Keys to Making the Middle School Basketball Team
By: Mike Sandoval
There are a multitude of skills involved with the game of basketball
. It takes a while for most athletes to develop these skills; however, there are four main ones that a young athlete must be able to do in order to have the best chance at making the middle school basketball team.
1) DRIBBLE WITH EITHER HAND: Most opposing coaches will expect players to only be able to dribble with their dominant hand, which makes it much easier to come up with a strategy to guard them. If a player can dribble left or right then it makes it TWICE AS HARD to guard them.
(TIP: Practice dribbling the ball as hard as they can for as long as they can, switching hands after one gets tired. Make sure to keep the ball low to the ground, preferably never letting the ball come above the knee. This drill will both help teach an athlete how to get used to controlling the ball, plus build up endurance and strength in both arms.)
2) MAKE LAYUPS: An athlete must be able to CONSISTENTLY make a layup with their dominant hand. Being able to make a layup with their non-dominant hand is a bonus, but not a huge disadvantage at this level. If an athlete can make layups on a consistent basis, it will significantly increase their chances of making the team.
(TIP: Practice shooting layups from different distances away from the basket. Start inside the key next to the basket and aim for the top-right part of the box on the backboard. After an athlete makes between 5 to 10 in a row, take a step back and practice jumping off the opposite foot from their dominant hand. Keep on taking a step back, throwing in a dribble or two once they get far enough away, until you reach the three point line.)
3) KEEP YOUR OPPONENT IN FRONT OF YOU: At any level, if an opponent gets past their defender on defense, then it puts the rest of the team at a DISADVANTAGE. He or she can get an easy layup, pass it to an open teammate, shoot it or get fouled because of this disadvantage. Moving their feet and keeping the offensive player in front of them will make the defensive player’s team much more successful. The common saying in the NBA is “Defense wins championships”, but it holds true at any level.
(TIP: Start by performing defensive slides, first in a straight line from sideline to sideline and then switch to an angle and slide down court. If two or more players are working out together, have them go 1 on 1 and have the offensive player change directions and speeds constantly down the court, similar to a game situation. Do not steal the ball during this drill so that the defensive player can focus on keeping the offense in front of them.)
4) EFFORT: The final skill is not so much a skill as a frame of mind. An athlete needs to play hard AT ALL TIMES. Whether it’s in practice, on their own, or in a game, an athlete needs to play as hard as they can whenever they step onto a basketball court. This develops good work ethic, and will sometimes be the deciding factor on whether a player will make the team or not. Coaches would rather have someone who is an OK basketball player but plays hard than someone who is good but doesn’t want to put in the effort.
These are what I feel are the most important skills an athlete must be able to do in order to give themselves the best chance at making the middle school basketball team.