How To Teach Offense To Youth and Middle School Teams - "Coach Joe's Offense Sucks"

"Coach Joe's offense sucks. All he runs is frigging cutters."

Those were the exact words I heard from a parent on an 8th grade team that I was coaching. He was talking to his son's former coach.

You'll be completely amazed what this same parent said seven weeks later!

I believe that it's this approach that amazed the former critic...

Did My Offense Suck? Why Would A Parent Say That?

To be fair, the offense did suck. However, it was the first tournament of the year. And this group of boys had never played together. And we had six practices before the first tournament. To put it bluntly, we played how you would expect. We looked pretty bad on offense and average on defense.

But, there was a specific plan in place. A plan that works over time and helps you improve players a lot more over the long run!

Teams that I coached typically didn't play that well at the beginning of the season. Then by the end of the season, they've improved quite a bit and even beat more talented teams.

This had become the norm for me. In fact, it was expected. One parent and his son had been with me for two prior seasons. He told me, "Don't worry about it. We know what the outcome will be. We have 100% faith in you."

However, looking back, I should've communicated this approach better to the parents. Maybe it wouldn't have made a difference. Who knows.

What Was The Long Term Plan!?

The long term plan teaches skills (shooting, dribbling, passing), universal defensive concepts (man to man defense), and universal offensive concepts (motion offense).

Specifically for offense, the universal offensive concepts (UOCs) help you develop a knowledge and skill set that works for any high school or college offense. And that's precisely why we did that!

You shouldn't worry about how many games or tournaments you win at the youth level. It's about development! Your goal is to get these kids to play in high school or possibly college!

Additionally, you don't want to rush the process. Like I was doing, you want to slowly incorporate new concepts over the season. To understand this idea in more detail, read this article:

Youth Coaches: Destroy Your Playbook and Do This Instead

When I Rushed The Process With Another Team, It Failed Miserably... And What To Do Instead

A few years prior, with another team, I had tried to incorporate cutting, down screens, and ball screens. However, we only had three weeks prior to the first tournament! Then I tried to continue to teach the concepts over the next three weeks.

After I had realized that I created a disaster by rushing the process, I started over from scratch. We immediately got better and even won our last four tournaments!

So from that point forward, we didn't create a timeline. We weren't introducing anything else until these players were doing a good job of cutting and maintaining space. They basket cut after each pass. And they backdoor cut when overplayed.

In 1998, I witnessed a high school team win a state championship using this offense, so I knew it would work at the 8th grade level. For you basketball junkies, it was Denny Thiesen at Cedar Rapids Prairie.

Well, this does take a little time, especially with a bunch of 13 and 14 year olds who never played together. That's why we played poorly at first.

Yeah... we could have run some set plays and looked better in the first tournament, but it would have caught up with us by the end of the season. And we would have wasted practice time with things that don't help develop better players.

This process took us about 5 weeks. At that same time, we started winning games.

Then we introduced down screens.

So after that, we had three offenses that meshed together.

1 - Basket cut after every pass.

2 - Screen away after every pass.

3 - Motion offense - Pick what you're going to do.

I never would recommend that you teach three different offenses like continuities or extended play options. That would be a nightmare. These are just layered universal offensive concepts that build a motion offense.

The Amazing Thing The Parent Said To Me At The End Of The Season

By the end of the season, we had won our last four of five tournaments. We were playing really well, even defeating some teams that were a year older.

And I was even a bit nervous that we wouldn't get there because it was a shortened 10-week season with two practices a week. In the previous season, we had more practices per week or a longer season.

The same upset parent came up to me at the end of the season and said, "Joe, I'm really impressed with how much progress these kids have made. I'm really happy with what happened this year."

When your biggest critic turns into one of your biggest supporters, something went right!

So be patient and don't rush the process.

To be quite frank, if you could teach them how to keep spacing, basket cut, backdoor cut, and how to get open, you will be ahead of 95% of players entering high school.

On a side note, you can also tell the parents this story at the beginning of the year. "We're not going to be good at the beginning of the year, maybe not this season, but if you want your high child to play at higher levels... this is vital. Here's why.."

You can even just read this article and the one referenced above if that's easier.

Advice For 3rd, 4th, & 5th Grade Teams

If you're coaching a 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade team, you should definitely simplify! Simplify! Simplify!

Offensively, just focus on teaching pass and basket cut, backdoor cut when overplayed, then keep spacing and move to open spots on the floor.

And most importantly, focus on rule #1! If you have a good chance to score, ignore all other rules, take the opportunity!

Some 5th grade teams might be ready for down/away screens if you've coached them for a few seasons.

Perfect Youth Coaching System For Youth & Middle School Coaches - With a Step By Step Process for Teaching Offense!

The Youth Coaching System with Jim Huber has 64 Practice Plans and step-by-step progressions for teaching Offense, Defense, Skill Development, and More!

It is one of the best youth coaching resources out there.

If you want to win more games, save a ton of time, spend less money, and prevent dozens of headaches, be sure to check it out here.

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


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Ross says:
3/9/2023 at 12:33:41 PM

As the coach of a 5th/6th grade rec team, with very limited time to work with our kids, it's challenging to know what or how much to try to teach our kids.

Our league rules are to run a 2-3 zone defense for 3 quarters and man to man for 1 quarter. But one team runs a 1-3-1, another runs a 3-2. Last night, we played a team that played man to man the entire game.

It can be frustrating. But I do see overall improvement in our team since the start of the season, they are having fun, and seem to be learning a thing or two. I guess we can call it a success, but it's been challenging.


Ruth says:
10/5/2018 at 5:42:37 PM

A great article which cogently puts the case for player development through increasing their basketball IQ - running set plays just shows you well they can memorise. I can testify to the power of Tim Schuring's dvd. Well worth every penny!!!


Charlie Miller says:
10/5/2018 at 6:34:18 AM

Awesome testimony. Breakthrough Basketball is the #1 source for resources, camps and insights for coaches, parents and players looking to become great in the game of basketball.

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