Developing better basketball players (America needs more teaching from coaches)

By Jeff Haefner

I came across this article by Jay Bilas. It’s a really good article that I think parents and youth coaches should read.

If you want your child and/or players to get better, you should be aware of what Jay Bilas says in this article:
http://assets.espn.go.com/ncb/columns/bilas_jay/1488688.html

He makes a really good point about the difference between “teaching” and “coaching” — and that America needs more ‘teaching’ from its coaches.

Great Story On What Youth Basketball Is All About

By Joe Haefner

Here is a great story from Jim Bado of Ohio on his experience with coaching youth basketball. It really shows what youth basketball should be all about.

Jim is also an author of the LOSER Report.

Matthew and I strode through the chilly, snow-flecked darkness outside the soaring Gateway Church.

“Have you had fun this season?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied. “But I’m kind of nervous about our last game. I haven’t scored a basket this season and Saturday is my last game. It’s my last chance to score in a game.”

“Don’t worry,” I replied with the overconfidence of someone who’s tossed in countless points during innumerable contests, “you’re going to score Saturday, I promise.”

I intended to keep that promise because last season, Matthew’s first, he failed to score during all eight games, a fact that frustrated me to no end. During last year’s practices, despite my objections, we spent almost the entire time working on plays. The head coach more fixated on executing six different set plays than the paparazzi on the movements of Britney Spears, even though more than half our kids, including Matthew, couldn’t shoot a lay-up, pivot or rebound to save their young lives.

This season, the coaches agreed to focus on fundamentals, keep the players moving with skill-based drills and have fun scrimmaging. With the goal of taking more shots, the team pushed the ball up the court to shoot lay-ups, rather than setting up plays. As we told the players, check any basketball box score: the squad attempting more shots usually wins.

Running late, Matthew and I arrived at Saturday afternoon’s contest a couple minutes before introductions. Slapping each player five in the pre-game room, I saw the team’s “rules” written across the whiteboard

1) Have Fun
2) TA-TA-team (support and respect your teammates)
3) Fun Have (the Star Wars Yoda rule)

In addition to Matthew, Talyn, our tea drinking, skin-and-bones — he weighed about sixty-five pounds dripping wet – forward hadn’t scored a basket either. Huddling with the other coaches, we agreed today’s primary goal was somehow, someway getting them a bucket during the next thirty-six minutes.

From my perspective, if any kid didn’t score, the coaches failed to reach the program’s goal of “every child a winner.” As the head coach, their success became my responsibility. Moreover, if Matthew didn’t make a basket, that would mean he’d played two seasons without scoring. I’d promised him better than that.

Before the game, I asked the opposing coach who hadn’t scored on his squad; he pointed to Suns #32, a tall, slender kid playing the first period. Giving the other team the ball rather than staging a coin flip, I huddled our starting five, asking them avoid guarding #32 on the first possession. I figured the other team would throw him the ball under the hoop and he’d score easily. Our guys followed the plan; the other team didn’t and another kid shot instead of #32. We rebounded and the game rolled onward from that inauspicious start. I looked at the Suns coach and he shrugged a “what can I do?” response. A missed opportunity, but not the end of the world: plenty of time remained for all three guys to get a bucket.

Matthew and Talyn played the second and third periods. Our guys passed them the ball and they took multiple shots, but, alas, missed all of them. During half-time, I checked the league-mandated player rotation for the second half (a great rule requiring each kid to play a minimum of half of every game). Matthew only played one period: the 5th. That would be his last chance to make a basket; we needed to make it happen. Prior to its start, I pulled the team together, telling them to get Matthew the ball. They complied and he took four shots, missing every one.

Without timeouts, an Upward Bound Basketball coach cannot stop play to direct the team, even to help someone score. As the clock wound toward zero, a Suns player tossed up a long shot. It clanged off the backboard and the shrill buzzer ended Matthew’s Upward Bound career. He’d participated in sixteen basketball games without scoring one single basket. Matthew wouldn’t start the final period and the league’s player rotation rules prohibited substitutions, meaning — even though I wanted him on the court — he couldn’t return to the game. As a sixth grader, this was his last year playing; in other words, he would never score a basket in an Upward Bound game, ever.

