Preschool Basketball Blog

Pre-School Basketball 

Pre-School sports are much more than just teaching skills and fundamentals, we want to ensure players are learning basic movements, focusing on following directions, and getting used to playing together on a team.

Leaving mom and dad can be a little overwhelming, for some players more so than others. When players come into the gym, give them a few minutes to acclimate themselves. Allow players to shoot around, talk to them about their day, play keep-away with them, make them feel comfortable. 

Before we start practice, we have to lay down some simple ground rules. Players need definitive spots of where to stand and where to go. It’s important to use markers that they can identify as “their spot”. You can use disc cones or rubber circles on the floor. Remind players that these are just to show them where to stand, they should not pick them up or move them. 

It’s important that players have an indicator that will let them know when to start an activity. I like to use the word “Go!”. So for instance your instructions will sound something like this… “When I say GO, we are going to skip to the other end of the court. Remember that we want to stay in bounds, so don’t go outside of the black line. Ready? Go!” Always use “Go!” or a specific word to let players know when you are going to start the activity. Do the same thing for a stop in action. We use STOP, freeze also works well. 

It’s time for practice to start! Use your markers along the baseline and have players go to their marker on the floor and stand (set them up prior to players arriving). Again, we want players to continue warming up and feeling comfortable with you as the coach and their team. Do a quick activity by having players say their name and their favorite … (animal at the zoo, color, day of the week, pizza topping, etc). Remind players to listen to their teammates (be respectful) and to use their best big kid voices when they are talking. 

If you have players who are hesitant to come out on the court or who are shy - invite those players to be your “helper”. Have them come stand by you, be the leader, go first in saying their names, etc. 

Now that players are comfortable, stretch, and move! We want players to begin learning the inbounds and out of bounds concept. Have players move between in bounds and out of bounds. Ex: “When I say go, I want you to move to where you think you would be, in bounds. Ready? Go!” We are going to jog around the gym 3 times, staying out of bounds. Inbounds, we are going to pretend like it’s hot lava (alligators, etc) that will get us if we go in bounds, stay out of bounds when you are running so you don’t fall into the lava! Now that we have run, we are back in our circles and ready to stretch. Stretching should be fairly basic, touch our toes, one side and then the other, arm circles, trunk twists. Make stretching fun and engaging. Count as loud as you can, whisper to count, count backward, count in Spanish, or count by 10’s. Next, get moving! We are going to do some dynamic stretching, with basic movements such as skipping, hopping, bear crawls, walking backward, defensive slides, running, etc. You can mix up the running at the beginning. Line tag is a great way to warm up! Remind players to move with their eyes up, changing direction quickly, and you can also integrate your other stretches such as skipping, hopping, etc. 

Players should be ready to go now! With younger players, it’s important to keep activities engaging and short, with high energy! To do this, it’s a great idea to utilize stations. If you have three coaches, three stations are great, if not, two will do just fine. Keep the stations short, 6-9 minutes maximum. Divide players into equal groups, coaches will stay at their station, players will rotate through stations, staying in their groups. Keep drills and instructions short and simple. 

During your first few practices, it’s best to keep skills isolated. As you progress through practices, incorporate multiple skills at once. For example, in the first few practices players are just going to get their ball and shoot. As you progress, you’ll have one line of players who are passers and they will pass the ball to the shooter or shooters may dribble the ball from point A to point B before shooting. 

Station Ideas for Dribbling
Stationary dribbling, focusing on keeping the ball below our belly buttons. Add in walking from Point A to Point B with their ball as players progress.

Red Light, Green Light - Focus on starting and stopping. Keeping their ball under control. 

“Pac Man” have players spread out across the court and ensure they are moving on a line on the court (for example baselines, volleyball lines, etc.). Keeping their eyes up as they are dribbling around the court to ensure they aren’t dribbling towards defenders. 

Station Ideas for Shooting 
Introduce the concept of shooting by marking spots on the wall with tape. Talk about pushing your ball up to that spot using your elbow and your legs. We don’t want players to get into the habit of tossing the ball underhand or from behind their heads. We want to aim for a specific spot, as they progress, it becomes the corner of the box on the backboard. 

