The Road Map for Youth Basketball Coaches

Mike McKay, the Coaching Director for Basketball Canada, has a post based on Traffic; Why We Drive The Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt. He writes:

How does this relate to basketball? We need to have the same universal integration of our playing rules and concepts…When a coach goes out side of the accepted boundaries for a particular age group he/she should be warned and if the behavior persists he/she will be penalized. When coaches start to restrict players skill development by placing players in set positions at a young age, the coaches should be educated. If they still do not change should they still be able to coach? When coaches start playing full court trapping defenses with mini basketball players that coach should be informed that it is not acceptable.When a coach starts running multiple set plays at the mini level that coach should be warned. These are examples of concepts that do not follow the rules of the road. If an idea comes along that helps the system it should be implemented throughout the entire system. Coaches need to understand that they are working to produce players who can drive (play) anywhere in the world, not just drive (play) in their own municipality.

Sure, a great press wins championships in the young age groups, but is that the goal? I know a program that has one of the top u-9 and u-10 teams because of the vaunted “Diamond press.” At this age group, girls cannot throw over top of the press, so they can gamble with five players in the back court trapping. It works.

These players practice lay-ups and the press. That’s it. By 12 or 13, everyone else has caught up physically, and the press no longer dominates. The programs who develop skilled players succeed, while the top players from this program spend even more time training with personal coaches to do the skill work they fail to develop with their team.

I’m not for over-complicating the system with nine-year-olds, but I do believe that a player should learn more than a press in a year of year-round basketball.

As MacKay advocates, league directors need to direct their coaches more actively and provide guidelines as to what is and is not an acceptable strategy for games and practice. I am less concerned about whether or not a team presses in a game, and more concerned with what that means about how they spend their time during practice.

With young (mini-basketball) players, we need to have simple goals and give the players tasks that they can master, rather than spend our precious practice time trying to out-strategize our opponent with set plays, multiple defenses and presses. Before players can execute basketball strategy, they need to develop the basic fundamentals of the game. A mini-basketball coach is tasked with developing some of these fundamentals and, more importantly, fostering an environment that inspires players to practice on their own and to continue playing because they enjoy the game.

2 thoughts on “The Road Map for Youth Basketball Coaches

  • I am going to be starting a girls youth basketball organization this winter and blend it into the summer. I am going to use the Read and React offensive program to start to teach positive habits of movement within an offensive set rather than a set plays. In terms of specific goals, if you would advocate for the three most important, specific goals, what would they be? I am a huge believer in your small-sided games approach and feel it is a great way to get reps while introducing new concepts slowly to youth to ensure mastery rather than just going out and playing 5 on 5 and watching kids get lost in the shuffle.
    Also, do you have any documents providing specific guidelines for coaches or it is probably in the “Crossover Movement” and I need to look it over again?
    Thank you for your continuing posts as it helps reinforce my belief structure toward develop and promotes my ability to look at the game from an effective and developmental view rather than a traditional view.

  • Jonathan:
    The three most specific goals would vary based on age and experience. As an example, with u9 boys, our goals were defend the ball, ball-handling, full-speed lay-ups, and competitiveness. As players got older and neared their teens, I;d concentrate more on movement without the ball and shooting.

    As for guidelines, it depends how specific you mean. Cross Over has the general guidelines for overall philosophy. The Playmakers League is essentially a three-level curriculum for developing 8-11 year olds players from a league perspective. It outlines practice plans, philosophy, game rules, etc. ( So, I suppose it depends how much information you want and how much of a change from the status quo your parents can tolerate.

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