Press Breaker: Line


This press breaker works extremely well against teams that pressure the inbounds pass. If your team is struggling to get the ball inbounds, try this play and I can almost guarantee you'll see a big difference and reduce turnovers.


Player #5 and #4 are generally your post players. Players 1, 2, and 3 should be your best ball handlers.


  1. Start by simply lining up your players as shown in the diagram.

  2. If you're facing a zone press that is pressuring the inbounds pass, you'll find that you'll be able to easily inbounds the pass to one of the outside players.

    If you're facing a full-court man-to-man press that is denying the inbounds, you'll want your outside players to break down the court as shown in the diagram below.

  3. Assuming the ball was not immediately thrown to one of the outside players, you'll want Player 1 and Player 2 to set screens for each other trying to get open.

    TIP: If the defense is denying the inbound pass, teach your guards to position their body between the passer and their defender. It's just like a post player using their pivot to establish position and seal their man to get the ball. This is an extremely effective method to get open. Simply back pivot into the defender, seal him behind you, and call for the ball.

  4. If the ball is thrown to Player 1 or 2, then the rest of the team should get in their press breaker positions and work the ball down the court. If it's man-to-man, everyone should clear out and run down the court so the guard can bring the ball up.

  5. If the ball is thrown to an outside player, follow the sequence in the diagrams.

  6. Once Player 4 receives the ball, Player 2 should cut and run down the court looking for the ball. If he's open, Player 4 should pass him the ball and Player 2 might be able to dribble all the way down the court.

  7. Player 3 should maintain spacing and cut a split second after Player 1 begins to run down the court. Many times, Player 3 will be wide open for the pass because the previous cut drew the defensive players away. If open, Player 3 might be able dribble all the way down the court for an easy fast-break opportunity.

  8. Once the ball is passed to Player 2 or 3 and they could not dribble up the court, the other players should get in their normal press breaking positions (assuming it's a zone press).

    The pass usually goes to Player 3. This diagram shows the positioning in that situation.

  9. Player 3 should immediately look at Player 5 running down the court. Many times all the cutting on this side of the court opens up the other side, sometimes for a lay-up.

    If Player 5 is not wide open, look to the middle for Player 2 coming back to the ball. Advance the ball to Player 4. Or reverse the ball to Player 1.

  10. Keep reversing the ball until you can advance the ball up the court or hit the player in the middle.

    * The best thing about this play is that by lining up your players at the beginning, it's much easier to inbound the ball against pressure. And the cutting afterwards really opens up the court, especially if you have a couple players that can really run and handle the ball.


For a press breaker offense and strategy to avoid turnovers, you can reference Universal Press Breaker Offense & Strategy

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


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Charles E. Long says:
2/13/2007 at 10:04:57 AM



wilson says:
2/14/2007 at 1:52:08 AM

good job. i will encorporate the techinques in my coaching. you re doing a great job!


2/18/2007 at 4:17:57 PM



Laron Simmons says:
2/24/2007 at 7:29:54 PM

Thank you so so much for giving me those drills and plays I will use it in my next game. If they anywhere could you send me some more please.


Edon says:
3/20/2007 at 4:56:45 PM

Thank you so so much for giving me those drills


gregg says:
4/2/2007 at 5:46:13 PM

MY first game coaching a 6th grade team, we couldn't handle the press, which led to a 10 point loss! I'm desperate. I will try this next game against another pressin' team.


hamdi says:
4/3/2008 at 8:00:08 AM



julio says:
4/18/2008 at 10:48:27 PM

tanx 4 this but how about the half court press team once lose on the half court press,i will be glad and eager to read ur respond


Joe Haefner (Co-Founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
4/21/2008 at 8:01:44 AM

Hi Julio,

We don't currently have anything on a half court press, but we should be adding something in the future.

In the past, I've used a 2-1-2 formation against the half-court press. Two guards in the back court. One player a little bit past half court and above the top of the key and two players on opposite wings. The two players in the back court pass it back and forth a few times to get the press moving side to side to open up gaps.

After a couple of passes, they either try to enter the ball to the player in the middle or one of the two players on the wings. If the guards can break the press with the dribble, that's okay as well. Unless, you have a really good point guard this can difficult to do.

If the ball goes to the middle, the player secures the ball and looks to the wings to start a 2-on-1 advantage. If that is not open, the player should hold the ball calmly and look to pass the ball to one of the guards and set up the offense.

If the ball is passed straight to the wings, they look to attack the basket.

Another way to beat the pressure is to fast break after missed shots and made baskets, so the defense doesn't have time to set up.


julio says:
4/22/2008 at 6:58:24 AM

tanx 4 the sample press breaker u gave ,honestly we've a sort of similarity i used that kind during the base line threw-in with my enemies zone defence but my num.5 player stays in the amoeba zone . i'll do this plays on my players thanks alot.


