Help me be a good coach.
January 1, 2013 11:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm coaching a basketball team of 9 and 10 year old boys. It's just a community league, everyone plays, there are no cuts, and it's not hyper competitive. However, I do want to do the best for the players. Two specific questions: (1) In terms of the games, is there a fairly simple offense or set of plays that you think I could teach them and use? I played in high school, and we ran the flex, but that seems to complicated. But at the same time, I think it's good to have some concrete schemes so the kids don't end up standing around and watching. (2) Any suggestions for practices? Drills, how to use the time, etc? I'd love first hand advice – I've done the web searches and can find a lot of information, but I'd like to hear from actual coaches and how it's worked from you.
posted by visual mechanic to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My son's league used masking tape on the floor so that everyone on defense knew their position. Seemed to work pretty well....
posted by pearlybob at 12:27 AM on January 2, 2013

You could make up two or three relatively simple plays, maybe even up to five if you want a scripted shot for every position. Even something as basic as "pass to 2, feint to 1, pass to 4, shoot," with their desired placements.

As you know, the important thing is for the kids to know that there are plays and structured offense and defense, not how effective the plays are. If they continue on with organized ball, they'll benefit from knowing that there's more to the game than just flailing around waiting for a pass and more than luck in blocking/rebounding. Awesome that you're thinking ahead for them!
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:43 AM on January 2, 2013

It's still a little early for teaching picks, IMHO. I'd say up one more age group before you really start mapping out plays. That being said, what Mayor Curley alludes to above could be a good idea (i.e., pass to 2, pass to 4, etc.). My son is 10, and he recognizes that players in the NCAA and NBA run plays and that there is motion to an offense, but I don't think I could get him and 4 other 10-year-olds to consistently execute that themselves.

In terms of drills, I'd suggest things that involve EVERYONE at the same time. Dribbling between cones (this will help identify your best ball-handler, a major priority), pass-and-shoot drills, and some sprint/suicides.

Good luck.
posted by kuanes at 3:59 AM on January 2, 2013

My son just moved up to U12, but his U10 teams definitely ran simple plays, with each player going to a specific spot. They learned the pick and roll, and also learned stack vs. box plays for out of bounds. There were maybe three or four plays, which the player bringing the ball downcourt would call out when he got to half-court.

U10 was also the first time they were able to use double-team defense, as opposed to just being able to guard the one player they're matched with.

As far as practice, his team practiced once a week for an hour at that age (now twice a week in U12). They warmed up with layup drills, focusing on dribbling with the weak hand, ran sprints across the court. You'll definitely learn quickly which player needs to work on which skills, and the better coaches we've had have done a good job of addressing those individually but within the framework of the group practice (breaking the team into groups, strategically assigning scrimmage teams).

You'll also figure out who's talented but inconsistent, who's a ball hog (there's always at least one, and in our experience they're usually a coach's kid) (no offense intended) and who's a timid shooter. Practice is a good place to work on plays that can mitigate these a bit, if that's of interest to you. We've found that some coaches are both kind of blind to but also sometimes uncomfortably hard on their own kids. If your kid is on your team, just be aware of your own biases.

They do lots of 4 on 4 scrimmages (we only have 8 on a team), and then later they were able to scrimmage with another U10 team that practiced at the same time - that was hugely helpful. At the end of practice, they would practice free throws but the coach made it fun by playing knockout or a game where the whole team had to run a halfcourt sprint if the player missed their free throw (incentive to make it and end practice).

My son's still asleep but I'll ask him about it later this morning and circle back with anything else he tells me.

Thanks for doing this - it's a lot of work for the coaches but can be such a great experience for the kids.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:09 AM on January 2, 2013

I coached community rec teams of that age. Your best offense will be defense. Most coaches will stick their kids in a 2-1-2 zone and pack the paint. Don't do that. Teach the kids man to man defense, which at that age reduces to "stay between your man and the basket." Pressure the ball and jump the passing lanes. You'll get at least 1/2 your points on break away layups.

For drills, this site is a good source of ideas. It's hard to change kids habits in a rec league where your practice time is limited. If you have a kid who insists on launching a 30 foot jump shot every time he touches the ball, play him at forward. That way he'll be launching 10-12 foot shots. You have to balance expediency with proper basketball sometimes.

