Should Youth Coaches AVOID Plays and Patterned Offenses?

By Joe Haefner

One year I coached two teams, a 7th & 8th grade team (12 to 14 year olds) and a Fresh/Soph team (14 to 16 year olds). Besides, being a VERY busy year, it was also an extremely educational year from a coaching standpoint.

I was frustrated from the year before when I coached 6th graders, because the offense wasn’t where I wanted it to be, and I wanted a little more control over the offense (Bad Idea). For both teams, I decided I was going to run Bo Ryan’s Swing Offense (Bad Idea). It seemed to work well for him, and I thought I might as well give it a shot. I created breakdown drills and I decided I would spend at least 15 minutes every practice drilling the patterns into these players. Little did I know…

Here are some conclusions I came to:

1.  Youth players (14 & under) forget patterned offenses or plays, so why spend time on them during practice. Even with 15 & 16 year olds, the offense would consistently break down after 3 to 4 passes.

2.  Most of the points we scored were off of fast breaks, loose balls, turnovers, and offensive rebounds. Shouldn’t we practice some more situational & disadvantage drills if that’s where we get most of our points?

3.  I could have spent a lot MORE time teaching the players the fundamentals of the game. How to read screens, how to pass, how to cut, how to shoot, how to handle the ball, and so on. Instead, I WASTED a lot of time on a patterned offense.

4.  Teaching the fundamentals of the motion offense would have benefited both teams more in the long run. Rather than teaching them a pattern, I should have taught them offensive principles. It would increase their basketball IQ. Also, when they got older, it wouldn’t matter what offense the coach runs, they would know how to play the game.

5.  Kids tend to become ROBOTIC and FREEZE up when running the plays and patterned offenses during games. They don’t react to the defense, because they are trying to please you (the coach) by running the pattern. When they forget the pattern (which is 90% of the time), they panic and freeze up. Why not run an offense that teaches the players how to react to the defense?

I decided that simplicity is better and I will always run the motion, especially at the youth levels. I’m not saying that you can’t use a few simple plays during the year. I just wouldn’t advise any more than that.

If you would like to learn more about how to coach and teach the Motion Offense, take a look at our Motion Offense eBooks and Audio.

What do you think? What have your experiences been?

How Do You Always Keep a Positive Attitude as a Coach?

By Joe Haefner

One of my weaknesses as a person is that I can be a perfectionist and be a little too critical sometimes. This is something I have to be very aware of as a coach, because if you are too critical and always pointing out your players’ mistakes, they are going to lose confidence and play scared. As Don Kelbick has told us over and over, you want to “reduce the fear of failure” in your players. That’s the best way to get them to play to their potential.

This point leads into a story from Thanksgiving Break this year. I made the drive up 35 North from Kansas City to Iowa this year to go home and visit the family. My dad told me my old high school coach Kevin Barnes, who is now coaching his son’s 8th grade boys basketball team, wanted me to stop in for a practice and help out. This really got me excited, because I hadn’t talked to Coach Barnes for awhile and I love coaching kids and just being around basketball. I hadn’t been around the coaching atmosphere for almost a year, because I took last year off of coaching in an effort to build this website with my brother. I also wanted to pick his brains about his experience coaching his son’s team.

Anyways, one of Coach Barnes’s greatest qualities is his ability to remain positive. Even when he corrects a player, he has an uncanny ability to make a joke about it and get a laugh out of the player. When you walk into his practices, you can just feel the excitement and the positive vibe.

One time during the scrimmage at practice, a boy led a 2 on 1 fast break and got a little too deep under the hoop. He stopped and attempted to pass the ball, but it was too late. Another defender had hustled back and stole the pass.

My initial thought was “You probably should have passed the ball earlier or just attacked the hoop. If you are going to stop like that, you need to be aware of your surroundings so you make a good pass.”

Coach Barnes’s reaction was “Great hustle, Bobby. Way to get down the court and break up the play.” He didn’t say one word to the boy who made the bad pass.

Now you may be thinking, “Well, how does the kid know what he did wrong?” or “You should correct that bad play right away.” I used to have the same mentality that you needed to correct every mistake the second it happens. What I learned relatively quickly is that if you correct every mistake, you get a player who is SCARED TO PLAY, and that’s the worst kind of mentality for your players to have. You want your players to be fearless. They also tend to think too much which causes them to freeze up instead of just reacting to the play. Not to mention, the player never learns how to think for himself if he is always corrected and misses out on self-discovery which can hurt the child from a development standpoint.

Most of the time, you’ll find that the player will make the mistake a few times and correct it himself without you even saying a word.

Now, I’m not saying that you should never correct the player. If the player consistently makes the same mistake, then you should correct him in a positive manner. I like to use the sandwich technique from Morgan Wooten. Which is positive statement, correction, positive statement.

Positive: “Hey Jimmy, way to hustle to start the break. You always do a great job of that.”

Correction: “But next time try to make the decision a little earlier.”

Positive: “Keep playing hard, buddy. Love the way you always seem to be there on the hustle plays.”

Remember, the younger they are, the more time you should give them to discover the mistakes that they are making.

Do you have other methods of staying positive? If so, what are they? What are your thoughts?