Greg Peters says:
7/23/2008 at 10:11:48 PM

Please send more press break stuff


ronny okapi belgium says:
9/25/2008 at 3:24:32 AM

nice breaker ... we do this in second half off the season


Coach O says:
9/25/2008 at 1:58:18 PM

I have a play similar to this I have used for years. It is very effective.


Les Phillips says:
9/29/2008 at 6:27:13 PM

Looks as though this make work for the girls we are couching.


hynson says:
10/6/2008 at 3:13:35 AM

thank you i've learn a lot. Pls. send more press break stuff.


hynson says:
10/6/2008 at 3:16:52 AM

thank you, this will help me a lot. pls. send more press breaking stuff.


Billy Thomas says:
11/14/2008 at 11:22:16 AM

We are a High School boys team. I need a good press breaker for a full court pressure. We have some good ball handlers but not great ones.


Joe Haefner says:
11/14/2008 at 12:15:18 PM


This press breaker is perfect for full court pressure. I have used it at the high school and youth levels.

You can also find more press breakers in our Breakthrough Basketball Plays ebook on pages 73 & 76.


Coach B says:
11/14/2008 at 2:16:50 PM

Thanks Coach. This gives me another option. I run 3 other options off this same set and it has served me well for the past 30+ years. The option you have shown in these diagrams is also a great option to run against a 2-2-1 full court trap.


jimmy says:
12/6/2008 at 3:29:54 PM

i am in the 5 grade and i was wondering how to get better at reverse layups. please reply


jimmy says:
12/6/2008 at 3:36:02 PM

oh yeah i am only 54 inches and 63 pounds also i was wondering wat are good workouts to get stronger


Joe Haefner says:
12/7/2008 at 1:09:35 PM

Hi Jimmy,

I would advise to read our shooting lay ups section:

When shooting a reverse lay up, you are going in just like a normal lay up, except you take an extra step and jump off the opposite leg and use the opposite hand. you also have to have good timing, so you do not travel. For example, if you shoot right-handed lay up and jump off your left leg, would take an extra step and jump off of your right leg and shoot with your left hand.

To practice this, you could stand under the hoop. Take one step with your right leg and shoot with your left hand on the left hand side. To practice shooting the opposite way, take a step with your left leg and jump. Use your right-hand to shoot the reverse lay up. Eventually, move out further and start incorporating dribbling towards the hoop before you execute the reverse lay up.


Joe Haefner says:
12/7/2008 at 1:11:27 PM

Hi Jimmy,

I would seek a trained professional. I injured myself and gave myself many problems by lifting at an early age without the true knowledge of weight-training.


Jimbo says:
12/10/2008 at 8:36:34 PM

Hi, I have a team with great big girls and no guard that can consistently handle the ball, is there anything that I can do to beat a press? I am desperate to find something that works. Any ideas?


Crosey1 Want to be Coach says:
12/16/2008 at 10:19:32 PM

ITs okay i think, but there is a better one that would work a little better that i run when i have practice


Coach C says:
1/2/2009 at 11:10:29 PM

I really like the play it works.


Coach C says:
1/2/2009 at 11:13:38 PM

The play works; we used it in a game and it broke the press.


Coach Patterson says:
1/4/2009 at 9:04:57 AM

This Will not work vs. match-up presses. To be successful in breaking good presses you need to build in:

1. Back Screens-always fake over and go under the screen. Teach your players to cut at 45 degrees to reduce steals and deflections.

2. 4 Across press breaker should always have a player going long for a baseball pass. Teach your inbounder to read the defense-if their all playing above half court look long.

3. Trailers-you must have two trailers with the ballhandler and reverse the ball up the floor. Teach your players to make the defense shift with passes and fill gaps.

4. Flash in front-Good defenses force lobs in presses. Get your players to understand they must flash in front of the defenders, they can not play behind. Stay out of trap areas do not take the invitation to dribble up the side of the floor.

5. Practice-Practice press breaks every practice at full speed . Do not allow your kids to dribble. Catch-turn-face look up the floor and we can get a easy lay-up.

6. Pace-Do not let teams rush you. Teams press to raise tempo and to slow tempo (Burn clock). Presses are usually weak up the side or in the middle.

7. Understand that match-up presses are different. They look like full court man are built on doubling in an area or through signals. Agaist teams that run these type of presses you'll need patience and good principles.


Coach Patterson says:
1/4/2009 at 9:19:58 AM

Vs. Half court press

1. Spacing-Spacing allows for your ball handlers to see whats coming. Whether two out top or 4 in-1 out. play deep off three point line.

2. Outlets-Shooters in the deep corners and get a post player high between the ft and top of the key.

3. Swing the ball around the the trap and attack from the corner, or swing the ball around the D and get a easy lay-up for your post man flashing to the basket.


Mike R says:
1/14/2009 at 10:37:16 PM

Great tips, I will use these plays in our next games.


