What I Witnessed Looked Like Rec Soccer (Part 2)

A few weeks ago in a post entitled “Teach Players How to Play”  the subject of teaching basketball players, particularly at the youth level, how to play basketball and not set plays was discussed.  What prompted the original  exploration of this topic was a conversation with a local youth basketball coach who told me that his practice was primarily based around working on offensive plays.  There was no time for skill development and other aspects of the game that I described as priorities.

Last week, in somewhat of a follow up to, “Teach Players How to Play,”  the subject of my post, “What I Witnessed was Like Rec Soccer” turned towards teaching players three fundamental components of basketball to go along with their skill development.  First and foremost, the player needs to be able to get open on his own. Then they also need to be able to move effectively without the basketball in order to create space for themselves and their teamates.  Finally, the player, once they catch the basketball, needs to come to triple threat and be able to create space out of a triple threat.  Today’s blog post will focus on the second of the three components, moving effectively without the basketball.

The game of basketball is all about the ability to create space with or without the basketball, and having the ability to move effectively without the basketball can serve this purpose.  It will not only create space for yourself but also for your teamates.  As a matter of preference, I always like to use three on three to teach cutting without the basketball.  Three on three provides more open space on the court and is therefore less intimidating for youth players, or any level player.  Being less intimidating will ultimately allow them to become more comfortable trying new basketball concepts and help build success.

To start, three offensive players are placed on the perimeter (usually outside the three point line but in the case of the youth level inside the three point line will work) on both wings and at the top of the key.  The simplest way to teach moving without the basketball is in a pass, cut, and replace format.  The player at the top of the key enters the ball to the wing and then can use a shallow cut to cut away from the basketball while the opposite wing replaces them at the top of the key.  The ball is then reversed through the player at the top of the key to the other wing and the cutting process is repeated to the other side.

Another option is to have the player make a basket cut to from the top of the key while following the ball then replace the opposite wing who has replaced him at the top of the key.  It is important to note that players should not be robotic when working on cutting, moving, replacing, etc. The players should vary the type of cuts they use in order to simulate a more game-like situation.  Point out to the players that they should see the defense and take what the defense is giving them.  For example, if the defense is sagging off, then a shallow cut away may be more appropriate and will ultimately get them more open.  However, if the defense is playing tight on the offensive player then a hard basket cut could serve to loosen the defense up and create more openings for the offense.  Bottom line is, that players need to see the defense and the open spots on the court in order to help them make the correct decisions on where and how to cut.  All the while make sure the players keep their spacing at around 15 to 17 feet between each other. Doing so forces the defense to really have to work to guard the offense and scoring should be easier than if the offense’s spacing was tight.  Once you have taught these two types of cuts, add three defenders and have the offense try to score by specifically using a basket cut or a shallow cut.  You can limit their dribbles to between one and three and really make them focus on moving effectively without the basketball in order to get open.

Aside from cutting, another option for getting open is the screen.  Using the same format with three offensive players have them work on passing and screening away.  For this component, it is important to teach a couple of technical points to the screener and the player being screened for.  With the screener, teach them that in order to set an effective screen, they must be low, wide, and have their back facing the spot that you want the offensive player to receive the basketball.  For the player receiving the screen, it is important for them to set their defender up in away and then run them through the screen.  Not setting the defender up is somewhat lazy and can lead to them not getting open to receive the pass.  As a matter of preference, I always teach the offensive player to come off the screen and step into the ball using an inside pivot technique (planting the foot closest to the basket first).  This is more effecient and can lead to more scoring opportunities for the offensive player.  Once these techniques have been taught and properly mastered add the defense and have the offense try to score using the pass and screen away option.

Going forward as the players become more familiar with seeing the court and reading the defense allow them to use what ever option they see fit.  However, do not hesitate to stop play to qualify key points based on mistakes that are made.  This is how the players will learn to play effectively and in the long run, it will make whatever offense you run much more successful.

Please let me know what other techniques you are using to teach players how to play and stay tuned for next week’s post where I discuss various options on how to create space out of the triple threat.

