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Youth Basketball + The 3-Point Shot

Too often you walk into a gym and players are scattered throughout the gym tossing up jump shots beyond their effective range. The sense of being told to start close to the basket and work your way out generally goes through a kids one ear and out the other. It is very rare at the youth level that you tend to see a player or team go through a warm up that prepares them for the game. Young players want to imitate what they see on tv and on social media, meaning they want to throw up three-pointers and variations of the shot. Honestly, you can’t fault the kid for wanting to do it either because usually it’s their role models or their favorite player they see performing those types of shots. It’s incumbent upon us coaches that we help players at the youth level understand the importance of shooting within their range that doesn’t hinder good shooting habits.

In this day and age, parents and most youth coaches pre-determine if a kid is a good basketball player by their ability to shoot the ball. If a kid is in 5th grade and is shooting three-point shots, occasionally making them from time to time, he or she is considered a good player. The idea of a player being able to pass, catch dribble, or even play defense are essentially non-factors. Even if that player throwing up long range shots has bad form and is forming bad habits, we continue to let them shoot. Parents jump to the conclusion that if their son or daughter cannot make three-pointers, that they need help with their shooting. All of these thoughts and determinations are absolutely false.

First of all, there needs to be an understanding for the development of youth basketball player. Players must find a joy for the game before ever easing them into anything more serious. Let them play around in a rule-free, teaching free environment, and just bond with the basketball. If they end up finding that love for the game and want to learn more about it, then fundamentals are the foundation to any player getting started. A player’s development is CRUCIAL at a young age because that is when they can quickly turn bad habits into good habits. The older you get, the harder it becomes to let go of those old habits. Lay the foundation for them, and then continue to build on it through consistent work of the fundamentals.

The three-point shot has become vital in the game today. Everything to make an effective, powering offense is getting easy lay ups and being able to knock down 3’s consistently. Even though the three-pointer is such an important shot in today’s game, it should be the least of a players concerns at the youth level. Everything in basketball is about continued growth. Players at the youth level have yet to develop physically, so when you see most kids that have good form, good footwork, and are shooting 3’s short every time, it’s because they are not physically capable yet to shoot from that range. I am going to share with a few situations that can happen if you avoid or do not avoid the 3-point line at the youth level.

If you are a coach, trainer, or parent that allows a youth player to shoot the three-point shot, here are the long term effects of that player.

The player may have short term success making 3’s occasionally, but there footwork and form is unorthodox either shooting with two hands or launching the ball from the hip. As a player matures and gets older, those same habits of shooting ball now effect the player negatively. The player is now older, stronger, and taller, and trying to form the correct habits for shooting the ball is almost inevitable due to the lack of time a player has to fix their shot. The player is now in high school, lacks the proper fundamentals to be a consistent shooter, their footwork is not effective in any parts of the game, struggles to make their high school team or play beyond their freshman year, but once was a decent player in middle school. Unfortunately, this seems to be the story in more cases than one.

If you are coach, trainer, or parent that does not allow a youth player to shoot the three-point shot, here are the long term effects of that player.

The player works on establishing a foundation for the proper footwork to shoot. The player focuses on form shooting ensuring they are developing the proper techniques. The player begins to work their way out towards the free throw line getting a ton of repetitions using proper footwork, form, and being balanced. As the player begins to be consistent around the free throw line area, the player begins to take mid range shots from different parts of the floor. Once the player begins showing consistency with their spot shooting in the mid range area, the player starts to work on getting into their shot on the move (cuts, relocation). The player shows consistency with their footwork and form from various spots on the floor, the player can now progress beyond the 3 point line for a certain amount of repetitions. The player goes through the same maturation process, but has established a foundation, built upon it, and now is only adjusting to their strength and height. Their foundation that they mastered has to now put them in a position to be effective not just shooting the ball, but in all aspects of the game. They end up playing 2-4 years of high school basketball and potentially beyond.

I would be lying if I said all of these situations were completely accurate, but majority of the time this is what I have witnessed in my own experience in the basketball world. Sure, you will have special players that just have “it” at a young age and are very skilled beyond their years, but most of the time, a players development is hindered because everyone sees the significance of the three-point shot, and migrates to it no matter the age of the player. It is our job as coaches, trainers, parents to help evolve this game. The only way that is possible is if we have players go through the proper progressions. Stay true to the process!

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