The Missing Link To Player Development

We are really excited to present this to you, because we believe that this will dramatically improve the playing ability of all your players.

If you ever visit the practices of great teams and great coaches in your area, I can guarantee that you will see this being done at some point in their practices.

But for some reason, this missing link to player development is rarely talked about. And because it is rarely talked about, coaches often forget to include this in their practices.

Before we get to it, I think we can all agree that improving the skill level of your players will help make you a better team. Having players that are better at ball handling, footwork, finishing, shooting, passing, decision-making, and defense, will definitely help you win more games!

We can also agree that you will be a better team if you have 5 players on the court that can play any of the positions on the floor.

Why not have a point guard who can take weaker defenders to the post? Why not have a post player who can bring the ball up the floor or make opposing defenders uncomfortable by attacking their defenders from the perimeter?

The Issues To Player Development That We Ran Into...

Well, one of the problems that you may find in 3v3 and even a bigger problem in 5v5 is that one or two players tend to dominate the ball. Usually, the better players get the ball and a few players tend to hide and don't get very many touches. I see this all the time in our practices and camps. Sometimes, kids even purposely avoid the ball in fear of making a mistake.

So even though these players are getting better at their skills and playing in game-like situations, they're not getting the touches needed to improve in game-like situations.

As a coach, you might start to wonder how can I fix this issue? How can you get everybody touching the ball in game-like situations to improve your team's overall skill level and decision-making? And you may have already come up with some solutions, because you saw the same issues that I was seeing.

The Solution To Accelerating Player Development

Well, we believe that in addition to teaching Don Kelbick's Attack & Counter Basketball Skill Development System, the answer to your problem is competitive skill drills!

Well, you might be wondering, what are competitive skill drills?

Competitive skill drills are where you put your players in game-like situations with one or two defenders. This would typically include 1v1, 1v2, 2v1, and 2v2 type games. These drills will also include dribble limits, time limits, smaller areas, and bigger areas to make the drills easier or more difficult based on your team's skill level.

As you may have already figured out, competitive skill drills are great because every single player on your team...

  • Improves at game-like situations and HAS to touch the ball.

  • Develops the necessary ball handling skills and decision-making in pressure situations.

  • Enhances the player's ability to shoot in game-like situations.

  • Develops post and perimeter moves, so you have constant mismatches on offense.

  • Elevates their ability to finish near the basket.

  • Improves athleticism, especially speed and agility.

  • Sharpens the defensive skills needed to defend in game situations.

These are also great, because you can use them in small-group workouts with players of similar skill level.

Not to mention, it's fun and kids love doing them! In every evaluation that I've done at camps and for teams that I have coached, the players always wanted more of these competitive skill drills!

The Story of the 5-Foot Nothing Kid Scoring Over Kids A Foot Taller

The light bulb really went off for me a few years ago during a season in which I coached a 7th grade club team. I started emphasizing these drills for 10 to 15 minutes at every practice.

We had this little 5-foot nothing guard who was relatively slow. He really struggled scoring in the paint against taller more athletic players at the beginning of the season. You really felt for him because he had an unbelievably great attitude, but you could see the frustration in his eyes. As you know, the ones who hit puberty at an early age tend to dominate youth sports.

About half way through the season, the little guy started playing pretty well during practice, so I knew what we were doing worked.

During the last two tournaments of the year, this kid took off! All of the sudden, this kid is putting in baskets left and right against much taller and more athletic players by using the running hooks and floaters! And what was great is that everybody got a lot better doing this! In addition to improvements in other areas, we went on to win our last four or five tournaments of the year.

Well, how did he do this?

First, we learned how to execute the skill without the defense. In this case, finishing around the basket using crafty moves like the floater and the running hooks. Then, we put the team in the competitive skill drills where they could start using these skills to score.

We hope that these drills help you as much as they've helped us!

Here are some small-sided competitive skill drills you can use in your practices:

The Attack & Counter Skill Development System
30 Competitive Skill Building Drills
Competitive One on One Fast Break Drills - 1v1 Attack
1v1 Attack With Narrow Cones
Competitive Finishing Basketball Drill Versus Weakside Help

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Chris says:
5/12/2017 at 10:36:34 AM

The jump from a church league or school to AAU is so great that the AAU is the worst place for skill development. Europe has it right and the ASU scene is disgusting.


Joe Haefner says:
8/22/2012 at 9:02:14 AM

Glad we can help, Michael! And congrats on our success!


Joe Haefner says:
8/22/2012 at 9:01:39 AM

Thanks for the kind words, Tom!

We do the same thing with 3v3. We always rotate to a different position after every possession and new person must check the ball every time.

We also do:
- No dribble
- 2-dribble limit
- Every possession must start with a ball screen.
- Every possession must start with a pass, then down screen.
- Cutting game (no screens and 2-dribble limit)


Joe Haefner says:
8/22/2012 at 8:55:10 AM

Coach Rutherford, as of now, we just have the post play eBook:

Even though the focus is on post play, you can just extend the concepts and drills to the perimeter and do the same work with your guards.


Michael says:
8/21/2012 at 1:23:37 PM

Recently took a team where they merged 3 - 4 grade girls with 5 - 7 graders. The 3rd and 4th graders are rising to the occasion in both offense but primarily in defense against in some cases girl's twice their size and weight.

I really appreciate the tips that have helped shaped our team to play in the championship.


Ken says:
8/21/2012 at 10:43:48 AM


You can take it one step further... try some no dribble games and another one we did was an OFF hand game... no steals were allowed on defense or shot blocks. Just an idea.


Basketballogy says:
8/21/2012 at 10:40:16 AM

Really nice job, Joe. Thanks for the post.

As you know, I like to have players scrimmage where they cannot dribble more than twice. This assures great ball movement as a habit.

When we scrimmage with the 2 dribble rule 3 on 3 especially, then we assure all players get touches.

But they get the touches against a defense and their confidence and skills might not be ready for that.

I'm going to give more thought to drills as you've prescribed. Thanks again.


Coach Rutherford says:
8/21/2012 at 10:03:38 AM

Where do we get more information on Coach Don Kelbick's Attack & Counter Basketball Skill Development System?

I do some small sided game, skill development, time and location activities now but would love to see or here about other ideas from experts like Coach Don and yourself or from others.

Thanks for growing the game!

Coach Rutherford


Joe Haefner says:
8/21/2012 at 9:30:02 AM

Just a side note, I went to an Alan Stein clinic Sunday evening. Video doesn't do his speaking ability justice. He is a unbelievable presenter and motivational speaker.

We had a Q&A session and we got onto this very topic. He mentioned DeMatha, the school that he works at, does a lot of these type of drills.

Just wanted to add that one of the best high school programs in the nation does the same type of things.


Ken says:
8/21/2012 at 9:24:52 AM

Charles -

You might look at this link ..

If you look at the upper left hand side there are several links that you can go to.

IF I am you, I would sit down and identify the areas that your kids cant do. Have a good practice plan that will cover all these areas. Keep your drills short and competitive once they learn them. Kep them moving and they wont get bored.

I decided to coach the girls sophomore team in my last year after 16 years of boys varsity coaching. I figured I would just outcoach everyone....SURE I WOULD.

Well, in the first practice I found out that they couldn't pass or catch the ball while moving.... andshooting wasn't one of their better skills either.... So my practices were based around those skills. The first 20 minutes of every practice, early in the season was all about improving those skills.

I used the KISS method in everything else.... we played m2m and ran a motion offense.

I hope this helps - only you know what needs to be worked on, write them all down and then put them in your practice plan.


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