Dedicated to taking your game to the NEXT level,

Rich Stoner

USAW Sports Performance Coach

Elite Basketball Training, LLC

What I Witnessed was Like Rec Soccer

In a recent blog post entitled, “Teach Players How to Play” I discussed the topic of coaches not focusing so much on plays but rather teaching them how to play the game of basketball.  In other words, how to move without the basketball in order to get yourself or your teammates open.  The inability to move effectively without the basketball seems to be a common problem amongst youth players and even high school players these days.  This was never more evident than in two recent small group workouts where I divided the group into two three on three teams, put one team on offense and the other on defense, and instructed the team with the ball to score…without dribbling the basketball.  The dumbfounded looks on the players’ faces suggested that this experiment would not go well andwhat transpired afterwards only confirmed my assumption.  As a matter of fact, what I witnessed was a lot like rec soccer at the youth level.  For those of you who have ever watched a rec soccer game, you know exactly what I am talking about, 20 players (excluding the two goalies) following the soccer ball in unison all over the field.  On a smaller scale, my situation was two basketball players cutting toward the basketball screaming, “Here!,” “Here!,” “Here!.” There was no semblance of spacing. The players could not get open against a man defender.  Triple threat was more of a myth or legend than a reality.  And, don’t even ask me if they scored.  Watching this, sent up a red flag for me and I knew that I had to supplement my basketball skill development with more of this three on three work in order to help these players learn to play.

With this in mind I have set out to accomplish the teaching of three key fundamental basketball components: getting open against a man defender, catching the basketball and coming to triple threat, and cutting effectively without the basketball. For the purpose of this post, the focus will be on getting open going away from the basket and going towards the basket.  As I stated earlier, the players had a very difficult time actually getting open when guarded man to man.  The man defender would drape himself around the offensive player and although the defense was not great, the offensive player could not get open.  The common mistake that was consistently made was cutting further from the basket and/or closer to the ball.  Consequently, this led to a lack of spacing on the court or a turnover.  If they did catch the basketball the offensive player was no longer in a scoring position because they were 3o feet from the basket. Simply stated, in order for a player to get open they have to change speeds effectively.  When an offensive player’s speed remains constant they become very easy to guard.  This is true with or without the basketball.  In this case, without the basketball, the first step is to teach them to walk their man down slowly and then plant their bottom foot and pop out hard showing your hand and giving the passer a target going away from the basket.  Obviously the passer needs to time this correctly and throw the ball to you so that you can catch it before the defender recovers.  Once the offensive player has caught the ball, it is important that they immediately square the the basket and come to a thriple threat position.  The offensive player should be low, balanced, and in an attack position.  Doing so will allow the offensive player to perform the three fundamental basketball skills  of passing, dribbling, and shooting effectively.  The offensive player should not stand half turned away from the basket or straight up with the ball over head.  This type of positioning allows the defender to get closer to them and make them feel very uncomfortable, ultimately leading to a potential turnover.  It is imperative that the coach or trainer correct this immediately if they see it happening.  Through repetition, solid habits are built, so do not hesitate to make corrections.  If you want to make an impact in youth basketball coaching, you will need to commit to a philosophy.

Earlier I mentioned that the offensive players were constantly cutting away from the basket and putting themselves in poor positions to score.  Jamming your defender down and popping out hard should alleviate this problem.  However, in the case that you have a very good defender on you who can stay with you as you pop out, it is important to be able to cut towards the basket as well.  To do so simply cut as if you are going away from the basket, jam hard and cut back door quickly.  Be sure to show your hand so that the passer once again has a target to throw to.  Cutting back door can serve two purposes.  First, it can get you open for a score, but in the case that it does not, the cutter should continue through to the other side of the court.  This will open space from where you just cut allowing the ballhandler to attack that position with more freedom than if the other offensive player were still there.

My experience with these two groups was eye opening.  As a former varsity high school basketball coach, getting open, coming to triple threat, and cutting effectively had always be a key component of my coaching.  Having transitioned from high school basketball coach to the basketball skill development realm this fundamental knowledge had taken a back seat to the development of basketball skills such as ball handling, passing, and shooting.  However, having had this rec soccer-like experience it has become abundantly clear to me that this is a must include for me as a supplement to my intense skill development regimen.

In my next post I will continue this series with triple threat and various moves that you can make out of triple threat that will allow you to create your own space with the basketball.