Mike L says:
2/5/2009 at 9:34:01 PM

Our 6th grade girls often faced a half-court press, but aren't sophisticated enough to run this play, when we're still teaching them layins. So we told our guards to just blow by the defensive front (create a 3-on-2 situation).


billy says:
8/20/2009 at 3:34:49 AM

How do you get away when a team is pressing you when you have the ball after they have scored? It is the one where 1 is passing in 2 is just outside the key, 3 and 4 are standing at the half court line and 5 is waiting around the key???


Coach P says:
8/31/2009 at 4:25:21 PM

The line press break and most other types of press break can be summarized for players as sideline, middle, reverse vs any zone press.


Coach R. says:
11/16/2009 at 9:43:26 AM

Use this all the time! We call it Tomahawk, because of the great break with the #5 taking off behind the overplaying defender! Make certain they set good picks!


Julie says:
11/18/2009 at 2:56:30 PM

I used this press break over the summer with our AAU team and beat every press that was ever thrown at us. And we had TONS of compliments on it. Even when we didn't run it clean no one could guard it or knew what was coming! LOVE IT!


saylerparkjags7th&8th grade says:
11/23/2009 at 9:06:52 AM

practice this drill, it works, but only if they have done it in practice many times


A F says:
12/1/2009 at 1:05:32 PM

This is good, but perhaps a bit advanced for young players. Anyone have an easier one?


Joe Haefner says:
12/9/2009 at 8:53:08 AM

If you have to use a press breaker at a young age, you probably need to find a different league. That's a "win" league and not a "developmental" league. Pressing in youth basketball is taking advantage of young kids not being developed enough physically and mentally to be able to handle pressure in basketball. In baseball, it's like letting youth players get a lead and steal bases.

Coaches at the youth level should not have to worry about presses and traps; they should be focusing on fundamentals.

Second, I have used this with 5th graders. I don't know what age group that you are working with.


jose says:
1/8/2010 at 12:42:20 PM

doesnt work? they trap middle all day


Coach Mitchell says:
2/16/2010 at 2:44:11 PM

I have 3 teams I coach.... 8u,10u, &12u. My 8' are so small, they have trouble making free throws. My 10 @ 12s are not good at free throws. I need help. I use the small hole drilled into the floor for placement; but we still don't hit many of their shots.... I am stuck! With this age, should we just keep practicing?????


Gordon says:
4/1/2010 at 5:11:08 PM

I used this press breaker for my 8th grade girls' team - it was my first year with them and they went from dead last the previous year to winning their division this past season. This press breaker was a big part of our success. I had one player who was a phenomenal ball-handler, but I found this press breaker to be very effective. I only stumbled upon it after having a very frustrating game where we struggled to break a man press.

The one thing I call really recommend is just to repeat it over and over until they can do it without thinking. As the season progressed, my players began to recognize the press and would drop into this automatically. The nice thing is that it offers so many possibilities to break the press by passing. If you have a particularly fast/tall player, put them at the 4 and allow a baseball pass up the sideline. The 4 has to sell the move down to the baseline first, though.

Great play, thanks for publishing!

I miss basketball season already. =D


Erick says:
8/10/2010 at 8:21:34 PM

maybe it can also help to point out that a box-diamond-box formation is a simpler version of this press break. using the box-diamond-box formation always opens up 3 passing options for the ball handler.


John Lally says:
8/13/2010 at 10:27:38 AM

Have run this for a number of years. It is a great variation especially if you already utilize a number of 1-4 press attack sets. This option has proved effective against man and zone pressure. Highly recommended.


rhonda says:
9/26/2010 at 11:10:54 AM

horrible it sucks crap


h says:
11/23/2010 at 2:10:02 PM

is a screen like a pick?


Joe Haefner says:
11/26/2010 at 11:03:33 AM

Yes. A pick is a screen.


jay says:
12/27/2010 at 7:40:25 AM

learn the game before you make an uneducated comment. not cool. show us your basketball knowledge and tell us why.

  1 person liked this.  

larry says:
11/29/2011 at 8:00:36 AM

I will try this play it looks simple and effective i think my girls will like it


russell says:
12/20/2011 at 12:27:38 AM

Dear Joe,

I think this is a good and versatile press breaker.

However I completely disagree with your attitude towards presses in youth basketball.

Playing against presses at all levels DEVELOPS full court basketball skills (passing, dribbling and basketball IQ) - these are fundamental skills. What you seem to be referring to in your very black/white view of "win/development" leagues is you want kids to play in a Half (court) development league.

In my experience I have seen many players leave basketball as teenagers because it is a 94 feet game played too often in 40 feet and as such they seek sports where the whole playing field is used.


Ken Sartini says:
12/20/2011 at 8:10:25 AM


I have to disagree with you here.... if you talk to any professional they will tell you that pressing and trapping at young ages is counter - productive. That's all about winning and not teaching them how to play the game.

