Tuesday night, 6:00 4th grade basketball practice: “Ok listen, you are not getting the offense and we have a game this Saturday morning, so we need to work on it until everyone gets it and we run it right!”
Thursday night practice: “Ok listen, the offense is getting a little better, and I think you’re starting to get it, but we’re not quite there yet. So, we need to work on it some more tonight to get it ready for Saturday’s game.
Saturdays result: a big loss… 27-8.
Shots taken… 12 (opponents shots taken…29)
Free throw attempts…0
Missed passing opportunities…19
Rebounds…8 (opponents rebounds…30)
Defensive mistakes…the whole game (missed double teams, problems with picks and getting through picks, misreads, out of positions, poor off side help…etc)
Shooting form improvement… 0%
Better understanding of the game… 0%
Better understanding of team defense and how it works…0%
Better understanding of offensive strategies… 0%
Increased confidence… 0%
Potential improvement… 3.7294%
Fun had by all… 0%
Coach’s frustration level… 99.9999%
Post game talk after Saturday’s loss: “Ok listen, you’re still not getting the offense. You are out of position most of the time and when you do get an open shot you are missing most of them. It’s like you don’t even know how to shoot. You’re not getting open to even get a pass, you are making bad passes and even those that don’t get intercepted get tipped and/or knocked away. It’s like you don’t know how to pass. You are playing like you don’t know how to dribble. You’re just not getting it. So, we are going to practice the offense again this week until we get it right. And to help us get it, instead of going from 6:00-7:00 on Tuesday and Thursday night, we are going to go until 7:30 each night. If you can’t run this simple offense by then, then we might add an additional 30 minutes to practice until you do get it. Ok, I hope you all had a great time. Ok everyone over here, circle up, hands in the middle; Fun on three…”
Focusing on teaching an offense is a common trap that so many youth coaches get caught in. There is an understandable need for being organized and proper placement on the court. So, in exchange for teaching the fundamentals and working on the important skill sets, you get sucked into the priority of running an offensive pattern.
In this setting, the kids miss out on their huge need for proper skill development. Even if they did know where to go and cut within the offensive play, they have a poor chance of scoring because they lack developed ball handling skills, passing ability and proper shooting mechanics.
One of the main parts of these kids’ development is their understanding of the game’s flow and their ability to adjust and respond to different situations. They become “robotic” in their movements and lose the ability to create and react quickly to the different needed strategies that come up all the time.
Learning the concepts of the game is lost in the focused movements within the constrained actions of the offense.
It is difficult to watch is the frustration of the coaches in this scenario. They get frustrated with the kids because they are not doing what they have practiced, and they become frustrated with themselves feeling that they are failing as a coach because they can’t get through to the kids.
Okay listen, these kids aren’t at a level yet where they can run an offense like most coaches imagine they can. Most coaches watch basketball on TV, or get a video and think that this works for these young kids… not true…
Okay listen; you can check that off the list of what defines a good coach. Don’t invest too much time on the offensive plays; spend most of the time on skill development and scrimmaging. (When I talk about scrimmage time, I emphasize controlled play with whistle stops to teach what is going on and why).
Okay listen, take that pressure off yourself, teach the fundamentals, and let the kids play!
If you have comments or questions for Tom Kuyper, email: firstname.lastname@example.org