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PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 06:35 

Posts: 22
I've been coaching youth basketball consecutively for the past 4 seasons, always trying to get the players to understand how to run an effective half court offense, especially against Zone Defense. Half court offense is probably the most difficult aspect of basketball to learn as well as teach. I even recall being on an adult city league team where players tend to play a simple spread until a single player (usually a quick ballhandler) manages to cut through to the paint, while the other 4 stand out on the perimeter and watch.

So this year, I'm going to try a different approach and apply some things I've learned from watching football. In football, there are base formations and plays that come out of those base formations. I plan to show the players about a handful of base formations (spacing) in the half court, name each one, then add some simple rules (like the passer must always cut), screens away from ball, motion (filling in the spaces) and pick 'n rolls.

In previous seasons, when I tried to teach them some basic plays, they most often fell apart because of the fluidity of basketball and all the intangibles that happen. I think at this age, it is best to focus on the formations (spacing), how to force the Zone Defense to move, and how to get a player open, rather than on any set plays that most of the time, don't work. The reason is that as soon as the plays fall apart, the players start to question the strategy and will abandon it altogether. Then they are left to the basic spread offense, pass the ball to a teammate and hope that he can make something out of nothing.

The Zone Defense for youth basketball is really bad, not only for the kids playing defense because they don't really learn real defense, but for the offense because most players 12 and under don't have the range to shoot far enough away to force the Zone to move. That's why so many youth basketball coaches fall back on it.

Anyhow, I could be going about it wrong this year, but I'm determined to try a different approach. Thanks to Breakthrough Basketball for providing the wealth of knowledge on how to better coach youth basketball.


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PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 07:15 
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Steven Hickcox wrote:
The Zone Defense for youth basketball is really bad, not only for the kids playing defense because they don't really learn real defense, but for the offense because most players 12 and under don't have the range to shoot far enough away to force the Zone to move. That's why so many youth basketball coaches fall back on it.


I couldn't have said this better. We have had several strings relating to zone defenses at a young age. Tbere are very few kids that can shoot from the perimter at that age... yes there are some, but usually not enough on one team to break down a zone.

Steven Hickcox wrote:
So this year, I'm going to try a different approach and apply some things I've learned from watching football. In football, there are base formations and plays that come out of those base formations. I plan to show the players about a handful of base formations (spacing) in the half court, name each one, then add some simple rules (like the passer must always cut), screens away from ball, motion (filling in the spaces) and pick 'n rolls.


I am a little confused regarding what you said about this at first and the above statement. Plays are plays and usually are very simple to defend... the rules I LIKE, You are giving them some options to use vs a defense.... which can be used vs any D!

Spacing IS the KEY...... I went to a clinic many years ago and talked to a college coach regarding zone offenses... his comment was pretty simple.... " Ken, this isn't rocket science, put em where they aint!" That is pretty simple, there are holes in every zone D, I callled them passing lanes, where there isn't a D player between the ball and the person that wants the ball

Like you said, plays break down, mainly because they are easy to defend and plays don't teach kids how to play the game. You CAN run a simple 5 out spead or a 4 out 1 in using your rules and putting them where they aint. When a player makes a cut, he goes to an open area, either ball side or the weak side. Pass, screen away and replace. All this is JMO of course.

I hope this helps you..... let us know if you need more clariciation.


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PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 09:19 

Posts: 22
Coach Sar wrote:
Steven Hickcox wrote:
The Zone Defense for youth basketball is really bad, not only for the kids playing defense because they don't really learn real defense, but for the offense because most players 12 and under don't have the range to shoot far enough away to force the Zone to move. That's why so many youth basketball coaches fall back on it.


I couldn't have said this better. We have had several strings relating to zone defenses at a young age. Tbere are very few kids that can shoot from the perimter at that age... yes there are some, but usually not enough on one team to break down a zone.

Steven Hickcox wrote:
So this year, I'm going to try a different approach and apply some things I've learned from watching football. In football, there are base formations and plays that come out of those base formations. I plan to show the players about a handful of base formations (spacing) in the half court, name each one, then add some simple rules (like the passer must always cut), screens away from ball, motion (filling in the spaces) and pick 'n rolls.


