Breakthrough Basketball Newsletter:
Merging Offense Drills

December 2, 2020

In this newsletter, you’re going to find...

  • How to Merge Offense Drills and Skill Development - Motion Offense Build Up Drills

  • Mailbag on “Being Tough on Players” and Accusations of Becoming the Quasi Thought Police

How to Merge Offense Drills and Skill Development - Motion Offense Build Up Drills

Ages: Youth, High School, College/Pro
Audience: Coaches

This will show you a super efficient way to build your offense and develop your team's shooting, dribbling, footwork, and passing at the same time.

Better Players = Better Offense.

As a youth and high school coach, we are definitely limited on our practice time. Some of you only get 1 hour per week!!

That means we need to be extremely diligent in the drills that we choose.

As a younger coach, I would always have a skill development session during practice and an offense session during practice.

When I started to combine both offense and skill development into the same drill, we started to get a lot better. And it happened quicker.

So let's get to some specific drills and examples that show you how to build your offense and improve skill development at the same time!

Let me show you an example with the 5-out motion that I teach to some of my youth and high school teams in the first few practices.

Progression 1 - 1v0 Pass and Cut

One of the first things that I teach to our players is simply how to pass and cut.

Here is what the drill looks like.

Player 1 starts in triple threat with their eyes on the rim.

Player 1 passes to a person on the wing.

Player 1 fakes in the opposite direction, then basket cuts.

The person on the wing passes to the player for the lay up.

In the first progression, you're practicing…

  • Starting in a good offensive position.
  • Passing.
  • Proper footwork to cut to the basket.
  • Finishing near the rim.

So now you're working all of these skills to become a better player while reinforcing a concept in your offense.

In this case, the offensive concept or rule is pass and move.

And in this situation, the movement was a basket cut or "give and go."

You can also use assistants and players as passers, so you can utilize different baskets to ensure a high amount of repetitions for every player on your team.

Progression 2 - 2v0 Pass, Cut, and Fill: Shot

The second part of this progression is the exact same at the first progression, except you have two players on the floor now.

Player 1 starts in triple threat with their eyes on the rim.

Player 1 passes to the person on the wing.

Player 1 fakes in the opposite direction, then basket cuts.

This time the person doesn't pass the ball to player 1.

Player 1 finishes the cut at the rim, pivots while keeping their eye on the passer, and cuts to an open spot on the perimeter. In this situation, it would be the left corner.

As player 1 begins the cut, player 2 takes two steps down towards the lane to simulate making contact with the defender. This also helps with timing, so you're not too close to the first cutter.

Then player 2 cuts to the top of the key.

Coach passes the ball to Player 2 who turns and shoots. They rebound and switch lines.

Once again, you're practicing all of the same things in the first progression, triple threat, passing, footwork, shooting, and cutting.

And you're working on another concept in your offense...

Whenever the offensive player with the ball is next to you and passes away from you, take two steps down into the lane to set up your man. Then you blast cut to the ball.

So once again, you're improving the skill level of your players while working on the situations in your offense!

You're getting the best of both worlds.

Progression 3 - 2v0 Pass and Cut With Backdoor Cut

You take the exact same drill as above, so you can continue to master the rules of your offense and add new progressions to work on more skills and more rules of your offense.

Now, instead of the 2nd player catching the ball at the top of the key, you'll add a third concept of your offense...

Any time you are overplayed, cut backdoor.

Now, you have enough to start a motion offense!!

Here are some skill development progressions work on dribble moves, triple threat footwork, finishing moves, and shooting off the dribble.

2v0 Pass, Cut, and Fill: Step Through Triple Threat Move > Dribble Attack > Lay Up

Player 2 catches the ball, shot fakes, executes step through footwork, then dribble attacks the hoop and shoots a lay up.

2v0 Pass, Cut, and Fill: Step Through Triple Threat Move > Dribble Attack > Side Step Finishing Move

Player 2 catches the ball, shot fakes, executes step through footwork, dribble attacks the hoop and uses a side step move at the basket to shoot a lay up.

2v0 Pass, Cut, and Fill: Step Through Triple Threat Move > Dribble Move > Jump Shot

Player 2 catches the ball, shot fakes, step through, dribble change, jump shot.

