Coaching Youth Basketball

by Ed Riley

Coaching is not an exact science. Coaching at the higher grade levels is more opinion and preferences, than it is fact. There are certain things that every varsity player should know, like lay-ups, etc. For the most part, coaching at this level is a matter of team x's and o's.

Coaching youth basketball is different. It is more of an exact science, and that science's name is BASICS. Coaching at this level is a matter of how do you teach the basics, and choosing your priorities as a coach.

I am going to take you from the first moment you signed up as a coach and help you to choose your priorities and help you to teach the basics. I am not a basketball guru who has never lost a game. I don't have a long list of credentials. My resume doesn't even exist. But I do understand that the simpler something is, the easier it is to understand. I am going to try to teach you the things that I wish someone had taught me when I started coaching, and I'm going to make it very easy to read and understand.

CHAPTER 1  How did I get myself into this mess?

Let's see if this story sounds familiar. My daughter was in 4th grade and all of my daughter's friends were signing up to play basketball in the local church league, so of course she had to sign up. At the bottom of the registration form it asks the parent, "Would you like to coach?" I put "No" as my answer.

As I was turning it in, I thought about it again and then wrote in at the bottom of the page, "If you can't find anyone else, call me." The rest is history. Of course, they called me, one day before the coaches meeting. Does this sound familiar, or what? Most coaches are volunteers because no one else would do it.

So now that YOU are committed to coaching, what do you do next? You can try to find things at your local library telling you what to do. What I found were books for advanced coaches in a language that I did not understand. I found diagrams that looked more like ancient hieroglyphics, than I care to mention. Needless to say, it was hard to find anything of use.

Next I tried the local bookstore, to no avail. Then I tried the information superhighway, the internet. The real problem here is trying to find it all in one place. Most sites are for more advanced coaches. You can spend hours just finding one idea.

So what do you do? You got yourself into this mess, now let me see if I can help you through it.

CHAPTER 2 - Choosing your team (or name your poison)

A lot of teams are arbitrarily divided up at this age, so that you don't get a choice. Think of it as drawing names out of a hat, and that's who you get. If this is the case with you, skip this chapter and go on to the next one.

Option 1  NO TRYOUTS  You and the other coaches take turns choosing kids. In this situation, ask your child and other parents who are the natural athletes who are trying out. Next ask who can not walk and chew gum at the same time. Your best choice is to , DUH, take the natural athletes. This doesn't guarantee you a thing, but it let's you hedge your bet just a little bit.

Option 2  YOU HOLD TRYOUTS  Being a beginning coach, this gets scary. This is your first chance to show the kids and their parents just how ignorant you really are. This is when most people go running to the library, the bookstore, or the internet. Fear not, I promise not to let you seem too ignorant.


  1. At least 3 whistles that work, you'll lose 2 of them before you ever get there
  2. Name badges that will stick to the players chest and back. Get a lot of them because the sweat will make them peel off.
  3. At least 20 balls. (Buy, beg, or borrow them)
  4. Enough mess bags for the balls. Most coaches forget these and it doesn't lend to your credibility to see you trying to juggle 6 loose balls when you walk in the door.
  5. Lots of patience (Valium's not legal)
  6. A clipboard with a legal pad on it. Even if you never use it, it makes you look official.
  7. A better wardrobe. If you walk in with 2 different plaids on, the kids will moan about being coached by a geek. Blue cotton sweats with a white golf shirt works just fine, and they're cheap.


Now that you have your supplies, you have to make some decisions before your tryouts. You have to make the most important basketball decision of your coaching career, what are your priorities? What are you going to try to achieve with this team? Is your priority going to be just to let the kids have a good time? Is winning going to be your #1 priority? Or is your priority going to be to teach the kids enough over the years so that they have a real chance at making their high school team? These priorities can not hold equal value to you. You have to choose one over the other.


If this is your only goal, quit reading this now. This book is not for you. Don't misunderstand me! I believe that you can make winning or learning fun, and I will help show you how. But if that is your only goal, find someone else to coach the team because these kids may want to go a different direction later on in life than to just have fun.


This totally affects how you will substitute. If you substitute to win only, half of your team may never see more than a minute or two of playing time in a game. If you coach a varsity team, your job depends on the wins and this has to be your priority. But this book was not written for varsity coaches. This book was written for the beginning coach.

In my experience, most youth coaches start out trying to teach and have fun, but end up coaching to win. For those of you who go for the almighty win, someone once posted on Chalk Talk. a youth sports website, this reminder to coaches: 20 YEARS FROM NOW YOUR KIDS WON'T REMEMBER WHO WON A PARTICULAR GAME, BUT THEY WILL REMEMBER SITTING ON THE BENCH, AND IF THEY EVER GOT TO PLAY. The words may not be exact, but it's content is true.


This is what I believe should be your priority as a youth coach. My favorite line I use is Coach - Teacher. I have recently added to it, Coach - Role Model. If my team loses, it's because I didn't teach them enough. If my team loses because of bickering between themselves, then I wasn't a good enough teacher and role model. If they see me screaming at them, and the refs, or whomever, then I haven't been a good enough role model. Your kids learn something new every day, what will you teach them today?

There is a really great aspect to teaching as your #1 priority, IF YOU TEACH THEM ENOUGH, THEY WILL WIN. (Reminds you of Field of Dreams, doesn't it?)

I believe that when you coach elementary through 8th grade, your job is to be a teacher. Time for you to choose, what will be your priority?

CHAPTER 3 - TRYOUTS (or your first chance to show your ignorance)

Keep repeating this to yourself, SIMPLE IS GOOD! SIMPLE IS GOOD! So why is simple good? The simpler your tryouts are, the less foolish you will look. What's the old saying, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression?" Start off simply.

Now that you have brainwashed yourself, the next thing you need to learn is control. Either you are going to control your players, or they are going to control you. So how do you take control in a positive manner, without coming across as a screaming dictator? YOUR WHISTLE!!!!

THE WHISTLE - your best attention getter. The secret is not to overuse it. When you blow your whistle, make it mean something. Have you ever known a family that yells at each other a lot? After a while they begin to ignore the volume and yelling doesn't mean anything any more. This principle applies to your whistle. If you blow it too much, it loses it's effectiveness.

Now, how do you gain control from the first moment you step onto the court? Blow your whistle and tell your kids to line up on the baseline. (That's the out of bounds line underneath the basket.) Explain to them that when you blow your whistle and yell, "baseline," they have 5 seconds to get there. If a player doesn't make it in time as you count out loud to 5, then the whole team runs two laps, full speed. Why should everyone run when only one player was late? It promotes teamwork, peer pressure, and puts you in the cat's bird seat. You are in control. You haven't yelled or screamed, but you are in control.


Ok boss, I took control, the kids are in a line, now what? Now you have the kids do a couple of simple drills for you. I will give you these drills in a bit. The same drills will work for 3rd - 8th grade. I would concentrate on ball handling drills. If you take kids who can dribble and pass, you are light years ahead of the game.

Here's an example: Let's say I have a kid who can hit seven out of ten free throws, but can't dribble or pass. Next I have a kid who can handle the ball very well, but can't shoot. In this situation, most people will say to take the shooter. I say take the ball handler. But the team with the most points wins, right? My question is how do you get the ball down the court into the shooter's hands. I take ball handlers because I can teach them how to shoot. In fact, the odds are I am going to have to teach the shooter the proper way to shoot anyway. So, if I have to teach everyone to shoot, I'll take the ball handler every time.

Another example: I have a girl on my team even as I write this. She out hustles, outruns, out rebounds, and can out shoot every one on the team. So what's the problem? Every time she touches the ball, she walks or travels with the ball. In one of our games she was able to steal the ball 5 times in about a two minute stretch. All five times she got called for traveling. The moral of the story, pick the ball handlers.


You number your tags one through whatever. As you pass out the tags, have the players write their name and number on a master log. Also have them put their phone # on this log. They must fill out two tags, one to put on their chest, and one on their back.


1. COUNT THE FINGERS  Most coaches will say this is too basic, but it lets you see who dribbles with their head up. You stand on one baseline and the kids stand on the opposite baseline. You hold up your hands and they must yell out the number of fingers you are holding up, while they dribble toward you. If a bunch of kids are doing this, get your wife or husband or a friend to help you see who is actually yelling the right number while dribbling. Every 2 seconds or so, change the number of fingers you hold up. This will also let you know who needs glasses. List on your master log how you rate each player, 1-5 works well. Rate every drill this way.


There are several different types of suicides. This is a simple one.

  1. A. player runs from baseline to closest free throw line and back
  2. B. then player runs from baseline to half court and back
  3. c. then player runs from baseline to furthest free throw line and back
  4. d. then player runs from baseline to opposite baseline and back

Try running this yourself at full speed, and you'll understand why it's called a SUICIDE. Now the drill is to see who is fast, who is able to start and stop, and who has endurance. Have them all run a suicide, but they must slap the floor when they reach a free throw line, half court line, or a baseline. At the end, rate your players.


4. ONE BALL SUICIDE - A dribbling drill - Have them compete in groups, so you can pay more attention to each player. They do a suicide while dribbling a basketball. They still have to slap the floor at the given intervals. This will start to let you see who your ball handlers are.

5. 2 BALL DRIBBLING   a fun drill - So far everything has been serious, so you lighten things up a bit. This is where you need your 20 balls. Put 10 kids on the baseline, each with 2 balls. They must do a suicide while dribbling 2 balls. You will see balls flying in every direction. If you warn everyone that this will happen, the kids won't feel so stupid and everyone will end up laughing.

I personally have had my team doing 2 ball dribbling in every one of our learning sessions, for over 4 years. It let's everyone learn to dribble with their left hand. By the way, I don't have practices, I have learning sessions. Even the name announces to the kids why they are there.


You divide the kids into teams of five and let them scrimmage. The only rule is they are not allowed to dribble the ball. In order to move the ball down the court, they have to pass the ball down the court. If a player dribbles, the other team gets the ball. What you are looking for is who can pass the ball, catch the ball, move to get open, who can play defense, and who has the ability to see who's open. Again keep rating players on how well they do.


Go to your master log and count up how many points each player has. If you want to be fair, take the players with the most points. The only exception to this is if you have an extremely tall kid WHO IS COORDINATED. Take this player, because you can't coach height.


Many coaches may disagree with my choice of drills because they are too simple and don't allow the players to show you what they can do. Ok, I'll bite off on that. Here's the BUT, but these coaches forget that you are a beginning youth coach. Remember what I tried to brainwash you with in the begiining, SIMPLE IS GOOD. SIMPLE KEEPS YOU FROM LOOKING LIKE AN IDIOT. For a beginning coach what else do you need to know. Can they handle a ball? Can they pass and catch a ball? No dribble scrimmage will let you see if they can play defense. Can they move without the ball? Can they see the floor and who's open? You can answer all of these questions just by using these simple drills. Why complicate life? SIMPLE IS GOOD!!!

CHAPTER 4 - The Ultimate Solution or Tylenol for coaches

Imagine a migraine so severe that you out into the middle of traffic, ask your friend to beat you with a golf club, and then run over you with their car. If you think I am joking, wait a while. These migraines don't come because of a loss, or the refs, or the other team. Headache Godzilla comes from your own team. This is the kid who is more cancerous than a prostrate. Able to leap all training with a single word. Can cause the rest of your team to crumble faster than the Demolition Man. This is your very own player with the ATTITUDE FROM HELL! This kid will talk bad about you and every player on your team behind your back, and be the most polite, courteous individual to your face. I call them KWBA - kid with bad attitude.

To go along with this, comes the main attraction, THE PARENTS FROM HELL! You aren't playing my kid enough! Why did Johnny play more than my Jimmy? If I were coach this is what I would do ...! Why didn't you play a zone against that team? These parents are enough to make you want to puke on your shoes!!! You will lose your hair, die of ulcers, or be a candidate for Frank's Funny Farm, if you don't solve these problems up front, before the season even begins. I have seen some of the best coaches quit because of these folks.

So how do you avoid these problems? Repeat after me, SIMPLE IS GOOD! If you don't want these problems, then solve them before they become a problem. If you don't want to deal with KWBA's and their parents, then don't let them become this way.

I have all my players and their parents sign a contract that states what is expected of them. It also spells out what will happen if they don't live up to these expectations. There are no surprises. Everything is out in the open for everyone to see. Here is my contract.


1. SCHOOL COMES FIRST Your grades and true class work come before basketball. I am not talking about extra-curricular activities. I am only referring to circumstances that will affect your grades. Do your homework and studying when you should. If you don't wait till the last day to do your homework or studying, school will rarely interfere with basketball.

2. ALL LEARNING SESSIONS ARE REQUIRED. We know that circumstances may arise where you must miss a learning session, (vacations, illnesses, etc.) When this occurs the player is to :

A. Inform their coach in advance, when possible B. Bring a note signed by their parent stating why

When "A" and "B" are completed, the absence MAY be excused. The first unexcused TARDY will be taken care of in our learning sessions, and parents making excuses don't work. The second unexcused tardy will be treated as an unexcused absence. Being grounded by your parents will be treated as an unexcused absence. Just don't do anything to get grounded. You are responsible for your own actions. A. the 1st unexcused absence will result in the player being benched the next game B. the 2nd unexcused absence may result in the player being dismissed from the team

3. All players are to treat teammates and coaches WITH RESPECT AND COURTESY. Behavior that puts other players or coaches down, results in profanity, or demonstrates lack of self-control, WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.

Any instance of this behavior will result in being asked to leave the learning session or the game. Such a request will be treated as an unexcused absence.

4. We know that being a part of this demanding basketball experience will require sacrifices, adjustments, and extra-ordinary commitment on the part of the players, their families, and the coaches. However we are working to achieve an extra-ordinary team and individual success, which demands extra-ordinary efforts on all of our parts. As they said in the movie, The Blues Brothers, "We are on a mission from God!" Your goal and our goal is to learn enough to win the state championship in the years 2004 and 2005.