Talyn, however, played during the final period. Before inbounding the ball, I emphasized how the team needed to get him a basket. The players nodded in agreement. Grabbing Talyn’s bony shoulders, I squatted to eye level, telling him that somehow, someway, he would score today. The players put their hands together and yelled “1-2-3 Talyn”! Out for the last period of his last game, my son sat quietly on the bench. I wrapped an arm around his shoulder, consoling him, rather than watching the game and yelling encouragement to our team. He seemed fine, but I knew the painful sadness of failure lurked behind his happy-go-lucky facade.

My throat went dry thinking how Matthew’s Monday night vision became Saturday-afternoon reality. I’d broken my promise to him, failed as his coach and, more importantly, failed as his father. Although mostly uninterested in sports, Matthew, at our insistence, had played three youth soccer seasons while in elementary school without scoring a goal. He “retired from soccer” — his description — at age nine. Now he’d participated in two seasons of Upward basketball without one hoop. Clenching fists, I grew angry with myself for not doing more to help him succeed. One dern basket to reward all the kid’s effort, was that too much to ask for?

On the court, Talyn caught a pass and shot the ball right into the basket. The team high-fived him as he raced down the court, beaming with happiness. At least Talyn scored, I thought, taking some solace in that victory before looking at my son sitting on the bench. Trying to get my head beyond my failure with Matthew and back into the game, I strode past Markus, another of our players; he reached out a hand to stop me.

“Coach,” Markus said. “Can’t Matthew go back in and score? This is his last game. We all get to play again next year. He ought to get a chance to score.”
“I wish I could put him in,” I replied. “But the rules don’t allow it.”

Play continued and our squad took a one point lead on Logan’s slashing drive with ninety seconds left. Running up and down the court, #32 from the Suns still hadn’t hit a bucket, despite several pointblank shots this period. In a minute and a half, the game would be over and neither #32 nor Matthew would have scored all season. That awful fact turned my stomach: didn’t it run completely counter to the philosophy of every child a winner? But the game’s substitution and player rotation rules existed for good reasons too. I’d learned to play sports by the rules untold years ago and needed to set a positive example for our players by following them now. Or did I?

Watching the ball bounce out of bounds, I realized adults needed to demonstrate to children how to exercise judgment following rules. Striding onto the court, I stopped play, motioning to the other coach and referees. If I had anything to say about it, #32 would score today. Pulling our guys together, I asked them to avoid guarding #32 and to even rebound for him if he missed. They agreed.

Then, listening to the wisdom of a child, I followed Markus’ suggestion and broke Upward’s substitution rules. Asking Thomas, who played a fantastic game (knocking the ball away from a player twice his height several times), to take a seat, I sent Matthew back onto the court. No one, the Suns coaches, Upward coordinators nor the referees said a word in opposition. We all silently agreed to break the rules in favor of a more important principle: every child a winner. After all, how could any kid have fun and feel like a winner if he failed to score for an entire season, let alone two?

Inbounding, the other team passed to #32, he caught the ball, squared up to the basket and tossed in a shot; the parents cheered. Ticking game clock closing Matthew’s narrow window of opportunity, the team passed him the ball at the top of the circle. He dribbled down the open lane toward the hoop. This it it, I thought, he will score. But, unfortunately, an aggressive Suns player left his man to block Matthew’s shot, knocking the ball out of bounds. The referees called it our ball out. Echoing me, the Suns coach motioned his guy to back off and guard his own man.

With forty seconds left, we inbounded to Matthew. The orange ball left his fingers, kissed the backboard and swished through the net. Never in my long basketball career had one basket been more important, never. Throwing arms over his head, Matthew floated on a wave of pure joy down the court. The rest of the team, including the players on the bench, cheered. The Bobcats stopped the Suns from scoring on their final possession, garnering a one-point second-half victory via Matthew’s first basket.