Explain how trapping a 5-10 year old is going to help his basketball IQ? They can hardly handle the ball correctly in a one on one situation. Now put two defenders on him and its all over. That's about winning - not teaching them fundamentals and how to play the game.

Check out Bob Bigelows DVD regarding "Coaching Youth Basketball"

Bob has studied youth sports and youth basketball for the last 20 years and he's a world-leading authority on the subject. His focus is on coaching youth basketball the RIGHT WAY.

His approach is focused on what is best for the players and their future development. Unfortunately, few youth coaches know how to do this or have the expertise to properly handle the unique challenges of developing youth basketball players. In this new DVD, Bob shares his knowledge so we can all develop better players.

I think you see some players leave the game because they no longer like it.. maybe being pushed to early .. or having very little success... or just plain burn out. There is one key word for Youth basketball players... FUN. Some parents and coaches take the game way to seriously for younger kids. JMO


Jeff Haefner says:
12/20/2011 at 8:40:59 AM


That is a good point and we appreciate you sharing your views. I completely agree that kids need to develop full court basketball skills (passing, dribbling and basketball IQ). Excellent point. However, what do you think about the following issues...

- The reason 99% of the youth coaches press is to WIN, not to develop full court skills. That's just how it is. So now a good intentioned coach is faced with figuring out how to beat a press. Now he/she thinks fine, if you are going to press, we are going to run a 2-3 zone and trap out of it. And the coach is more worried about breaking a press, running, plays, and figuring out how to compete, than spending time teaching players skills. So now all the youth coaches are just figuring out how to win and compete, instead of teaching. It just tends to snowball.

- When faced with presses, many youth coaches will keep the ball in their top 1 or 2 ballhandlers hands. I have talked to and seen a number of coaches that just say give it to "Johnny", let him break the press. This is an easy out for the coach because they only practice a couple times a week. How does that help the other 5-10 players on the team develop ball skills and decision making?

- Teaching a ZONE press before players learn good man to man skills, is like teaching calculus before addition and subtraction. It just makes no sense from a progressional teaching standpoint. Why not teach it the right way?

- Don't you think there are better ways to develop full court basketball skills? Who said anything about playing 3on3 half court the entire time? Once you get comfortable in half court, and kids have a foundation to work with, let them go full court. Just yesterday we ran full court 3 on 3 no dribble in practice. Great for learning how to catch and face in triple threat, meet your pass, improve passing accuracy, get open, maintain spacing, pass away from the defense, look before you pass, etc. We make it competitive so turnovers really hurt your score. I think there are MUCH better ways to develop full court skills than 5on5 full court presses and even full court M2M. How many times do the kids get to touch the ball in a 5on5 setting? You have to share with 9 other kids. You get how many more ball touches in 3on3?

- What good does it do a young kid, playing for the first time and lacking confidence, that gets stuck on a full court double team trap against kids one year older? What type of ball skills is that kid learning when he/she just gets smothered? How do you develop ball skills when you aren't strong enough to pass out of a trap? How do you develop ball skills when your brain and body is not fully developed and capable of dealing with the decision making, strength, skills, and challenges of a full court? It does you no good until you are ready. Some kids, including myself at that age, have not developed yet. Michael Jordan stunk and got cut when he was a sophomore. Bill Russell stunk too. Basketball is a late blooming sport and you never know who will develop late.

- Do you really think that the kids running the press are learning good habits? Do you think these kids are learning situational basketball? Of course they aren't. They just have inexperienced coaches running presses and taking advantage of kids not strong enough to pass out of double teams. That is not situational basketball. Plus the kids are learning to reach, get of out position, and get terrible defensive habits that stick with them when they get older.

I have personally worked with very talented players that get to the high school level, and they DO NOT know how to play unless they can steal they ball, run in transition, and take lay ups. They can't execute in the half court because they have won so many years by pressing and running at the youth level. They were very successful and one of the best teams around. Once everyone else caught up, the pressing didn't work anymore, and they were left in the dust playing teams that knew how to execute in the half court. The boys just couldn't break their bad habits from pressing all those years in youth leagues.

I have seen a number of young teams like this that fall into the pressing trap.

So as a general rule across the board, we believe it's best for youth teams not to press because of all the issues that it introduces. We believe kids would be much better if the presses were introduced at a later date, at least full court zone presses that is. We think there is a much better progressional teaching approach than what we are currently seeing in youth leagues.

Have you considered some of these issues? There are probably more if I took the time to think about it. Please let me know what you think because you seem to be smart coach and I'd like to know your opinion so we can do a better job giving everyone advice and consider all the view points of pressing.



Ken Sartini says:
12/20/2011 at 1:14:57 PM

I just might add this... high school teams and the Pros... when it gets to crunch time, the playoffs.... you will find that its more of a half court game... they play very close to the vest.

Great reply Jeff ....... there is so much more to the game than just pressing and trapping... its all about teaching the younger kids HOW to play the game and the fundamentals that are necessary to help them get better and be successful.

