The number of visitors to the Coach's Notebook has increased steadily since July, 1999 when it went live on the internet. Several readers have submitted questions and it seems like a good idea to share those questions with everyone. The names of those who ask the questions now on file won't be listed because permission has not been obtained. How is a question submitted? Easy. Send and email to firstname.lastname@example.org or just post the question in the Coach's Guestbook. A personal email response will be sent and the question and answer will be posted on this page shortly afterwards unless it has been asked before. The Coach's Notebook reserves the right to not list all submitted questions. You are also invited to post your questions on the ChalkTalk discussion board and get input from several coaches.
The questions immediately below were posted 1/03/00
You just need to pass to escape the pressure. Sounds like you were double teamed a lot. I tell my kids to give it up before the trap even happens. The ball will come back. If we see an opponent that dribbles a lot, we'll go right after him every time. Even a great dribbler will have turnovers against two smart defenders. But an average dribbler will do fine by avoiding conflict with an early pass. If two try to play against you, someone on your team is open. In the long run, you'll be frustrated trying to solve pressure problems with dribbling. So pass. Its more fun to make the defense chase the ball anyway, kind of like dogs chasing a stick. Use your great ball-handling skills in one on one situations if the defense gets too close.
Players will often seek to gain advantage during drills - that's just good >competitive nature. The answer is to restrict the drill with special rules. For instance, you might tell your defenders that their hands must be behind their backs at all times forcing them to play defense using quick feet and good body position. Offensively, you might tell your players to wait two seconds (count to before they do anything which gives the rest of the play time to develop.
Don't detract from the effort. Increase the challenge through various handicaps. The closer you focus the drill on a specific behavior, the better. Another idea along that line is when you practice rebounding. Set up a half-court scrimmage, but the only possible way to score a point is to grab a rebound. The only purpose making a basket serves is to put your team back on defense where it is possible to get points again.
I don't think punishment will help bad passes - they probably feel bad enough about losing to be motivated to improve.
Were the passes bad because:
I'll assume you are not running a run and jump m2m, and the switching problems happen when the players are screened or beaten off the dribble. For switching, you might try a simple rule like always switch when the ball is near the key and never switch when the ball is further away than the free throw line. (You determine appropriate boundaries). That will cut down on confusion. The idea is that the further from the basket, the more recovery time the defender has. Also, have the players on the weak side away from the ball sag. Our rule of thumb is, one pass away, put a body part in the passing lane; two passes away, have a body part in the key. The players in the key will be able to help with dribble penetrations. An important point ... the beaten defender must hustle back and pick up the helper's defender. Many times they forget.
Use 3 on 3 play to practice switching concepts. Use the shell drill to practice the sagging idea. Its good to have the kids feel responsible for more than their own man. The danger is when they leave their own man to initiate a double team. They should only help for planned traps or to stop the ball when penetration occurs.
The questions immediately below were posted 11/25/99
The easiest advice I have is for the screener's defender to communicate to his/her teammate being screened so there is some warning. By the time a defender says help, its probably too late. If the screener's defender calls out, "pick right, go through" the screened players has warning and a plan.
Some teams have simple rules, like if the pick is high (above the free throw line, for instance) never switch because there is time for recovery; and always switch when the pick is low. That's a good idea, too.
Work on communication. Its the basis of good teamwork in any endeavor.
The intended beneficiary of the screen must do his part. If he is on the weak side and his man is not near him, I would think he needs the ball, not a screen. If his defender is near him, he needs to guide the defender into the screen. Problems I see with my guys are:
I want my screener to establish a position, not chase a defender around. I want the player receiving the screen to be patient, wait, then guide his defender into the screen. When I watch teams run plays, I see players going through motions. They set phantom screens that do nothing or that are disregarded. Obviously, few openings are created. However, when the screens details are consistently applied, the defense gets worn down and openings get better and better.
In my opinion, coaching records are way over-rated. The kids win or lose the game. A great group will make the coach look great. The following year, with a different group or in a different league, the same coach may not have near as many wins. The coach is the constant, the kids are the variable. Some successful coaches are really successful recruiters. Some great, but unknown, coaches may be instilling fundamental skills into players that go on to make lesser coaches look great.
And, lets be careful about claiming credit for changing kids' lives. The kids do that, too. We share a brief time with them and try to share as much as we can in that moment. If they're ready and listening, maybe you can add something to their personal "playbook". But its up to the kids to have the courage to make a change.
I am coaching a 3rd grade Y-ball boys team this winter in a 3rd/4th grade league. I believe they will be playing on 10' hoops with a youth ball. I was hoping to teach them a couple of simple plays, maybe teach them all the give-and-go, and a pick and roll. In your experience, can 3rd graders learn a couple of plays, and execute them in a game - of course not every time down, but once in a while?
ANSWER: I do believe 3rd graders can run a simple play. The key is to cover the fundamentals first. Teach them the give and go, pick and roll and the back door cut. That means allotting time for dribbling and passing drills. Also, teach them to drive past screens to get shots. (You can do that simply by running the basic two line layup drill, and add elements. Have the players in the rebound line grab the rebound, pass back to the shooting line then set a screen near the free throw line. The player in the shooting line drives at the screen then diverts either way to shoot just past the screen).
