6 Pre-Game Exercises Your Youth Basketball Team Will Love


A fun and effective way to get you ready for the game.

Warming up is one of the most important actions a basketball team can take before being ready for a game. It sets the mood for the rest of the night. If you have a good warmup session, then you will feel much more comfortable when it comes time for the tip-off. When coaching a basketball team this list below contains a number of good warmup exercises your team should perform before taking that first tip of the game. These exercises will help your team warm up their muscles and skills at the same time.

 1. Partner Passes

This warm up exercise will get your team’s passing and catching ready for the game. While performing this exercise, it’s important to change the type of passes you make with your partner. Do a mix of bounce passes, chest passes, overhead passes and wrap-around passes. These will all be used during the game, so it’s good to get into a rhythm.

To perform this drill, stand about ten feet across from your partner. Increasing and decreasing the distance won’t kill the drill. Mirror your partner as you run side to side, facing each other the whole way and passing the ball back and forth. Again, a mixture of different passes will help you stay alert and help boost your reaction process, while also getting your legs warmed up with the defensive shuffling motion.

Here Head Coach Oliver Reid of RMIT University & Director of Coaching Ivanhoe Knights demonstrates fundamental passes. 

Source: Introduction to Coaching course

2. Free Throws 

Before you get into any heavy shooting, it’s good to start small. Walking up to the free throw line and going through your routine will help warm up your shooting form.

It will also give your team a good chance to practice their rebounding and boxing out before the game starts.

The most efficient way to do this is to have a line at the free throw line and two lines at the baseline under the basket. One person from each line steps up and prepares to start the exercise. The guy at the free-throw line will shoot twice, while the two people under the basket fight for the rebound. For one shot, have one of the rebounders box out. For the second shot, switch the roles of the rebounders. 

Once the shooter has shot his two free throws, everyone rotates counter-clockwise and the next three challengers step up. 

Here John Townsend, a former NBA shooting coach for the Portland Trailblazers shows the proper way to shoot a free throw.

3. Zig-Zag Warmup Drill

The zig-zag warmup drill is great for teaching both defensive movement and ball handling at the same time. It’s also a simple exercise that will get your team warmed up for the game. 

To perform this drill, place players in two lines, one on each side of the court. The first player in each line will be the defender and starts by turning around to face the line. The second player in line will be the ball-handler. To start the drill, each ball-handler will begin dribbling, following the pattern of the zig-zag ball-handling drill, dribbling from sideline to elbow to sideline to halfcourt line – and then back again.

The defender has to stay in a low defensive stance, shuffling his or her feet to stay in front of the ball handler. There is some leeway for players to improvise a bit in their route, so as to keep each other from simply going through the motions, but they should then readjust into the drill route.


4. Layups Lines

For as long as anyone can remember, layups have been a must-have exercise when performing your warm-up routine. Traditionally the first exercise during the warm-up, this drill can be done at any point, giving your team a nice, simple drill before the start of the game. 

This drill will require your team to split up into two different lines. One will stand on either side of the half-court line, while the other line stands at the baseline under the basket. The player at half-court will have a ball and will drive to the basket and attempt a layup. The player under the basket will box-out (using imagination) and grab the rebound. After the rebound is grabbed, the player will pass the ball to the next player in line at half court. Both players will switch lines once they are finished.

Here Coach John Scott, former college and professional coach shows fundamental layups. 

Source: Fast Break Fundamentals Course

5. Mid-Range Pull-Up Jumpers 

After completing around 3 rounds of layups for both the right hand and left, switch to mid-range pull-up jumpers. The mid-range jumper is becoming something of a lost art among young players. It’s the most mundane of scoring methods and yet simultaneously the most effective. 

Have your kids practice their jumpers in a number of spots on the court, getting a feel for both bank shots and straight shots before the game starts. If your team can get the midrange falling, it’s going to be a great game. 

Here Jalen Wilson from Kansas University Men’s Basketball demonstrates a proper pull up jumper.

Source: Scoring ON DEMAND course

6. Free-For-All Shoot-around

If you have extra time after you finish your warmup routine, giving your team a laid-back shoot-around period will give them a chance to settle in before the game. There doesn’t have to be a lot of organization; just give your team 4-5 balls and let them go get some shots in before the start of the game.

There is often a hefty influx of adrenaline during layup lines. A few minutes of shoot-around time allows your team to calm down and work on the specific shots they prefer to shoot in-game. 


These 6 warmups are a great template for your team’s routine. These basketball warm up drills are both effective and enjoyable for your players. Every coach likes to customize a bit, and every team needs a little something different to get them physically and mentally prepared for their games. Don’t hesitate to experiment and see how your team responds. Great Coaches all around implement different routines to keep their players fresh. Click here to see tips to being a great youth coach.

Ryan Brennan
Author: Ryan Brennan

Youth Sports
Youth Sports
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