It’s never too early for your young children to start learning basic basketball skills. I know that some of us probably think we were born with a basketball in our hands, but it’s probably not until about the age of 7 or 8 that you can really get kids to focus and start learning the real fundamentals of the game.
Sure, you may only be able to get them to focus for about 5 to 10 minutes, but that is enough to get some of the muscle memory started that will last for a lifetime of basketball.
The Importance of Basketball Drills
Drills are an important part of learning fundamental basketball. Your body needs to learn the coordination and timing as well as gain the strength needed to perform basic skills such as dribbling, passing, shooting, rebounding and defending.
If the body is trained to do these things at an early age, it will carry on as your child gets older and the movements and skills needed will become second nature to them. Once they become second nature, they don’t have to think about the basic skills and they can focus on the game.
My Personal Experience
Personally, I have been a spectator, a player, a parent of a player and a coach. All provide different aspects of player fundamentals and learning the game of basketball. When you are learning as a player, you don’t always realize the importance of certain drills and what they really do to help you. As a spectator, parent or coach you can begin to see the evolution of players as they continue to learn and this is something that can be really exciting.
I have a daughter who was interested in basketball at an early age. As a toddler, she was always playing ball with her toy hoops. It was always great fun, but it wasn’t until about the age of 7 or 8 that she could really start doing the type of drills and exercises that would start giving her the ability to play in games.
Although they start to have the coordination and the ability to use it while playing, their attention spans are still rather short. I was the assistant coach on my daughter’s team at this age and the head coach always told me at game time that getting them organized on the court was kind of like herding cats. In other words, it’s hard to get them all on the same page at the same time due to their short attention spans.
This is a very important thing to consider when doing drills and teaching young kids. Remember that the drills are very valuable and they are learning, they just have much shorter attention spans than us. Don’t give up on them, just try to be patient.
Best Basketball Drills for 7 to 8 Year-olds
There are a multitude of very good basketball drills out there and it would be impossible to cover all of them here. Since we are talking about a young age group, we want to focus on drills that are simple, quick, and ones that focus on muscle memory so that they can gain the basic skills needed to get out on the court and start playing.
Remember that for young kids, time seems much longer than it does to adults. Fifteen minutes can feel like an hour to some kids. We want to start out with drills that are brief and we want to try to make them fun. The goal is for them to be excited about basketball and see improvement in their skills. We don’t want them to get discouraged right away.
Bunny Hops – This drill will improve jumping ability and stability when you land from a jump. The name makes it sound fun for kids so this can be a good one.
- Have them jump up and then landing on the balls of their feet, not letting the heels touch the ground.
- Focus on jumping quickly back up again.
- You can have them do this stationary or moving forward, backward and side to side.
- You might let them hold a basketball while doing this to make them feel like they are still playing basketball and not just doing some drill.
Frog Jumps – This drill will work the core muscles and help get elevation on jumps and stability on landings. It also has a fun name.
- Have them squat with their butts almost touching the ground and feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Using their arms and legs, spring up and jump forward like a frog.
- Try to have a soft landing.
- Once they have landed, go right back into the squat and then repeat the jump again.
- If you want, to make it more fun, you can have them make sounds like a frog.
Defensive Slide – This drill will get them started on the footwork needed to play defense.
- Have them get into a defensive stance with knees bent and about a quarter squat.
- Have them put their hands up with their arms outstretched
- Have them take a step to the right side with their right foot while dragging the left foot as they step
- Repeat this 3 or 4 times.
- Now have them do the same motion only to the left side, stepping to with the left foot to the left and dragging the right foot.
- Repeat this 3 or 4 times.
- Continue this to the right and left until they begin to get very comfortable moving their feet. Be sure that they are also keeping their hands up. The hands should be up for defense but another part of it is to learn balance while they are making these movements.
- Once they get very comfortable you can make this drill more fun, by dribbling the ball in front of them and having them react to the direction you move.
- Once they are good at the lateral movement you can begin to add in forward and backward movement also.
Dribbling – The main goal here is to get as comfortable as possible with dribbling the basketball and to start out immediately using right and left hands so that they can eventually be a strong dribbler with either.