You can also construct drills that incorporate screening and shooting -- or any aspects of your offense with skill development mixed in.

That's one of the biggest benefits of the motion offense. You can practice your motion and fundamental skills at the same time. The combinations are endless!

And you're improving the skills of your players while ingraining the rules of your offense with hundreds, possibly thousands of repetitions.

You can even practice defense at the same time as well. Now you're tripling the efficiency!

Then after this, play some 2v2 and 3v3 where you start with the same action. Your offense learns how to apply the skills against defense.

And what's even better is that you don't need 10 players to work on your offense! I know that youth coaches run into this issue all of the time.

NEXT: In a future email, I’ll show you the exact formula, so you can create the best skill developments for any offense. You can EASILY create thousands of drills with this formula. It’s super simple!

What do you think? Is this a good way to combine offense and skill development drills? Do you have other ideas or methods?

REPLY to this email and let me know!

Mailbag on “Being Tough On Players”

In an email a few days ago, I apologized for using a quote that says coaches should be “tough on their players.” To summarize, I said the phrase is too vague and it can lead to ineffective and in the worst case, abusive behaviors as coaches. We need to explain specific behaviors for coaches to use that develop resilient athletes.

You can read the entire message here.

Well, we sure got some great responses and entertaining responses. As you’ll see in the first reply, one reader said I inadvertently became part of the quasi-thought police.

I hope you enjoy the discussion and feedback! Let us know what you think.

Reader Comment: Sorry for using the word tough SMH. Your explanation of vague was enough, Sorry took it too far, you have inadvertently become part of the quasi "thought police". Next step... ban on the use of the word. Sorry ( and I'm using the word sarcastically), coach.

Reader Comment: I agree with where you are going on this, the word tough is open to individual interpretations. The problem I see with coaches is the opposite end of the spectrum. The “group hug” types are just as ineffective as the losing their mind screamers. I am much harder on my players in the privacy of our practice time, but I also explain to the entire team the importance of why I want them to do things a certain way.

I am also cognizant of the fact they are young men and I will not embarrass them in front of friends and family in a game. To your point, if I am upset with an activity during a game, I will sub ( but tell the sub this is a short cycle) and take the player aside and tell them what I want corrected. They will go back in, if they execute correctly - perfect. If not they will get sub out again and a one-on-one discussion after the game will ensue. Just my 2 cents.

Thanks for doing what you do.
- Mike

Reader Comment: I have a saying I like to convey to my kids/ players when they talk big about working out and being physical: I'd rather be strong than big, and I'd rather be tough than strong.

To me, being tough is a mindset of grit, determination, discipline, never give up, going above and beyond. Much more so than a physical definition.

Of course you handle different people and different situations in different ways - knowing how to do that is part of what separates the good from the not so good. However, shouldn't part of the process of growing, learning, maturing, and EXCELLING be figuring out how to take a "vague" direction and crystallizing its essence, stripping away the clutter and taking the core meaning as it pertains to you?

Tough is tough. I think if you need to explain the specific nuance to coaches (or people in a similar type occupation), they may be mired in the minutiae and not be able to bring the best out in their players and team. If they don't already know the subtleties of the term, they are already missing the point and likely will be limited.

I would not apologize for your use of the word tough in this context.
- Brad

Reader Comment: You are being politically correct. Being “tough” does not imply that you are mean. Kyle Lowery is a tough player—is that bad? Being a “dirty” player is bad. Being tough on players is good. It implies that you are demanding a certain level of performance to be successful. The same holds true in daily living. You have to be on time, due dates for assignments must be met, common courtesy should be given to all in daily encounters. I pity the coach that does not find it important to be tough. The problem is how to be tough fairly.
- Walt

Reader Comment: Joe, I think you’re right on. Teacher of 20 years all age groups. Early in my career, veteran teachers told me, “Don’t smile til December.” I thought to myself at 22 years old I don’t want the job if that’s what it entails: not allowing kids to see you smile. Just a side note about mental health and overall well being.