5. Players will be constantly evaluated on their demonstration of coachability, hustle, mental and physical toughness, LOYALTY to the team, unselfishness, and the desire to improve their skills. Our goal is to have a team that constantly demands more of themselves than is demanded by the coaching staff.

6. The members of this team are expected to work harder than any other basketball team in the state. This is not a goal, this is an expectation.

7. Our job as coaches is to teach you enough so that you can be the very best you can be. Your job is to learn.

I agree to abide by the expectations described on this sheet. signed by PLAYER________________

My child has shared with me the expectations described on this sheet, and I will give them all the possible help and support needed to meet them successfully. signed by Parents ______________

Now you have experienced Tylenol For Coaches. Change the goals to fit you, ok! But don't change the meat of it. The real problem is that it has to apply to everyone, even your own child, no one slides. If you do follow this, you will have eliminated over 90% of all future problems. Life can be simple!!


This will be the second shortest chapter in the book. You know what supplies you need. You know how to hold tryouts and what drills to use. You know how to pick your team. You know how to avoid future migraines and hair loss. I have only left out one thing:


The chicken's way out is to put a list on the door of who made it, and run away. These kids deserve better than this. They came to your tryouts with hopes as big as Alaska. They ran their hearts out for you. They gave you everything they've got to give. They deserve better than a list on a door. They deserve better than a phone call.

Pull every kid aside, with their parents, and tell them why they didn't make it. Tell them you are proud of what they did that night and tell them what you would like them to improve on so they can make the team next year. Remind them that even Michael Jordan didn't make the team once.

To put a list on the door is like finding a note on your door at work saying, "YOU'RE OUTTA HERE!" WITHOUT TELLING YOU WHY YOU WERE JUST FIRED. These kids and their parents will appreciate it more this way than any other way you could do it. After you are finished, go find your local bartender, you'll still need them.


I am going to take a brief moment here to describe my Magic Wand Theory. Life would be wonderful if we all possessed a magic wand that when we waved it, everything came out the way we wanted it to.

Coaches believe in this magic wand, but it comes in a different form. We believe that if we just had one or two different players, life would be great. I have seen coaches drop kids that have been with them for three years, for a kid they know nothing about. Why? They hope to better their team. Most of the time, they go backwards.

A coaches true magic wand is hard work, lots of teaching, and keeping your players in love with the game. A coaches magic wand is the coach being prepared for their learning sessions. A coaches magic wand is repetition, and making the learning fun.

An old saying for you, "IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME!" Coaches of the world, you are the magic wand, in how you teach and how you get your kids to respond. TEACH THEM ENOUGH, AND THEY WILL WIN!

CHAPTER 7 - Setting Up Your Learning Sessions, imes Assistant Coaches, and More

Most of you will find out you don't have a choice about when you have your LS's - learning sessions. The school or league you are in will tell you when and where they are. Whatever they give, take and don't whine. The most precious thing a coach can have is gym time. If you are like me, some of you won't even get any gym time. Like me, you will have to rent every minute of gym time you get.


Start calling every elementary school in the area and find out if they rent gym time. The going rate for gym time is $5-$50 an hour. If you have to pay, then give your player's parents a bill every month that they owe. You may not get all of them to help out, but most will.

If the elementary schools don't work, try the jr. highs. If that doesn't work, try the sr. highs. If that doesn't work try the yellow pages under sports clubs, gymnasiums, basketball, volleyball, and what ever else you can think of. Every time you talk to one of these folks ask them if they know of anyone who rents gyms out.

Now for those few of you who have the privilege of choosing their LS times, find out when the mixers are, when the dances are, and when the football games are. Don't compete with those nights if you can help it, you'll lose.


Now, let's assume you get your gym time. Let's talk about the length of your LS's. The minimum time should be an hour. The maximum time should be two hours. If you have your LS's timed, you can more out of an hour than most coaches get out of two hours. Just like a school teacher has their class planned out for the next day, so must you. If you are going to play it by ear, quit now. But then again, if you were going to play it by ear, you wouldn't be reading this, now would you?

How many LS's should you have per week? As many as you can get!


This is a matter of preference. I am not a huge fan of it myself, but here are the pros and cons.

Pros - Two heads are better than on. They may see something that you totally miss. They may have a great idea or insight that you don't have.

For the younger ages an asst. gives you someone to do the substituting. Here is a cold dose of reality, every player who is not in the game will ask you, "When can I go in coach?" Not only do they ask you, but the same kid will ask the same question every 30 seconds. I miss watching at least 1/3 of every game because of this. There have been times when I have prayed for an asst.

When it comes to the older age kids, an asst. not only helps with the subs, but they can keep stats. You'd be surprised at how often the stats differ from your perception of the game. You may be ready to pull Suzy out of the game, when your asst. tells you that she just got the last five rebounds. Again, stats are for the older kids, for now.

Cons - No one else to confuse the kids. Have you ever told your child something, only to have them respond, "But mommy (or daddy) said I could." It's hard to find an asst. who has the same philosophies as you do.

What happens when the two of you can't agree on how to do something? You tell them one thing, the asst. tells them another. Schizophrenia is not a good thing in a team sport. Or what if you are not a screaming coach, and your asst. is? Remember, SIMPLE IS GOOD. If you want to have a asst. coach, then their job should be to field the "I wanna go in" kids.

Only after you have made all of these choices are you ready for the next chapter.

CHAPTER 8 - YOUR FIRST LS or are you sure valium's not legal?


1. A whistle that works

2. 5-7 pennies. These are mesh slip over tops that are all one color. You don't need these for boys, because they can go shirts and skins when they scrimmage. You have to have them for girls, cause a , dah, shirts and skins won't work.

3. 2 cheap balls for each player. Why 2? For 2 ball dribbling. You need enough mesh bags to carry all the balls as well.

4. Something to drink. I prefer vodka, but most bring h2o! (just joking)

5. Create some form that the parents fill out with names, addresses, phone #'s, e-mail addresses, child's name, Drs. name and phone #, insurance co. and policy #.

6. Masking tape

Hey, I never said you didn't have to spend a little money on the deal.

Ok, you're ready. It's time for your very first LS. Get there at least 20 minutes early. Greet the early ones and have them fill out your information form.

After everyone gets there and you have received all of your completed forms, you get to give that wonderful MONOTONE speech that we all loved when we were kids. "hello, my name is coach riley. I am here to teach you how to play the game of basketball. even though i am speaking in monotone, i expect to make this game exciting for you, blah, blah, blah!!!" I was so excited after my coach gave me one of these speeches, that I could have chewed glass. Never mind that I wanted to spit the glass at him. Whatever you do or say, DO NOT GO MONOTONE!!! PUT SOME EXCITEMENT IN YOUR VOICE.

Here is your #1 rule for coaching any youth sport, your kids signed up to play a game. To a kid, games are supposed to be fun. Thus, your LS's are supposed to be fun. Don't bore them with monotone. You have just become Captain Fun to these kids, don't disappoint them. The secret is, learning can be fun. Make learning fun for them. How do you do this? Oh, I forgot to tell you, if you are Captain Fun, then I am Admiral Fun! I will help you make your LS's fun.

1. Don't call them practices, like I just did. They are learning sessions. Sometimes what you name something, influences how people think about them. Your job is to make LEARNING FUN!

2. Make every drill competitive. Competition is fun because it's a game. At the same time, you are already beginning to teach them to be aggressive and competitive. Wait a while, you'll see why.

3. Every competitive drill has a reward attached to it, be it laps for the losers, a Tootsie Roll Pop for the winners, or whatever. Which reminds me, bring a bag of Tootsie Roll Pops with you to your LS's.

4. Praise them when they do something right. Too often coaches will yell and scream at a kid, or a team, for doing something wrong. But they will never say a word of praise for doing something right. Like the old saying goes, "You get more with honey than you do viegar, including better smells!" When they do something wrong, explain what they did wrong, and how they can correct it.

Now let's help you with your 1st LS. The most important thing for you to do is establish control. The first thing the kids are going to want to do is launch rockets. If there was a five point shot, that's where all the kids would try to shoot from. They will try to shoot as far away from the basket as they can. Your job is to control this, by taking control.

Here's where I differ from a lot of the bleeding hearts in the world. One of the most important lessons you have to learn is that kids want rules and routines. They want structure in their life. When their routine is disturbed, they get upset. If more parents understood this, there would be fewer problem children, but we'll leave that for all of the social workers of the world. Just trust me, you have to set some rules and give them a routine. Here are a few routines to follow:

1. Start every LS on time. Tardiness + 5 laps. Parental b.s. excuses don't count. Late - 5 laps, period.

2. Every LS starts with you blowing the whistle and yelling baseline, while you count to 5 out loud. If even one player doesn't make it in time, the whole team runs 5 laps. Don't worry about them running too many laps, kids learn quickly. They will make a game of it and stand in the middle of the floor waiting for you to blow the whistle and point to which baseline they are to run to.


1. Your 1st drill is to warm up and stretch. This 4 minute warm up will help you to avoid injuries in the future. You can find some drills in any exercise book.


The sooner they learn to handle a basketball the more fun it will be for everyone. First place everyone on a baseline with 2 balls. When you blow the whistle they have a race to see who will be the first to finish a suicide while dribbling 2 balls. Tell them this is a practice round.

The next few moments will definitely be a Kodak moment.. You will see balls flying in every direction, kids running after balls, and kids taking other kids loose balls, and every derivative thereof.

Once everyone has finished, divide them into 2 or 3 equal teams. Now they have to do it as a relay, team versus team. Part 2 to this is they have to scream and cheer their teammates on. If they don't cheer loud enough, their team has to run 2 laps. The winners do 2 laps or get a Tootsie Roll Pop.

Here's what you are achieving: They are dribbling with both hands, they are getting in shape, (I call this gaining their basketball legs,) and you are teaching them to cheer for their team. My 8th graders still do this drill in every LS.


Every 15-10 minutes let them have a water break. Time it and give them 2 minutes, blow your whistle, yell baseline while pointing to the baseline you want them to run to, and count to 5 out loud. They run if someone is late.

Once they are on the baseline, tell them to bring their own water bottle to every LS, and especially to every game. You make life easier if you make them follow this rule.


Divide them back into teams and now they do a one ball suicide. They must dribble right handed one way, and left handed back. Get them used to dribbling with either hand. Every time they get to a free throw line, half court line, or a baseline, they have to slap the floor while dribbling the ball. After everyone does this once, then they do it again competitively, losing team does 2 laps.


This is the game we all played as kids. They all line up on the baseline with 2 balls. You blow the whistle and they move toward the opposite baseline dribbling 2 balls. You blow the whistle again, and they stop. Stop - start them all the way down the court and back several times. Once they get the hang of it tell them to run, not walk it.


They are lined up on the baseline with one ball, while you are on the opposite baseline. They have to yell out how many fingers you are holding up, while they dribble toward you. When they make it to you, they speed dribble back to their starting baseline and do it again. This is a drill to teach them to dribble with their head up.

8. ANOTHER WATER BREAK - 2 minutes only


Use your masking tape, and tape a bunch of X's to the wall, about 3 feet off the ground. Line up your team about 10 feet away from the wall. Their job is to throw a bounce pass and hit the X.

First let's show them how to make a correct pass. You hold the ball about chest high with both hands, and step toward the wall as you make a bounce pass. To keep it simple, I won't go into the position of your thumbs, etc., for now. Just have them step forward with one foot as they make every pass.

After they get used to this, then make it a game. The first four to hit the X, 7 out of 10 times gets a tootsie roll.


Explain what traveling with the ball is and what double dribble is. After this you let them scrimmage for 10 minutes or so. This is just where you let them be kids and let them have fun.

After the scrimmage, have them all sit in a circle at half court, with you in the middle. Tell them that they did a lot better than expected and you are so very happy they are on the team. And remember, NO MONOTONE!!!!! Remind them when the next practice is and to bring a water bottle.

P.S.  If it looks like you have lots of time left before you start your scrimmage, then have them repeat some of the drills, before you scrimmage.

After you are finally done, wait and make sure all of the kids get picked up by their parents. After you really are finally done, a major league drink awaits you at your local watering hole, because you deserve it.

CHAPTER 9 Ball Handling

Remember, ball handling is your your #1 priority, so you repeat the drills in LS 1. The only difference is it shouldn't take you as long to do the drills. The following is a listing of the old drills from LS 1, and the time you should spend on each one.

Every LS starts with blowing the whistle and yelling baseline, you know the rest of that story!

1. stretch and warm-up - 4 minutes

2. competing 2 ball suicides, losers do 2 laps - 5 minutes

3. Red light - Green light with a twist - Instead of yelling red or green light, hold your hand up for red light, lower your hand for green light. This makes them keep their head up while dribbling - 4 minutes. Afriend of mine from Chalk Talk gave me this idea. I will give credits at the end of the book.

4. X marks the spot, bounce passes only - 5 minutes

5. Waterbreak - 2 minutes

Now let's learn some new stuff.

PASSING - The first new drill is a pass and catch affair. Half of your players stand on the baseline, while the other half stands on the free throw line extended. Each player on the free throw line, lines up across from a player on the baseline. This way they can pass to each other. Every time they pass the ball, make them step into the pass. They take one step toward the player they are passing to.

Every time they catch the ball, they should give the passer a target and take one step toward the passer with their hands outstretched to recieve the pass.

I know this seems too simple but it is necessary. When my daughter was in 4th grade, she was a head taller than the rest of the kids. She was also the best pure shooter on the team. Guess what, she only scored 6 points the whole season because she couldn't catch the ball. That ball would bounce off of her chest, her legs, her hands, and even her head. She got more passes stolen away from her because she refused to take the step to receive the pass. I can not stress it enough that these kids need to learn how to make shearp, crisp passes and move into the pass to receive it.