I had a discussion with a football coach I was working with ( my first year at that level ) I was asking him why we weren't putting in more of our offense... his reply was... we might be behind now because we are spending all this time on fundamentals... but once we get into conference play, we will be way ahead of all the other teams fundamentally.


John Lally says:
12/20/2011 at 1:48:57 PM

Great responses from Coach Sartini (Ken, I have played against your teams as a player and as a coach with Tom Meyer at Niles West. Always respected how well your kids were prepared and I am using Double Up with my team here in Harvard although we are not so talented). Jeff, kudos as well---very well said.

I am currently a second year head coach of a girls program. The single biggest issue I am battling and will continue to battle for the next few years if I can tolerate the struggles is the fact that the lower level coaches (junior high and below) have horrifically failed to teach even the most basic of things. Yet they tout how they were able to press a few other weak sisters, get just enough turnovers, and eek out a of three they get each year if they get any at all.

I am left trying to teach, yes TEACH, 5th and 6th grade level skills to varsity players. We are so far behind because of lower level coaches emphasizing winning over player development at the lower levels, with pressing and learning "plays" being a key component. I essentially take the floor each night with a freshmen team trying to play varsity ball, I will let you guess how this goes.

I am not saying don't run a press here or there. I think at a fundamental level you teach them some of that and use it here and there on occasion. But if you are pressing at the expense of player development, you are a fool. I started out coaching 5th graders at a private school in the city 22 years ago. I used to run into "coaches" who would man pressure my 5th graders or just put 3 players at half court and block our path. They would kill us. Two years later we were pummelling these teams because we could shoot better, pass better, be in proper spots defensively, move our feet, rebound, and dribble better than all of them.

Did I run some presses with 8th grade squads? Yes. But if that was my only focus we would not have competed for lower level championships the way we did and I would not have gotten 9-12 kids each year off to a high school team in the Chicago area Catholic league and would not have gotten even my weakest of weak bench players almost a full quarter a game.


Ken Sartini says:
12/20/2011 at 3:24:25 PM

Hi John,

Small world isn't it! Nice hearing from you and thanks for the compliments, its always nice to hear from some one who coached or played against you. Your Niles West teams always gave us fits because there was so much to prepare for. Double Up was our equalizer, not many teams liked playing us.

Congratulations on your new position... I hope that things will get better for you - its sad that the lower level coaches don't understand how important it is to teach solid fundamentals to younger kids

As I see it (and I might be all wet) you are going to have to be a salesman.... sell the lower levels on how important their job is / teaching younger kids proper fundamentals.

So, how do you do this... maybe you can meet with them and explain how important they are and that they are a valuable part of the entire program...... win or lose, they are important.

You and your staff could hold clinics for your feeder coaches and teach them what's important for young kids to learn and HOW to teach it.

Good luck John and IF I can help you in any way, get it touch with me through Jeff and Joe.... I will be glad to try. By the way, Dave Genis is now the head coach at Maine East.


russell says:
12/20/2011 at 6:09:20 PM

Joe, thanks for the feedback.

I have been a longtime reader of the website and when i first started coaching I purchased the Breakthough Drills and Plays ebooks.

I have not posted on this website before as I often haven't found the discussions i've read to be as productive as they could be.
Unfortunately the last few posts have only underlined my reasons for not previously posting.

Although I think you make many good points in your reply you also make an incredible number of assumptions.
For instance who said anything about zone presses or trapping. Are you familiar with Ralph Miller's pressure basketball style which involves full court man pressure with no trapping ? I am also not particularly comfortable with you purporting to speak on behalf of 99% of youth coaches - that seems a little self important and exceptionally presumptuous to me.
Also when you you phrases like "have you considered these issues" it comes across as more than a little demeaning.

To Ken Sartini : in my experience when people use phrases like "talk to ANY professional" and speak about things in terms of "the RIGHT WAY" I haven;t had much luck having productive discussions with those people - in basketball or in other walk of life.
I also find it odd that you seem to know about why players I've seen leave the game left it better than i do - even though i've asked some of them. That's an odd thing to me.
I haven't seen Bob Bigelow's DVD but have read some of his clinic notes .
Ken I've been to clinics and read notes from "professionals" with an alternate viewpoint to yours a couple of whom are outstanding teachers from youth to senior level and advocate full court pressure from Under 9 level.

Finally I don't think again i'd have much luck pursuing a productive dialogue with John Lally..
When people talk about coaches having "horiffically failed" and in the next paragraph boast about his teams "pummelling other teams" I immediately realise that they are on a different wave length to me.
I also note how John Lally talks about whether he "can tolerate the struggles" to stay in his current position. All i can do is perhaps point out that to many of us the Struggles are part of the enjoyment and learning. I may suggest he read something like Frosty Westering's 'Make the big time where you are' in that regard.