During the post-game stars presentation, the coaches awarded Talyn and Matthew gray stars for best offense. Sticking out smooth, eleven-year-old palms, they smiled proudly as players, coaches and parents clapped. On the drive home, I asked Matthew and Talyn what they enjoyed most about the season.

“When I scored the basket today,” Talyn said. “I felt sky high. I felt like I could do anything. That was the best moment of all.”

Matthew thought for a minute and commented in a soft voice, “Me too. After that last quarter I didn’t think I would ever score a basket, but I got in there and I did it.”

Saturday’s victory wasn’t about the scoreboard, it was about our players “doing it” by following the team’s rules: have fun, support and respect your teammates, and fun have. Our team’s unselfishness enabled both Talyn and Matthew to score and created the opportunity for Suns player #32 to get a bucket. The rules we’d opened the first practice with nine weeks ago taught our players about more than just basketball. And they’d been used by the team to teach me something important today. I had thought teaching the kids was my job, but, in reality, my real job was to learn from the wisdom of children.

NEW DVD – Coaching Youth Basketball the RIGHT Way (By Bob Bigelow)‏

By Jeff Haefner

Hi All,

We’re super excited to announce our NEW DVD developed by Bob Bigelow – one of the world’s leading authorities on youth basketball and training youth coaches!! Bob is a former NBA player who has spent the last 20 years studying youth sports and youth basketball, and has given hundreds of clinics to youth coaches worldwide.

Check out Bob’s unique (and extremely effective) methods to coaching and developing young basketball players:

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/pr/bigelow-youth-right-way.html

This is a special product that we are proud to release to the youth basketball community. It shows coaches how to do things the right way and do what is best for young players by focusing on the true fundamentals many youth coaches often overlook.

After reading thousands of emails, forum posts, and comments… it is VERY clear to us that youth basketball coaches need this product! There are so many misconceptions and problems with the way ADULTS work with young kids. (We made these mistakes too.)

A DVD like this is long overdue and we’re really excited to finally give coaches MUCH BETTER methods to coach young players. This is arguably the most important youth basketball DVD that any youth coach could watch. Once you see the video and how Bob does things differently, you’ll understand why.

http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/pr/bigelow-youth-right-way.html

Please let us know what you think and we hope you take the time to watch this important video.

Sincerely,

Joe Haefner
Jeff Haefner
Breakthrough Basketball LLC

New Article: Do You Yell At Referees?

By Joe Haefner

Check out the new article called Do You Yell At Referees?

Ndamukong Suh, Footwork, & Youth Athletic Development

By Joe Haefner

If you have followed college football this season, you have probably heard the name Ndamukong Suh. He was a consensus First-team All-American and earned consensus First-team All-Big 12 honors and was the Associated Press National Player of the Year, Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year, the Defensive Lineman of the Year, and a Heisman Trophy finalist.

According to “experts”, what separates Suh from other players isn’t necessarily his strength, even though he is quite strong, it’s his superior footwork. As we know, footwork is probably one of the most important, yet undertaught skills in basketball.

A recent article on ESPN states “He (Suh) really credits his soccer background for his uncanny footwork.” Suh played soccer at a young age all the way through his 8th grade year.

If arguably the best d-lineman in the country, played multiple sports as a child and credits that for his superior athleticism, don’t you think that it would be a good idea for other youth athletes as well?

If you’ve read any of our past articles about athletic development, you’ll know that we preach for youth athletes to play multiple sports and avoid specialization at least before age 15. Some say 18.

Soccer, flag (or touch) football, & tag are a few great games you can play to improve footwork & athleticism.

Dribble tag and the jump stop drill are a few great ways to incorporate a basketball while working on footwork.

