Dribbling, passing, shooting, defending, and rebounding are the most important abilities every youth basketball player needs to master.
Professional basketball players train and work hard for years to strengthen these moves—from joining a basketball league for five year olds to enrolling in basketball programs for youth, until they qualify for the big leagues.
And it’s all worth it. These five skills ensure they consistently perform at the highest level. Their mastery enables them to execute exemplary plays on the court.
Dribbling is a basic rule in this ballgame. Players are not allowed to go back and forth on the court with the ball in their hands. That would constitute a violation called “traveling.” Thus, they must dribble the ball as soon as their feet land on the third step of walking or running.
Sounds easy? Not quite. The fact is, dribbling is a nuanced art that involves strong ball-handling skills.
First, a player needs to learn the proper placement of their fingers over the basketball to gain maximum control of it. This helps them execute excellent plays while navigating between and through defenders of the other team without passing the ball.
Next, they must get the hang of swapping the ball between their dominant and submissive hands. This requires practicing to dribble well with both hands — even the weaker one — to ensure they are significantly harder to tackle and beat.
And finally, they should master difficult tricks like behind-the-back, crossover, and spin dribble. These moves make sure the opposing defenders never know where they are heading with the ball. Once opponents are distracted, players can easily cut past with their expert dribbling skills and keep the ball out of the other team’s reach.
Famous dribblers like Pistol Pete Maravich, Allen Iverson, and other all-time NBA greats boast world-class dribbling skills that make them huge assets to their basketball teams.
Your child can start honing their dribbling competency by moving the ball constantly while they remain in one position. Standing still while dribbling helps them develop hand-eye coordination, which is another essential motor skill for basketball players.
With constant practice, your little one will learn to dribble the ball while making their way back and forth on the court. Over time, they will advance to dribbling with both hands and doing crossovers and other tricks.
As a team sport, basketball requires players to frequently pass the ball between teammates. Therefore, passing is a prerequisite to playing this game. It’s one of the most essential abilities players need not only to become valuable team members but also excel in the sport.
This foundational skill enables players to move the ball around the court when they’re not dribbling so their team doesn't lose control of it to the opposing team. Strong passers help their team earn more opportunities for scoring goals, and eventually win in basketball leagues.
Passing is a difficult move and takes time to master. Players should be able to see lanes and spot open team members quickly, and then pass the ball to them so they can shoot and score points. This involves rapid hand-eye coordination and excellent eyesight.
Moreover, while there are only two basic types of passes (air and bounce), basketball players use many variations, including:
Getting a grip on all of these types will diversify a player’s attacking arsenal.
Want to improve your passing prowess? You need only a ball and a wall to train! Master the basic air pass (sending the ball to a teammate without it touching the floor) and bounce pass (bouncing the ball on the floor to the direction of a teammate).
When you’re already adept at these basic passes, elevate your play by mixing up your pass types. Also, learn how to thread a pass over long distances. It comes in handy not only while playing basketball but also outside of the sport. This ability helps you judge distance effectively and build your physical literacy.
Shooting the ball is where the glamor of playing basketball lies as it is the only skill that actually involves scoring points. At the end of the day, the goal of the sport is to get the most balls in the basket. Thus, a team that lacks strong shooters will lose even if its players are experts at the other key competencies.
The best shooters are those who can make not only short-range and mid-range shots but also long-range ones. So, the farther away from the net hoop, the more skills and talent a shooter needs to make a shot.
While training at a basketball camp, children are encouraged to take part in different shooting drills. They practice a range of easy, medium, and advanced basketball shots like:
These drills facilitate their improvement at shooting and progress to making layups and other impressive shots with ease.
Even if kids don’t make three-pointers, practicing shots will build their confidence and help them grow as players. Mastering the fundamentals is the cornerstone of a solid foundation of shooting abilities they can rely on during intense games.
Offensive players may appear showy, but defense is an equally important element in basketball. It requires a high level of athleticism and effort as its goal is to prevent the opposing team from scoring points. Basketball teams can never win games without excellent defense so all players must learn this crucial skill.
Great defenders like Hakeem Olajuwon and the late Bill Russell are known for their ability to quickly adapt to situations, block shots, move laterally, and anticipate passes to steal the ball from opponents.
Young basketball enthusiasts can become experts on those moves by following these tips:
Develop nimble hands to steal the ball, block opponents, and prevent them from reaching the hoop without making a foul.
Learn to intimidate and obstruct opponents around the rim who are about to make a shot.
Stay alert to every player’s position on the court to determine where the defense is needed.
Master turning the tables quickly and setting up fast-break responses.
Another fundamental basketball competency, rebounding is used on both the offense and defense ends. It helps regulate shot attempts and assists offensive and defensive players in achieving their goals.
Rebounding allows players to control missed shots on the offense and defense sides as well as acquire and maintain ball possession. This helps their teams earn more scoring opportunities and dominate the board, which in turn increases their chances to win the game.
There are two kinds of rebounding:
Offensive rebounding is meant to demoralize the defense and throw them off balance, thus getting more shooting, scoring, and free throw opportunities..
Defensive rebounding is essential to a stellar defense strategy and limits the offense team’s scoring opportunities to one shot. When players use it in tandem with a quick outlet pass, the result is a powerful offense that could change the direction of the game.
Players with good rebounding skills have a unique mindset or attitude and try to get all the rebounds they can within a game. They are more aggressive on the boards, which leads them to carve out a successful career mainly on that skill.
To develop and perfect your rebounding abilities, you should do practice drills like the tip drill: Players queue up in a line, catch rebounds mid-air, toss back the ball against the backboard before they land, and return to the end of the line to repeat the drill.
Regular and consistent practice of such drills train you to meet the ball high up in the air and turn rebounds into another shot when playing offense. It also helps to start young so that you’ll be more than ready if you decide to try out for professional basketball leagues in the future.