RING OF FIRE - Five players or more stand in a pretty wide circle, with one more player in the middle of the circle. The player in the middle has a ball, and a player on the circle has a ball. The middle player bounce passes it to a player next to the outside player with the ball. At the same time, the outside player with the ball passes to the middle player. The middle player catches and passes to the next player, while reciving a pss from the last player with the ball.

Confusing? Kids love this drill so I am going to take the time to explain it. Imagine you have a big pie cut into 5 pieces. The center of the pie is where your middle player stands. Now each piece of pie is numbered one through 5. At the crust of each piece of pie stands your outside players, 1-5. Your middle passer passe to 2, and catches one's pass. Then passes to 3, while catching 2's pass. Now do you understand it? If not, draw it on a piece of paper. Once the player in the middle has passed it to everyone twice, they switch places with someone on the circle and they start passing and catching. You do this until everyone has done it. What do you learn from this drill? TO pass, catch, and use your peripherial vision. TIME - 15 MINUTES

You know what we really need to do? We really need to forgot about this book for a second and get a big ole butterscotch or chocolate pie, marangue on top, add a glass of milk, and say LIFE IS GOOD!

WATER BREAK - 2 MINUTES - blow whistle, yell baseline

Last but not least, you now let them scrimmage for a little bit, but they aren't allowed to dribble the ball. It's a no-dribble scrimmage. After 5 minutes or so, then let them dribble.

A side note here. Some of you are screaming right ow about shooting drills, right? Don't be concerned with shooting, teach them ball handling first. Once you let them start shooting, you have just unleashed a major force of nature, and forces of nature are extremely hard to control!

You now have all of the ingredients for your second LS. Remember b-all ed's Rule #1 - NO MONOTONE!!!! You have to make your learning sessions fun and exciting. Mr Monotone is anything but fun and exciting. At the end of oyur LS tell them what a great job they did and reward them with a tootsie roll pop. (I wonder if the Tootsie Roll company will pay me for giving them a plug?) Last thing you give them is their homework. They are to dribble a ball, using their right hand, then their left hand. They are to dribble all around their neighborhood for at least an hour.

Now you have survived LS #2. It wasn't so bad, was it? Heck, you don't even need a bartender after this one, or do you??

CHAPTER 10 Basketballese or Basketball language

We are now going to create our own language. Most of these are words you can use for as long as you are around the game. An asterisk beside a word means that it is for your and my use only.

MAN-2-MAN DEFENSE OR M-2-M - This is where your players guard one of their players on defense.

ZONE DEFENSE - This is where your players cover a specific area on the floor, rather than a specific player.

THE PAINT - This is the painted or shaded area from the free throw line to the closest baseline.

BASELINE - The out-of-bounds line behind each basket.

3 SECOND AREA - You can not spend more than 3 seconds at a time in the paint, or the other team gets the ball.

THE BLOCK - This is the one foot painted black rectangle on the floor on each side of the basket.

HASH MARKS - These are the little painted lines on the floor around the paint, where players stand during free throw attempts.

TOP OF THE KEY - The area outside the little circle that 1/2 surrounds the free throw line.

3 POINT LINE - This is the area outside of the top of the key and then diagonally toward the closest corners of the court.

***BALL *** - This is what a player yells when they are open for a pass.

DOUBLE DRIBBLE - Where you dribble with both hands at the same time.

WALKING - This is where you have the ball and you move both feet before you start your dribble.

***THE LANE*** - This is a term we will use for a designated area in our fast breaks. The lane is the area right beside the out-of-bounds line that runs down the length of the court. Both sides of the court have a lane.

OPEN LANE - This is where there is a straight path to the basket without a defender in the way.

STRONG SIDE OR BALL SIDE - This is the side that the ball is on.

HELP SIDE OR WEAK SIDE - This is the side of the court where the ball isn't.

FAST BREAK - This is when the other team shoots, we get the ball, and take the ball the length of the court as fast as we can for a quick basket.

OUTLET PASS - This is where you get the rebound and have to go the length of the court. The 1st pass you make to start the ball down the court is the outlet pass.

I know I have given you simple definitions and slightly slanted ones at times, but these will work for everything we need them for. There are a million other words, but you now have the basic ones

CHAPTER 11  Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

Your team mirrors you! What does this mean? As your mood goes, so does your team's. You are their teacher, their mentor, their role model. Your players look to you for experience and value your opinions.

Examples: If you go into a game worried about the outcome, your team will worry about the outcome. Many a game's been lost because of nerves. If you think the refs suck, so will your team. If you aren't having fun, neither are they.

I honestly believe that COACH - TEACHER AND ROLE MODEL. Be careful what you say and how you act around your team. Sports need to be a positive experience. Make sure your team doesn't miss out on a fun time because of you.

Here's an example. I have a friend who coaches a successful team, at least it's successful according to the win/loss ratio. So what's the problem? This coach screams so long and loud at his players that they either hate him, or tune him out. Every time he loses a game he blames the refs. So what? Well, every time his players make a mistake in a game, or at home, or in school, they mirror their coach. It's never their fault, it's the ref's, or the teacher's, or someone else's fault. These kids have learned from their coach that it's ok not to take responsibility for their own actions, just blame someone else.

If my team loses, I look at it like I didn't do a good enough job teaching my team the game. But it's more than this. I also won't let my players blame anyone else. If we lose, my players know it's because I didn't do a good enough job teaching them and they didn't do a good enough job learning. My players learn a lesson in life, RESPONSIBILITY!

There's another by-product of this way of thinking, MY TEAM DOESN'T WHINE ABOUT THEIR LOSSES. The end result of this is that neither you, nor your players have to listening to a bunch of screaming or whining, so we have more fun.

Everything boils down to your priorities. If all you want is the almighty win, then that's all your team will want. You will hear this again and again in various forms, your kids won't remember the score of a game 20 years from now. What there will remember how they got screamed at and treated by you.

CHAPTER 12 Defense

Ever heard that defense wins games? It's a true. Here's a little secret, ever watch a game on t.v. and you see those big long arms just flailing away on defense? That's not as important as your footwork. Proper defense is all about where and how you place your feet. If you can teach your players the proper footwork, you'll be light years ahead of the pack.

MOVING RIGHT OR LEFT - When the player you are guarding goes to the right or to the left, you slide your feet in the appropriate direction. We all hace a natural tendency to cross one foot over the other when we move from side to side. This is the wrong way to move. It is a natural habit, and it takes a lot to break a natural habit. Do the defensive drills I will show you in every LS.

Stand up! That's right, grab the book and stand up. Now imagine you are defending a player who is right in front of you. Now imagine they start to move to your left. Now take your right foot and cross it over and in front of your left foot. This feels natural, doesn't it? All of a sudden the player you are guarding makes a sharp move to your right. Your natural instinct to to cross your left foot over your right foot, in order for you to go right. When you do this you just got your feet tangled up, didn't you? I have actually seen players fall down, tripped up in their own feet.

The correct way to do this is to slide your right foot toward your left or visa versa when the player you are guarding goes to the right or left.

So now you understand right and left. So what do you do when the player you are guarding moves forward? You run backwards whenever possible. Never turn around and run forwards, unless they are past you and you are chasing them. Now that you understand footwork, here are some drills.


Line up half of your players on the half court line about 8 feet apart. The other half line up on the extended free throw line, also about 8 feet apart. All players face you. They watch your hand signals and when you point right, they slide that way. Point left, they slide that way. Get them used to sliding, then have them go backwards and forwards. This may seem too simple a drill, but remember, most of you are trying to teach 3rd and 4th graders.


You need a long narrow space. Divide the width of the basketball court into three sections. Each section should be about 15 feet wide. Now imagine each section running the length of the court. Now you have three sections that are 15 feet wide by about 100 feet long. Have a player with a ball at one end of a section and another defensive player 4 feet in front of them. The player with the ball is not allowed to dribble outside their section. They are to dribble the ball the length of the court, making the defender slide right, left, and go backwards. At the other end of the court they switch roles. You can have 3 groups go at once with the court sectioned off this way. Drill time is 10 minutes. As they get better at it, reduce to 5 minutes or less.


This is just a fun deal where you have all the kids line up on the baseline. They are to run backwards the length of the court and back again. Top 3 finishers get a tootsie roll.


1. you have a team

2. you have an assistant or you don't

3. you have had 2 LS's and have the material for the third one

4. for your 3rd LS take the drills from the first two, add the defensive drills, end up with a no dribble scrimmage, which turns into a dribbling scrimmage

5. You have ball handling drills, passing drills, defensive drills, and scrimmaging without dribbling teaches them to move to get open without the ball.

6. You will have survived 3 LS's without a nervous breakdown or losing your hair.

7. If you are not using monotone, then you and the kids should have had some fun!!


CHAPTER 13 Incoming! Shooting Skills

Feel pretty good about yourself, or is it sure of yourself? Everything should have gone ok up to this point, right? No major blow-ups, you've been in control, and you have put on the pretense that you know what you are doing. Everything is right with the world until now. 

And the title of this chapter is *****INCOMING*****

Now it's time to teach your players to shoot. First you need to understand the technique - form.

1. Keep your knees slightly bent

2. Your shoulders should be square to the basket

3. Your shooting forearm should be straight up and down. If you are right handed, your forearm should be straight up and down and in line with your right shoulder, and visa versa if you are left handed.

4. Your shooting hand should be parallel to the ground and you look like a waiter carrying a tray.

5. Your non-shooting hand should be gently helping to hold the ball in place when it is in your shooting hand.

6. At your player's ages, your feet are spread apart about 6-8 inches. And your right foot is slightly ahead of your left foot if you are right handed. Visa versa if you are left handed.. When you shoot the power comes from your legs. Your kids will try to shoot stiff legged, with their knees bent. WRONG! To start your shot, you bend at the knees and you almost squat as you go down. Next you come up in a fluid motion and end up on your toes. Try this in your home, without a ball. It does not feel natural. Especially when you concentrate on keeping your forearm straight up and down the whole time. Your forearm and elbow will want to go sideways, parallel to the ground. Wrong! You will look like a chicken flapping it's wings. Your forearm stays straight up and down.

7. When you release the ball, your shooting arm should be pointed toward the basket and your hand and wrist should be at a right angle to each other. Hold your forearm up and down in front of you. Now hold your hand at a right angle, aimed in front of you. If it doesn't look like a cobra, you know, the snake, then your aren't doing it right. If it looks like a cobra, then this is the exact position your hand ends up in after you release the ball.

So now you have to practice this form a lot before your next LS because you have to teach it to your players.

IMPORTANT - IMPORTANT - IMPORTANT !!! Do not try to teach them by you shooting at the basket. Teach them by passing it to them, using the proper technique. Why not shoot? You don't want to embarrass yourself because you can't hit the broad side of a barn, now do you.

The last thing is that you should have arch on your shots, or passes. When you explain this to them, tell them that their shot should look like a rainbow.


Line up half of your team on the half court line and the other half about 6 feet away from them. Each line must face the other and each player must have a counterpart on the other line they can pass to. Have them practice their one handed shoots to each other. You will constantly have to remind them to arch their passes and to only use one hand to shoot. Their natural tendency is shoot two-handed, break them of this habit in the beginning and you have made life a lot easier.

DISTANCE - or are you sure valium's not legal???

This is just a side note to warn you about kids, basketballs, and shooting. You see, kids want to be cool. Shooting short shots are for wimps. Cool people shoot rockets from half court. It doesn't matter if they miss 99 in a row. If they make the 100th, they are cool.

Your job is to control where they shoot from. After every drill, yell baseline, count out loud to 5, and you know the rest. Now, every time they are on the baseline, they aren't allowed to dribble the ball. If they dribble while you are talking to them, you lose. So, if they dribble while on the baseline, everyone runs 2 laps. You have to maintain control.

lay-upS & DRILLS

Let's assume everyone is right handed. Place a player on the block to the right of the basket. They are to take one step toward the basket with their left foot and shoot. Don't let them dribble, just one step and shoot. Now here's comes part 2.

When you shoot a lay-up, pretend there is a rope connecting your right elbow and your right knee. As you go up with your right hand to shoot a lay-up, your right leg should be going up at the same time. If you are left handed, then your left elbow and knee should be connected. You can actually practice this while sitting in your chair at home.

These are the simple mechanics for a lay-up. Now let's get them to do it on the run. Line them up on one of the baselines. They are to run at half speed to the half court line and jump off of their left foot as far as they can. They have to jump off of their left foot. Make it a contest. Whoever jumps the farthest, gets a tootsie roll pop.

When they are jumping off of their correct foot every time, now you need to make a slight adjustment. They need to jump high and far, not just far. A little thing I do is to lay down on the floor on my side. They must jump over me off of their left foot. (Don't lay facing the kids, because they will get the family jewels if you do. I'm so stupid, I had to learn the hard way.) When they get this down to a science, tell them this is exactly how you want them to move when they go for a lay-up, up and out!

Now is when you let them try a lay-up and actually shoot the ball. No dribbling, have them run and shoot. When they can make this shot without dribbling, 5 out of 10 times, then you let them try it while dribbling.

After they perfect the right handed lay-up, you teach them the left handed lay-ups, using the exact same steps, except you reverse the hands, elbows and which foot you jump off of.

If you can teach them how to make a lay-up, with either hand, on a consistent basis, you will be one to two years ahead of everyone else. In fact, I know varsity players who can't make a lay-up with their reverse hand. This is the most important shot you can teach them at this age. Every LS from now on should contain 10-15 minutes of lay-ups. For left handers, just do everything in reverse. Their left elbow and left knee work in tandem etc.

You now have enough material for your first six or seven LS's. If you can get your players to learn these simple steps, you will have taught them enough to win a lot of games. But more importantly, you, my friend, are becoming a coach and COACH - TEACHER AND ROLE MODEL. You are teaching and so far you have not had to scream at a single kid. SIMPLE IS GOOD, ISN'T IT?????

