Teaching and Coaching Youth Basketball: Lay-up Instruction

Everyone assumes lay-ups are easy or basic and therefore unworthy of considerable effort and instruction. However, in youth basketball and in many high school games, lay-up conversions directly affect the game’s outcome, and thus lay-up practice should constitute significant practice time for young or beginning players.

Pre-game warm-ups exemplify the ineffectiveness of drills and epitomize legendary UCLA Head Coach John Wooden’s statement: “Don’t mistake activity with achievement.” The “Everyman Drill,” (two lines at the three-point line, two to three dribbles, shoot the lay-up; opposite line rebounds) wastes time and energy and is an ineffective teaching tool. Very few times will a player drive uncontested at half-speed at a perfect angle for a lay-up; it just doesn’t happen.

Many lay-up varieties exist; however, when teaching the lay-up, start with the hand behind the ball. The player shoots the ball and aims for the near top corner of the square on the backboard. By hitting the backboard on the way down, the shot is softer. Another lay-up to teach is an extension lay-up; for older players, this is a finger roll, where the player releases the ball with his hand under and in front of the ball, rather than behind the ball. For younger players, it is a flip shot, where they push the ball high with their hand under the ball. This is an effective lay-up for a smaller player; when the defender is on one’s back, extend to the basket, away from the defense, to finish. When shooting the underhand lay-up, start with shoulder rotation, so the release is above shoulder-height; it is not a scoop shot from the waist. The follow-through must be high, as with any other shot.

As a player picks-up his dribble, protect it from the defense. Many players rock the cradle- a rocking motion with the ball to help accelerate vertically. This rocking motion gives the defense a chance to strip the ball or disrupt the shot. The offensive player must bring his off-hand to the ball; do not bring the ball to the off-hand. Protect the ball away from the defense.

Once a player is comfortable making lay-ups at full speed, he can progress to other lay-ups: crossover lay-ups, reverse lay-ups, power lay-ups (off a jump stop) and others.

Teaching Progression
When teaching a new skill, isolate the skill. Do not attempt to teach more than one thing at a time with a beginner. Therefore, a lay-up drill starts without a dribble or an approach to the basket.

The player starts just beyond the block facing the basket with ball in his hands and feet together. For a right-handed lay-up, player takes a step with his left foot and jumps in the air off his left foot. As he steps and jumps, he rotates the ball to the shooting position and shoots a lay-up with his right-hand behind the ball and right knee in the air.

Next, take a big step away from the basket and practice with two steps and a dribble at walking speed. The proper form is most important. Start with feet together; step with right foot and dribble. Step with left foot, pick-up the dribble, jump and shoot the lay-up.

Finally, move to the elbow area and work on a full speed, one dribble lay-up. Use three steps; for a right-handed lay-up, step with the left foot and dribble. Step with the right foot, pick up the dribble, step with the left foot, jump and shoot the lay-up. The steps must be in stride to cover ground to get to the basket, eliminating baby steps and stutter-steps players commonly use.

Once the player masters the basic lay-ups with both hands, teach reverse lay-ups, crossover lay-ups, power lay-ups and others in the same manner, starting close to the basket and working on form before moving to full speed lay-ups.

To shoot a “Crossover Lay-up,” the player uses the right hand on the right side and the left hand on the left side. On a “Crossover Lay-up”, the player goes across the front of the rim (using the rim to protect the shot) and finishes on the other side of the rim. While making this move, he faces the baseline as he shoots. With his shoulders parallel to the backboard, he finishes with a “hook-like” motion, with the hand and wrist.

The “Reverse Lay-up” is opposite: the player uses the right hand on the left hand side and the left hand on the right side. The “Reverse Lay-up” is used most often when dribbling along on the baseline, or when extending past a defender anticipating a regular lay-up. When shooting the “Reverse Lay-up,” the player’s back is toward the baseline and his shoulders face the court. On this lay-up, the player shoots the ball over his head as he travels away from the rim, finishing by turning his hand so that the fourth and fifth fingers are the last fingers to touch the ball and he “waves” to the basket as he finishes.

