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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NEW DVD & Book: Danny Miles’ Value Point System & Daily Drills (Limited Special Discount)

By Joe Haefner

Check out this new DVD and Book about the Value Point System that Danny Miles credits as the key ingredient to his 880+ wins at the collegiate level.

The Value Point System is great for:
- Measuring player performance
- Motivating players
- Handling problems with parents
- Scouting
- Spotting weaknesses
- and much more.

Danny also covers 6 of his favorite drills.

Check it out:

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

By Don Kelbick


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?


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 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.


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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