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5th Grade Youth Motion Offense: Timing, Entry Passes, & Starting Positions

By Don Kelbick

QUESTION:

I will be coaching a 5th grade boys team this season and looking to teach the kids motion (still haven’t decided between 3-2 and 4-1). I like the drills included in this document but was surprised that the following items were not covered more thoroughly:

- Timing of starting the offense, especially when defensive pressure starts at half court. Would like more insights into how the other four non-ballhandlers should react to half-court pressure, goal to not have first pass above the free throw line extended.

- More options related to starting positions on floor to start a motion offense. For example, in a 3-2 motion set…options such as double stack, wings cross, post start out on wing and post down for wings on low block, etc. In a 4-1 motion set, more details on how the “1″ should move to different areas.

- Advice on varying this start configuration?

ANSWER:

Those are interesting questions and not uncommon. Something to keep in mind, a motion offense is creative and free formed. Your players have to interpret and be allowed to play and figure it out for themselves. You have to remember that the coach has very little control over what happens on the court. If you can live with that, and many coaches can’t, then the motion is a good offense for you.

In regard to 5th graders, I believe that translates to 10 and 11-year-olds, I think it is the only offense to run. Trying to bog down kids of that age with basketball plays is counter-productive. I believe that kids of this age should be taught skills and how to play, not plays.

TIMING & ENTRY PASSES

Timing for 5th graders is an oxymoron. I do not believe that kids of that age are developed enough, either physiologically or skill-wise to really worry about timing. Should it be discussed? Sure. But to expect a 10 or 11-year-old to understand and perform proper timing in the course of a game is not realistic.
Making the first pass below the foul line is a good guideline, but that is more dependent upon the skills of your ball-handlers, rather than your receivers. This is true even at higher levels. Can they control the ball well enough against defense to be able to penetrate deep enough to make the pass? Are they skilled and strong enough to execute the necessary passes? I can’t make those judgments without seeing them play. On the whole, kids of that age really are not.

Possibly, you can create a situation where the entry pass is made higher and your second pass goes below the foul line. Enter to the high post at the top of the key and allow him to enter to the wing. Allow the wing to catch high and dribble down below the wing. There are unlimited things you can do with a little imagination.

STARTING POSITIONS

You can start however you and your players feel comfortable. I would spend more time trying to get them to understand spacing (Admittedly difficult at that age) than worry about starting positions. All of those things you mentioned are great entries. Teach the concepts and what they present and then allow them to play. Correct their spacing and movement, not their sets.

In addition, for the kid of that age, I think the only offense to play would be a 5-out motion. I doubt that you have kids with enough specialized skill to play someone down in the post. You might have someone who is taller than everyone else but that does not mean he should play in the post. When coaching kids of this age, your primary purpose should be development. Taking a kid who is taller than everyone else and sticking him in the lane is unfair to that kid. By doing that, he will never develop the skills he needs to play the game.

Also, looking for specific details on how a particular player should move is not in the philosophy of a motion offense. Motion offense is about freedom. Not only do the players have freedom to move, but you, as a coach, have the freedom to teach what you feel is most important for the player and your team. Just because I want a player to do certain things does not mean that is what you should do. I encourage you to be creative when teaching what players should do. The only rules are the ones that you make. Do with them what you feel is best. Trial and error is the best way to learn anything, especially basketball.

My only advice is to keep it simple. Kids have trouble remembering each other’s names, no less multiple entries.

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Beginner Shooting Progressions For All Ages

By Don Kelbick

QUESTION:

What is the best way to have a kid progress shooting from a low position around the stomach or chest (i.e. push shot) to a position in which the ball is set higher with the arms/hands?

ANSWER:

A lot depends on how old the kid is and whether he can comfortably reach the basket or not. The method I use is called “by the numbers.”

Start by sitting in a chair.

#1 – Hold the ball in front of you, by the seams, in the fingertips of the shooting hand.

#2 – Turn the ball and put it into a shooting tee. Hand under the ball, on the fingerpads, in the proper shooting position.

#3 – Shoot the ball as high in the air as possible while holding the follow through. The object is to have the ball return directly back into the shooting hand without having to move your hand to catch it. The only way to do that is to shoot it straight up.