Chapter 14 Choose Your Weapon: Man to Man or Zone

You are the only person who can choose what defense you will play. At the younger ages your league may make you play a zone defense, leagues are funny that way. If you do have a choice, here's what you need to decide, are you there to teach the kids, or to win? If you are there to win, you play a zone defense. If you are there to teach your kids, teach them man-2-man defense.

Earlier I have repeatedly stated that coach should equal teacher. Zone defenses don't teach the kids much. M-2-M defense is what most good high schools, and nearly all colleges use. My goal has always been to teach my girls enough so they can make the high school varsity team, so I teach m-2-m defense. As I said, only you can choose for your team, so I am going to go into both defenses.

I will start with the zone defenses. A zone defense is where a player is assigned an area of the court to guard. If an opposing player comes into their area, or zone, they play defense against that player. There may be a 100 different zones, but this gives you the basic concept.


1. A tight zone will force the other team to have to take longer outside shoots. It is very hard to get the ball inside the paint, for a short short. (See, I used a basketball word, "Paint," and you knew it. Pretty soon you'll be a pro!"

2. Zones allow your players to be in a better position for a rebound.

3. Your players aren't constantly running as much, so your team doesn't tire out as quickly.


1. The players that know how to play m-2-m have an edge when they try out for the varsity team.

2. Yes, you have to work harder when you play m-2-m, but you get more steals. You force the other team to take bad shots, and to make bad passes.

3. A good full-court m-2-m will make it harder to throw the ball inbounds, without you stealing it. When someone has to throw the ball in bounds, they only have 5 seconds to do so, or the other team gets the ball. A good m-2-m will stop them from accomplishing this at least 2 to 3 times a game.

4. Once you throw the ball inbounds, you only have 10 seconds to get it across the half-court line, or the other team gets the ball. M-2-M will stop them from accomplishing this, at least several times per game.

On the surface it may seem like it makes sense to play a zone, but a good man-2-man defense will be a good zone defense most of the time.

Simple Zone Offense

Put 5 experienced coaches in a room, tell them they have to agree on whether to play m-2-m defense or a zone defense. Also tell them to choose what type of zone defense they would play, when they do play zone. Then lock the door behind you and leave them alone for two hours. When you come back to check on them, you'll be able to hear the shouting coming out of their room from at least a mile away. Come back after 4 hours, and you will find 5 coaches who have screamed so much they lost their voices. What defense to play is a never ending debate amongst coaches. The one thing all coaches will agree with, if you don't plan on playing defense, then plan on losing.

Rather than try to tackle a million different defenses, I am going to give a few that work well for beginning players and beginning coaches. First we need to go into players position and their roles. All of these will be simple definitions that can be contested by various basketball gurus, but these definitions will work for our purposes.

Some coaches and teams number the positions. Almost every college uses the numbering system. I am going to avoid the number system because I want to make sure I don't lose you.

POINT GUARD OR #1 or PG - Think of the point guard -PG, as your primary ball handler. After you have had several LS's, you'll be able to tell who can dribble and pass the ball the best, this will be your PG. At the younger ages they tend to score a lot. As they get older, they score less and become more of a play maker and floor general.

SHOOTING GUARD OR #2 or SG - This should be your 2nd best ball handler. Your SG and your PG will be the primary people to bring the ball down the court for you.

SHOOTING FORWARD OR #3 or SF - Their primary job is to stay closer to the basket, and get the 8-10 foot shoots and to rebound.

POWER FORWARD OR #4 or PF- Their job is to rebound and shoot from within 3-8 feet of the basket.

CENTER OR #5 or C - Primary rebounder, shot blocker, takes shots close to the basket.

Now before the more experienced of you go off on me, I am giving you simple explanations for youth basketball. A major word of warning, do not use the terms shooting guard or shooting forward in front of your players. If you do, you just gave them a license to shoot every time they touch the ball. Trust me, this will be something that will be nigh unto impossible to break. Just use the terms guards and forwards.

Now isn't this chapter supposed to be about zone defenses? Yep, Yep, Yep, but I had to describe the positions and job descriptions before the rest of this would make sense.

2-1-2 ZONE DEFENSE - Put your PG on one end of your free throw line. Put your SG on the other side. Place your PF on one block and your SF on the other block. Now place your C in the middle of the paint. You should have a big X, or a 2-1-2 zone. Each person has to defend about a 6 foot area that surrounds the spot they are standing in. When an opposing player comes into their area, they must guard that person.

How do you explain this to your players? Have them stand on their assigned spot. You hold a basketball, don't dribble it, and slowly walk the perimeter around your players. As you enter a player's defensive area, have them yell "Mine!" They are informing their team mates that they have the player with the ball. You have also started a major trend, communication amongst your players.

As I said, move around and get the appropriate players to defend you as you enter their area. Start slow and then move faster. Next, place other players outside the defensive players and have them pass the ball around the zone. The purpose is to get your defensive players to cover at the appropriate times.

2-3 ZONE - PG on one end of free throw line, SG on other end. Your other 3 players form a line a foot or so from the block, away from the basket. Place your players and walk around them, making them yell "Mine!" when they are to cover you. You will find that most of the time your players will end up in a 2-1-2 formation anyway, it's one of basketball's mysteries!

1-3-1 ZONE - PG is between top of key and free throw line. SG, C, and SF form a line across paint between the block and the free throw line. The PF is back closer to basket. Again, walk it and make sure they know how to play their positions.

For now this is all you need. Anything else will be too much to learn. I would start with a 2-1-2 and branch out from there. There are all sorts of reasons to use a zone and also different variations of these zones. I am just trying to give you some of the more simpler ones.

CHAPTER 15 - The Ants Go Marching One by One

How does the old saying go? "There comes a time in every man's life when ---" When you say run for the hills screaming, the parents are coming, the parents are coming.

So far you haven't felt like or even acted like a total idiot. You should be feeling pretty good because everything seems to be in it's place and life is good, right?

If you ever wanted to hide, now is the time. You have been through 3-6 LS's and your worst problems have been the kids, and you are in control of them. All of that is about to change. Now is the time when the "parents from hell" start to raise their ugly cobra-shaped heads.

It all starts very innocently. Before or after a LS, a parent will come up and ask how little Johnny or Susie are doing. You give them a positive, but standard reply, "They are doing great!" Everything seems to be going well. The parent doesn't say anything else, so you seem to be off the hook.

A minute goes by and the parent is at your side again. "By the way, any idea who your starting 5 will be?" BOING, BOING, BOING!!!! Redlights start flashing and day becomes night. The "parents from hell" just surfaced.

You will tell them that you aren't even close to that stage and they will extol the virtues of their kid. Next they will start downgrading the other kids in an almost politically correct way.

So how do you handle this? Do you have a conversation with them about the kids? Do you politely tell them that your job is to coach and you aren'y ready to discuss those issues. Or do you ignore them?

The answer to this lies in your personality. Do what feels natural to you. Here is what I would do, but it's just one option. I would ignore him. As soon as it started, I would excuse myself and become Caspar! I don't like to start a conversation that I know will end up in me telling the parents to shove it.

I have this inate belief that most of the good things in life are done for the wrong reason. I also believe that adults screw up things for kids more than kids do. Here you have a perfectly good kid whose parent is getting ready to make you hate that kid being on your team. It's not fair to the kid, but it's totally unfair for you, a volunteer, to have to put up with the grief that parents give you. So I ignore them.

Here's another great idea, with only one lousy side effect. Hold closed LS's, no one but players allowed. This will reduce the parents ability to talk to you and especially with any knowledge of the team. So what's the side effect? When parents stay and your LS is over, you get to go home. With a closed LS, you have to stay until the last player gets picked up by their parents. Me personally, I wait with the players rather than give the parent from hell more of an opportunity to corner me. And while I'm thinking of it, if you start giving your players a ride home, just figure that you have adopted a permanent passenger.

Ready for the next part of the saga. You might have 2-4 sets of the "parents from hell." If this happens to you, set up a long term tab at your local watering hole, because you'll need it.

The only reassuring thought about the "parents from hell," is that they never give up. By the way, I was only kidding about it being a reassuring thought.

The best way to be handle these parents is by getting them to sign a contract, and I already gave you an example of one you can use. Give yourself a break, GET EVERYONE TO SIGN A CONTRACT BEFORE YOUR FIRST GAME. I believe in solving problems before they can become a problem.

My last pearl of wisdom concerning parents, kids, and you as a coach. Never ever give a player a ride home, if you are the only other person in the car. There is a big thing going on about sexual advances by coaches toward female, but especially toward male players. All you need is one player or parent who is mad at you and willing to lie. Don't ever give a kid that ride without someone else being in the car. Remember, even one hint of a rumor about this type of conduct will screw you up for the rest of your life. And it will mess up up your family and their reputation as well.

CHAPTER 16 - Defense Wins Games (but it's not very popular)


You are probably confused, no? You should be. I'm talking about zone defenses and in the very next breath I have you dealing with the "parents from hell." Trust me, there is a method to my madness. I am trying to keep you on a timetable and it's at this time that the parents start to raise their cobra heads.

When I read a manual on how to set up my computer, or digital camera, or whatever, I only read the part that I need right then. I never read the thing from start to finish, and I figure some of you are like me. A lot of you will probably only read the chapter that applies to you for that next step. This is why I had to deal with the parent issue, because it was due to come up in the scheme of things.

MAN-2-MAN DEFENSE - Defense is going to be one of your biggest challenges. Defense isn't a high profile affair. The crowd doesn't go ooohhhh,or aaahhhhh, when you play solid defense. Let a kid make a 3 pointer and see how the crowd reacts. There's just no glory in playing D. And yet, most coaches will agree that defense wins games. So let's see if we can climb Mt. Everest by making defense fun.

Proper defense is played with your feet, not with your arms. I have given you drills for proper footwork and they should be used in every LS. Kids learn by repeating things over, and over, and over again. When they do their defensive drills, make sure you have some type of treat or special reward to give them. I don't care how badly they do the drill, as long as they are showing improvement, give them a treat. Reward your kids for learning defense. By the way, I never gave out treats for shooting drills because these are too much fun for the kids. I reward them for doing things that aren't traditionally considered to be fun.

Now let's talk about a good defensive stance. Standing straight up with your knees locked isn't the way to do it. Defense is all about moving quickly in any direction. Basketball is about running, in particular, sprinting, moving side to side, and running backwards. You can't do this with locked knees.

The proper stance is to have your knees bent and your feet spread apart by at least 2 feet or more. Your arms should outstretched to make you as wide as possible. Your hands should positioned with palms up. This should make you only about 2/3 of your normal height. If this is the case, your stance is on the money. Now teach your kids this stance.

Once they have their stance, here's a little defensive drill. They all line up about 6 feet apart, in their proper stance, facing you. They are to watch you and follow your movement. You move quickly to the right, they move. You go left, they move as well. You go backward, they follow you. Watch them the whole time and make sure they keep the proper stance. Do this several times for practice. When you feel they know it, divide them into 2 teams. One is offensive, one is defensive. The offensive player is to run down the court at half speed while moving right, left, backwards, and forwards. The defensive player is to stay within 3 feet of the offensive player, and they are always to stay between the offensive player and the basket. Do this without balls. The offensive player's goal is to get past the defensive player. Remember, only 1/2 speed. Have them do it the length of the court. Once they hit the opposite baseline, they switch positions. Offense becomes defense, and defense becomes offense.

After they do this several times, now you make it a contest. You already have them in two teams, so everyone goes twice. Whichever team stays with their player the best wins. The whole time this is going on, have each team cheer for their team mate who is currently competing. Let them know that if a team doesn't cheer loud enough, they run a suicide. If you do this with every competitive drill, you will have one of the most positive vocal teams in your league. Teamwork is a wonderful thing and you will have just taken a major step in developing teamwork. By the way, the losers of the competition do a suicide while dribbling two balls. Kids love games and will actually look forward to this part of your LS.

After the losing team does their suicide, give everyone a water break, they'll need it. Then sit them down and explain what they need to look for from the offensive player. You shouldn't watch their eyes or even the ball. At this age tell them to watch the offensive player's waist. Where ever their waist goes, so to do they go. Players will fake you with their eyes, their heads, the ball, their hands, but where ever the waist goes, the player will follow.

Now you ask the losing team if they want a chance to get even using this new info, and you have them compete again, loser does the suicide. Again the cheering must come into play here. This is a drill I would do every LS. In later LS's have them go full speed.

CHAPTER 17 Man To Man Defensive Spacing

Here are some simple rules concerning m-2-m defense.

1. If the player you are guarding is faster than you, then play about 2 to 3 arm lengths away from your player. This way even if they have the first step on you, you can stay with them better.

2. If the player you are guarding is slower than you, then you can stay just an arm's length away, meaning you can guard them closer.

3. The closer to the basket your player is, the closer you should guard them.

4. When the ball is on the strong side, play closer to your player. Remember, strong side is the side where the ball is.

5. When the ball is on the weak side,(the side where the ball is not,) play 3 arm lengths from your player. This way you can watch your player and the ball at the same time.

6. If you get screened and your player gets away from you, yell switch. This way your team mates will know to try to cover your player. If this happens, you need to look for the player your team mate was covering, and now you cover that player.

7. Never end up playing defense directly under the basket, this is the most useless place on the floor. If you find yourself in this position and opposing players have you trapped there, use your butt and start slowing pushing their players out and away from the basket.

These are just a few of the more simple rules, but remember that simple is good. Now here's a drill to help teach spacing. You position the offense in a 2-1-2 zone position. Now assign a defensive player to every offensive player. You take the ball and walk around the court and explain how the defense should set up and move depending upon where the ball is.

When you have the ball on the right hand side of the court, the defenders on the right side should be playing closer and tighter defense. The players on the left side should be 3 arm lengths away from their player. They should be watching their player and the ball at the same time.