A “Power Lay-up” is shot off two feet. To shoot a “Power Lay-up,” the player jump stops and squares shoulders to the backboard and not to the rim. If the player squares to the rim, he exposes the ball to a shot blocker; by squaring shoulders to the backboard, the player uses his body’s width to keep the defender away from the ball. A “Power-Lay-up” is used most often to finish post moves or to acquire balance when attempting a shot in the key when contact is expected. By jumping off two feet, the player is stronger and on-balance; therefore, better equipped to absorb contact and score.

Each player makes two of each kind of lay-up before switching to the left side (a total of 20 lay-ups in the entire drill). Every lay-up starts on the wing at the three-point line, free throw line extended (high school and college players should space to the NBA three-point line) with the player in triple threat. As the previous player goes, the player spins the ball and practices catching on a one-count with knees bent and butt low. Each move requires only one dribble. Players utilize a big first step and extend with the dribble.
� Crossover step (right foot pivot) right hand lay-up: Step to the basket with left foot. Dribble with the right, or outside, hand. Finish with a right-hand lay-up, jumping off the left foot.
� Crossover step (right foot pivot) right hand reverse lay-up: Same as above, except player must make a reverse lay-up with right hand on the left hand side of the basket.
âÂ?¢ Direct drive (left foot pivot) left hand lay-up on right side: Step directly to the basket with right foot first. Push off with the left foot. Dribble with the right (outside) hand and finish with the left hand, jumping off the right foot. The footwork will feel awkward for most right-hand dominated players, as they are used to squeezing in an extra step to jump off the left foot for a right hand lay-up on the right side. Have players vocalize their steps, saying “Right, left, right, lay-up,” if they really struggle.
� Direct drive (left foot pivot) crossover lay-up: Step directly to the basket with the right foot. Push off with the left foot and dribble with the right hand. Finish with a left-hand crossover lay-up on the left side.
� Crossover step (left foot pivot) left hand lay-up at front of the rim: Step with the right foot across the body to beat the defender to the middle. Dribble the ball with the left (outside) hand. Finish at the front of the rim with a left-handed lay-up.

MIKAN DRILL: This drill practices a “Crossover Lay-up” or a “Baby Hook Shot.” Player starts by making a right hand lay-up. He grabs the rebound out of the net while stepping to the left side of the rim with his right foot. He jumps off the right foot and makes a left-hand crossover lay-up. Again, he rebounds the ball and steps with his left foot to the right side of the rim and makes a right hand lay-up. Players should keep the ball above the shoulders throughout the drill and complete without traveling. Shoulders should be square to the backboard on each shot. Make twenty shots.

REVERSE LAY-UP MIKAN DRILL: The drill is similar to the above, except this time the player will shoot reverse lay-ups. The player starts under the basket, facing toward the court, and steps to the left side of the basket with his left foot, making a right hand reverse lay-up. He rebounds the ball out of the net and steps to the right side of the basket with his right foot, making a left hand reverse lay-up. Keep the ball above the shoulder level and complete without traveling. Make twenty.

X LAY-UPS: Player attempts to make as many lay-ups in thirty seconds (forty-five seconds, one minute) as possible. Player starts at the elbow, dribbles and attempts a lay-up. He must rebound the ball and then touch the baseline before running to touch the other elbow and returning for a lay-up from that side of the court. Continue in this pattern until time has elapsed.

FIVE-STAR LAY-UPS: Drill begins with five lines, one under the basket (with ball), two off the elbows and two off the baseline. Player 1 under the basket throws to either elbow, and then follows his/her pass. Player 2 (elbow) throws the pass to the player at the opposite baseline (Player 3), who throws the ball to the other baseline player (Player 4). Player 4 passes the ball to Player 5 who is running to the basket to finish the lay-up. The next player in line under the basket gets the rebound and passes to Player 1.

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