What are your thoughts on players playing? How do you teach getting open effectively? Let us know by posting a comment in the comments section below.

And don’t forget, for a limited time, Elite Basketball Training’s Speed and Agility Drills and Skills is back at its low price of $14.99.  This includes the video and ebook that has been valued at $60 for a low, low price.  This won’t las long so head over to now and get your copy today.


I’ve Failed…So Now What?

I had a really interesting conversation with one of my athletes last week.  She is a gymnast that competes at a very high level and holds several of the strength training records in my gym for girls and in some cases overall (boys included).  She had a bad practice that day and was not herself  during our workout which is very uncharacteristic of her.  I asked her what was wrong and we got to talking about her practice and how she had not performed as well as she wanted to  that day or in recent weeks.  She told me of how the pressure to perform was getting to her and that she was making many mistakes that were causing her self doubt.  Her story reminded me of one of my former basketball players who scored over 1400 career points in high school and is one of the best players that I have ever coached.  So I told her about him and how when he was young he used to get really down on himself if he missed a shot…yes, one shot.  As his coach, I was convinced that he really believed that he should make every shot he took.  I had to explain to him that it was okay to miss and okay to make mistakes.  Eventually he began to understand this concept and he adapted mentally.  In doing so, he became a fantastic basketball player and football player who ended up playing wide receiver for the Oklahoma Sooners and has a great chance of making it to the NFL this year.  She was surprised that I was comparing this basketball player to her but the overall concept of the story made sense.  Failure is inevitable, it is what you do after you have failed that makes the difference.

In recent weeks, I have been impressing upon the basketball players that I work with for skill development and the athletes that I work with for sports performance to take themselves out of their comfort zone.  When I see basketball players working out around the gym, they are just too comfortable with what they are doing.  Instead of pounding the basketball hard while dribbling, they pat it softly like it is a little bunny rabbit that they are afraid to hurt if they hit it too hard.  I see athletes training for sports performance who instead of pushing their limits, and getting up their heart rate workout slowly and methodically, taking long breaks and making sure that they hit their friends up with a text message a few times during the workout.  This is just too comfortable and maybe that is why these basketball players and athletes workout this way, there is just no way they can fail or make mistakes and they enjoy that type of perfection.  However, they will never improve.  Being comfortable in your workouts means you are afraid to fail and fear a failure will never result in success.

Success is achieved by taking yourself out of your comfort zone to a place where you have no choice but to make mistakes and fail.  It is only through these mistakes and failures that we become better athletes, basketball players, or whatever it is you are training for.  That is, as long as we realize the mistake that is made and correct it immediately.  I have also recently been preaching to my athletes and basketball players to watch and analyze everything that they do during their workouts.  Not to the point that it disrupts the workout, but briefly, just long enough to know what mistake, if any, they may have made.  For example, a good jump shooter will consistently watch their jump shot.  They will watch it not only to see if it goes in the basket but also how it goes in the basket (flat or with arc).  They will watch their jumper to see if they have missed and if so, where (short, long, right, left, etc.).  All of this is valuable information to a jump shooter because it allows them to know their mistakes and make corrections.  Similarly, a person working out in the gym might watch themselves in the mirror for more than determing if their chest and biceps are getting pumped up.  In fact, they may actually look at themselves to determine whether or not their form is good on the set of lunges they are performing.  Are they keeping their back straight the whole way through? Are they stepping forward and then leaning so that their knee pushes out in front of their toe (a major mistake)? Once again, this is valuable information to an athlete who is training.  If these mistakes are being made, knowing that they exist allows the athlete to make corrections and can, therefore, lead to improved performance in the lift and ultimately in their sport.

Improving your performance on the basketball court or any field of play comes from failure.  It comes from taking yourself out of your comfort zone in order to push your body and skills to a new limit that will cause you to make mistakes.  Making mistakes is a positive for all athletes as long as you realize that you have made a mistake and you fix it.  Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”   Michael Jordan’s success was built on many failures because he failed and he learned.  So, failing at something is okay, it is failing to fail that is not.

Committed to taking your game to the NEXT level,

Rich Stoner

USAW Sports Performance Coach

Elite Basketball Training, LLC

Are You a Chicken or a Pig?


