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How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players

Header image of the article: "How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players". A list of the best tips and strategies on how to motivate youth basketball players

When you find the right to build it, the connection between a coach/parent and the young basketball players they’re guiding can be essential to their success. 

That’s all down to the motivation that they’re able to help them build. 

It can be hard for young athletes to identify and reinforce what drives them to excel. So how do you encourage someone to play basketball? Here, we’re going to look at the keys to motivating youth basketball players.

How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players

1. Find What Drives Them

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The drives of youth basketball players can be a little easier to identify than their adult counterparts who bring with them a whole history of lapping motivations.

The number one reason that kids first get into basketball is that it’s fun.

However, this can also be mixed with a desire to improve their skills, to stay in shape, to do something they are good at, to compete, and to play as part of a team or to play with their friends.

What’s important to understand about youth players is that the last motivation is the most common answer you’ll find.

2. Be Able To Talk Shop With Them

Featured in the article: "How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players".Be Able To Talk Shop With Them. Lost youth basketball player needing advice on life in general

If you don’t know your basketball terminology, then you should start to brush up on it.

If you start trying to coach what you don’t understand, your players will soon see the knowledge gaps and begin to ignore your instructions and generally not give too much weight to your opinion.

A good coach will consistently teach what they have learned and keep trying to learn the rest at the same time.

3. Be Specific, Be Practical

Featured in the article: "How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players". Be Specific, Be Practical. Young basketball player shooting practice.

When you’re making suggestions on how they can improve a certain aspect of their game, it’s best if you’re able to be specific on what you want to see from them.

For instance, don’t just tell them that you want them to get better at free throws, take them to the practice hoop and show them mechanically what you want them to be able to do.

It gives them something to aim for, provides an answer to the question, rather than just a question that they can get frustrated by not knowing how to solve.

4. Explain the Purpose of Their Drills

Featured in the article: "How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players".Explain the Purpose of Their Drills, basketball child, teaching strategy.

On a basic level, all youth players understand that drills are to condition them for the physical capabilities that they need to show in the game.

Some drills, such as interval sprinting and free throw drills are self-explanatory.

However, for other drills that seem more abstract at first sight, explaining the purpose of the drill will help them understand where they will improve by practicing it, and as a consequence, they will be willing to do it.

For instance, the figure-8 drills: explaining that it will help them be more agile and turn on a dime in play, will get them more on board with what you’re trying to do.  

5. Don’t be Afraid to Show some Discipline

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Youth players aren’t going to be averse to (reasonable) discipline when you show it, so don’t be afraid to take a firm line with them when it’s necessary.

The best way to show discipline is to create a structure to your training that: they can expect to hold them accountable when they don’t follow it, and to enforce those expectations.

If you set a rule that they have to run a lap during a drill, then you better make sure they run that lap before they’re able to join in again.

It shows that you genuinely care for their development and, if you fail to follow through, you lose their respect and any chance of motivating them.

6. But Don’t Let Your Emotions Take Over

Featured in the article: "How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players". Don’t Let Your Emotions Take Over, coach talking to youth basketball player in a proper controlled manner.

Youth players are going to break your rules. They’re going to challenge you. They may even show some disrespect.

What’s important to remember is that they are youth players, they’re not fully matured, so you shouldn’t let what they do get to you emotionally. 

Check your temper, don’t yell them out of the court. Enforce the rules with an almost robotic cool.

It shows that you’re not only fair, you’re not going to be phased by those who do try push back against you too hard.

If you do lose your cool with them, it doesn’t reinforce that discipline, it creates a rift of resentment and fear that can really dampen your ability to motivate them.

7. Build from Positivity

Featured in the article: "How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players". Build from Positivity. Positive moment free throw technique

Even worse that getting angry or overly negative due to being challenged, is having that same reaction to a player failing to improve in some aspect or not putting in the effort that you want to see from them.

Negativity will utterly break the connection you’re supposed to have for your players.

Your players might be lagging behind because they’re feeling uncertain about their abilities or their place on the team, so their heart isn’t in it.

For that reason, if you’re trying to get them to push that extra bit, not only should you build from specifics, you should build from Positivity.

For instance, remind them of a time that they did excel and contribute majorly to the team, and tell them you want to see “more of that.”

Or highlight their strength before identifying a weakness they can work on, in order to balance it out and become an even better player.

8.  Know What to Say After a Big Loss                                                         

Featured in the article: "How To Motivate Youth Basketball Players". Know What to Say After a Big Loss, basketball players in the huddle, lost, needing coach's advice

A loss can hit hard, with some players catastrophizing the situation in their head.

They might think that because they lost, they’re not good, so there’s no need to practice, so basketball isn’t fun or rewarding.

The first thing to do is empathize.

Yes, it did happen, yes, it sucks, yes, we can do better. However, the last bit is the most important. 

Second, reframe the experience for them!

Help them understanding that losing isn’t the worst thing that could happen, the worst thing is to dwell on it and let it get in the way of winning the next game.

The aim here is to create a short memory for losing, with their eyes always set on the future, just deliver a great basketball motivation speech!

Wrapping Up

Lastly, just as important as finding the right motivational keys for each individual player, showing that same attention to the whole team creates the synchronicity that also builds trust and reliance.

Each player can be motivated not only by their own drives, but by their role as part of the whole.

We hope now you can provide the best motivation for your athletes.
Share this article with other coaches and parents, show them these tips on how they can motivate their youth basketball players also!
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Breakthrough Basketball was founded by brothers Joe and Jeff along with their father, Dennis. We aim to provide you with comprehensive resources, basketball hoops, basketball coaching materials, and more!


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