I am a little confused regarding what you said about this at first and the above statement. Plays are plays and usually are very simple to defend... the rules I LIKE, You are giving them some options to use vs a defense.... which can be used vs any D!

Spacing IS the KEY...... I went to a clinic many years ago and talked to a college coach regarding zone offenses... his comment was pretty simple.... " Ken, this isn't rocket science, put em where they aint!" That is pretty simple, there are holes in every zone D, I callled them passing lanes, where there isn't a D player between the ball and the person that wants the ball

Like you said, plays break down, mainly because they are easy to defend and plays don't teach kids how to play the game. You CAN run a simple 5 out spead or a 4 out 1 in using your rules and putting them where they aint. When a player makes a cut, he goes to an open area, either ball side or the weak side. Pass, screen away and replace. All this is JMO of course.

I hope this helps you..... let us know if you need more clariciation.



Thanks, Coach! Yeah, I've told my players in the past to move to the spots where the defense is not, but what usually happens is that the kids get intimidated by the Zone like it's some force field around the basket - particularly if there are bigger kids down low, so they stay out on the perimeter. My 12 year old son, who has played on several all star teams and traveling teams, is usually the best ball-handler and even he gets intimated because they collapse on him if he dares to penetrate the paint. So my thinking was to instead rely on base formations - for example 5 out, 4 out 1 low post, 4 out 1 high post, etc. By getting all the players familiar with those base formations, then giving them sets of rules, like cutting after passing, setting down screens, they will begin to see those open spots and opportunities to score.


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PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 09:46 
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Thanks, Coach! Yeah, I've told my players in the past to move to the spots where the defense is not, but what usually happens is that the kids get intimidated by the Zone like it's some force field around the basket - particularly if there are bigger kids down low, so they stay out on the perimeter. My 12 year old son, who has played on several all star teams and traveling teams, is usually the best ball-handler and even he gets intimated because they collapse on him if he dares to penetrate the paint. So my thinking was to instead rely on base formations - for example 5 out, 4 out 1 low post, 4 out 1 high post, etc. By getting all the players familiar with those base formations, then giving them sets of rules, like cutting after passing, setting down screens, they will begin to see those open spots and opportunities to score.

As for your son.... as he starts to penetrate and he sees them coming towards him... tell him to pass the ball before they initiate the trap..... the other players need to be in passing lanes so he can make the pass. Penetrate and kick / pass should be the rule for all your players until someone gets a good look for a shot.

Make it as simple as you can for them.... the easier it is, the more success you will see. Good luck.


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PostPosted: 07 Aug 2013, 11:39 

Posts: 899
Played in a competitive tournament a few weekends ago and every team we faced played some type of zone defense (usually a 2-3). Drives me nuts.

We run a 1-3-1 zone offense against a 2-3. Point guard up top, two wings, and the 5 following the ball around the paint. We have another player down low running short corner to short corner. Sometimes they follow the ball, other times they hesitate a bit, their call. We tell our players off ball to find the gaps. Our goal is to move the ball a lot just like any offense against a zone to get them moving. I don't like a lot of dribbling, I want to see quick sharp passes. If the ball gets into the 5 at the ft line or elbow, he looks shot first, short corner second and weak side wing 3rd. Weak side wing cheats into a gap when ball is opposite side. Our biggest nemesis is not being patient enough with the passes and we end up taking a bad shot. Good things happen against a zone if you get in the paint, usually a foul if your players can go up strong.

We go over other scenarios in practice against a 3-2 or 1-3-1 and let the kids figure out where they should go. It doesn't take long for them to find the open spots on the court. This works well against full court zone presses.

Agree with you on the half court offense and running plays, however, I've found having a few plays you can call out once in a while is a good thing. Maybe you're looking to drive or shoot a 3. We just use a state, city, animal, for each play so the players know that any city means run play X and so on. So, we practice two or three simple plays and get them down.

On our 4 out 1 in offense against M2M we do what you're talking about and go over the rules.
When you pass you...1) Cut, 2)set an off ball screen, 3)set an on ball screen. Etc.. Honestly, the biggest hindrances to our offense are fundamentals. The player receiving the screen doesn't wait for it or set up his move around the screen or takes the screen the wrong way. The player cutting doesn't set up his cut or sprint his cut. Some of those small details make all the difference. Imo, it doesn't really matter what plays or offense you run if your players can't execute the basic fundamentals.