When the ball is on the left side, the players on the left side should be playing a closer and tighter defense. The players on the right side should be about 3 arm lengths away, so they can watch their player and the ball at the same time. You need to be constantly moving to see if your players are making the necessary adjustments.

Now you switch and the offense becomes defense and the defense becomes offense. After everyone seems to be comfortable with this, let the offense pass the ball around. The defense is not allowed to steal the ball, and the offense is not allowed to shoot. After a while, switch offense and defense again.

If they have paid attention and tried real hard, reward them, let them scrimmage. They have to use m-2-m defense and are not allowed to shoot from more than 8 feet away from the basket. Don't worry about your offense, just watch to see how they do on defense. Make sure that when they move right or left, they are sliding and not crossing their feet. When they move backwards, make sure they run backwards.

It's probably time for a little re-assurance. Many of you coaches will be screaming at me about offense. I haven't gone into triple threat positions, or plays, or very much at all about offense, thus I am frustrating you. Believe me, you're ok. Life is still good. You can't put the second story onto a house until you have laid your foundation, and m-2-m defensive principles are your foundation. Even if you plan to play a zone, you still have to teach the basics of m-2-m to make a good zone work.

For those of you who are frustrated, you can spend some time now in your first year and be done with it. What's the alternative? I've seen teams spend a part of 4 years having to re-teach m-2-m because they didn't spend enough time the first year. Me personally, I'm the laziest individual in the world. I would rather do something right the first time, even if it takes longer, than to have to re-do it.

Remember my original situation about the coaches in a room trying to decide on what defense? If you have 5 good coaches they will all agree that you have to know the basics of m-2-m for any zone to be effective. The more time you spend on m-2-m, the more solid a foundation you are giving the kids.

CHAPTER 18 - The Littlest Offense

We have all heard of the Littlest Angel, The Littlest Engine, etc. Now we have the Littlest Offense. I have briefly touched on this, but now it's Hammer time.

Go watch any 3rd-6th grade game and here is what you will see. The guards will dribble the ball from New York to L.A. and back, while the forwards  seem to move within a 2 foot circle. The forwards don't move to get open. Go to a game and watch. If I'm not right, I'll buy the next round!!

Just a little side note here, I don't use the term center with this age group. In fact, even as we speak, I don't use that term with my daughter's 8th grade team. I have 3 forwards. I mention this so you don't get too confused, and ask, "Well, what about the center?"

The Littlest Offense comes in 3 and 1/2 parts. I like that, 3 and 1/2, kinda has a ring, 3 and 1/2!! I'll go into the half first.

1/2  -  Getting your whole team to dribble with their heads up. If you can accomplish this early in the season, then Helen Keller had nothing on you. I actually checked into buying neck braces for my team so they couldn't look down. My wife told me I wasn't allowed because it would constitute cruel and unusual embarrassment.

Anyway, if your team can keep their heads up while dribbling, then they can see who's open. You will gain 4 to 10 points a game this way. But 4-10 points isn't much the beginning coach might say. Now it's time for a reality check. Here's the score of every game my team played in 4th grade. It's kinda like, Where's Waldo, look for the pattern.

W 4-2 W 6-2 W 4-0 L 6-8 W 7-4 W 4-2 W 12-10  L  8-10 W 9-8 W 14-8

See the pattern? The cool thing is, you will get just as excited about a 4-2 win as you would a 40-36 win. If your team can keep their heads up and pass to the open man, you could win every game because of heads up play. (Sorry about the wet humor, I couldn't resist.) So now you know the 1/2.

1.  Getting your forwards to move to get open. Every LS you have should end in 10 minutes of scrimmaging without dribbling. When you can't dribble, everyone is forced to move without the ball. If you do this enough in your LS's, then 2 things will happen in your games. Your forwards will move to get open because it is now a habit. AAANNNDDD, your guards are now used to passing the ball rather than dribbling across the country. If you can teach them this, you will be 3-4 years ahead of everyone else. This no dribble scrimmage works at any age.

Several weeks ago I was talking with some 8th grade coaches when I came up with one of my normally stupid ideas. Why not put together a team of coach's daughters to play in a tournament. No one is allowed to be on the team except coach's daughters. Of course I'm foolish enough to say I would coach it.

Remember the chapter "The Ants Go Marching One By One?" As soon as I realized that now the parents would all be coaches who would want to put in their 10 cents worth, (I would say 2 cents worth, but we coaches think our opinions are worth more!) I freaked out and headed to my usual watering hole. Yes folks, I can be real dumb!!

Any way, I figured my biggest challenge would be how to get them to play as a team. We had our first of only 2 LS's last night, and we scrimmaged, talked, scrimmaged, and talked for 2 hours. Our scrimmage was a no dribble scrimmage against my regular team. By the end of the LS, they were working as a team and I was extremely proud of them. How did I get the parent/coaches to keep their yaps closed? I offered to let them coach and I could sit back and critique, amazingly, I got no takers. By the way, I will tell you later on in the book how our tournament turned out, once we play it.

The point is, "no-dribble" scrimmages work, regardless of age.

2.  I know I have mentioned this before, but pass and cut is part 2. Every time your player makes a pass, they cut to the basket looking to get the pass back. At the younger ages, this will make you look like a basketball guru.

3.  Pick and Roll - This is a little harder to teach. A pick or a screen is really hard for younger kids, but so is riding a bike and they learn how to do that!

Here's how to teach a screen to younger kids. Tell them that they are a detective who has to sneak up on the bad guy and stand to the right or left of the bad guy. By the way, the bad guy is the opposing player who is guarding their teammate with the ball. Their job is to block the bad guy and stop them from following your teammate. The dribbler's job is to dribble around you and run their defender into you, so the bad guy can't follow the dribbler.

The hard part is the person doing the blocking has to keep their feet planted in one place. If they move their feet, they just fouled the other player. The next hard part is that they can't lean their body into the defender, because that too is a foul. The last part of this is that they can't use their hands or arms to block the defender. The way to avoid hands and arms is to have them cross their arms across their chest. The real secret is to get the defender to run into you. This  is a pick or a screen.

 So what is a pick and roll? Once you succeed in the pick, then you break to the basket looking for a pass or a rebound. All colleges and pro teams use some form of a pick and roll. This offense never goes stale, you can use it forever.

Remember, simple is good? Guess what, there is no more offense to teach you. If you can teach your team these 3 and 1/2 things in the first year, you will have accomplished what it took me 3 years to accomplish. Don't try to get fancy or complicated. You may be ready to learn new things, but your kids won't be. Remember, this game is not for you, it's for the kids. Except for some inbounds plays and things, I have just given you your whole first season's offense. If you can accomplish what I've taught you, you will be a basketball god in your league.

Thought this chapter ended here? Wrong!! I have a friend who has a rather great website and he is one of the 2 people who get to see this before it hits the web. My friend read chapter 18 and e-mailed the following suggestion. He achieved something here , that  I could never do, he wrote it well. After reading my last sentence, see what I mean, I can't write worth a _ _ _ _!!! The following is written by Steve Jordan, aka Alaska Coach. His site and Coach Jackson's website are my basketball Encarta. And heeerrrreeee's Alaska!!

Ed "you mentioned the pick and roll. I think you should add a paragraph about how the screener should "roll." I , too, teach arms over the chest, but then have the kids lean on whichever elbow bears the brunt of the contact. The body weight freezes the defender and allows the screeners something to use as a pivot point. The end result is a perfect seal position, for a moment anyway. Too many kids will run up and bang into the defender, jump around and race to the hoop. This makes for a sloppy pick and a tough passing target. A beautiful pick is deliberate and methodical. The extra time creates extra space and gives the offense more options."

I read this and re-read it, and boy did he hit the nail on the head.  For those of you who have never seen screening at the younger ages, it can be extremely ugly. Here is some of what you will see:

1.  Your player is about to screen a defender, so they run into the defenders back and almost knock them over. This is a foul on your player.

2.  Your player sneaks up on the defender, stands straight up, knees locked and the defender runs into your player. This sounds right, right?? Wrong, with their knees locked, your player will normally fall down or stumble. Now they are out of the mix for several seconds until they regain their feet.

3.  Your player will run up to the defender, not wait for their team mate to run the defender into them, and then roll to the basket. The net result is that they never ever set the screen for their team mate.

Without waiting for the body contact and without a slight lean on the elbow and side, it is hard to actually block the defender and stop them from fighting through your pick. By slightly leaning, you will have your knees slightly bent so you don't fall, stumble, or look like an idiot. AND, you maintain your proper stance and footwork. AND YOU STOPPED THE DEFENDER from following your team mate.

So why am I spending this much time on screens or picks? Because this is one of the 3 major weapons or offences you will ever learn. Don't ask me what the other 2 are, because I haven't decided which ones they are yet, only kidding!

Chapter 19 - Solving Rubik's Cube

Solving Rubik's Cube? This is where I take all of the stuff I have given you and put it into a nice, neat package for you. The following is a learning session schedule for your next LS that incorporates (take heed, I just used a 50 cent word) everything we've gone into up till now. Also you need to follow the suggested time guide. This way you will get the most out of your allotted gym time.

  1. Warm-up - 4 minutes
  2. 2 Ball Dribbling - 5 minutes -  First they the dribble length of the court and back. Then divide them into 2 or 3 competitive teams and they do a 2 ball relay suicide. The first kid gets done and hands the ball to the next team mate in line, and so on. Losing teams do 2 laps.
  3. Ring of fire - 5 minutes - see Chapter 9 for the Ring of Fire drill
  4. Water break - 2 minutes and they need to be on the baseline at the end of the 2 minutes
  5. Short spaced drill - 5 minutes - see Chapter 12 for this drill
  6. Backwards racing drill - 4 minutes - again see chapter 12 - to make it more interesting, divide them into 2 or 3 teams and have them compete in a relay. Losers do 2 laps, winning team gets a tootsie roll pops.

Gym time is so valuable that you really do want to get the most out of the time you have, so time everything you do. So far you have spent 25 minutes of your LS. Most of you will find that you only have an hour of gym time, so you are close to halfway through.

  1. lay-ups - 7 minutes - Have them start at half court and they have to do their lay-ups at 1/2 speed. You will find you are constantly reminding them to go off of their correct foot. Spend 4 minutes having them do it with their natural hand, then 3 minutes with their opposite hand.
  2. Water break 2 minutes
  3. Shooting - Pass drill - 3 minutes - you will find this in Chapter 13
  4. Screening - 5 minutes - Divide them into groups of 3. One person has the ball, one is the defender who guards the ball handler, and the last one is the screener who sets the screen on the defender. Keep on reminding them to roll to the basket after they set a SOLID SCREEN.
  5. Now you have 18 minutes left in an hour long LS. This is where I would spend 5 minutes on an area that you feel they totally screwed up on.
  6. The last next 8 minutes I would let them do a no dribble scrimmage.
  7. The next 3 minutes let them dribble while scrimmaging.
  8. The last 2 minutes will be something new. Blow your whistle  and yell baseline. Once there yell ball count. This is where they have 30 seconds to collect all the balls for you and put them into your ball bags. This saves you lots of time and energy.
  9. Yell baseline, then tell them what a great LS they had and thank them for paying attention. Now you pass out your tootsie roll pops to those that won them.

You have just finished an hour LS. If your LS's are longer than this, then spend more time on your drills, especially lay-ups. Also spend some time on your defensive foot work, like the Electric Slide drill.

You have now solved Rubik's Cube. Everything has come together for you. At the end of this LS you don't even need to go to your local watering hole, because this can be simple and SIMPLE IS GOOD!!!!

Chapter 20 - "And now a short note from our sponsor!"

No! No! No! This is not an ad, I wouldn't do that to you. In fact, here's a fun tip for you. You know those annoying phone calls you get that want you to buy something? Next time they call, here's what you  say - "Sure I'll listen! I just applied for bankruptcy and I need new credit cards, do you offer those? You see my bankruptcy has NOT been discharged and I'm looking for a way to buy a lot of things!" These folks will freak out and hang up or find a way to nicely hang up.

Anyway, I feel that you and I have come far enough along to have a little one-on-one here. As you can tell, I have thrown a lot of my own beliefs and values in here. Why? Because I can! As if you didn't know, I'm the author, remember?

One point I want to make here, is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. For every viewpoint I give you, there are at least 100 different ones. Please understand that a lot of my viewpoints represent that of the minority. Most coaches want to win at all costs. I'm not like that, and I hope you won't be either. Here's an example.

Your 6th grade team is losing by 1 point and you have 5 seconds to go. Your right handed guard steals the ball from the other team and they are on his/her left side of the court. Naturally they dribble down the left side of the court and have a chance at making a lay-up from the left side of the basket. If they shoot the lay-up right handed it will probably go in. If they shoot it with their left hand it may not go in. What do you teach them to do?

Most coaches would scream bloody murder if their player tried it left handed and accuse them of intentionally trying to lose the game for them. AND they would probably see limited playing time for the rest of the season. This is
the majority point of view.

I think differently. My job is to teach these girls enough so that they can make their high school varsity team, and that includes opposite handed lay-ups in pressure situations. I want my player to shoot the lay-up left handed. In 6th grade it doesn't matter who wins or loses. What matters is are you teaching them good habits. If my player misses, I applaud them for doing it the right way. It takes 3 days to create a habit, it could take years to break one.

A side note to this scenario, most kids want to win. This being the case, if they know what you expect them to do, they will learn to do opposite handed lay-ups because they want to win. TEACH THEM ENOUGH TO WIN!!!

Now to stray back to my original point. Not all of you are going to buy into my belief system and that's ok. I just wanted you to know that I realize I am giving you a slanted perspective of the game. I only hope that it's a viewpoint slanted in favor of the kids and not the almighty win! When these kids hit 9th and 10th grade, the game is all about winning. Let's not make them old before their time. Basketball is always going to be about learning, but especially at the younger ages.