I was at a wedding recently and the pastor who was marrying the couple told a great story about a conversation that he had with the groom that related to marriage being a lifetime commitment.  The pastor, who was a good friend of the bride and her family, met the soon to be groom after they had been engaged, in order to get to know him a little bit.  In that time, he asked him if he was going to be a chicken or a pig when it came to being married.  I was not there, but I can only imagine the groom’s reaction to this question.  On the surface, this is a strange question, but when you delve into it, the question truly makes sense to anyone who has ever had eggs and bacon (or any sort of pork product) together for breakfast.  The pastor continued with his story, explaining that the chicken is merely involved in this all-American breakfast because all the chicken has to do is lay the eggs which get taken from the nest and cooked while the chicken lives to see another day.  The pig, however, is committed to this breakfast relationship because in order to be a part of it, they are killed, cut up, and cooked, never to see the ligh of day again.  As I recall this story in my head, I cannot help but to laugh at the matter of fact truth of it.  The story really made so much sense to me when I heard it being applied to marriage and the more I think about it, the chicken and the pig story can be applied to your success as a basketball player, coach, or athlete of any sort.

As I think back to some of the greatest players that I have worked with through the years who have made it to the NBA, NFL, and all levels or college athletics in sports such as basketball, football, soccer, and gymnastics, they all had one common characteristic.  These athletes are committed to being great.  Geat players are not just involved, they do not just put in the time when they feel like.  Great players do not end up playing at such a high level by accident.  They are willing to go a step beyond everyone else.  They did not fear mistakes, they make them, embrace them, and learn from them.  These athletes are students of their sport, watching, listening, and learning at every opportunity.  They are all in the gym when others are home relaxing.  They are committed to being great athletes in their respective sports and do whatever is necessary to achieve success.

Success does not happen as a result of luck.  I hear all the time how this person and that person is lucky.  A wise man once said that those who work harder tend to have more luck than others.  Consequently, success is a by product of commitment and the hard work it entails.  It is not a by chance that athletes achieve  success.  They achieve success because in the chicken and pig relationship, they are the pig…they are committed.

Dedicated to taking your game to the NEXT level,

Rich Stoner

USAW Sports Performance Coach

Elite Basketball Training, LLC

Ps. If you are a Pig and committed to being great, then you really need to check this out now at  Pigs may not be quick and explosive but you can if you use this product.

Basketball Pre-Game Meal

Basketball Pre-Game Meal

Basketball Pre-Game Meal Advice

With many of my basketball players currently in season, I have been asked a lot lately about what they should be eating before their games or meets.  What athletes should eat for the Pre-game meals have always been a source of confusion.  I can remember when I first started coaching basketball, many of my players showing up to games and eating nothing but candy about an hour before they had to go on the court.  In fact, it was not until I began educating them on proper pre-game nutrition that they started to eat the correct foods at the correct times before games.  Not giving your body the proper nutrients before an intense activity like a game can leave you sluggish and tired and that will reflect in your performance.  Whereas, eating correctly before games can provide you with the energy to perform to your abilities and dominate the competition.

Basketball Pre-Game Meal: Eat With Purpose

In order to perform well in any sport you must eat properly especially before games.  The primary purpose of a pre-game meal is to provide your body with fuel so that you have energy throughout the entire game.  Having energy throughout the game requires athletes to eat certain types of foods.

Slow and easily digestible carbohydrates are a necessity.  Foods like brown rice, sweet potatoes, or whole grain breads will provide you with the sustainable energy that is needed for all four quarters.  Do not overdo it though.  Too many carbohydrates, especially the wrong ones can weigh you down and leave you feeling heavy and slow, ultimately ruining your play.

The second key component to a solid pre-game meal is a nice piece of protein, like chicken breast or salmon.  Including protein in the meal will make sure your muscles are getting proper nourishment while aiding in your post game recovery.

Basketball Pre-Game Meal Example

A good example of a pre-game meal would be a grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread, fresh fruit, and a sweet potato.  Since this meal is rather large, it is recommended that you eat at least two hours before game time thereby giving your body time to digest consequently allowing you to perform at your best.  Remember, you want to be able to dominate the competition, so give your body the basketball pre-game meal that it deserves with enough nourishment to last you a full game.