Motion Offense Question #2

This offense is just like playing pickup. Do you recommend it to youth teams or 5th graders to be specific?

I think that you are very perceptive but do not understand the wisdom of your statement. Basketball was meant to be played as pick-up. The only problem is the kid that shoots every time he touches the ball and the kid that puts the ball on the floor with his head down. You watch how freely teams play, with no coaching, when you put 5 players on the floor who understand when to shoot, pass, cut, etc. When they are unburdened by mandatory passes or cuts and they play instinctively they are more aggressive, make better decisions, utilize their skills better and are more effective. Who would not want their team to play that way? It is every coach's objective to get their team to play with that freedom. Coaches just don't have the temperament or patience to allow it to happen.

In regard to your second question, which I think is more important, I believe that especially with younger kids, coaches are too preoccupied with basketball offenses. At that age, you should be more concerned with teaching fundamentals and skills. Your offense should be based in teaching the appropriate use of those skills. Teach situations and spacing ("when the ball is here, these are the best places to be and here's why). Kids of that age have limited attention spans and low retention levels. If you try to run a structured offense, they will forget. If you run a motion offense and try to control them by putting in too many rules, they will get frustrated. And worst of all, you will get more frustrated. What is simple to you will not be to kids of that age. In terms of running an offense, the less you give them the better.

I can't help but think that when I was a kid, I had NO coaching until I was in 7th grade. Yet, as a 7th grader I was good enough to play for my school team and even played some high school games in 8th grade. I am not minimizing the effect of coaching because I got a lot better when I played on those teams and got good coaching. However, as I was becoming a player, in those formative years, I figured it out for myself. I learned by just playing all the time, playing against older and better kids and practicing my skills. By the time I got to play on a real team, I knew how play. I just had to learn the best times to use what I already knew. I also think I was the rule, not the exception.

Kids are resourceful and learn quickly when allow to figure things out for themselves. Give them guidance, encouragement and correction, then let them go again. They will learn faster and better than trying to get them to understand the tenants of a particular offense.

I hope I have answered your questions and have been of some help.

Do you have any questions or suggestions for this article? Let us know by leaving your comments...


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Ron W says:
4/9/2009 at 6:47:39 AM


I have three sons, aged 14, 9 and 7. The two oldest love playing all sports, including basketball. The 7 year old had ZERO interest in playing basketball.

I coach the two oldest, and worry all the time about what "offense" or plays to run with little success. VERY frustrating. "Why don't they get it?"

Well, last summer the 7 year old wanted to play basketball one day. We have a hoop, so the older two of course wanted to play. I said, "Fine. Me and the 7 year old vs. the two oldest."

My youngest struggled as his brothers dominated him without mercy. He got frustrated and I got frustrated. The older sons loved it, they were killing us. I could have kept making shots but I wanted to involve him, but he couldn't get open. What to do?

I called time out and told him two rules:
Rule 1: If I dribble at you, run (didn't say "cut", 7 year olds don't like cuts!) to the basket and watch me the whole time
Rule 2: If you pass to me, stand still, count to two silently, then run to the basket

Well, lo and behold, within five minutes, he was off and running. He took two easy to remember rules and looked like he had been playing all his life. Now, his brothers were frustrated and couldn't figure out how their brother was getting open and making shots. My 7 year old's confidence went through the roof and he LOVES the game! I've added little rules here and there but do it WHILE WE ARE PLAYING - it isn't "coaching" to my sons, it's game strategy. It's like when you huddle in football and do the Xs and Os - fun!

And I have seen the light as a coach. Teach them a few age-appropraite offensive rules, practice all the fundamentals, let them practice with games, and stop occasionally (not every 5 seconds) and reinforce the rules.


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Teresa says:
4/11/2009 at 1:50:05 AM

I would like to say that I thought the article was great. I'm coaching a travel team girls 12 and under. We just started and yeah I've been putting some plays out there, but for some reason I can't get them to run the plays in a game. They act like we have never went over these plays. Is it to much for them to learn at their level. They have played for other teams,but they were teams like upward and they have not taught them very much.I have thought that maybe by running this offense me back off a little and let them show me what they can do. I'm new at this coaching thing but I played for years. I fill like I need to connect with these kids on there level and have them to think for them selves it may just turn it around. I hope so any way. Let me know something i'm willing to learn and take advice from any one.

Need some drills that will help jumping when they rebound the ball. Thanks for your email they are very helpful for me.


Tad says:
5/8/2009 at 11:59:31 AM

I coach Jr. High boys. They also don''t jump much at this age. I have learned that most of the rebounds at this age, and at most ages, are on the ground. Instead of teaching jumping, teach boxing out. Hope this helps!


harry says:
8/29/2009 at 7:02:17 PM

Thanks for the articles and comments. I appreciate that you do this.


Jon says:
9/14/2009 at 11:07:05 AM

I like the 5-out motion but I''d like to teach a weak-side crash so that we''re not bleeding rebounds. Also, seems to me that everything sort of evolves into a 3-2 motion when I do that, which is what I plan to run.

The rules are wonderful though -- I coach 7th grade boys, and rules are great -- here are mine: Perimiter players -- if you pass, replace the weakside guard, or cut to the hoop and ready for a perimiter pass. If someone dirbbles toward you, back cut hard and don''t short it. Posts -- if you receive a pass, look in. If someone dribbles toward you, cut to the lowest (available) opposite side scoring position.

I find that keeping it REALLY simple allows your players to enjoy the game and improve their skills -- which is what 7th grade ball is about.