Some of you are going to adopt some of my viewpoints and some won't. The thing is, if you want your son or daughter to make the varsity team, you still have to teach them.


  1. Can  they make a right and left handed lay-up
  2. Can they dribble with either hand or are they one dimensional
  3. Do they hustle every minute they are on the floor - no one wants a lazy player
  4. Are they coachable? Do they listen and follow instructions
  5. Do they play defense as aggressively as they play offense
  6. ***** DO THEY HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE *****?

OK, so now you are saying I have totally lost it. You are coaching 3rd graders so why am I talking about the varsity team? That's an excellent question! I have just as excellent an answer. Because at the beginning of this book, I had you decide on what your priorities were as a coach. If your goal is to be a teacher of the game to your players, I believe that you need to know what you should teach and WHY you should teach them.

On the flip side, if all you want to do is win at the 3rd-6th grade levels, then here is your formula, teach them a tight 2-1-2 zone defense and don't let the other team get a shot close to the basket and this also stops the other team from getting many rebounds. You will win a lot of games. There is an inherent (another 50 cent word) problem with this. The other teams will be learning m-2-m defense during these 3 years. When the kids hit 7th grade, the other teams have learned and gotten better, and yours is still playing 3rd grade ball. You will lose by some pretty large scores.

Let me give you another example, it's the same thing as with my daughter's height. My daughter was 5'8" in 5th grade and one of the tallest players on the court. In 8th grade she is 5'9" and everyone else has caught up with her height-wise, and a lot of girls are now taller. These other teams will surpass you if you don't keep teaching. (OK, the analogy made sense to me before I put in on paper, oh well.)

My main point is that you have to have short range and long range goals. I'm trying to teach you more long range goals. Will they help you in the short run? Of course, but sometimes they could hurt your win - loss ratio. Sometimes your parents will question and criticize your tactics. If you want to stick to your priorities, you better have broad shoulders. There will be times when you are slammed and dissed so hard that you even think about quitting this stupid job. But then, you will see a kids face after they have used what you have taught them in a game, and that smile makes it all worthwhile.

The last part of this one-on-one is to remind you why you took the coaching job in the first place. You didn't sign up for the ego or power, you signed up so your kid and a bunch of other kids could play a game. And remember - these kids signed up to play a game. AND GAMES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, DON'T LET THEM DOWN!!!!

Another little side note here: If you ever feel I am losing you and you can't follow a concept or an idea, e-mail me at  I do answer my mail. Thanks for bearing with me and allowing me a platform to spout off on.

PS - Remember I used that saying earlier about skinning a cat. I wonder where that came from? And why would anyone want to skin a cat? Can't use the hide or the meat, now can you?

CHAPTER 21 Here's a butt, there's a butt, everywhere a butt, butt

Now we come to the brutal side of the sport. Basketball is not a you touch me = you fouled me! Watch a college game and you'll see what I mean. Watch the forwards and centers close to the basket battling for position. Every time the ball goes down the court you'll see bodies jockeying for position.

Basketball can be a hard physical, contact sport. My team of 8th grade girls has been playing for 5 years. In those 5 years, my players have had 1 broken arm, 8 broken fingers, a concussion, a broken wrist, and about 4-6 bruises and cuts per girl, per game. But these are girls you say, they are supposed to be sugar and spice and all things nice. Yeah right!!!! There's more physical contact and more trash talking amongst the girls than between the boys.

Ok, you caught me, I strayed and went on a tangent. So what does hard physical play have to do with butts? And the answer is REBOUNDING!! Alright, so you know peanut butter and jelly go together, but butts and rebounding??

I could be wrong, but I believe it was UCLA's John Wooden who taught his players that once someone shoots:

  2. Then move anyone out,  who is in the way
  3. Then rebound

Now I believe I am right that this is Coach Wooden's general philosophy. If I am wrong, I sincerely apologize.  I still believe the principles are correct. So how do you move someone out of a desired position? If you use your hands or arms or shoulders to move them, then you have just fouled them, and fouls against you are not good things. But if you place your butt against them and slowly but strongly push them out of the way, you normally won't receive a foul. What you can't do is wind up and quickly hit them with your butt and  send them flying. This is a foul for sure.

So here's a little drill for your next LS.


There is a circle in the center of your basketball court and it's drawn on the floor. Place a ball in the middle of the circle on the floor. Place player A  just inside the circle, facing the ball. Place player B behind player A, again facing the ball.  A must be able to feel B behind them at the start of this drill. When you blow the whistle player A's job is to keep player B from getting the ball for at least 5 seconds. And player A is not allowed to turn around to see where player B is. B must try to get around A to get the ball. When you first teach them this drill, the kids may feel awkward about butting up to someone. After they learn how to do it, this will become one of their favorites.

This drill teaches them how to keep someone from getting position for a rebound. To get a rebound you have to finally look to see where the ball is going in order to catch it. That's why you don't let them look to see where their opposing player is in the butt drill. They have to do it by feel.

Once they get good at the butt drill, then you move on to actual rebounding. Have 6 kids in a semi-circle around the basket. You shoot and they must fight for position to get the rebound. It will get aggressive and you may have to calm them down at times. Having to calm them down is a good thing. You want aggressive players, but not overly aggressive. Remember, fouls are not a good thing!

Rebounding is the hardest thing on the court because rebounding is nothing more than technique and desire. Even if you are positioned, you stiil have to have the desire to fight for that ball. Other players are going to try to move you out, steal it from you, and jump on your back to get that rebound. You have to want it more than they do, it's just that simple. I WOULD GIVE OUT MORE REWARDS AND POSITIVE PRAISE FOR REBOUNDING, THAN FOR ANYTHING ELSE YOU DO!!

Here's a quote from a friend of mine, Coach MPH,  that he posted on Chalk Talk, my favorite website. "Defense wins games, AND REBOUNDING WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS !" Guess that tells you how important he thinks rebounding is.

Sbay Coach, another friend of mine, posted this quote for me from a book by the late Ricky Birdsong, "THERE IS NO GLORY IN REBOUNDING, JUST VICTORIES!!"

Are you starting to see the big picture? Your kids have been trained to think that the 3-point shot is the cool thing. They've been taught that ESPN will show hi-lights of a great dunk. When was the last time tv showed someone get great positioning and fight for an outstanding rebound? How about never!!! You have to praise these kids and reward them with tootsie rolls, ice cream, whatever it takes, if you want to get your share of rebounds.

Here's another way to get them to rebound, tell them that a rebound is nothing more than a pass to them. Their job is to get that pass. Do whatever it takes, but make rebounding the exciting thing. In your next scrimmage, don't count points from only baskets. Here's a new way to count, 2 points for a basket and one point to the team that gets the rebound.  Make rebounding fun and 20 years from now your kids will say that you were a great teacher of the game.

And remember to come back to this website because chapter 22 is due very soon.

Chapter 22 - Did you pack your socks, your toothbrush, your ...........

Let me explain something about my lack of organization, then you will understand this chapter. I started out thinking I would do an internet posting on Chalk Talk. It was titled, The Never Ending Story. This was meant to be a continual listing of ideas for new coaches by a variety of experienced coaches. For some reason, it didn't take off, it flat out flopped.

I had a bunch of different ideas I had already written down, so I started to put it together as an article. Problem was, it  never seemed to end. (I guess I like the sound of my own keyboard.) Finally, I decided to put it together as Coaching Youth Basketball blah-blah-blah.

So where am I going with this? The way I started this has definitely controlled the way it's organized, or disorganized. So last night I'm reviewing what's posted so far. It's kind of like going on vacation. My wife, Jennifer, always asks the same questions: Did you pack your socks, toothbrush, dental floss, Billy Bob Teeth, 10 cartoons of cigarettes, etc. She knows me real well because I always forget something. The same is true with me posting this for you folks. I have totally left out a few minor details that I need to correct. I'm being sarcastic when I call them minor.

As you can tell, this is taking a while to get this all posted when I do it one chapter at a time. Some of you may have already started your league play, and are a little lost. So here's where I pray you haven't had your first game yet, because if you have, I let you down, and for that I am sorry. Let's make up for it here.

Preparations Before Your First Game

  1. In every one of your LS's you have given your kids water breaks. They're not camels, so they need them, right? Now the same is true during a real game, they need water. During every time out, 1/2 time, and even when they are just sitting on the bench, your players are going to lose their focus on the game and focus in on Fort Knox, the water fountain!!! They would give up chocolate dipped cones for a month for just one good slug off of that fountain.

    There's a major downside to this, water first, everything else second. They could care less about the game unless they get those precious body fluids. This is not a good thing, it's a bad thing. So how do you solve this? Team Rule # 5 = Everyone brings a water jug to the game. This will solve your problem. By the way, for those of you who are anal retentive, you are correct - you haven't been given Riley's Rules yet.
  2. Uniforms - Normally your school will refer you to a company they use. Some leagues distribute their own. If none of this applies to you, go to your yellow pages and look under sporting goods stores. You'll find some this way.
  3. $$$$$ - Make sure you don't pay for everything. Let your players and PARENTS know that they are responsible for any expenses incurred. Tell them there will be league fees, uniform costs, tournaments , and other misc. expenses. As you find out what the costs will be, collect your money from them up front.

    I have always thought I was a pretty shrewd businessman. When I was 17 I had over $50,000 in the bank, and I had earned every penny. I knew all about money, until I started coaching. In the summer of "99" I started an AAU basketball club. I had 238 kids play ball for me. It cost me over $11,000 out of my pocket, that's how savvy I was.

    Trust this ole dawg, collect the $$$$ up front.
  4. GENERATE ENTHUSIASM - Enthusiasm is a good thing. During every competitive team drill in your LS's *** MAKE THE KIDS YELL, SCREAM, AND CHEER FOR THEIR TEAMMATES *** If a team doesn't cheer enough, they do 2 laps. This will teach them to cheer and be enthusiastic. It will carry over into your games, especially when you tell them to do it as loud as they can in a game.
  5. PICKING THE RIGHT PLAYERS FOR THE RIGHT POSITIONS - This is where I may deviate from most youth coaches. Don't stereotype your kids! Here's what most people do, the short kids are guards and the tall kids are forwards. WWWWRRRROOOONNNNGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!

    You should have a good feel for what your kids strengths and weaknesses are. Take your best ball handlers and they are your guards. Your worst dribblers should be your forwards. The last thing you need to worry about is height. You have to get the ball down the court and if your tallest player is your best ball handler, they are a guard.


  1. Every player must be there at least 20 minutes before game time. If they don't, then they sit on the bench for the first half. I don't care what useless excuses the parents come up with, the rules apply to everyone unless they call you in advance. You don't want to be worried about where your team is 5 minutes before game time, that's not a fun thing.
  2. Make sure you have a good enough ball that can be used for a game ball, most leagues require this.
  3. Make sure you bring  a bag of balls that your team can use during warm ups. It's kind of embarrassing when you have to borrow a ball from another team. The end result is that you have 8-12 players trying to warm up with one ball, and that's not cool.
  4. Make sure you are dressed semi-cool, no geek look. Leave the leisure suits at home. It's very important to your kids that they not be embarrassed by their coach's appearance. Don't ask me, it's one of those un-written laws of kid land.
  5. This is the water jug rule.
  6. Everyone gets equal playing time. You are just flat out stupid if you don't follow this rule in the beginning. Some kids don't shine until it's show time. This means they suck in practice, but are one of your best in a game. The reverse can be true as well.  Even if you plan on breaking this rule because you go to the dark side and worry about winning your 3rd grade league, it's too early to be able to tell who will end up being your best. Given time, you will be able to tell, but not at this stage in the season.

    Another angle is that today's best, may not be tomorrow's. Don't lose your future Michaels because of today's yearning for a win. Play your kids equally, at least for a while.
  7. SUBSTITUTIONS - If you don't control this, you will dream about these words, "When do I get to play?" "When do I get to go in?" "Is it time yet?" You pant leg will be tugged to death. Your shirt will be half ripped off because of tiny little hands tugging at you. You will promise yourself, never again!

    Here's how to control it, K.I.S.S. = KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID!! You will find that your games will consist of 3-6 minute quarters, or 6-12 minute halves. At the older ages, the length of a game is longer. Tell your kids that you are going to substitute every 3 minutes and that they all get to play equally. During the game, show them where the clock on the wall is, and tell them to stand up when 3 minutes are up. This way you can watch the game, yet when they stand up you know it's time to sub. Your players just became your sub clock. SIMPLE IS GOOD !!

    I was so frustrated when I started coaching because of all the nagging about PT, or playing time,  that I finally talked my wife into video taping the games just so I could watch the game at home. And with this in mind, let me give you a Kodak moment. Tape your first game, years later you'll enjoy it more than anything else you own.
  8. At the beginning of the game tell them that you know they are going to make mistakes, and that's ok. The most important thing is to play as hard as they can, AND TO HAVE AS MUCH FUN AS THEY CAN. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH FUN!!
  9. Yell nothing but encouraging things to your kids, no negatives. Directions are ok to yell out, but watch the tone in your voice . Remember, they signed up to play a game, and games are supposed to have fun.
  10. At the end of the game, win or lose, line your players up to congratulate the other team on a great game. Then have a quick team meeting. Tell them how proud you are of each and every one of them, and mean it. These kids just played their hearts out for you, appreciate it. If you can't mean it, find someone else to coach the team, because you need to quit. These aren't NBA players, they are kids. Remember, COACH = TEACHER AND ROLE MODEL. This is your turn to be the role model, a fun one.

I AM SORRY THAT THIS IS SO DISJOINTED, BUT I NEEDED TO GET YOU THIS MISCELLANEOUS INFO, HOPEFULLY BEFORE YOU PLAYED YOUR FIRST GAME.  If you like this book, please visit this website again because there are more chapters to come.

