Helping Players with Solutions

Posted on Nov 22 2020

Part of the coach’s role is to help young players develop the ability to identify solutions out on the floor. Linked to decision-making, coaches need to encourage players to explore and utilise solutions to various constraints and situations during practice and the game.

In the practice setting, coaches often use constraints to assist players identify a solution. Be it numerical advantage or disadvantage, geographical constraints or limits on passes/dribbles, constraint-based coaching is about unpacking solutions at game speed out on the court.

While fundamental skill underpins all basketball actions, the ability to identify the situation or constraint and execute the correct skill is an essential relationship for players at all ages.

Start at the start – geography of the floor

  • Where do I stand on the floor in relation to the ball?
  • Where are team-mates situated in relation to me?
  • Where is my defender?
  • What is the player with the ball doing and how does that impact me?
  • Where should I move to as the ball moves?

All these “questions” are crucial for players at all levels and assist with unpacking solutions.

Shot, pass, drive decision –

With the ball the “shot, pass, drive” decision is the most important for players. As the ball is in flight, the receiver needs to process the defending closing out, where their team-mates are, where the help is and then adopt a “solution”.

It is generally considered that closing out is one of the most challenging defensive skills in the game, so for the offensive player, the ability to read the close out is key to successful individual and team offence.

In the modern “drive and kick” game, the SPD decision is even more crucial to effective ball movement and efficient offence.

Some elements of the SPD solutions are –

  • Reading the close-out – long or short?
  • Is the basket “open” or “closed”? – see the help, see team-mates
  • Has the ball gone inside to outside?
  • Am I shooter or driver?
  • Who is one pass away? – personnel

Solutions on penetration –

The ability to make sound decision on the move has never been more important for players at all levels of the sport. The increased prevalence of the drive and kick or “split, kick extra” concepts mean players need to be able to make clear decisions when penetrating at speed and in traffic.

Some elements to teach and discuss with young players on penetration of the ball into the key –

  • Is the basket “open” or “closed”? – see the help, see team-mates
  • Where is the help coming from?
  • Where are my teammates? – above and below the ball
  • Do I need to come to a stop to create time and space?

Linked to the solutions on dribble penetration are the decisions players away from the ball make –

  • What is my movement in relation to the direction of the drive?
  • When do I move?
  • How is my defender helping?
  • What advantage does the driving player have?
  • What are our rules/concepts as a team on penetration?

As with most aspects of coaching, the teaching is in the question. Use of questioning and guided discovery leads to a solution-based approach by the players, even if it takes time and there are bumps long the journey.

Of course, there are many challenges at the defensive end in finding solutions to problems and this is something we can unpack in a future blog or article. Defensive basketball is very much about finding solutions, both in terms of the scout and in the midst of each possession.


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