Youth Basketball Offenses: Principles, not Plays

Strength Coach Charles Staley’s newsletter refers to an article on Programming, which uses the example of different martial arts or fighting styles:

Most Japanese and Korean styles of martial arts utilize a “technique-based” approach to self-defense. In other words, if your opponent throws a punch to your face, you defend with “technique A.” If he throws a kick to your ribs, you respond with “technique B.” And if he tries to stab you with a knife, you counter with “technique C” and so forth. The problem with this type of approach is that you need as many counter-defenses are there are possible attacks, and that’s a lot of techniques to learn.

An alternative solution can be found in the Filipino martial arts, such as Kali and Escrima. In these fighting arts, all attacks (whether they be foot, hand, or weapon) are categorized into 12 different groups based on the angle of the incoming attack. For example, any straight thrust to your midsection is a “number 5.” Any sweeping attack from the side is a “number 4,” and so on. Using this system, the martial artist only needs 12 different defenses as opposed to the hundreds he’d need using another system.

His point is similar to one about teaching plays vs. principles. Some teams run plays for everything; they have a press break for a 2-2-1 press, 1-2-1-1 press, man press, half court trap, run and jump, etc. This methodology follows for all areas. This is like the Japanese or Korean style, where coaches must anticipate all the possible attacks and teach different defenses for each one. This is very time consuming and requires a great deal of memorization and game preparation.

Teaching principles is like the Filipino martial arts. Rather than teach a press break for every possible half court and full court press, I teach 2-3 simple skills which players use against any type of pressure defense. The basic skills and spacing are the same against any press: the foundation is the same – the specific depends on the defense. If players know the foundation and understand the proper spacing, they can adjust and adapt to different presses.

By Brian McCormick
Founder, 180 Shooter

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