Passing to a shooter - Have a player stand at a specific spot, pass the ball to the shooter who is down near the block. Have the coach stand behind the shooter to imitate a defender. 

Dribbling to a spot - Setup a few chairs or large cones in the lane of the court, have players dribble between obstacles to find the designated spot that you have for shooting. 

Station Ideas for Defense
Mirror - One at a time, have players “mirror” the ball when you are slowly moving the ball from side to side. 

Sliding - We have players work on “sliding” with the ball each practice during dynamic stretching, so this is never a new concept. But during this drill, we have players line up on the baseline in their defensive stance and a coach will slowly dribble the ball from side to side, players will slide with the coach. If the coach stops, players will stop. 

Cat Tails- Use hand towels, handkerchiefs, rags, anything that can emulate a tail, tuck them into the back of their shorts. Choose two players to be “it” (defense) they aren’t going to let the “cats” get by them - they are going to pull their tails out when they run past them. The other players are on offense and talk to them about getting straight to their goal (the other end of the court) without losing their tail. Remind players that like the ball, sometimes we lose our tails and that is OKAY, it’s part of the game, it’s what the defense is supposed to do. The goal of the game is for players to get from one end of the court to the other without losing their tail. If they lose their tail, they become defensive, and the next time down the court they are pulling tails too. 

Station Ideas for Passing
Line Passing - Have players line up across from one another and pass back and forth. Keep it very simple. Make sure players are moving towards the ball to receive, not away from it. 

Keep Away - First, utilize the coach as the person in the middle, but use players as you go along. Remind players to pass quickly and when they are on defense to move with the ball. 

Listening Games & Activities
Simon Says - Simon Says Dribble 3 times, Simon says shoot, Simon says run to the baseline and back, etc. 

Listening Activity - Have players line up on the baseline and say things like, “If you are wearing red, hop to the other end of the court”. “If you are wearing shorts, skip to the other end of the court.” “If you are a basketball player, run to the other end of the court.” 

Spread colored discs or hula hoops out on the court. Have players meet in the middle. Say things like, “When I say GO, find a red hula hoop then hop back.” “When I say GO, find a purple hula hoop then bear crawl back.” 

On the last day of the season, we typically will have a scrimmage! Tell parents to be sure to have phones ready, because there is sure to be some America’s Funniest Home Video footage - don’t miss it! 

When we scrimmage, if our teams are purple and white, we tape a purple piece of construction paper to one backboard and a white piece to the other backboard so the purple team knows they are shooting at the purple goal, the white team at the white goal. 

We also put tape on the floor to mark spots where players will stand. If your team has the ball, you are looking for an X to stand on. If you don’t have the ball, you are a mirror and are on defense, so you are standing next to someone on the X. Make sure each player has the opportunity to shoot the ball, ideally, each player will make a basket during the game. Don’t be afraid to stop the play if it gets bunched up or out of control and restart at the top of the key. Don’t allow players to fast break - during transitions, stop the point guard and wait until the rest of the players are set up before transitioning. 

HAVE FUN! I hear parents say, they aren’t able to coach pre-school sports because they have never played before. You don’t have to be an expert to coach, you just need to know how to have fun, keep the energy high, and encourage the players! They are only 3, 4, 5 years old, you can do it! 

We end every practice with a “word of the week”. We keep these pretty simple: teamwork, respect, caring, honesty, responsibility, etc. We ask the players what the word means (and be prepared for some entertaining answers, remember there is no wrong answer!) and then how are they able to use that word at practice or at home. The following week, we recap the previous week's word and then talk about a new word. 

When players leave, give them some sort of affirmation. For example, “Jon, you really did a great job shooting today, you are improving each week! I can’t wait to see you next week.” “Henry, I loved how excited you were today when you got to practice, you are such a great teammate and I love seeing you at practice each week.” 

Example practice plan: 

6:00-6:10 Jogging & Stretching (Dynamic & Stretching) 
6:10-6:30 2, 8-minute stations with a 4-minute transition and drink break in between
6:30-6:40 Listening Activity 
6:40-6:45 Word of the Week*

*As you are wrapping up, have players run twice around the gym before finding mom or dad, stop them as they are finishing up their run to give them a positive note to end the practice. 

Written by: Julie Murphy, Sr Program Director