- Have the player put their left hand behind their back and begin dribbling with their right.
- Try to get them into a good rhythm and able to bounce the ball smoothly.
- The ball should not bounce higher than their waist.
- Once they have control of the ball, have them try moving the ball around as they dribble. To their right side, back to the front and then a little to the left.
- Now have them put their right hand behind their back and repeat steps 1 – 4 with the left hand.
- Once they have somewhat good control, let them try using either hand and have them switch hands while dribbling. For example, right to left, left to right and back again.
- This drill should be fun for them since it involves dribbling. Once they have good control, you can begin to have them move around while dribbling.
Non-Dribbling – The intent of this drill is to teach them how to hold on to the ball and move it from hand to hand when they are not dribbling.
- Have the player hold the ball with both hands against their chest.
- Have them extend the ball outwards from their chest until their arms are fully extended.
- Next, have them raise the ball above their head.
- Then to the right side of their head, and then the left side.
- Now have them hold it down near their knees between their legs.
- Move the ball to the right of their knees and then the left.
- Bring the ball back to chest level and then have them hold the ball in just the right hand.
- Tell them to toss the ball to their left hand. Have them toss it back and forth between their hands multiple times, trying to get comfortable and good control.
- Now have them bring the ball to waist level and circle the ball around their waist from hand to hand.
- If they get good at these you can move to more advanced moves such as around the knees or through the legs, etc.
For these drills, you can work with them or have them work with a partner.
- Chest Pass – Work with them to make a basic 2 handed chest pass back and forth. You may need to start with them at close distances. As they get better, move farther apart.
- Bounce Pass – Same as the chest pass above. Make sure they are using only one bounce for the bounce pass and are still using both hands.
For shooting, we just want to start working on the basic form. Don’t worry too much about the accuracy at first.
Shooting Form – You don’t really need a basket at first, you just want to get them to feel how the ball should roll off of their fingertips.
- Have them hold their shooting arm in the upright shooting position with arm in front of their face and palm facing upward.
- Put the ball in their shooting hand and have them lightly place the other hand on the side of the ball.
- Have them try to push the ball straight upward using their wrist and fingertips. Then catch the ball and repeat steps 1 through 3 a few times.
- Once they are able to get the ball moving upward, have them try to use their fingertips to get some spin on the ball.
- Once they are getting some good spin and motion on the ball, have them begin to get their shooting arm more into the motion, extending it upwards and out as then make the shot.
- Try to keep them from using the non-shooting hand to push the ball. This hand should only be used to help hold the ball in place while it is resting in shooting hand.
Shooting Form With a Partner – Use the same concept as in the Shooting Form drill above, but instead of shooting the ball straight upward, now have them shoot toward their partner. Try to get them to follow through with the shooting arm by extending the arm outwards towards their target as the ball leaves their hand. Their partner can then shoot the ball back towards them.
Basic Rebounding – This is just a basic rebounding drill meant to get them used to the ball coming at them from the backboard.
- Have the player stand on one side of the backboard, a couple of feet away from it.
Stand to one side of them and gently toss the ball off of the backboard.
- Have them grab the ball with two hands. It’s ok if they need to move into a position to grab it but they do not need to jump for it yet. Just focus on them getting the ball with 2 hands.
- When they are going for the ball, get them to extend their arms above their head when catching the ball.
- Once they catch the ball, have them bring the ball with both hands back into their stomach or chest area. This is to reinforce protecting the ball once they get a hold of it.
- Once they master catching with both hands extended above their head and bringing the ball down to chest level, you can work on having them jump for the rebound.
- Make sure when they are jumping for the rebound, they still use the same form, two hands, arms extended and bring the ball back to the midsection to protect it.
The above drills are some of the best basic drills to get 7 – 8 year-olds started in learning basic basketball fundamentals. Remember to do these drills in quick short sessions and make sure to do some fun things like shootarounds, fun contests and scrimmage games in between the drills. You need to keep the game fun for them so their love for the game will continue to grow with them.
Do you know any fun basketball drills for kids? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you?