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PostPosted: 08 Aug 2013, 04:57 

Posts: 22
Coach Sar wrote:
Thanks, Coach! Yeah, I've told my players in the past to move to the spots where the defense is not, but what usually happens is that the kids get intimidated by the Zone like it's some force field around the basket - particularly if there are bigger kids down low, so they stay out on the perimeter. My 12 year old son, who has played on several all star teams and traveling teams, is usually the best ball-handler and even he gets intimated because they collapse on him if he dares to penetrate the paint. So my thinking was to instead rely on base formations - for example 5 out, 4 out 1 low post, 4 out 1 high post, etc. By getting all the players familiar with those base formations, then giving them sets of rules, like cutting after passing, setting down screens, they will begin to see those open spots and opportunities to score.

As for your son.... as he starts to penetrate and he sees them coming towards him... tell him to pass the ball before they initiate the trap..... the other players need to be in passing lanes so he can make the pass. Penetrate and kick / pass should be the rule for all your players until someone gets a good look for a shot.

Make it as simple as you can for them.... the easier it is, the more success you will see. Good luck.


Thanks again, Coach! Yeah, this is what I tell him, but I guess it's just a matter of him getting over his fear of getting clobbered by attacking the paint. This will be our first year in NJB, Division I (7th and 8th) Co-Ed, so hopefully the kids will grasp things more quickly. We only get one, 90 minute practice a week so it's quite a challenge to teach them both fundamentals and how to play like a team.


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PostPosted: 08 Aug 2013, 05:05 

Posts: 22
Coach Rob wrote:
Played in a competitive tournament a few weekends ago and every team we faced played some type of zone defense (usually a 2-3). Drives me nuts.

We run a 1-3-1 zone offense against a 2-3. Point guard up top, two wings, and the 5 following the ball around the paint. We have another player down low running short corner to short corner. Sometimes they follow the ball, other times they hesitate a bit, their call. We tell our players off ball to find the gaps. Our goal is to move the ball a lot just like any offense against a zone to get them moving. I don't like a lot of dribbling, I want to see quick sharp passes. If the ball gets into the 5 at the ft line or elbow, he looks shot first, short corner second and weak side wing 3rd. Weak side wing cheats into a gap when ball is opposite side. Our biggest nemesis is not being patient enough with the passes and we end up taking a bad shot. Good things happen against a zone if you get in the paint, usually a foul if your players can go up strong.

We go over other scenarios in practice against a 3-2 or 1-3-1 and let the kids figure out where they should go. It doesn't take long for them to find the open spots on the court. This works well against full court zone presses.

Agree with you on the half court offense and running plays, however, I've found having a few plays you can call out once in a while is a good thing. Maybe you're looking to drive or shoot a 3. We just use a state, city, animal, for each play so the players know that any city means run play X and so on. So, we practice two or three simple plays and get them down.

On our 4 out 1 in offense against M2M we do what you're talking about and go over the rules.
When you pass you...1) Cut, 2)set an off ball screen, 3)set an on ball screen. Etc.. Honestly, the biggest hindrances to our offense are fundamentals. The player receiving the screen doesn't wait for it or set up his move around the screen or takes the screen the wrong way. The player cutting doesn't set up his cut or sprint his cut. Some of those small details make all the difference. Imo, it doesn't really matter what plays or offense you run if your players can't execute the basic fundamentals.



Thanks Coach, Rob! Both of you have given some food for thought. With only one 90 minute practice a week, it is tough to try and teach the kids fundamentals while also learning how to play as a team. I plan out my practices down to the minutes and usually run out of time. Last year I focused more on fastbreak drills and taught them the pick 'n roll. The pick 'n roll worked great, but only a few of the players could successfully execute it.

So, do you assign positions? Because I'm not sure how I can do that in a Motion Offense.


