Why 3>5 When It Comes To Developing Players

By Jeff Huber

When I was a kid, Hoop It Up was huge! For those who are unfamiliar, Hoop It Up was a traveling 3 on 3 tournament.

Every summer, Hoop It Up would travel the country, hitting the biggest cities. In each city, they would hold a 3v3 outdoor tournament.

As a kid, I played in it multiple times. It was awesome. There would be hundreds of teams ranging from little kids to men and women in their 50's.

Unfortunately, Hoop It Up is not what it once was. I had to do a Google search to see that it still exists.

And yet, in many ways, Hoop It Up was ahead of its time.

In 2020, 3 on 3 became an Olympic sport.

If you had an opportunity to watch, it is a super fast-paced game. Teams get a :12 shot clock. Games never go longer than 10 minutes or 21 points. There is no break when a team scores.

It's fast, fun, and exciting! It's also a great way to coach youth players.

Watch here as Jim Huber talks about the importance of 3v3 for developing players.

3v3 Basketball: The "Goldilocks Balance" Of Player Development

We recently talked about how playing too much 5v5 can slow player development.

We also wrote about the benefits of playing 1v1 and how training with a partner can enhance player development.

The benefit of playing 5v5 is that it's obviously how the game is played. Your players are training in the exact context that they'll play in.

The problem with 5v5 is it's easy for players to get lost. They don't get a lot of touches.

The benefit of 1v1 is players get a ton of touches. They get a lot of chances to practice their ball skills. They get a lot of opportunities to guard the ball.

The problem with 1v1 is it's not game-like. Players generally don't have a passing option. The spacing of 1v1 in no way simulates the space players have in 5v5.

What if there was a way to take the best of 5v5 and 1v1 while minimizing the problems?

There is - 3v3.

6 Reasons Why 3v3 Basketball Maximizes Player Development

3v3 is a great way for players to improve. It's especially valuable for young players. Here's why:

  1. More touches: In 5v5, it's common for some players to not see the ball. If you don't get the ball, it's hard to improve your ball skills. In 3v3, players get more opportunities to do things with the ball. This speeds development.

    Young players must get touches. Too much youth basketball is the best player handling the ball 90% of the time. While that might help win games, it only develops 1 player. Your job is to develop all your players 3v3 is a way to do that in an environment that builds confidence.

  2. Enhanced decision making: Decision making is a skill. It must be trained. 3v3 is a great way to do so.

    In 5v5, players may not get the ball enough to practice their decision making.

    In 3v3, players are making a lot of decisions. The game is fast-paced (if you play FIBA 3v3 in your practice, players only have :12 to shoot). This forces your players to make decisions quickly.

    In 1v1, many decisions are eliminated. Players can't pass. There is no help defense. Those missing elements take away many of the decisions players need to be able to make.

    3v3 provides a sweet spot. There are other players on the floor, making it game-like. But not so many that each player doesn't get maximum decision-making reps.

  3. More players involved: Yes, 5v5 involves 10 players. But as we said, some of those players aren't truly involved. In 3v3, everyone is involved on every play. This ups engagement and focus.

    Also, you can play multiple 3v3 games at once. Depending on the number of hoops and players you have, you can play 4 games at once. That would allow 24 players to be getting touches and game-like decisions.

  4. Easier to coach: As a coach, 5v5 can be overwhelming. That's especially true for youth coaches who are on their own. It's hard to see everything.

    In 3v3, you don't have to see as much. It allows you to zero in on whatever you are focusing on. You can then provide better feedback and coaching to your players.

  5. Easy to adapt: The number of 3v3 games you can create is infinite. We will come back to this and provide some advice for designing games in a future article.

    But safe to say 3v3 is easily constrained to focus on certain skills or concepts. This speeds up development even further. Players are now getting maximum game-like reps while focusing on whatever skill you've prioritized.

    As your season progresses, you can change the design of your games. This is a great way to challenge your players and keep them engaged.

  6. It's fun: Speaking of engagement, 3v3 is fun! Players love it. And that makes sense. Players get the ball a lot. The game goes quickly. There's a lot of scoring. Teamwork is a must.

    When all those elements are in place, it's easy to see why 3v3 is enjoyable.

Final Thoughts: Learn From 3v3 at the Olympics!

3v3 is a great game. If you get a chance, watch it at the Olympics next month. You'll enjoy the experience.

As you watch, look at how engaged the players are. Look at how many opportunities players get.

Then, think of how your players could benefit from a practice environment like that.

Next time, we will talk about how to design 3v3 games for your team. Until then, get your players Hoopin' It Up!

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Dan Smith says:
6/24/2024 at 5:43:45 PM

Great article Jeff, really enjoyed reading it! I'm gonna check it out during the Olympics for sure...I'm a Kings fan so will be cheering for J. Fredette & the American team.

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