Aside from that, two keys you mentioned: rapport and relationship building. You have to care about your players genuinely and they have to know that before you can healthily get tougher. Conflict is good because we grow. But establishing that rapport comes first and it takes time. I think lighting that fire under their butts and picking your times to do it so that it isn’t constant is necessary for success. But they have to know you love them and you’re doing it for the right reasons.

I find finishing my practice off with some sort of fun competition with coaches and players is great. We always end on a funny yet competitive note, no matter what has to be done during practice.

Last thing for me and you alluded, very clear communication and direction in what you’re calling them out on. Avoid sarcasm and vague wording. It’s just ineffective and counterproductive.

Really appreciate the topic. Just because our coaches did it a certain way doesn’t mean we can’t make it better. Doesn’t mean their footsteps were all for naught. But we can always get better and build.
- Josh

Reader Comment: You are absolutely correct. I just had to deal with this because the coach told my child who is a Freshman playing Varsity not to shoot or dribble in the game because they couldn't do either. I believe in being tough, but to me this just is discouraging to a child who still has several years left to learn. Is this telling them to quit? Is it reverse psychology? I understand coaches that tear you down then build you back up, but this wasn't the case. Great explanation in your email.
- Thanks, Tara

Reader Comment: Excellent.

The coach is there for the players and not the other way around.

To be a better coach, start by being a better person.

The less talking I do as a coach, the better.

The more I let the players initiate ideas, the better.

(A friend was a lacrosse coach at a prestigious prep school. One of her players was the daughter of a highly successful NFL coach. He was present at a tense playoff game, close to the bench. Down by a couple of goals late, she called a timeout. The players gathered, looking to her. Here's what she said: "This timeout is for me, because I'm not seeing things well. What are you seeing?". The girls took over in the huddle, my friend didn't say another word. After the game, the NFL coach--not noted for diplomacy or sentimentality!--found my friend and congratulated her specifically on that timeout.)

One last thing that helped me as a coach:

Because we spend far more time practicing than playing, view practice as the purpose of basketball.

A bench player might get six minutes of playing time in a week while practicing for six hours.

I want that player to feel like we are not solely focused on games but on spending time together working hard.

The players laugh when I say, "Games are just an excuse to practice"!

But the thing is, if the players buy into practice then they'll perform better in games too.
- Jon

Reader Comment: I appreciate your article on not being tough on players. I have had the tremendous opportunity to coach my 3 daughters and 1 son at the grade school level in CYC(Catholic Youth Council). 2 of my daughters are now in high school, my third daughter is in 8th grade, and my son is in 6th grade, so I am still coaching and hope to do so in the future.

Please keep in mind these are not club teams, nor do we have tryouts. The talent level is usually diverse, to say the least. We typically have the good, the bad, and the in between. We also have kids with differing interests in basketball.

As a disclaimer, I am loud in the gym, and I expect a lot I.e. work ethic, effort, mental toughness, paying attention, etc. The reason I expect this is because my “job” is not just to teach kids about basketball, but to prepare them for high school and life, especially if they want to play a sport in high school.

I think coaches, and my kids have had some, who do not put an emphasis on being “tough”, as being detrimental to a kid’s development. First and foremost, the kids need to have fun, but they also need to be taught the game and about life. If a coach does not expect much from kids, he will not get much in return. The best coaches are the ones who maximize a kid’s experience and development, no matter the kid’s skill level.

Tough can be defined multiple ways, but the coaches who are not tough on kids should probably be volunteering their time in some other fashion.

These are a few of my thoughts, and I am happy to discuss further. I enjoy your newsletter, as it has a lot of fantastic content. Thanks for sending it out.
- Thomas

Reader Comment: Good morning, Coach,

My first thought is that it’s all about the coach / player and coach / team relationships. Relationships must be strong and purposefully-maintained, in my opinion, before “toughness.”

As I read your email, a scene from a game day a few years ago replayed slowly in my mind. A player’s post-game excitement about a team win morphed into slouched shoulders, lowered head, body angled away from coach, eyes down, eyes checking to see who’s watching him respond to his coach’s very loud criticism of his play and a long list of things he should have done better. The player just stood there and took it until he mouthed off to the coach, who I later found out was the player’s dad.