Thanks to all for taking the time to comment although I am unfortunately disappointed with what I perceive to be the level of self-rightousness and somewhat fanatical language of some authors



Jeff Haefner says:
12/20/2011 at 6:40:29 PM


I won''t disagree with you that my/our wording can be better and we could perhaps try to make our points in a less confrontational (more mature) way. I can''t argue with that. I will try to do better at that, but there is only so much time in the day and it''s very time consuming to reply to and help as many coaches as we can. That is the goal... to help coaches and make a positive impact on young kids. So hopefully everyone can put up with some fast replies here and there.

The biggest reason I personally responded is because of this statement that you made:

"However I completely disagree with your attitude towards presses in youth basketball."

What I have seen happen many times is that youth coaches read the site, they have tough time swallowing our recommendations of "no zone presses, teach skills, no set plays, etc". And frankly they are looking for any reason to rationalize the way they currently do things (set plays, full court zone presses, win at all costs).

So when you made the statement "However I completely disagree with your attitude towards presses in youth basketball." I wanted to make sure that other readers didn''t see that and think "Breakthrough guys must be nuts". I agree with Russell and I''ll keep running set plays, full court zone press, and keep doing what I''m doing.

So honestly, this is all because we are passionate about this and making a positive impact on youth players. Sorry, but we see just a lot of negative stuff and win at all costs at the youth level, and we are doing the best to try and cut down on those things.

So all in all, it''s just a matter of the challenges of communicating via "comments on a website". Not always easy.

It sounds like we are in agreement on "how things should be taught", we just misunderstood where you were coming from.

You also have to keep in mind, that I have worked with and talked with thousands of youth coaches. Dozens on a daily basis. So we have a bit of a unique perspective and not all of the statements we make are assumptions. Perhaps about what you are doing, but not what happens across the country as a whole.

And I can completely see where John is coming from. I think his heart is in the right place and I have the same experiences as him. But like me, I think all of us are passionate about what we believe and it comes across in the posts. I feel his frustration, I can read it in the comments, I have been there. Very frustrating thing to deal with.

Thanks again for airing it out. Hope we can make this into something positive.


russell says:
12/20/2011 at 7:49:05 PM

Thanks Jeff, apologies for referring to you as Joe in the previous post.

Your initial response was easily the most balanced of the 3 that referred to my post.
I have reread my initial post and you will note that when i wrote "that I completely disagree with your attitude towards presses in youth basketball" thats all I said.
That is to say its just my opinion. I didn't , as others have, say that 99% of the universe agrees with me or do the even more meaningless "ask anyone and they will tell you..."
In my experience whenever people start justifying their own views with the 'everyone else agrees with me' style they aren't telling us anything about the issue they are only telling us something about their own insecurities and need to feel vindicated.

Although I appreciate your efforts i think that you guys really need to realise that there are other views out there that might not coincide with your own and that they aren't wrong because of that.

As an example are you familiar with Brian McCormicks work? He has some excellent information where he challenges notions about zone defense being bad for players at youth level and about how things that people refer to as fundamental teaching like drills without defense have limited transference as usable skills in matchplay.
I guess under Ken Sartini's thoughts Brian McCormick must not be thought of as a "professional" ?!

Do you not think that it reads as a little bit paranoid to think that because a post espouses a differing viewpoint about pressure defense that you would conclude that readers might conclude that "Breakthrough guys must be nuts". I agree with Russell and I''ll keep running set plays, full court zone press, and keep doing what I''m doing."

Like i initially said I have refrained from posting before on the site as I haven't always found basketball coaches find alternate viewpoints challenging but rather threatening. In the case of Ken Sartini and John Lally unfortunately their comments have only underlined that for me.

I appreciate all the work you do for coaches and and wish the site all the best and I realise that you can't be responsible for all the comments made on here.



Ken Sartini says:
12/20/2011 at 8:23:40 PM


I don't expect to change your viewpoint no more than you are going to change mine on this issue.
So, I wont apologize for my views and I don't expect one from you. When I answer these it comes from my experiences as a coach... what worked from me and what I learned along the way from when I started.

I can just tell you that from my experiences as head varsity coach and seeing kids come in and weren't well versed in the fundamentals of the game is very aggravating. I have seen first hand where varsity teams were terrible fundamentally because of what happened before the head coaches got there.... John is one of them and a good friend of mine also. We can only shake our heads and try to teach them the game.... and hopefully teach them something about life which is more important that basketball will ever be.
John is taking over a program that is experiencing the lack of fundamentals... so give him a break, he came from a great high school program, I know - I played them all the time..... so its hard to come from a school where things are done right for younger kids and go to a school where its win first and teach fundamentals later?
I firmly believe that young kids should be playing m2m D.... no pressing until they get to the 7th grade level, maybe 6th? They need to learn how to handle the ball, make good passes, read defenses etc.... so much to teach them... and a lof youth coaches ( like yourself?) don't have a lot of practice time to cover all the things that we need to teach them.