When you build your play, concentrate on spacing. Tell them how important it is to stay 10-15" apart. If they find themselves congested, "balance out" (revert to original spacing).
Choose an easy pattern like the high - low play on the site. In that set, the big guy starts low and comes up to set picks for the ballhandler. Then the kids look for those fundmental situations you taught them. The reset of the movement is really for establishing balance again.
With younger kids, the plays that won't work are ones with a lot of passing. The players aren't strong enough to avoid lob passes or pass very far. So, adjust your spacing accordingly.
Don't get frustrated teaching pick and roll, ect. I am still teaching them to 9th and 10th graders. The plays are easy to learn but difficult to perfect. Kids just need a coach like you to start them early. We have far too many kids with playground talent and WEAK fundamentals.
My definition of blitz traps is when playing tight man to man defense, the player guarding the ball handler forces that player to reverse their direction or pivot (reverse pivot). To blitz trap a second defender would attack from the blind side either the wing or guard. If they actually turn their back to the defense it works better but some kids at this level have pretty good ball handling skills. They either go between their legs or behind their back. That makes this "Blitz trap ineffective.
ANSWER: Ball handlers in our area are pretty good, too, so when you really spread the floor and try to exert some pressure, you must accept a fair amount of risk. The key is when to trigger the trap. Here are a few comments that help mitigate the risk...
ANSWER: Rather than come up with zone drills, I am going to give you a different suggestion. Teach your kids man to man fundamentals. The reason I say that is because they will benefit more at that age by learning man to man. If I were coaching an older team that was small, I would teach them zone, but we would also do man to man. Properly taught, it is the most effective defense. What you teach them will help them for the rest of their basketball careers.
I have some man to man fundamentals on my site. But, here are some highlights...
ANSWER: My sixth grade tryouts have always been a situation where I am trying to fill a few open spots rather than compose an entire team. However, your situation is very similar to our high school freshmen tryouts where dozens of kids are reviewed for the C team. Beyond the comments in "Selecting Players", here are some suggestions that I hope are appropriate.
I don't use 5:5 during tryouts, but I do like 3:3. Each kid has plenty of opportunity to contribute in the 3:3 game. You might have 6 teams and set up games at 2 or three baskets. Play to 5 baskets then have the winner rotate to the nest game. Weaknesses such as improper defensive footwork show up pretty quickly.
Drills should cover the basic fundamentals. Most kids like to dribble, but its amazing how many cannot pass well due to poor technique. Decide if you have the time to teach passing to an otherwise promising prospect.
Work the kids hard with sprints or full court layup drills. Some kids will simply quit as soon as they get tired. If they start to protest, that's a clue of what you can expect later on.
ANSWER: You won't beat a great press with a good dribbler. But you'll have a good chance with some decent passers. Primary advice - stay calm, avoid traps, go to open areas, advance the ball by passing, not dribbling. Remember, they're taking on the greater risk by spreading their defense all over the floor. I've seen a lot of good advice in the coaching boards and various websites. I have a simple press breaker diagrammed under the topic "Press Breakers".
ANSWER: Here are some tips that help me when I coach kids in that age range.
ANSWER: Typically, a basketball team is broken into 5 positions for the purpose of defining who does what in a play. There is a lot of interpretation about the roles, but that's the fun of being coach - you decide who does what and there is no need to get too hung up on numbers.
Usually you can define the positions by the player's size. The 1 is the point guard and 5 is the center. Of course, size isn't important but that is usually how it goes. The normal roles:
These are all generalities. Sometimes it helps to assign the numbers so the players can identify themselves when they look at a play diagram.
ANSWER: For full court conditioning and practice of ballhandling, passing and defensive skills, I like the following:
ANSWER: About layups, you always jump off the leg opposite the shooting hand. So, if you're shooting with your right hand, jump off your left foot. Another way to think of it is to jump off the leg closest to the basket and shoot with hand furthest from the basket.
Shooting layups well with either hand is a very important skill. It is not easy to learn, but if you work on it every practice, by the end of the season some players will be doing it naturally. That's when you can pat yourself on the back. Tell them that if they do not learn to shoot layups with both hands now, they will have a very hard time making a junior high team and definitely have a hard time making a high school team.
One drill to do is have them line up single file and drive to the basket without a ball. Then they pretend to shoot and concentrate on jumping off the proper foot. The ball tends to complicate things. After many repetitions, introduce the ball to the drill and see what happens. Make it fun by showing them how high they got off the floor with each attempt.
My son suggests imagining a string tied from your elbow to your knee. When the right hand goes up, so does the right knee as you jump off the left foot.
Many kids have a hard time balancing the ball in their weak hand, and therefore its impossible for them to shoot. To help that, they will need to get a partner and practice taking one step and a shot (no dribble) and bank the layup in. The partner helps with rebounds and trades position when the shooter tires. In time, they will develop the strength and coordination they need.
The boys I have coached at that level have learned to shoot either way within one season, but it took some of them all season. The point is, after that, they own that shot for life.