How Early is Too Early to Teach Children Basketball Skills?

When is it time, as a basketball coach, to start becoming a stickler on technique with your youth basketball players?  While you can’t put a specific age on it, there are some generalities and indicators that will clue you to the right timing.

Kids Need to Learn Movement Without the Basketball First

Some suggest not teaching kids basketball skills prior to age 8.  Others wait to start basketball technique training until as late as age 10.
Regardless, there are basic skills a child needs to have mastered to some degree before they are ready to get too involved in learning proper basketball skill technique.

If your players are early in their basketball experience, focus on developing well-rounded athletes rather than basketball-specific athletes. It makes no sense to teach them to shoot a jump shot if they lack jumping coordination.  Likewise, teaching a child to change directions while dribbling is pointless if they have difficulty changing directions without the ball.

So, take some time to develop your players’ all-around basketball skills. Teach them to jump, run, weave, change directions, run backward, etc. while they are young.  Wait until they have mastered these skills to challenge them with proper basketball movement training.

A Couple Games That Get Kids Ready to Learn Basketball Skills

Prior to age 10, a good rule of thumb is to incorporate about 20 minutes of general movement training into your practice schedule. This time should be dedicated, not to making better basketball players, but to simply making better athletes.

Play fun basketball games that develop general skills of running, changing direction, jumping, etc.

Tag is a great game for developing multi-directional movement.  Gather your players in a confined area where they can just outrun whoever is it. This will force your players to do a lot of side-to-side movement to avoid the person who’s it.

Red-Light, Yellow-Light, Green-Light is another good game which nicely develops the ability rapidly change pace.  Have your players run in place, do lunges, or whatever. Green-Light is full speed, Yellow-Light is half speed, and Red-Light is stopped.  Mix up the lights and equip your team to change speeds quickly.

Reasons for Focusing on Movement in Young Athletes

Young children are much better at developing movement skills.  As we get older, our ability to learn new movement skills declines rapidly. Teach them a variety of movement skills early.  It will be easier for them to learn them.

As mentioned earlier, teaching movement skills young will make your players more well-rounded athletes.  The ability to quickly change directions is a skill that will help your players whether they are on your basketball court or tearing up the soccer field.  Giving them all around skills will encourage them to continue in other sports which will keep them in shape for the basketball season.

One of the more important reasons for movement training with young athletes, in my mind, is to prevent injury.  An athlete who has developed coordination in their movement skills is less likely to be injured.  And injury is something none of us wants to see in our players.

Prior to age 10, key on general movement skills training and save basketball-specific techniques for later. Your team will be better for it.

By: Tonya Krause