In youth basketball, the question of when to start teaching plays to young players is a topic that’s continuously debated amongst coaches at different levels. Is it more beneficial for teams or for players to start learning plays in the early stages of the game of basketball? I’ve experienced both aspects and the choice is dependant on your end goal.


Your Experiences Determine How You Coach

I coached my son’s house league team when he first started playing at the Novice level. The practices weren’t filled with drills nor did we focus on plays for the team. It was about the player enjoying the game and understanding how it’s played. There were those children that were better than others, but seeing them develop each week, becoming better and more knowledgeable of the game was the end goal.

As my son got older I continued coaching and as he moved up in divisions so did the development and skill level of the boys on the basketball teams that he played. Yes, there were those that were at different levels, which is the case with all teams in all sports, but with higher divisions, the individual skill level grew. The players through multiple basketball channels were developed players and with a minimum of three to four skilled players on your team, set plays could be setup.

Attempting to teach teams set plays before players have been taught the fundamentals of playing hinders a players basketball development.


Players Determine the Type of Coaching Methods Required

So here we are in the summer of 2016 and my daughter has picked up an interest in basketball at the Mini level. So I’ve coached before and worked with her over the summer and there’s an opening on the Brookwood team for both of us. I figure this is Intercity so we’ve got to have set plays for this competitive league.

The only desire of competition at the Mini level comes from coaches and parents…Kids will do what they’re told to do on the court at that level because they don’t know how to do anything other than what you’re instructing them to do. So if a team has set plays and they are actually executed properly, then they’re generally executed by one or two players. The rest are just fillers on the court, and players filling roles don’t learn…they fill.

These players “filling roles” tend to fall out of the sport or never reach their full potential due to inconsistency in executing random plays, and not being able to deduce on their own how to “be better”. Unable due to never actually being taught how to play the game. Never learning the fundamentals of basketball and growing through different training development channels.


At What Point Should Set Play be Introduced?

As a coach, you need to determine where your players are skill-wise as early in the season as possible. If you introduce a set play into the offense and your team can not execute it in a game. An evaluation of the player on the teams’ fundamental basketball skills needs to be assessed in order to see what level of development the players are at. From that point, you can structure your practices to improve their basketball IQ.

If you play for an organization which can offer practices five days a week, then you’ll definitely have those development focused practices for player growth. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t, so the development of basketball IQ, and a players knowledge development will come at a cost to the team’s performance (for a while). The “competitive” level of performance will be achieved eventually, just at a longer rate of succession.

Take the off-season to focus as a player on preparing yourself for the upcoming basketball season. Take advantage of basketball camps, development clinics, and outdoor leagues available to you. Just ensure the development program associated with these organizations are focusing on your best interest, personal growth as a player and will increase your knowledge of the sport which will allow you to become a better basketball player.

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