Some coaches believe that 3 on 3 is the best way to start youth players... using smaller balls and lower baskets. I get newsletters from a lot of coaches, Brian McCormick being one of them... I cant read them all or I would never be away from the computer. :-)

Jeff & Joe have a great site here... they try to give coaches and young players as much information as they can to help them without even seeing the problem... We all do, we might not agree, I just hope that we are on the same page when it comes to helping kids ( and coaches)


Joe Haefner says:
12/23/2011 at 9:53:30 AM

Sorry, I'm late to the party here! Had some computer issues...

Russell, thank you for your comments! I love a good discussion and people who challenge our opinions and thoughts in a mature way. Groupthink is annoying! :)

No pressing or pressing, bottom line is:
Are you developing good characteristics in people?
Are you developing better basketball players?

To explain all of the reasons that we believe in man to man for youth can't be written in this article. But we will have a new one out soon! If you knew us, you'd understand that we never want to be demeaning towards others or act self-righteous. That's the problem with communication, especially over the Internet.

I'm also open-minded enough to understand that this argument might not even affect the development of youth players and maybe pressing at younger ages (6th grade and younger) actually helps players more in their development. I’ve pondered this many times, but I don't believe that.

Whether you start pressing in 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th grade is more of a to-may-to / to-mah-to issue with me.

As I believed for the past 15 years when I first heard this from coach named Casey Ditch, it's also systemic issue. I've read Brian's stuff and I really enjoy it. In regards to the pressing issue in youth basketball, it's nothing I haven't heard from Don Kelbick and Bob Bigelow before I started reading Brian's stuff.


Joe Haefner says:
12/23/2011 at 9:55:17 AM

Sorry to clarify, the pressing isn't an issue with me as long as you are still developing players and working on sound defensive principles.


Brian Sass says:
12/23/2011 at 11:21:01 AM

Coach Russell,

I have to respectfully disagree with you regarding the press at the youth level.

I coach 7th grade boys, and have been at the Junior High School level for the past 6 years.

The biggest problem that the players I coach have had is that they do not have a concept of the help-line in man to man defense. A lot of these kids are coming from youth leagues where the coaches run 2-3 zones and press.

The second biggest problem is that they can not initiate or run half-court offense very well. They are not patient, they move to fast, they do not have great shot selection.

Watching where they are most comfortable, they can play when the game becomes a scrambling, all over the court type game where they don't have to set up, or worry about setting screens, or worry about patiently waiting to make a cut or wait for a screen to get themselves a good shot.

This is not a problem, per se, except that it makes me worry about their High School futures. Good high school teams come in all shapes, sizes, and philosophies. Most are skilled enough to break a press at the high school level. When those teams break the press, they will either attack it, or set up in a half court offense and work patient offense to attack the defense.

I have seen Coach Sartini's teams play. They were patient and disciplined in their half court sets. Teams tried to speed them up and couldn't. They were typically teams that had the size and athleticism advantage over his teams.

I don't have a problem with the philosophy of pressing full court man to man. I think it is invaluable to create turnovers, force pressure, and increase tempo. I love Miller's material on pressure defensive system. I've also loved the material I've read on Cliff Ellis' zone pressing defense, Dean Smith's scramble and run & jump, and Bob Huggins half court 1-3-1.

If I had my druthers, I would try more of these defenses at my level. One thing keeps me from it. The high schools want kids that can play half-court, man to man defense. I've told my players this and that we are going to play that. Could we be more competitive if I were to diamond and 1 press and trap all over the floor, or man press all over the court, yes.

The only way the kids will learn half-court man is to do during practice and do during the game. Most of my practice time is taken in shell for man and half court man to man situations, as well as individual help and on ball defense.

Maybe a better coach would be able to teach both styles. I'm not claiming to be a great coach or even a good one. I know what the high schools run, and I know what they are trying to do. If a kid is so impatient that they can't function on the offensive end of the court, and has no concept of help-line on the defensive end of the court, then they won't get on the court in high school.

This is just my opinion. It is what my experience has been with the not-quite-youth level players I have seen. If your kids are prepared, and understand and can execute the half-court offense that will be required when they get to high school, and can execute and maintain half-court help-line on defense when they get to high school, then I have no problem with what you are teaching or running at the youth level.

I just wanted to chime in with my own observations.

Have a happy holidays everyone!


