Basketball might seem like a difficult game to play, but anyone can be competitive if they master three specific skills: dribbling, shooting and playing defense. As a youth coach, these three skills should be the main focus for your players. To teach them the basics, you'll need an understanding of the mechanics behind each skill.
Dribbling looks simple enough, but in reality it can be a difficult task to master. You may want to start by having each player on your team bounce a ball up and down on the court with two hands. Once they get a feel for that, have them do it with one hand. Now, here comes the hard part. Have them dribble with one hand without looking at the basketball. This is perhaps the most fundamental skill necessary to be a good basketball player, and it is important to introduce it right away at the youth level [source: Faucher].
Next comes shooting. Rather than just letting your players aimlessly throw the basketball at the hoop, you should do your best to teach them good shooting form. Start with the feet. A player's feet should be roughly shoulder-width apart when preparing to shoot the ball. Next, the player's eyes should be focused on the hoop. With both hands on the basketball, your player should have their shooting hand (dominant hand) behind the ball and their balance hand on the side of the ball. Both elbows are bent, but the elbow on the shooting arm should be directly under the ball forming a 90 degree angle. If the form is good, it's time to shoot. Simply tell your players to push the ball toward the hoop using their shooting hand. The balance hand is there to do nothing more than steady the ball. When the ball leaves a player's hand, their wrist should be flexed to put spin on the ball and their arm should be straight up in the air. This is called a follow-through, and it's important to hold the follow-through until the ball hits the rim [source: Wissel]. Once your players get the hang of shooting the ball, you can move on to defense.
When it comes to defense, players need to be able to shuffle their feet side to side. Their feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width apart and their knees slightly bent. One hand goes up high in the opposing player's line of sight, and the other stays low so it can be used to steal the ball. Simply having your players use this form and move side to side can be a good way to teach them the basic mechanics of playing defense.
Keep reading to learn about drills that can help you teach these fundamentals.