Elite Soccer as a Means to Teach Offensive Basketball

Many people overlook the similarities between invasion games like lacrosse, hockey, basketball and soccer. However, watch the series of passes and tactical skills which lead to Arsenal’s Sam Nasri’s goal against Manchester United (video has been floating around on twitter thanks to Clarence Gaines and Steve Nash, among others).

The series uses many of the same concepts that we try to teach on the hardwood:

  • The series starts with a corner kick (inbounds pass): Arsenal attacks the goal, but no shot develops, so theyretrieve the ball and set up to maintain possession.
  • After recovering possession, they use a quick give-and-go down the left side.
  • When nothing is open, they quickly reverse the ball from the left side to the right side to force Man. U to defend the entire width of the field.
  • Once the ball gets to the right sideline, they try another give-and-go, but the player is not open, so they touch the ball back to the right back filling behind the cut.
  • Eventually they move the ball with the dribble to the middle of the field and execute a dribble hand-off (to use basketball terms).
  • After the dribble hand-off, the player passes to Cesc Fabregas in a position not unlike the high post. He turns and faces the goal.
  • As he faces the goal, one player makes a diagonal run from the right side to the left side, which clears space for Sam Nasri’s cut toward goal (essentially a backdoor cut).
  • Fabregas leads Nasri perfectly into his shot.

This is not a play. This is the type of tactical understanding and game awareness that we should strive to teach on the court. If players understand the basic skills (give-and-gos, dribble hand-offs), they can combine these skills over and over to create an open shot.

The most important aspect, to me, was the cut from right to left that opened the space in the center for Nasri. Players – especially young players – need to understand that sometimes a great cut does not produce a shot for the cutter, but opens space for someone else. Also, the ball handler does not need to pass to the first cutter who is open, but needs to see the play developing and realize the second cutter is wide open in a more dangerous position. When you find a player who anticipates and finds the second cutter in a situation like this, you have an elite point guard, as few players at any level see the play develop in this manner.

By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

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