When it comes to teaching youth how to play basketball, it can be difficult to decide exactly how to balance instruction on fundamentals and the kids’ natural desire to have fun playing.

Of teaching fundamental skills is required whenever teaching a new sport. Teaching rules to basic skills of the game is crucial for coaching kids yet injecting fun into every practice is a must for youth!

It starts with the basics

As with any new skill or sport, learning the fundamentals is essential to long term success. Skills like passing, dribbling and play recognition all contribute to a player’s basketball IQ, and spending time honing these skills help to set player up to succeed, regardless of his future aspirations. Whether a player wants to continue down the road of rec league basketball or step up into a rep team division, the fundamental skills of the game are always the foundation to build upon.

The power of fun

When it comes down to it, your athlete most likely started playing basketball because it was a sport they enjoyed and had fun playing. Forcing every minute of practice time to focus only on serious skill development is a good way to push them into growing tired of the game and maybe even forgetting why they started playing in the first place.

Allowing players time at the end of every practice to scrimmage and play for fun not only helps them hold onto the enjoyment of the game, but it also gives them the opportunity to put their learned skills into play, without the pressure to win a game.

When a player is allowed some latitude to make decisions on the court, without the possibility of an important win or loss sitting on their shoulders, their ability to make smart, fast decisions is enhanced.

Rep Team Ball needs focus

While fun is definitely an aspect worth incorporating into every practice, once a player has expressed the desire to move into rep league ball, the emphasis on mastering some fundamental skills becomes more important.

The skills required to excel and stand out in a rep league, and ultimately continue on into college or even pro ball, come from serious dedication and repetition. This style of practice might not sit as well with players- since it’s bound to be less fun, but the long-term payoff is likely to be worthwhile.

At this point, it is essential for coaches to double down on skill development, fundamental basketball skills and the enhancement of basketball IQ. As such, the fun play time at the end of the practice will naturally decrease, but is still a valuable piece of the puzzle.

Even 10 minutes of free-form basketball, whether in the form of a fun scrimmage or a low-pressure drill, can help a player to decompress, relax and really put those skills to the test.

Blend repetition and fun

Probably the easiest way to keep both players and parents engaged in the process is to blend fun with fundamentals. It’s natural for parents to want their kids to excel in a sport naturally, without having to practice and repeat the exercises over and over again. But in reality, this repetition is how you craft a great player. And when the player is competing for a spot a rep team, those fundamental skills can be the difference in making it through the cuts or not.

Including some fun in each drill can help both turn a skill into muscle memory, and keep both parents and players engaged. Creating a healthy competition between players, offering a reward to the winner of the drill or simply allowing for some scheduled scrimmage time at the end of every practice can help keep both parents and kids engaged in the whole process.