There are many theories on why skill development is at an all time low in the United States. One the major complaints is that our young players play too many games that lack structure and development. We can go on for days about improvements that need to be made in the game of basketball so lets just discuss one.
I think one way to hep our game is to start developmental leagues for our younger players. A developmental league should be exactly what it sounds like. It should revolve around the development of players and not center around wins and losses. For someone running a developmental league the most important asset in it is the staff in which you hire to coach your teams.
Coaches should be people that are dedicated in the betterment of young players. They need to be educators and not people who want to go off on their own and coach their way. Here are some steps that you should take in the running of a good developmental league.
1. Develop a league handbook
A league handbook should contain all of your by laws in there which the league will follow. This is where you list the mission of the league and what goals that you are trying to accomplish. It should spread the word of the goal of the league is to improve the basketball IQ and skill level of all the participants. The league is formed not for just game playing but teaching. I’d suggest having a meeting where all of the parents, players, and coaches are in attendance. This should set the stage of how you want the league to be run. Have a code of ethics that every player and parent are required to read and sign. This is where you set the tone for the year
2. Meet or speak with coaches weekly throughout the season
Your coaches are the lifeblood of the league. It will only be as good as your coaches are. Meet with them or put them on a conference call once a week for the whole season. Discuss the drills that you want taught in practice. The biggest hurdle and most important aspect of this would be to get all of your coaches on the same page of what you are trying to do. Coaches should be competitive and want to win games but the number one thing that should be stressed is not only skill development, but basketball IQ development as well. Take this time to get feedback from your coaches to get a pulse on your league. This will help with any issues that are developing in your league.
3. Establish a curriculum and stick with it
This is something that has been mentioned in the first two items. You must have your drills already setup in drill-books for your coaches to follow for individual as well as team development. It’s important for your coaches to follow it for at least the first half of the season. I think it will be a good idea to let your coaches at some point blend in their own ideas past the halfway point , but for the first half being on the same page is key.
Have 9 different segments in your booklet.
The first should be a ball handling segment that every position should be following. It is so important to have players at all positions,shapes, and sizes handle the ball as you have no idea on what position they will be when they get to high school. Developing ball handling early can only help hem in their overall development. Stay away from circus drills and stay with the drills that will build a foundation for their ball handling development.
So important to stress for players at all positions. Have them throw all different passes to master them. Bounce passes, chest passes, over the head, baseball, and all other passes should be covered. Stationary would be a great way to start to get form and technique down. As time goes on and they master the different passes start to have them making passes on the move. From passes on movement start to work on passing with a defender on the passer. The final step would to practice making passes with a defender on the passer and receiver
Moving without the ball
Every position needs to learn how to move without the ball. Cutting into open areas is so big for players at all ages and levels. Skill sets like going back door, ducking in, cutting into the paint from the weak side, flashing to the high post, and others should be covered. All players should learn how to not stand still on offense and always be moving.
One of the worst skills for high school players is shooting the ball correctly. You need to spend time teaching proper form and technique before you get into advanced shooting drills. Elbow positioning, hand positioning, balance, stance, and follow through are all things that you need to cover when talking about shooting. Form shooting 1-2 hands is something that you need to cover every day and build on. There aren’t enough people who shoot the ball correctly and it starts at an early age. The earlier you teach players how to shoot the better shooters they will become. It is a lot tougher to teach a 17 year old how to shoot correctly than teaching a 10 or 11 year old.
Position Specific Offensive Drills
Teaching players how to play their position is important. Obviously at a young age players may be mostly similar in height. If that is the case you can just continue to teach everyone the same drills both on the ball like point guard drills and off the ball scoring drills. If you do have some players that are clearly bigger than others start to work on some basic big man drills like rebounding and finishing around the basket.
Teaching drills with multiple players in them are great. It then can work on team aspects to work together. I’m a big fan of multiple player and multiple position drills to get players better. This builds team chemistry and understanding of the game. The more drills that you have with different positions in them makes your team drills very game like and will improve their IQ.
