Height, speed, quickness, jumping ability, and strength are necessary to succeed at the highest level of basketball. Many NBA and college players have these attributes, but what separates the good players from the great ones?
Fundamentally sound footwork.
Great players work on their feet every day and great coaches incorporate footwork into practice because it wins basketball games and championships.
How does this relate to youth skills? Many kids are playing organized basketball for the first time and have not been taught fundamental basketball footwork. If youth basketball coaches set aside time at every practice to teach footwork, the players will perform much better—both now and when their bodies start to develop athletically.
Players should start in triple threat position with a ball in their hands and the ankles and knees flexed. They should be introduced to the basic pivot and work on pivoting with both feet. Then, coaches should incorporate the reverse pivot, jab step, rip throughs high and low, and jab crossovers.
Adding a dribble, players should work on developing an explosive first step. This will help give players that half- to full-step advantage needed to initially break down defenses. Lastly, work on non-violent jump stops after two dribbles.
For shooting footwork, practice stepping into shots and raising the ball to the shooting pocket, then incorporate shot fakes.
For passing footwork, always step with ball side foot and then partner with a teammate to work on passing to a target.
Defensive team footwork drills include full-court defensive drop steps, lane slides, pivot and reverse pivot rebounding drills. V-cuts, flash cuts, curls, pops, and fades are integral to the offense, no matter what system is being implemented.
If coaches teach proper footwork and communicate its importance to their team, they will have the formula for winning basketball that has worked for years.