Up.
  • Always hustle.
  • Concentrate on your opponent's midriff
  • Use your peripheral vision.

Basketball Coaching Resources

Free Basketball Coaching Resources

Breakthrough Basketball

Guide To Coaching Basketball

Coach Like a Pro

National Association of Basketball Coaches

Youth Basketball Coaching Association

Our Basketball Coaching Recommended Programs

Basketball Coaching: Practice Aids

For youth basketball coaching we highly recommend The Well-Prepared Coach. For any of you who have volunteered to coach basketball, even if you played in high school, the key to doing this well is to be prepared. While you may remember many of the drills and practices you use to do, this e-book will be of great help in being prepared. You will get:
  • 30, ninety‐minute practice plans for 4th – 8th grade teams.  Exercises, explanations and teaching points.

  • 30 agendas and talking points for pre‐court-time meetings.  Don’t miss your opportunity to really get to know your players and cover important topics.

  • A “Driveway Workout” for your players’ off‐season efforts.

  • Proven inbounds plays and sideline plays.

  • “The Special Play” — This play results in a surprising number of open lay‐ups in games.  In fact, this one play accounted for more than 1/2 of our points in several games!  When you have to have a basket at a key point in the game, here’s the ticket.
For the $39.95 you pay you get a tremendous package to really make your life much easier as a coach.

Basketball Coaching: Physical Training

The Jump Manual

Jumping is a significant part of basketball. The Jump Manual provides a proven program to improve your jumping ability. So, for all of you coaching basketball we would recommend you get this program into the hands of your athletes.

It IS NOT about being able to dunk the ball, although that certainly can be a by-product, it IS about being able to jump high to block shots, shoot over bigger players or from farther out, and rebound. You can be strong, quick, and in incredible condition but not have good technique to jump higher. This program is specifically designed to improve your ability to jump higher.

In this program you will learn:
  • a day by day workout chart shows you exactly how to do each workout, and exercises are accompanied by videos.
  • why Strength X Quickness = Explosion and the most effective and proven methods to increase both.
  • how to use the "stretch shortening cycle (SSC)", plyometrics, and "complex training" to boost your performance.
  • the 9 facets of an incredible vertical and how to systematically improve in each one to create an explosive synergy.
  • why the recovery phase of training is so important, why most athletes neglect it, and how you can capitalize.
  • how flexibility, balance, and form greatly affect your explosion potential and how to capitalize.
  • Learn why most athletes are training harder and still getting less results.
  • Learn how to recruit and train all muscles involved in the vertical jump.
You also get:
  • access to the Jumpers Forum where you can collaborate with other like minded athletes who have already achieved what you want.
  • UNLIMITED one-on-one training to guarantee that ALL your questions are answered.
  • An entire section about jumping form shows you how to gain inches by tweaking your jumping form to use explosion you already have.
The Jump Manual is THE best program we have found for training players to have more explosive jumping ability. It is a basketball coaching must have.

Other Fitness Recommendations

Coaching Basketball is no different than any other sport in that you want to have well-conditioned athletes. That will require your basketball players to workout during the season and in the off-season.
You can learn about our recommended exercise programs on our workouts page.

Nutrition Recommendations

Nutrition is vitally important for athletic endeavors. In this current culture it is vital that those coaching basketball, or any sport, are informed about nutrition. If your athletes do not watch their nutrition they will not be able to make the athletic gains they could if they ate properly. We have just a few recommended nutrition programs that you can learn about on our nutrition education page.

Coaching Basketball: Final Thoughts

We are not a coaching basketball only website so our goal is to provide some basic information with places to go and programs to get that will make your experience coaching basketball better. Please, give us feedback and help your other coaches by using our submissions page.

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