Chapter 23 - No Weak Sisters Allowed!

Posting this a chapter at a time is a blessing in disguise at times. I got an e-mail from a woman who is taking over her daughter's 5th grade team. She's been reading this book on the web and e-mails me. Her e-mail reminds me of just how stupid I am for overlooking some real basic things that are essential for beginning coaches . Because I am posting this a chapter at a time, I can correct this stupidity just by adding a chapter here or there. The cool thing is that you, the reader, will never know this chapter wasn't in the original grand design. So I won't tell anyone if you don't!!!

Anyhow, Julie is taking over her daughter's team and has decided that teaching them is going to be her #1 priority. She is going to write them an introductory letter giving the players and parents some info on LS times and stuff. She e-mails asking me if she should announce her intentions to teach the kids rather than worry about winning? From the way this was written, I think that she had a hard time deciding whether to leave in the part in about winning.

On the surface this is such a logical question that I'm sure a lot of you beginning coaches would have asked it yourselves. So why am I stupid? I blame it all on my - - all kidding aside, I need to clarify a major point here. Yes, I have been preaching teaching over winning at the youth level, but this is where we've got to play "I've Got a Secret!" NEVER EVER TELL ANYONE YOU DON'T CARE ABOUT WINNING.  Everyone loves a winner. The whole world loves a winner. No one wants to be on a losing team.

If you are a woman coaching  a team, you have just entered a predominately male arena. The last thing you need to appear is WEAK. No bleeding heart liberals are allowed on the court, is the motto of most coaches. Remember that lovable but untrue statement, "No pain, no gain?" A guy thought that up.  Most male coaches, not all but most, should have been born before women got the vote. At least they act this way. They will say nice things to you, and gut you when you turn your back to them. If your team beats their team, you just became a candidate for bitch of the year. This is the arena you have entered. My job is to help you avoid excess grief and make your life simpler.

Now if you are a guy who espouses the "Let's not worry about winning" attitude, your sexual preferences will be questioned, to say the least.

Whether you are male or female, you can't tell anyone you don't care about winning. Your players won't try as hard, and their parents won't support you. Even your own child will cop an attitude on you. So here's an example of AN INTRODUCTORY STATEMENT  YOU CAN MAKE.

This year we are going to be changing our priorities a bit. My job as your coach is going to be to TEACH MY PLAYERS ENOUGH TO WIN. My #2 priority is to teach them the morals and values that sports and good sportsmanlike conduct provide, morals and values they will be able to use for the rest of their lives. 

My players priorities are to learn enough to win, and still have as much fun as they can, IN A STRUCTURED SETTING..

The parents job is to support their CHILD,  the team, and the coach in all of their endeavors. In order to accomplish this, we need to change the way we think and changing our vocabulary will help accomplish this. We will not have practices, we will have Learning Sessions. I prefer not to be called Mr. Riley, or even Coach, I would prefer it if the kids called me Teach, a nickname for teacher.etc. etc. etc.

Do you get the big picture? You have just proclaimed to the world that your mission in life is to teach these kids how to play basketball. A derivative from the Field of Dreams is "If you teach them, they will win!" So there is absolutely no reason to announce that your priority is to teach, rather than to win.

As a coach you must be confident, but not cocky. You must be strong, but understanding. Fun loving, yet focused. The one thing you need to know is that over the doorway of every gym is an invisible sign. This universal, yet invisible sign reads, "NO WEAK SISTERS ALLOWED!!" You can be a teacher and still honor the sign, this I promise you.

Julie, I want to publicly thank you for opening my eyes to some things I would normally have overlooked. Thank-you!!

Chapter 24 - RUN, FORREST, RUN!

I've gone into philosophy, technique, drills, defenses, offenses, and lots more. Now let's talk about the nature of the game. The nature of basketball is running.  If I catch one of my kids walking on a basketball court, it's extra laps or suicides.

Basketball is a running game. There is never a moment that the clock is running that you shouldn't be running. Defense is running. Offense is running. The only time you don't run is during a free throw,  or when the ball is out of bounds, or during a halftime or timeout. Guess what?  The clock is stopped during all of these exceptions. So when the clock is running, your players should be running.

So how do you incorporate getting into shape with your LS? Here is an example of what I personally will never do. I hated my basketball practices in jr. high and high school when I was a kid. Every practice, and it was never a learning session, started with 10 laps. Then we had to run up and down the stairs for another 10 minutes. Every practice started out negatively, I WAS HATIN' LIFE! Of course, my coach never got the best out of me because I started every practice using language that would put George Carlin to shame.

Now let's see how you are conducting your LS's. I have you doing 2 ball suicide competitive drills, that's running. You have your players doing lots of other competitive drills with laps for the losers, that's running. You are getting your team into shape by the use of competitive drills. Competitive drills are fun, teach a skill, and promote aggressive competitiveness.  Do your kids hate you? NO! Are you a slave driver having them do mindless lap after lap? NO! You are making them run, and normally they ask for more. Is this simple, or what? AND SIMPLE IS GOOD. (I had to throw that in because I hadn't said it in a while.)

The real question is are you getting them in good enough shape? For your first several games, the answer is yes. If you sub every 3 to 4 minutes, if you let everyone get equal playing time, then the answer is yes. But as the season progresses, your kids will need to be in even better shape. As the kids in your league gain more experience and get a little better, the games will become faster and faster.

There's a term that a friend of mine, Rob Ellis, uses that I have adopted. He doesn't talk about getting his kids into shape, he tells his kids that they need to get their "BASKETBALL LEGS!" No one wants to hear they are fat, lazy, and out of shape. If you use the term "Basketball Legs" with your kids, they will look at you and ask what that means. Here's what I tell them, "It takes special legs to become a good basketball player, it takes Basketball Legs. We just need to play a little harder in our LS's and do a few more of our faster drills, and you'll get those special legs." From then on, compliment someone on using their Basketball Legs when someone is busting their tush running. Running will become contagious.

The main way to go to the next level is so simple, it's ridiculous. With each LS give out fewer and fewer tootsie roll pops, and make the losers do laps or suicides instead. The way to do this without creating a lot of attitude, is let your kids choose what the losers of a competitive drill have to do, 2 laps or a suicide. They get to choose, and you get off the hook. You are not the evil ogre who makes them run laps, they are!

Here's another way to get them in better shape and learn how to improve their dribbling at the same time, invite them to your 1st dribbling contest. Make this a big deal where the 3 winners get Baskin-Robbins. Pick a time when you don't have the gym, you don't want to eat up your LS gymtime with this. Tell them what day and time to meet you at your high school football stadium.

Once they are at the stadium, have them stretch and warm up. Next have them do a practice run, they have to dribble a ball up the steps of the football stadium. Make sure you have someone video tape this because you'll win a prize with this tape, maybe a Nobel.

You are going to see a gajillion balls flying down those steps and a loose kid running after every ball. If this doesn't get them their Basketball Legs, nothing will. All they will be doing is running up and down the steps the whole time. They are having a blast, and you are a hero.

After a while they will learn that if they can keep their dribble close to the ground and control their ball, they can make it to the top of the stadium without having to run back down, chasing their ball. The first 3  to make it to the top, dribbling the whole way without stopping, wins. If no one wins, tell them that you will do this another day so they get another chance for the ice cream. Or give them one last chance and the 3 who make it the furthest before losing their ball win.

The next time you do this LS at the football stadium, they will get better and thus, run less. When this occurs, have them dribble the ball down the steps. Even more balls will fly down the steps than before. When do you quit doing this? Never! My 8th grade girls team now does it dribble 2 balls at a time.

Remember, basketball is nothing but a running sport. The older your kids get, the more they have to run. The following is a saying I got out of a Nike Basketball Camp manual, author unknown.

"Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up

It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion, or it will be eaten.

Every morning a lion wakes up,

and it knows it must outrun the fastest gazelle, or it will starve to death.

It doesn't matter if you are a gazelle or a lion:



Stay tuned for the next chapter is coming soon. Again, if you lose you and you don't understand something, e-mail me at

Chapter 25 - Follow the Bouncing Ball

For those of you who are old enough, remember the old cartoons that would give you the words to some ole folks song, and tell you to "Follow the bouncing ball?"  Was that the beginning of karioke? (I hope I spelled that right.)

Anyway, this is all about playing your position and not playing herd ball. What is herd ball? If you have to ask this question, it's obvious you have never been to a first grade soccer game. With 1st graders, no one plays their position, everyone runs after the ball. What you have is a bunch of the cutest tykes in the world running around with shorts on that almost come down to their ankles. Wherever the ball is, there you will find about 10 little uns kicking the wee-wads out of each other trying to get to the ball. It sometimes takes 2 minutes to get the ball to move as little as 10 feet because of the herd of kids.

So how does this apply to basketball? In the beginning your players may try to follow the follow the ball, rather than play their position. This is not a good thing. Here are some examples of following the ball on defense and offense.


 Let's say that you are playing a m-2-m defense. you will find that there are at least 1 or more of your players who won't guard their man because they are too busy following the player with the ball. This always leaves someone unguarded on the other team. Someone will inevitably pass the ball to the open player. The funny thing is that this player may not have scored a point all year long, but I promise you they will score against you this time, Murphy's Law.

Let's say you are playing a zone defense. You will have players leave their area and begin to follow the ball. Again, this leaves a wide open area unguarded. This  is a bbbaaadddd thing!!!!

Here's the hard part, let's say your player follows the ball, leaving their man or area unguarded. Let's also assume that they actually steal the ball from the other team, takes it the length of the court and makes a lay-up. Everyone is up and cheering. Your initial response is to tell that player "Great job!" WRONG!!! By doing this you are telling them it's ok not to play their position. This will cost you more points then you will ever gain.

I had a player like this in 4th grade. She was my best natural athlete on the team. She could home in on the ball and steal it at least 1/2 the time. This worked in 4th and 5th grade. In 6th grade the other teams were now smart enough that they just passed the ball to her unguarded player and score at will. It took a while for what was happening to sink in, but once she realized what was happening, she dedicated herself to playing proper defense and became a great defensive player.

The hard part about this is that these players can have some success stealing the ball at the younger ages. This reinforces the idea that this is a cool thing to do. The sad part is, my player who made the transition from following the ball to playing great defense, is the exception. Most players can't change their habit of following that stupid bouncing ball, and so by 9th grade they aren't good enough to make a team.


Now let's see how following the ball affects you on offense. The key to any offense is to be able to get a player open to take a good shot. This doesn't happen in herd ball. In your first year of coaching you will have some kids who stay within 5 feet of your player who has the ball.  No one gets open this way, no one. Here are some examples of what happens this way.

When my daughter, Crash, was in 5th grade she was 5'4" and 125 pounds. She was one big, strong kid. I had taught my team to only make bounce passes. Well, when she had the ball, there would always be  2 of our players playing herd ball. They would be so close to her that when she bounce passed the ball to them, it would bounce off of their feet, shins, or knees. I have always preached never to make a weak pass, so she would pass it so hard that she would knock her teammates over. If they they weren't knocked over, they would still fall down rubbing their shin or knee, where Crash had creamed them.

Let me explain how powerful an urge it is to follow the ball. Crash is slightly anal retentive, so she never quit making strong  hard passes. Here comes that powerful urge to follow the ball. Even after Crash had creamed a teammate 3 times in the same game, even after I had told this kid to quit following the ball, Crash still got the opportunity to cream the kid a 4th and 5th time. "No pain, No gain" sure didn't apply here, now did it? These same kids would walk off the court after every game with bruised shins and knees, they just couldn't resist the urge to follow the ball.

Another example of how following the ball is a bad thing is what it allows the other team to do. If you have 3 offensive players in a 5 foot circle, then it only takes one of their defensive players to cover 3 of your offensive players effectively. Your other 2 players won't be able to get open because now the other team has 4 defensive players covering your 2 players who aren't playing herd ball. So the net result is your offense is at a standstill.

Something I have forgotten to tell you is the 5 second rule. If your player has the ball and stands in one spot without dribbling for 5 seconds, and the other team has a defensive player within 3 feet of your player, then you will hear the ref's whistle. If they don't move within 5 seconds, the other team gets the ball. When you play herd ball, you will hear this whistle a lot. Whistles are not good things.


Yes, there are other chapters coming, but  you might learn something from these acknowledgements. ...  I would like to take a few moments  to thank a few folks who are making this possible. I will start with Norm at Chalk Talk. Chalk Talk is quite possibly the best basketball discussion board on the net. I started posting my book on Chalk Talk and Norm owns Chalk Talk. Thanks for all of your space and help. If you have questions that you want a lot of different viewpoints on from experienced coaches, then go to Chalk Talk at and then look for the current month of Chalk Talk, it's well worth your time. Norm, thank-you for everything, especially for putting up with a crusty ole fart like me.

Next I would like to thank Steve Jordan, aka Alaska Coach. He allowed me to continue posting this book on his site. Alaska has also been one of my main inspirations, without him I don't know if this book would have ever happened. His website has everything from AA-ZZZ. His site is one of 2 that I call my Basketball Encarta. To get there go to  Let 100% of the site come up, then go to coach's notebook. You will be like a kid at Disneyworld.

I can't forget about Coach Larry Dean Jackson. LD let me post on his site, again, without which this book would never have happened. If you ever want to find offensive or defensive plays, this guy has more plays on his site than Jimmy Carter had peanuts. This site is the other part of my Basketball Encarta.

Norm, Alaska, and LD, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If we can keep one future youth coach from becoming a tyrannical, screaming egotistical idiot who ruins the game for the kids, then we have achieved a lot. If thanks aren't enough, then I guess I will have to buy you a brewski if you ever come to St. Louis.

