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Dribbling, Passing and Layups: The Importance of Fundamentals First

Basketball Fundamentals - https://flic.kr/p/dPk4Cm - TheSeason - GameChanger

High school basketball coaches typically don’t have time to teach basic fundamentals when players arrive on campus. They’re ready for those players to head right to the gym and learn more intricate drills and plays.

The more that high school coaches have to teach fundamentals to older players, the less time they get to dig deeper into their advanced training vault. It’s kind of like taking remedial courses in college — it’s a small setback to a greater goal.

“The most underrated, yet most important, of all jobs in the coaching profession is the junior high coach,” said Tommy Gates, the girls’ coach at Navasota (Texas) High School for the past 18 years, and who has won more than 650 games as both a college and high school head coach. “Any time a school is consistently a winner year after year, you can bet there is a hard-working junior high coach, or a coach in the system who is teaching solid fundamentals — and probably getting very little recognition- behind the program."

Now some towns or municipalities have good youth basketball programs that feed into junior highs and middle schools, but no matter the level, development of young players through solid basic fundamentals is vital.

In all, it comes down to three basic offensive fundamentals — dribbling, passing and layups.

Gates — who previously coached the girls’ team at Hillsboro (Texas), the University of Nevada women’s team and high school boys in Texas — said it’s imperative to teach the kids the right way, right away so they don’t develop bad habits. He offered some suggestions.


“Teach them left-and right-handed dribbling, but stress the left hand early,” Gates said.

And that’s just the beginning.

Gates advises youth coaches to focus on teaching the crossover dribble and making players keep the ball low. Coaches should also show players how to do a reverse pivot, Gates said, but let the players master it without a ball, then let them work on it with the ball. This is to teach them proper footwork.

Next, Gates said, put them through a stop-and-go dribble. Players start on the baseline and begin dribbling down the court when coach blows the whistle, and they stop running (but continue dribbling) when coach blows the second whistle. Keep doing this drill until the player reaches the other baseline. One important thing to keep in mind, Gates said, is for the player to keep his or her eyes looking forward and to not look down at the ball while they’re dribbling.

Other dribbling drills include dribbling in circles on the court, dribbling the lines and full-court zig-zag dribbling.


Although kids may think basketball is all about getting the ball and shooting, they must understand the importance of passing. Gates said when teaching young players to pass, teach them these four: two-handed chest pass, two-handed bounce pass, two-handed overhead pass, and the right- or left-handed baseball pass.

Gates said to stress the chest pass first with proper form — thumbs together on the back of the ball, elbows slightly out, snap wrists on the follow through and step out in the direction of the pass. On the bounce pass, use the chest pass instructions, except push the ball down and out to the court.

The best way for players to work on these drills is put them in stationary lines back and forth to each other, Gates said.


Gates stressed layups by teaching both right-hand and left-hand layups, focusing on the proper hand position on the ball and the proper footwork — on a right-handed layup, push off with the left foot and drive the right knee up and lay the ball off the backboard (coaches like describing the action as climbing a ladder).

For left-handed layups, it’s the opposite. Push off the floor with their right foot and dive the left knee in the air while laying the ball up on the backboard with their left hand.

Gates said to follow simple steps like these, and continue repetition after repetition, to sharpen the skills of younger players and they will be ready to play as they reach the next levels, where they’ll get more advanced knowledge of the game.

From GameChanger and Scott McDonald. 

Basketball, fundamentals, coaching tips