During one of my sons’ travel games, an opposing team’s coach was very loud throughout the game and repeatedly yelled specific criticisms at specific players on the court, and got very close to continue criticizing each time he pulled a player out of the game to the bench. It was hard to hear and watch. Parents on the other side of the bleachers didn’t seem to flinch. It didn’t help that his team was older and it was the championship game he (and probably most everyone else) expected them to win. As I’m typing, I’m realizing how stark and detailed these memories are. I remember what I saw and heard, and how I felt. And I keep thinking of more examples.

But, most importantly, I think of the players’ reactions. Never once did I see a player respond in what seemed to be a positive way, either verbally or in his/her play. Whether or not there was a positive result long-term, I don’t know. What I do know is that over my thirteen years of coaching youth basketball and soccer, players are more willing to communicate, try new skills, take risks when they know you see their efforts, when you let them know you see growth, and then help them understand what they can do to continue to improve. One baby step at a time, with specific teaching, and plenty of reps in practice, followed by encouragement to try it in game setting, followed by more communication....

In my mind, “tough” is implementing and insisting on structure and high expectations for respect and effort, from day one. Kids who want to play and improve seem to respond well to this.

Sorry for the long response. Your email got me thinking about one of my core coaching values, the positive and negative consequences of the way we interact with our players, and what it means to teach them the game.

Reader Comment: I don't think you're wrong using the term "tough". Tough doesn't mean "mean". Tough to me means helping kids to strive to be the best athlete and person they can be. That means I'm not going to let them be lazy. I'm not going to let them be a poor teammate. I'm not going to let them be a selfish player. I'm not going to let them get away with being late. I'm not going to let them get away with being poor at anything they are able to control.

That has nothing to do with berating a player, embarrassing a player, or just being disrespectful or saying something inappropriate. I always try and set expectations for players, at least in my mind, as even higher than what they think they can do. I get youth players that when I demonstrate a newer or higher level ballhandling drill, for example, that tell me they can't do that. I remind them that they can do it and that with more practice they will eventually learn to do it better. That goes with a lot of different areas as well. It is trying to set a mindset that if they work hard, just as in life, they can do things they never felt they could do before. Basketball isn't going to come easy. Just like life doesn't come easy. But hard work and determination will get you further and I don't let my players take the easy way out.
- Josh

Reader Comment: Great points! I think, once again though, you've chosen a word that you shouldn't. I don't think "wrong" is what you were. However, you said it yourself - you were "vague" or some other word that works there. Nothing wrong, but just not clear. But now everything you've said to explain yourself has been much clearer.

Yes, we want to make sure that we hold kids accountable, sometimes by raising our voices. That's tough, sure. But we don't want to take it to the extremes like you mentioned where we are no longer tough, but now we are demeaning, humiliating, embarrassing, etc.

Good message that more coaches, athletes, parents, leaders, and people in general need to hear. Thanks for posting.
- Scott

Reader Comment: Excellent email. Totally subscribe to this thinking. Letting kids get away with things is the wrong decision. Screaming at them is also not the answer.

Joe’s Response: First off, thank you for all of the feedback! It’s tremendous and I appreciate all of the different points of views.

Now to toughness…

I am 100% in agreement that we need to teach life lessons and develop resilient athletes and people. You should hold athletes accountable. You should be demanding without being demeaning.

And based on the way “toughness” was described in most of the comments above, those are the exact things I try to instill in my athletes as well.

Developing better human beings should be a focus for every coach! This is why I coach.

However, if you ask 100 people what it means to “be tough on somebody”, you’re going to get all sorts of variations. Is “being tough on somebody” different than “developing toughness”?

And when it came to defining what toughness is, it took Jay Bilas an entire book to explain what he perceives toughness as.

I don’t know what percentage. It could be 1%. Is it 50%? I know that a lot of coaches get it right, but there is a percentage that will perceive “being tough on somebody” in the wrong way and we need to be crystal clear with behaviors coaches should be using to develop better, more resilient athletes.

Your feedback has been awesome. Keep it coming!

Reply back to this email and share your thoughts.

All the Best,

Joe Haefner
Breakthrough Basketball