Eventually, I will add a new #3, which is stand up (shooting the ball becomes # 4). Eventually, you will synchronize the body motion and the hand motion. After that happens, I will add the guide hand.

It is important to remember that it takes 3 times longer to break an old habit than to build a new habit. When frustrated or challenged, people invariably revert to what is comfortable to them, which is the old habit, so it will take a lot of repetitions. By removing the basket as an objective, players are more motivated to do the reps.

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Tips for Subbing With Youth Basketball Teams

By Joe Haefner

Check out this forum discussion on subbing for youth teams. There are some great subbing methods such as the “piece-meal” & “numbering” methods.

Subbing for Youth Teams

Here is the numbering system I used in the past:

1. I would assign a number to each player. If I had eight players, I would make sure that 1 & 2 was either a good ball handler and/or scorer. Then, I would do the same thing for 6&7. This way, you have a player who can score and/or handle the ball on the court at all times.

2. If we played 4 8-minute quarters, I would sub every 4 minutes.

3. I subbed for the next numbers in line. For example, if I had players 6,7, 8 on the bench. I would sub for 1,2,3. When I had 1,2,3 on the bench, I would sub for 4,5,6. When I had 4,5,6 on the bench, I would sub for 7,8,1. When I had 7,8,1 on the bench, I would sub for 2,3,4.

New Article (VIDEOS) – Early Specialization & Playing Multiple Sports With Pete Carroll, Dom Starsia, and Bob Braman

By Joe Haefner

If you’ve been reading articles at Breakthrough Basketball for any length of time, you probably have heard us say that athletes at the youth level, and at least through the junior varsity level, need to stay involved in multiple sports to become better athletes.

Watch Videos and Read More

Post Rules For Youth Motion Offense?

By Don Kelbick

QUESTION:

Your site is great and I’ve learned a lot from the motion ebook. Thanks.

I coach 5th grade boys and we’re 0-5. We started using the motion after the first game. The offense is still a mess, but we occasionally get a give and go for a layup that looks kinda like basketball. So while I’m extremely frustrated, I have to admit that we’re improving and the boys haven’t quit.

My only rule now is to basket cut after a pass if the point can’t pass to the wing. However, he just starts dribbling and turns it over. If the point does make the pass and the wing can’t pass it back to the point, he just starts dribbling and he turns it over. The result is usually a fast break for the other guys.

I’m looking for another rule and would specifically like to get the post guys involved in the offense. The rules I’ve seen all seem to be geared to the guards. Any rules for the post guys?

Also, do you have any thoughts on a set? We start in a 1-2-2 now, but that leaves a lot of real estate for the guards to cover against pressure and also seems to clog the lane if the give and go does work. I’m thinking of moving to a 1-3-1 and having the low post move to the weak side after a pass.

ANSWER:

The answers to your problems are child development issues not basketball issues. I would recommend that you find a couple more rules, such as what do you do if you can’t pass to the cutter and what do you do if you are the next receiver and can’t get the ball, but I think you may be missing the big picture.

You say to yourself, “some plays look like basketball,” and “the team is improving,” and the “kids are still playing hard,” and that is a result of coaching. You getting frustrated is the result of the score. I wonder how much of what the other teams do “Look like basketball,” or is it just kids on the other teams being able to do a couple of things individually. To stop that, work on defense and the game will even out. Also, in 5th grade, they shouldn’t post players, all the players should just be learning how to play.

The reason that the kids dribble and get it stolen is more a development issue than anything else. How good of a ballhandler can a 5th grader be? It has more to do with the way they perceive the world. Spacing, timing, speed, etc. are all things in life they need more experience at. There is a reason why young kids shouldn’t cross the street by themselves, because they don’t have enough life experience to determine how far away a car is, what speed it is traveling and how long it will take to get there. It is worse on a basketball court because it is all new experience and there is nothing in real life they can draw on.

If the kid is going to dribble, at least tell him where to go and forget about the offense. If you are going to put the ball on the floor, take a lay-up.

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