Gravity and Teaching Youth Basketball Skills

Posted: December 27, 2019 in Kids, Uncategorized

By Joe Haefner

Here is an effective tip for teaching skills in youth basketball. I picked this up from Bob Bigelow years ago.

With youth basketball players, it’s usually easier for them to learn skills that require the least resistance against gravity.

Footwork requires no gravity. Dribbling works with gravity. Passing works slightly against gravity. Shooting works against gravity.

So we advise to put more focus towards the skills where your players can see a greater improvement.


1 – You’re more efficient and effective with your time.

When it comes to shooting and even passing, there are limitations on the progress you can make regardless of the amount of time that you spend.

This is mostly due to natural physical and mental maturation. Things that you have little control over.

While with ball handling and footwork, your ceiling is much higher because it doesn’t have as many limitations due to maturation.

So let’s pretend you have a scale of 1 to 100 for rating the proficiency of skills. 1 being the worst. 100 being the best.

With shooting, your max might be a 40.

With ball handling, your max might be a 70.

2 – Players are more motivated.

From a psychological perspective, it’s also motivating because your players see more improvement.

This tends to happen when you spend more time on skills that have less resistance to gravity like footwork and dribbling.

I would even advise to film the first practice and maybe the first game. That way, your players and parents can visually see it.

Should you ignore the other skills like shooting and passing?

Absolutely not! I would still spend a significant amount of time on passing and shooting lay ups.

However, you probably want to minimize the time of shooting off the catch and shooting off the dribble.

Also, from a developmental standpoint, it’s hard to work on shooting form due to strength and coordination.

That’s also why we recommend smaller basketballs and lower hoop heights for youth players. You can spend a few minutes on form shooting this way.

If you don’t have access to lower hoops, you can also do form shooting against a wall.

Here would be an example of how you might approach practice planning with this mindset. This might work well for players that are 12 years old and under.

Skills primary focus – Ball handling and footwork

Skills secondary focus – Lay ups, passing, shooting

Offense primary focus – Cutting and getting open – V-cuts, L-cuts, basket cuts (give and go), and backdoor cuts.

Offense secondary focus – Introduce ball screens, introduce screens away from the ball, baseline out of bounds play, sideline out of bounds play, press breaker.

Defense primary focus – Defensive stance, 1v1 defense, positioning when 1 or 2 passes away, moving on the pass, sprinting to areas.

Defense secondary focus – Defending cutters, post players, ball screens, screens away from the ball.

Of course, there are exceptions. An advanced group of 11 and 12 year olds might be ready to emphasize more shooting and advanced concepts.

Then as the players mature and get older, you can shift more practice time towards shooting form and more shooting drills.

Around age 12 or 13 is when you can start to focus more on shooting form. The time put in leads to greater improvement and it can actually have a lasting impact. This often coincides with when players reach puberty.


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