October 29, 2004, Newsletter Issue #186: YOUTH BASKETBALL-MAN TO MAN OR ZONE?

Tip of the Week

Many youth coaches will have their teams play a pressure defense for the purpose of forcing the other team into a turnover. Dean Smith (legendary coach at North Carolina) once said, "a successful youth defense would be to send 3 players at the ball and tell the other 2 to do the best they can." This would force turnovers and help a team "win" a game, but it may not really be teaching either team anything. I would advocate a "no press-no double team" rule that teaches players to play solid, position oriented defense against an opponent that is now able to function offensively. At the earliest levels of play I have, at times, instituted a "no steal" rule from the ballhandler. This would ensure that all players were in good on-ball defensive position and did not reach to try to steal the ball off of a dribble. If the ballhandler drives to the basket without the defender moving his feet to stop him, other players would need to be in position to help and prvent the drive. And teamates would need to help-the-helper". It also would encourage players "off-ball" to be in proper position to deny and steal passes, as that would be the only method of getting a turnover. This "freedom" the ballhandler would have in searching for offensive passing options and keeping the dribble alive could only help any early offensive development.

The negative byproduct of pressure defense at the very early stages of development is the migration of players away from the game due to a lack of offensive success. Let`s face it - players want to score. They want to be an effective teammate that other players want to play with. Even at an early age how the player performs on OFFENSE is how they evaluate their performance and the amount of enjoyment they have, Regardless of how often coaches and parents tout the importance of defense - offense defines the game.

Granted we all say that "DEFENSE win`s championships." And it probably does, more often than not. However, at the youth level, championships are not the goal. The goal is to make the game fun first - then they`ll keep coming back because it is fun. After a few years they may realize that they like the game, so they`ll come back for the basketball. Once they are hooked on playing basketball, they`ll return to work on their skills and improve. Before you know it - you might have a real player.

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