Pastor G says:
12/29/2009 at 12:50:37 AM

I'm coaching 12 thru 15 years old Church kids. A few have pretty good talent, most are glad to be playing some type of ball. last year we didn't win a game, and they were like deer with a head light on. They just had fun. This year I tryed to put in a play. In isn't working. Will be switching to a motion offense in Jan. Have to teach picks and down screen. I have 2 who can make outside shots(2 more than last year). I started with 3 outside the 3 pt line , and 2 on the low block. And we practice once a week for 1 hour, if the gym is open. We won our first game this year by one pt., Lost the second by 44pts. That was the avg margin of defeat last year(40pts or more). Will down screens help with this, 3-2 spread motion offense to free up my shooters. What plays should I run when most of the league run zones against us.


Joe Haefner says:
1/7/2010 at 11:18:49 AM

Hi Pastor G,

I would try to teach concepts. That way, they can react to the defense and adjust when needed.

Proper spacing. No players within 15 feet.

Pass and move. Don't stand still even if it's simple switch between two players away from the ball.

Try to position yourself between 2 defenders. This wil create confusion for the defense, because they wont' know which defender is supposed to guard them.

Dribble-ats. Dribble at a defender to get him to commit to you and pass teh ball to an open defender.

Short Corner. Fill the short corner after cuts, this is a weakness on most zones.

Screen the zone. Sometimes, screens on the opposite size of the zone can open things up.

Screen the ball. Sometimes, screening the zone man in the area of the ball will open up a gap for the offensive player.

These are a few concepts, but I think you get the idea.

Good luck!


Kent Harrison says:
2/9/2011 at 10:03:12 AM

Hi, I'm coaching a 3rd-5th grade girls team in an Upward basketball league. I've tried to emphasize fundamentals, especially good defense (Upward requires man-on-man defense at all times), this season, and not get into set plays in order to let the girls play and really go after it. They have done well overall, but halfway through the season, I feel like I need to give them some more to work with, while not overloading them with plays. I like what I see on this website, but also feel the time pressure of having them only 1 hour/week for practice, and only 4 practices left in the year.
What are some basic things I could teach them using principles of the "motion-offense" in the remaining time that I have this season?



gerard says:
3/23/2011 at 2:12:46 PM

hello, i have a question off te motion, what to do aggainst a deffence with a good help deffence or a sagging deffence i think its difficul to make screens??


Kip says:
11/7/2011 at 2:02:47 PM

I'm teaching my under 10 boys team the elements of a motion offense like screening away, ball cuts etc. I'm finding that if they don't have a starting point (ie set offensive postions), they don't start moving. How can I start the offense without having set plays?


Jeff Haefner says:
11/9/2011 at 8:52:06 AM

Kip - there are a couple ways you can do this. You can just have a simple entry that you use each time (stack, 1-4, box, etc). Another option is to use a numbered break (ex: 5 sprints to block, 4 inbounds and trails to wing, 3 to left corner, 2 to right corner, 1 bring up the ball). Practice your transition offense a few times (5 on zero, each player gets shot and sprint to their spot). You can also try using tape in practice. Put tape on the spots. After you cut or run down the floor, find an open spot. You might have 5 perimeter pieces of tape and 3 post.


Rizgar says:
1/4/2013 at 5:25:09 AM

I have a girls team ages 10-13....I liked the idea of "how to Give them guidance, encouragement and correction, then let them go again"
BUT yet I don't understand why they don't get things easely and why this age is not really interested in the Ball alot.....girls used to just do homework, go out with their parents and the never challenge life, so it is hard for me as a coach to imrove them as players quickly....
The question is that "are girls in other countries the same as ours? do we need to change ways?"
Thank you.


Ken says:
1/4/2013 at 11:32:40 AM

Rizgar -

I've seen Varsity kids NOT get it.... some don't have a clue...

At that age, nothing comes quickly... so go about this slowly, teach them as much fundamentals as they can absorb now. As they get better, maybe their desire to play the game will improve.

I think kids are kids no matter where they live... the things that they are exposed to are the things they are probably interested in, goes for sports too.

Teach them fundamentals and make sure that they are having FUN... that might change their opinion of the game.


rolando cimafranca says:
1/4/2013 at 4:40:26 PM

I agree with all your comments cause we also experience such observation and am very glad to learn this motion offense tips. May we know what proper exercise to increase hiigher jump of kid with an age of 7 to 10 years old.


Coach Chris. says:
5/17/2014 at 5:25:40 PM

We just played our first game. We are a 5th grade team and have been practicing a month. Needless to say we got our behinds handed to us. I WAS going to try and have them learn more plays. Coach u r right. I have to teach spacing, screens and moving w out the ball. Defense played well but we lost every loose ball. What drills do you suggest for loose ball victories


Jeff Haefner says:
5/18/2014 at 7:43:59 AM

This is just me but I think almost every drill is a loose ball drill. It's something you emphasize constantly. Maybe even a stat you track to help emphasize it.

Most rebounding drills, defense drills, 1on1, 2on2, 3on3, scrimmage, etc can double as a loose ball drills. It's just something you have to choose to emphasize.

You can do the dive on the floor drill where you roll the ball out to give kids an idea of what you're looking for. But unless you do loose ball drills in practice each day, I don't think it does much good or the retain it. I have a hard to finding time for a drill dedicated to loose balls in each practice so it's just part of what we emphasize in everything (hustle).


Ken Sartini says:
5/18/2014 at 8:50:47 AM

Amen to that Jeff!

Everbody calls them 50-50 balls..... we told our kids that EVERY LOOSE ball is OURS! When you think about it, if gives YOU another possesion and takes one away from the other team.

Diving on loose balls is something you sell your players on, just like taking a charge... it is something you talk about everyday and that they know you expect that from them. JMO


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