Ken Sartini says:
12/27/2011 at 6:24:00 PM


Here is an article from Brian McCormick -


Russell says:
12/28/2011 at 5:47:08 AM

Dear coaches, thanks for your comments. I will make this my last post on this topic as I think I've had my say.
To coach ken thanks for the link. I read that article 2 years ago and I also took the time to read the article it was addressing. However it's important I think to not be too selective in quoting people's views especially when they suspiciously coincide with their own. Brian has written many articles including an excellent one in which he challenges the notion that zone defenses is bad at youth level.
My view is that really likes to explore views and concepts regardless of whether they coincide with his own views. In blitz basketball he encourages full court m2m press for under 9 teams thru to seniors..
Can I just clarify a point here - I don't coach youth teams I coach middle&high school ages. And I prefer getting players that have played full court basketball in younger age groups.
Like coaches said earlier we tend to go on our experiences. I have had better experiences refining things like helpside defense and jump to the ball to kids that have developed an aggressive full court mentality than trying to instill that aggression in players who have been schooled to concede 40 feet of territory on change of possession. Again that's just my view.
Lastly can I say that whilst I like my teams to press we still have to play a lot of half court defense on possessions falling back from the press. I like to think that we use sound defense principles in whatever part of the court we pick up at.
Thanks for everyone's input.

  1 reply  

Byron says:
6/15/2016 at 4:35:06 PM

Curious, about point #4. "Rest of team gets into their press breaker positions?" What are their breaker positions in the event the ball is inbound to 1 or 2? An e-mail or reply back is greatly appreciated!



Ken Sartini says:
12/28/2011 at 6:43:00 AM

The thing that makes this game so great is there are a lot of ways to do things..... at the age group you work with, anything goes....

I think the biggest thing he was saying is this... as long as they are being taught the fundamentals of the game and not just pressing, making it a helter - skelter game, he doesn't have a problem with it.... IF they are doing that just to get the W, thats wrong?

As a Varsity high school coach, I loved it when kids came in and knew how to play pressure m2m defense and knew the fundamentals of the game. I saw several kids come in and were bringing the ball up from the wrong side going into their shot... that takes forever to break that habit.... some never did.

I just don't think that kids should be pressing until they get to 7/8th grade, but thats just me.
The youth coaches only have so much practice time available to them.... and I would like to think that they would use it wisely and teach the whole game... just like you and I do.

At our levels, we certainly need to have sound fundamentals, on both ends of the floor regardless of where we picked them up.

I think I can speak for most coaches here... GREAT shooters make GREAT coaches.... they sure make us look good don't they? :-)

Happy New Year to you and everyone here, I hope you have a good season.


Paul says:
1/9/2012 at 1:47:23 PM

How would this press break change if the defense uses a center fielder (no coverage of inbound pass) and denies man-man the other players?


Ken says:
1/9/2012 at 1:57:54 PM


There are a few things you can do ... use a pick and roll with the guards and send the others deep..... or you could use the bigs by having them take a few steps a way, V cut and get open, that will open up your guards to fill their lanes with their defender behind them... nice numbers I would say. IF I am reading you right.

We used the 1-4 across vs every press.


Mike says:
1/15/2012 at 6:27:05 PM

Greetings. Ask a youth official what he/she thinks about pressing at the 4th and 5th grade level. My 5th graders play solid half court defense. When the tournament allown for pressing in the 2nd half we struggle and often lose leads. This is because we work on fundamentals and "moves", positioning, defense, rebounding, and passing. Now we are forced to incorporate a breaker and spend precious practice time on it, which takes away from shooting, footwork and other things that coaches at the varsity level expect youth coaches to work on so they don't have to spend time teaching things these girls should have learned when they were 11...

Regarding the breaker-we send the 4 streaking down the court for a breakaway (after a quick 2 step cut toward the ball). We then have the 5 roll to the middle (around the 3 pt line or a bit inside). We make sure to have the strongest armed ball handler take the ball out.

The most effective thing we do in practice work a NO DRIBBLE offense, in our case 5 out with basket cuts...Strongly recommend no dribble-our passing has become dynamite due to this...

Great site, love it.



Ken says:
1/15/2012 at 6:51:58 PM


If you ask any Varsity coach, Jeff, Joe, Myself & Don Kelbick, you will hear us saying the same things you are saying... NO pressing at this age because of all the time you need to spend on other fundamentals. Those coaches are thinking more about winning than teaching the game. JMO

We worked the NO dribble open post offense too.. its a great way to teach your players to read the defense and get open along with protecting the ball.

As for breaking the press... you have found a way that works for you.... thats great, thats what this game is all about.


way Lon says:
11/9/2012 at 10:18:13 PM

I am very pleased with this play I'm so glad I found it thank you very much will definitely have to use this. I can just picture the play in my head and it looks beautiful and it seems really really easy


Ken says:
11/10/2012 at 9:27:00 AM

To Russell -

I hope that you continue to post on this great site.... as I re read all of this I was thinking... GREAT DISCUSSION. I would hope that you would continue to give us your thoughts.... it makes for a great give and take.

Who knows what we might learn and more importantly, other coaches who read this and aren't sure they want to chime in.



Coach G says:
1/3/2015 at 9:42:57 PM

I agree 100% on fundamental over win at all cost. I have 6th graders that not only don''t know the term "layup", also don''t know how to dribble and look around-but I have to teach them to handle playing against presses and zones. Wish it was an "equal" opportunity league.
Thanks for the site and tips.


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