Youth Basketball/Defensive and Offensive Solutions
This article is designed to lend a bit of insight to all the volunteers and perhaps school basketball coaches about to begin their seasons in earnest. As a former high school and competitive basketball leagues player over the years and as a referee as well, I have been exposed to some basic tactics that may help coaches enable their teams to compete more fully. I have also coached youth basketball for many years and employed many of these basics successfully.
Breaking the full court press
This is one of the most challenging obstacles for a novice coach to overcome. You're in a close game and it's the fourth quarter. Suddenly your opponent initiates a full-court press. You give up layup after layup on turnovers and now you're down by fifteen or twenty points in a matter of minutes. Frustration and anger rule as your team leaves the court in bewilderment.
Here's how to overcome the press and keep the game close:
1.Make sure your kids know how many time-outs are left in that particular quarter or half and not to use them unless absolutely necessary. You don't want to burn your time-outs when you may need them later on. Sometimes, if the game isn't close or it's very early in the game, it might be better to just give the ball up after the five seconds are up as opposed to using a time-out.
2. Make sure the players know they can 'travel' when in-bounding the ball right after the other team scores a basket. This means that they can run the baseline if it will help to get the ball in play. If they are in-bounding the ball after a whistle, then they may not 'travel' but remain stationary. Remember, there are only five seconds to get the ball in their teammates hands and ten seconds to get it across the half-court line.
3. This maneuver requires a little bit of practice but will help to free up the press and advance the ball. Once the opposition realizes that you are able to navigate through their pressure defense, they will back off. The first rule is to always have two players near each other to receive the ball. One will set a pick for the other freeing him from the player guarding him and allowing the two receivers to separate from each other. This will spread the defensive players apart and allow the in-bounder to run the baseline quickly to the far end with his receiver running with him in bounds. Get the ball in his hands and immediately step in bounds to become the next receiver. Each offensive player should be in the mix to become receivers as they advance the ball towards the half court line. You should have your tallest player at the half court with his hands in the air in case the ball handlers get in trouble. The main idea is to not dribble the ball if at all possible. Pass the ball to the next available player just before the defense gets a chance to surround anyone with the ball. Everyone should be moving forward as soon as the ball is in-bounded and should be spread out on the court to make it difficult for the defense to cover everyone. This maneuver is especially helpful when the defense puts two players on the in-bounder making it difficult to see his receivers. It is critical to instruct your players to hustle to in-bound the ball before the defense sets up. Many times you can beat the press by simply beating them to the punch.
4. In situations where there is a whistle stopping play, the in-bounder may not run the baseline to in-bound the ball. Using the same technique, simply set a pick to allow the players to separate as before but this time have a fourth player in back of the group to receive a quick pass or open the door for a pass to one of the first two receivers. Immediately upon receiving the in-bound pass, look to pass away from the defense and so on, continuing the march to the half-court line.
Keep in mind that any play is not one hundred percent effective or foolproof. There will be miscues, especially with younger players who don't have the skill set to overcome every challenge. With a little practice however, your team will become more efficient in handling high pressure defenses and keep themselves in the game. Keep innovating and changing your schemes as you go into the season as it will provide options to confuse the defenses you'll encounter.
Good luck and thank you to all the coaches and assistants who provide a venue for youngsters to learn and enjoy the game of basketball.