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PostPosted: 08 Aug 2013, 06:20 
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Steven Hickcox wrote:
Thanks Coach, Rob! Both of you have given some food for thought. With only one 90 minute practice a week, it is tough to try and teach the kids fundamentals while also learning how to play as a team. I plan out my practices down to the minutes and usually run out of time. Last year I focused more on fastbreak drills and taught them the pick 'n roll. The pick 'n roll worked great, but only a few of the players could successfully execute it.

So, do you assign positions? Because I'm not sure how I can do that in a Motion Offense.


Here is s thought .... you can have the best offense and defense in the world.. but if they cant execute fundamentals, they will never be successfu; 90 minutes a week for practice has to be tough... I don't think I could do that... God Bless you for taking that on.

Here is another thought..... My last year at the high school, I stepped down from boys varsity and took the girls sophomore team. I thought.... with 16 years as a boys varsity coach and 42 years of coaching boys.... this would be a breeze. GUESS WHAT! First day of practice I realized that they couldn't pass or catch the ball... So, on to Plan B.... A LOT OF FUNDAMENTALS..... we spent the first 30 minutes of practice doing passing/catching drills..... every drill I could remember we did. We worked a lot on defense too... M2M or should I say P2P? LOL

Make sure that you have a good - NO GREAT practice plan and stick to it. Your goal should be to make them better players every time you are done with practice and by the end of the year, they are ready to play at the next level.
Good luck.


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PostPosted: 20 Aug 2013, 12:51 

Posts: 41
The zone is a conundrum that we have faced since we started playing (my team is rising 7th grade boys). Here is how we address it.

1) Beat the zone down the floor. We are a fast breaking team so this is modus operandi for us anyway.

2) Get the ball inside to the high post early in the possession. This is very key as it will cause the zone to collapse and free up an outside shooter. We play a 3 out, 2 in with 2 guards up top wide, a high and low post and a wing player who runs the baseline as the ball moves side to side. But you can use this principle with a 4 out 1 in.

3) Teach the players to always "look opposite" when they get the ball then reverse it to the weakside. They will need to learn to throw an overhead or skip pass for this to be effective.

4) Have your guards use pass fakes to create a seam for penetration but teach them to shoot the floater or dish as it will be difficult to get all the way to the rim. Even if it is just partial penetration that will be enough to throw off the zone.

5) Make sure you have a couple of your best outside shooters on the floor.

6) Have everyone crash the boards when the shot goes up except for a guard up high. Zones are notoriously weak for allowing offensive boards.

Hope this helps.


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PostPosted: 20 Aug 2013, 13:32 

Posts: 22
Coach O wrote:
The zone is a conundrum that we have faced since we started playing (my team is rising 7th grade boys). Here is how we address it.

1) Beat the zone down the floor. We are a fast breaking team so this is modus operandi for us anyway.

2) Get the ball inside to the high post early in the possession. This is very key as it will cause the zone to collapse and free up an outside shooter. We play a 3 out, 2 in with 2 guards up top wide, a high and low post and a wing player who runs the baseline as the ball moves side to side. But you can use this principle with a 4 out 1 in.

3) Teach the players to always "look opposite" when they get the ball then reverse it to the weakside. They will need to learn to throw an overhead or skip pass for this to be effective.

4) Have your guards use pass fakes to create a seam for penetration but teach them to shoot the floater or dish as it will be difficult to get all the way to the rim. Even if it is just partial penetration that will be enough to throw off the zone.

5) Make sure you have a couple of your best outside shooters on the floor.

6) Have everyone crash the boards when the shot goes up except for a guard up high. Zones are notoriously weak for allowing offensive boards.

Hope this helps.


Thanks, Coach O! Last year, we were in a younger division (5th and 6th) - we focused a lot of our practices on fast break drills and that helped us a lot. We just had our player evaluation/draft this past Saturday for 7th and 8th grade and I was really impressed by a huge jump in skill level from last year. I'm feeling more confident that we can spread the defense with outside shooters - kids who can actually shoot beyond the arc. I was looking at a video on the 1-4 Flat, which can force the defense out of the zone. This is what meant earlier about teaching them base formations - if we can mix it up a bit in terms of how we fill up the spaces in the half court, we can at least keep the defense on their toes. Looking forward to our first practice in about week!


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