Setting and Using Screens
Such a lost art in basketball. Many players have no idea how to set and receive screens. I think at a young age this is something that they can benefit form greatly. Thins like making contact with the defender and setting a screen with proper technique is something that young players have no idea how to do. When receiving a screen how to set your defender up and burry them into a screen is something that most high school players have no idea how to do. I think that they will benefit greatly with a lot of work on these aspects of the game
Proper Defensive Techniques
Start with little things like stance and footwork. Teach them a great base for defense is a very big step. Moving their feet and staying low is something that needs to be taught. Individual defense is something that young players need to learn. Once they are well versed in the individual aspect of moving their feet and active hands start teaching them team defensive concepts. Obviously it all depends on the age of the players in which you are working with. Having players learn defensive techniques will take them a long way in their development.
2-2 and 3-3 Game Situations
I think there is nothing better for developing players than playing 3 on 3 basketball. Especially when you set up game situations for them to work on. Not only can this serve as a great offensive drill, but also teach your defense as well. I think sometimes when you teach 5 on 5 right away that players get confused on what you are trying to do. If you implement your offensive and defensive philosophies small in 2-2 then 3-3 and then 4-4 there is a better understanding from them.
4. One Quarter Maximum Zone Defense
So many people want to argue about the lack of skill development teaching in our game. How about the over emphasis on playing zone? To me that is the easy way out to play the majority of zone defense in high school and junior high school. I think that playing man to man is a lot more beneficial development wise on both ends of the floor. I think it is important for players to play and play against zone, but not for the majority of the game. Putting in designated zone quarters will add value to your games. Maybe one week its the first quarter and the next is the third etc.
There is too much zone played at the younger levels and taking a stand against it will be a positive building block of your league.
5. Pass Out Teaching Aids To Your Players
Not every league has a great budget, but every league can afford to make workouts or player development tips and pass them out to your team. It could consist of teaching points on a certain aspect or maybe a contest/game whee they chart their process. Constantly change it up for them to make it challenging and beneficial to them at the same time.
Running a developmental program is all about follow through. It’s not about just putting players through drills like a robot it is about teaching and following up with them to make sure they retain the information. Be creative on what you give them, but by giving them something on a regular basis shows the players and parents that you are serious about development. If you have the resources think about putting training videos online upload them to youtube and send out the links to parents and players.
6. Encourage Coaches To Meet With Their Players
Communication with players and coaches at a young age can be very beneficial to young players. Giving your coaches the opportunity to discuss the player’s development on a one on one basis can be great for both parties. Not only does this enable coaches to communicate progress with players, but it also gives the player the ability to voice things as well as ask questions to their coach in a quiet setting.
This will be very beneficial for players to be comfortable talking to coaches. This is an issue for players today with their inability to communicate with coaches. This can help some with this issue and can be another beneficial piece to your league.
7. Hire Court Monitors To Write Reports On Players
Have staff members write up reports on the good and bad things that each player does. They will write their short reports up and either send them to the players or give them to the coaches to distribute in their meeting with the players.
This is good if you can afford to do it on a budget or staff standpoint. It shows just one more reason why players should be in your league. Holding them accountable game by game and letting them and their parents know that you are putting the extra effort in to the participants in your league.
8. Keep The DEVELOPMENT In Your Developmental League
There are hundreds of leagues that run the same. If they are lucky they practice once a week and play games. The only thing that people care about is who wins the championship and getting trophies. Continue to stress development and teaching. It’s a tough thing to push on your coaches and players as in today’s game what players love to do is play.
Don’t make it a drill only league, but stress from them as well as your staff as the players in the league will get better.
I think that if you have the means and the manpower willing to go along with you that running a developmental league is the way to go. I think that it pushes your coaches as well as players to better themselves. It is easy to give players uniforms and roll out the balls and see what happens. With having organization and structure to your league that you are sending a message that you are rolling your sleeves up and going to do everything in your power to make the players and coaches better.
Continue to stress development and hold people accountable. In the long run you will win and your players and parents will thank you for it.
If you want to hire us to structure your league please don’t hesitate to contact us and we would be happy to discuss this with you. Info@hoopconsultants.com