Coaching any sport requires a considerable level of dedication and focus. Teaching young people is even more demanding, as it requires an ability to take a complex topic and make it understandable by people who have little to no experience or context. Combining the two requires near-superhuman patience.

Almost all youth coaches will agree they have made many mistakes during their career. In the sport of basketball, some of those mistakes are ones all coaches of all sports share, and some are specific to the sport itself. All of them can be avoided with preparation, knowledge, and a little experience.


The sport of basketball requires almost constant running and jumping. Athletes that are out of shape or don’t have the endurance for the kind of physical activity basketball requires are not only going to be frustrated, but they are going to have trouble performing the necessary physical feats to compete at all. A team made up of players who are not in superior physical shape will have difficulty simply learning the game.

No Highlight Reels

At the youth level, basketball games are not won by spectacular plays. They are won with great defense, free throws, and rebounds. Most new teams shouldn’t even have a ball in the gym for the first few days, as they should be learning the fundamentals of defense. Later on, the team should be learning the principles of rebounding, followed by working on the consistency of their free throw shooting motion.

Coaches often make the mistake of presuming three point shots, slam dunks, or spectacular plays in general are what win games. On the contrary, a team that masters the three skills of defense, free throws, and rebounding can be quite formidable, even if they have little or no offense.

Forbid Dribbling

Youth players perceive dribbling as a necessary part of basketball. It isn’t. In fact, teams under the high school level should be forbidden from dribbling until they prove they can win a game without it. A team that can generate offense with nothing but passing becomes a three-headed monster competitor when they combine that talent with defense, a good free-throw percentage and rebounding.

Far too often youth coaches emphasize dribbling when in reality they should emphasize moving without the ball. If you ever want to see a standing crowd go berserk at a youth game, see what happens when they watch their team go coast to coast in four passes for a lay-up with the ball never touching the floor.