If you’ve only got five bucks, your best investment is a roll of blue painter’s tape. Like duct tape for a homeowner, blue tape is invaluable for a coach and much easier to use than masking tape. Carry it to practices and games to help your team:
1) Build a better understanding of offensive positions/spacing
You can explain positions and tell your squad to spread out until you’re “blue” in the face, but many kids still won’t understand. We showed our players where to line up on offense untold times, but they always seemed to forget their positions. Part of this came from us always rotating positions, but it also stemmed from a lack of markings on the court (we pointed out the block and elbow, but they forgot what those were too).
The solution: mark guards’ and forwards’ spots with blue tape Xs. That worked so well in practice that we started doing it in games. Our players would run down the hardwood during games, look for the blue X and jump stop on it with a smile. After a couple weeks, we didn’t need the Xs anymore.
2) End endless trips into the corners
Inexperienced players tend to dribble into the corner and stop. The defense swarms them and steals the ball or causes a turnover or jump ball. Repeated instructions to avoid the corners, labeling them the “no” zone (i.e., don’t go in there) and stopping scrimmages when someone dribbled into one all failed to end the bad habit for our squad. Once a player started dribbling, the corner seemed to attract her with almost irresistible magnetic power.
We solved the problem by making large squares/boxes in each corner with two pieces of blue tape and the out of bounds lines. When a player dribbled into the “box” during a scrimmage, we blew the whistle. Now, instead of wondering what they did, they looked down, saw where they stood (i.e., inside the no zone) and immediately understood. After a couple whistles, we didn’t even need to say anything.
The boxes virtually eliminated the corners’ magnetic power and, after two practices, we didn’t need to tape them anymore. Thanks to the “power of blue”, our players now remind each other to avoid the “no” zone.
3) Develop a clearer understanding of weak side defensive positioning
Knowing where to position yourself in a man-to-man defense is a tough concept to grasp. Young players tend to “chase” the person they’re guarding all over the court, rather than play defense with their brains. Even those who understand the concept of weak-side defense often stand too close to the player they’re guarding to be effective help defenders.
We discussed “on-the-line/up-the-line” without success until finally realizing (duh), we ought to just put the dern line in the middle of the key from the foul line to the baseline. With blue tape on the floor, our players could see where they should be when they’re weak side defenders. Do they still get out of position? Of course, but the tape has improved their understanding of how to man-to-man defense tremendously. You can also mark the “danger zone” near your basket with tape. Tell your players to keep the ball out of the taped area or, if the ball gets into it, to swarm the offensive player. When kids can see what they should do, they do it.
Just when it seems we’ve advanced beyond it, blue tape continues proving its value. Since our summer league plays two simultaneous games crosscourt on a large varsity court, the crosscourt marks for the foul , three point and out-of-bounds lines are all very light. Unable to see the yellow foul line, our kids repeatedly stepped over it; the referees waved off the shots we made due to lane violations.
Once we put down a blue tape line, violations disappeared. After marking both foul lines, the referee called our squad for three seconds. During a time out, I asked him how our players were supposed to know they were inside the key (the key is the exact same color as the rest of the floor). He had no response, but we did: marking it with more of our trusty blue tape.
You can find more articles from Jim Bado that are usually non-basketball related at the LOSER Report.
For more youth coaching tips, drills, plays, offense tips, defense tips, and much more, visit our Youth Basketball Coaching Home Page.