On offense, at 9-10 "pass and cut to the basket" is about as complicated as I ever got. When you practice, spend about 10 minutes on a drill and then do something different. Structure scrimmages to reward the actions you want. I used to award 3 point for a layup, 2 points for a jump shot in the paint, and only 1 point outside the paint. Requiring 4 passes before a shot (straight from Hoosiers) was another favorite drill of mine. A rebounding drill the kids enjoyed was to put one kid on the foul line, and the defender at the elbow. It didn't matter if the shot went in. If the offensive player got the rebound the defensive player had to run a lap. 3 person full court passing weaves is another drill that teaches multiple fundamental skills at once.

So basically, structure practice as a series of 10 minutes challenges, keeping it very simple. Layups, passing, defense. Use the web to find fun looking drills and games to use in practice. In a rec league you can't really teach the kids to shoot, you don't have time for the repetitions. However, you can teach them to take good shots, make the right pass, and play tough man to man defense.
posted by COD at 5:45 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great answers so far, thanks!

COD – one follow up question. We've had a hard time in the past (when I was an assistant) implemented man to man defense because the players get really disoriented when the other team substitutes, and all the other team's players change. How do you handle this on the fly?
posted by visual mechanic at 9:46 AM on January 2, 2013

Good question. We taught the kids to verbally yell out who they were covering at the start of the quarters, and anytime there was a substitution. We also told them if they got confused to just cover whoever was closest to them until they could figure it out. The kids most likely to get confused were normally the less skilled players and they were probably not covering the primary scoring threats so their guy wide open for a trip down the floor really wasn't that big of a deal anyway.
posted by COD at 9:58 AM on January 2, 2013

I didn't start playing organized basketball until I was about 12, but we definitely had set patterns that we ran. I recommend taking a majority of yours from the motion offense and a bit of the ideas from the flex and incorporating it according to your players' ability to learn. I think the motion offense is good for younger players as it's relatively simple. Keep in mind a plan of attack for a zone defense, too - at that age, I'm guessing it's impossible to shoot from > 15ft. effectively, but that won't stop them from trying! Heck, I couldn't shoot a jumpshot until I was 20 years old!

In terms of teachability, the motion offense really emphasizes proper spacing, which sometimes is problematic at that age but is important at higher levels. Setting good screens is also important, though it's really just the idea of a screen (to create space between offensive and defensive players) that's important, rather than making contact with the defender. Motion also is great for kids because no one should ever be standing still for more than a few moments. I can't recommend it enough (that page I linked above is a good explanation why).

Another concept simple enough is that of the triple-threat! The Triple-Threat is pretty effective in stopping the automatic dribbling that occurs when most youngsters catch the ball. I have a feeling at that age that the instinct is to dribble first and figure out where they're going second. Teach them to get the ball into the triple threat position every time they catch the ball, so they are in a position to pass, dribble, or shoot at anytime.

In terms of practice, I agree with COD - set up a series of short drills, but regular scrimmage time is important too. Make sure that the kids are Learning during the scrimmage - if you just practiced setting screens for a half-hour beforehand, make sure you praise the kids that are setting screens (or doing whatever you just practiced) in games. At that age, I'd really be focusing on ballhandling drills, as being a good ballhandler builds confidence like no other skill in the game.
posted by antonymous at 10:46 AM on January 2, 2013

Assistant high-school coach here. In response to your questions:

1) For that age group, I would avoid plays and focus on a simple offense that gets kids to a specific spot, spreading the floor. You can use the same offense against man or zone. Put 3 kids outside, one at the top, the other two on the wings. The other two kids can run a triangle in the post, moving block to block and up to the free-throw line.

Practice this offense in skeleton and work on snapping the ball around with chest passes on the perimeter and bounce passes into the post.

2) In terms of drills, it's never too early to work on form. Get the kids in front of the basket, a few feet away, and teach them correct shooting motion. Have them shoot with one hand and aim for the back of the rim.

As others have mentioned, ball-handling drills build confidence. Split the kids into 3 lines on one baseline and dribble and pass up and down the court. As they improve, add lay-ups in.

In terms of defense, I second the suggestion for half-court pressure. Steals lead to easy points for this age group. Make them move their feet to get into position. And teach the one-and-done concept of rebounding. Find a man, block out, and let the ball hit the floor.

Good luck.
posted by unintelligentlydesigned at 6:23 AM on January 3, 2013

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