Next to last, but not least, there are the regulars on Chalk Talk who have influenced me and my coaching style, or lack of. Coaches Bonifield, Country Coach, Coach Sbay, Coach Mackinney, Phil G., Coach Keith, (even if you are tired of the book,) Coach K,( even when you diss me, we both still learn,) and all of the others I haven't named, thank you for helping to bring out the parts of me that I like.

And finally I would like to thank my wife, Jennifer, for all of her patience. I know my sitting at a stupid keyboard frustrates you, so thank you. You are still my best friend in the whole world. And the adventure continues...

And Crash, for teaching me how to be a father and a coach. Here is a lesson for all of you coaches who have kids that play for you. In 4th grade I never screamed at my kids, except Crash. Every time she screwed up, which was a lot, I jumped all over her with both feet. Finally, she sat me down and explained that I needed to treat her like every other kid on the team. I shouldn't put any more pressure on her than I did anyone else on the team, because that wasn't fair to her. She was right! The moment I quit riding her, she became a better player. More importantly, I became a better coach and a better father.

If you can find that you can use even one idea from this book, then e-mail Alaska, Ld, and Norm. Let them know that they have done something good. I have not made one penny from this, and neither have they. Every once in a while people need a pat on the back. In fact, if you see any of these guys on the street, give them a hug. (God, I've watched too many movies. The hug part came from Holy Man with Eddie Murphy.)

Stay tuned to this website, more chapters to come.......

Chapter 26 - "Stack em up - Move em out!"

OK folks, it's game time or your first game is rapidly approaching, so I guess it's time philosophize a little less and give you some meat and potatoes. We're going to talk about in-bounding the ball. That's where your team gets the ball and has to throw it inbounds. I'm going to start where you get the ball out of bounds under your own basket.

Before I give you the plays, we need to revisit SIMPLE IS GOOD! I am not concerned with giving you inbounds plays that give you quick baskets. I am more concerned with your being able to just get the ball inbounds. Here's a rule you need to know. Once the referee, ref, gives the ball to your player to throw it in, you have 5 seconds to throw it in or the other team gets the ball. With that said, here's a couple of plays that are so stupid, they work.


This is the most fun inbounds play I know of for younger kids. As they get older, they will feel retarded doing it. As this is for the younger kids, don't worry about looking cool.

  1. The ref will hand the ball to your player either slightly to the right of your basket, or slightly to the left. What ever side the ref picks is the side you have your kids do the huddle on.
  2. Get a piece of paper and draw half of a basketball court, including the paint. Now put a circle out of bounds to the right or left of the basket. This represents your player who is going to throw the ball inbounds.
  3. An inch or 2 from your "O" put 4 X's in a tight diamond shape, directly in front of your O. This represents your other 4 players who are about 8' inbounds directly in front your O, or your player throwing the ball in.


  4. Once they are in this formation, have them form a huddle, just like a football team does. Have everyone wrap their arms around the shoulders of the players who are next to them. This is a huddle.
  5. Let's assume that everyone is to the right of your basket. Once "O" gets the ball, they yell "Break." Make the player in the huddle who is furthest to the right of the basket, your shortest player. They sneak through the middle of the huddle, go under their teammates arms, and run to the basket looking for a pass.
  6. Once the shortest player is through, everyone else turns, faces the player in-bounding the ball, and moves backward, looking for a pass. It looks like a flower that opens all of it's petals at once.

Now the more experienced coaches out there are reading this and laughing their collective butts off. That's ok! Once you have this perfected, it works like a charm. In the beginning, you will find that your player who sneaks out of the huddle will get some easy lay-ups. Once the other team catches on to this, you will find that your other players are now open. You see, the other team concentrates so much on your sneak attack, they forget about your other 3 players.

Does this look totally retarded to the older players? You bet it does! The reality is that the younger players think it's cool, AND THAT'S WHO THIS IS DESIGNED FOR. The major benefit to the huddle is that it works. My girls used it for 4 years, from 4th grade - 7th grade, and only failed to get the ball inbounds less that a half dozen times. Approach it with a fun attitude and watch it work.


This inbounds play starts off the same way as the huddle, except your players face your inbounder this time, and they don't put their arms around each other.

  1. Your players form a diamond about 3 feet apart from one another.
  2. The player closest to your inbounder goes directly to the sideline, parallel to the baseline, away from the basket.
  3. The player on the side of your diamond away from the basket, runs backward about 15 feet away from your inbounder, toward the other basket. This player should be your last resort, or your safety valve. They only get passed to if no one else gets open. Also, they are your only player to stop a fast break, should the other team steal the ball.
  4. The player furthest away from your inbounder should break to the basket, looking for a pass.
  5. Your last player is on the side of your diamond, closest to the basket. They don't move at all. A lot of times, because they don't move, the other team forgets about them. This leaves them open for a pass from the inbounder, and a 6 foot shot to the basket.

The diamond works and it's not too complicated. I could give you The Stack, The Box, and any number of inbounds plays with blase descriptive names, but instead you have the Huddle and the Diamond. Most teams will learn the Stack and Box, so the other teams already know what they are going to do before they do it. I guarantee you, most people have never heard of your inbounds plays. The cool thing is that they are simple to learn, and SIMPLE IS GOOD.


I guess you better know this, so here it is. Have all 4 of your players line up about 8' in front of your inbounder, and about a only a foot or so of space between the 4 of them. They look like soldiers marching in a straight line. Once the inbounder gets the ball, every other player runs to the right, the others run to the left.

Another variation is the first in line go right, the next 2 left, and the last one right. You can vary this anyway you want to, but the principle is to move to get open. This is the most commonly used inbounds play in the history of youth basketball. I never use it because everyone else knows what you are going to do, but that's just me.




This is where you have your 4 players that form a box in front of your inbounder. They stand about 10-12 feet apart. When they hear "Break," the players on the right run over and screen for the players on the left. The players on the left then move to get open. You can do this where right screens left, or left screens right, or front players screen for the rear players, or the rear players screen for the front players.


I didn't know what to call this, so reverse stack sounded good.

1. Have your players line up parallel to the baseline, about 8' from the baseline. Have them all face the basket.


2. Now have your 2 players closest to the basket form a tight screen for your player furthest from the basket.



3. The player furthest from the basket runs around the screen and is hopefully open for the pass. Once the screen is set, everyone moves to get open.

You can vary any of these lineups and have fun with them. There is no one perfect way to inbound the ball. Your main goal is to inbound the ball within 5 seconds and not let the other team steal the ball. Any play works as long as people are moving to get open. Again your players have to move to get open.


I'm going to make life real simple. In your first year, let your players know that everyone has to help get the ball down the court whenever the other team plays full court defense. AND, if you have them scrimmage without dribbling in your LS's, at this age you won't need inbound plays. Just have them pass it down the court.

If you find you can't get the ball inbounds at all. Then use the Huddle, Diamond, Stack, or any of them to get the ball in.

Stay tuned to this website for I've more chapters to post. As always, if you have any questions you can e-mail me at If you find this useful, then e-mail the site you are on now and thank them for allowing me the time and space to post this for you.

Chapter 27 - Showtime

And now, it's showtime. The ref throws the ball up and the game has begun. The ball is tipped and 2 players from the other team and one of your players end up in a tug of war, with all three holding on to the ball for dear life. The whistle blows, and the ref calls jump ball. Whoever did not get the tip, gets the ball out of bounds. In this case, no one got control of the ball so they literally call for another jump ball.

This time the other teams gets the tip and the ball, and your kids are scrambling to find the player they are covering. You watch the ensuing confusion and just want to puke. Three of your players are guarding the same player on the other team. This leaves two of their players undefended and wide open for a pass. 

You've all heard of Murphy's Law, well here's Riley's Law: YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE BECOMES REALITY ON A BASKETBALL  COURT. So let's see how Riley's Law applies here.

Two of their players are wide open because 3 of your players are all guarding the same player. The ball gets passed to one of their open guards. This player happens to be the best shot on their team, so naturally they pivot, shoot, and score. There's Riley's Law in action.

Here's another example, same scenario. The ball gets passed to a player who can't shoot and has never made a basket, even in practice. This player catches the ball, pivots, shoots, and nothing but net, they've scored their first basket.

The game goes on one minute and the score is 2-0, your team is losing. Sixty seconds into the game, one of your players asks, "Hey coach, when can I go in?" Now you remember to tell the kids to stand up after 3 minutes, so you'll be reminded to substitute them into the game. You now tell the kids when to stand up.

After 2 minutes your players on the court are still having a hard time trying to figure out who to guard. All you want to do is scream at the top of your lungs, "How hard is it to remember you are guarding # 20, and you are guarding #4?"  You have this irresistible urge to grab them and shake some sense into them.

You have now encountered your first crisis as a bench coach. You can't thrash them or scream at them because they're littler then you. You have an unfair advantage, you're big and they're small. So what do you do? Call time out.

You are only allowed 3 or 4 timeouts per game, depending upon your league or tournament rules. You have just used your first. You call the kids over and in your best Mr. Roger's voice you say, "Why are 3 of you covering the same player?" No one responds. All you get are 3 blank faces with baby doe eyes. You begin to wonder if it's deer season yet.

"All right, here's what we are going to do." And you point out who each kid is supposed to guard, and their uniform number. You mentally pat yourself on the back for handling this like a big person, and the game resumes. You sit down in your chair, as smug as a bug in a rug.

You jump up suddenly, in near hysteria. Three of your players aren't guarding anyone. They are standing in the middle of the court, looking like a 3 year old who's lost their parents. The reason being, the other team substituted and with new players in the game, your players don't know who to guard.

At this point in time, you are glad you never paid for this book. In fact, you wish I had written something that had made you give up this wonderful idea you had of coaching your child's team.

Here's the solution, communication. Your players have to talk and whenever the other team substitutes, they have to start yelling, "I've got 15!" " Well then I've got 10," another yells. This is one of those times when you can coach. You should be helping out by yelling for Johnny to cover this person, or Suzie should be covering that person. Communication solves most of the problems of the world.

Play continues on the opposite side of the court, away from you. You think you have a pretty good long distance view, when the ref calls a foul on one of your players. It's just like the times you sit in your easy chair at home watching a game, you scream out, "No way ref, you need glasses." The ref looks at you and you suddenly remember where you are and what you are doing there. You quietly sit down on the bench. Every eye in the whole gym is on you, and you could hear a needle drop.

This last scenario is not a good one. Your players and their parents are now going to take your lead and start giving every ref grief over every call they make, good or bad. You will become known as the whiners, sore losers, bad winners, and not fun to be around.

In all my years of coaching, I have never seen a ref reverse a call, never. So as a coach you need to act, not react. Don't yell over a call. If you need to make a point with a ref, use this as an example. "Hey ref, please watch #23 on the other team. My players are bruised to death because of the elbows that are flying under the basket. " You always get more with honey than vinegar.

"Now coach?" you hear 5 voices ask in unison. "It's been 3 minutes, can we go in now?" You say yes and tell them to go kneel by the scorer's table. You are now making your first substitution. The ref waives them in and your starting 5 come to the bench. These 5 are just a buzz with what happened so far in the game. You ignore them, and watch your players who are playing.

The game goes on and your child is now in the game. You watch as your kid screws up on defense and the other team scores, Riley's Law strikes again. You jump off the bench yelling at your own child to get it right. The problem is the tone in your voice, it's nasty.

Let's stop here for a moment. It is natural for you to expect more out of your child. You see, you know you are perfect and so any child of yours has to be perfect as well. This is a well known fact, right???? WRONG!!!! Your kid is just that, a kid. Don't expect any more or less than you would out of any other kid!! Burn out is a common disease amongst coach's kids.

Let me tell you a little story about coach's kids. Last weekend I coached a team in a tourney made up of just coach's kids.  It started because a bunch of the coaches were talking about how their kids were a pain in the butt and how they wished someone else would coach their own kid. After a few brewski's, the idea came up of putting together a team of nothing but coach's daughters, and playing in tournament. Everyone thought it would be fun to sit on the bench and be a parent for a change. As you can tell, I ended up coaching the team.

I held a grand total of two practices, not LS's, for this team. Guess what we did for four hours? Scrimmaged without dribbling. Why? Because I wanted these girls to depend on each other. Also, coach's kids are famous for being ball hogs, and there are no ball hogs when you can't dribble.

Wanna know the outcome?? These girls had more fun than they had had in a long time. They didn't have their father's screaming at them from the bench. In fact, their parents didn't scream AT them from the bleachers either. Why?? Because my deal with the other coaches was that I would coach and they would be quiet in the stands. The moment one of them broke this agreement, they got to coach the team, and everyone else was then allowed to criticize them. Needless to say, everyone was on their best behavior.

How much fun did the girls have?? One girl, who was a center and never allowed to shoot a long distance shot, made a 3 pointer. This was the first 3 pointer she had ever made in 5 years of playing. When she came off the court, she had a smile wrapped around both ears. Three of the girls secretly asked me if they could be on my team. The were really tired of being yelled at by their parent. Learn a lesson from this, TREAT YOUR OWN CHILD THE SAME AS EVERYONE ELSE ON THE TEAM. By the way, we lost all 3 games, and the girls still had fun.

Back to the game. It's now half time and you are losing by 2 points. The score is 4 to 2.  One of your players says, "They can't dribble or pass the ball very good, can they?" Suddenly you realize that they're right. Your team was much better handling the ball. You may be losing the game, but right now you just don't care. Your team has been doing what you taught them. You are now a basketball teacher, Coach = Teacher.

You tell them to dribble with their heads up and starting looking for an open player to pass to. You tell them to make sure to talk and everyone will know who to guard that way. And you tell them to have fun.

The second half is a breeze. Every 3 minutes your bench players stand up to substitute in. Your team is out-dribbling and out-passing the other team. You don't even get too upset when one of your players steals the ball and goes down the wrong end of the court and shoots at the wrong goal. (This is going to happen because at halftime, the teams switch ends of the court. If they were shooting to your right the first half, then they shoot to your left the second half. This confuses a lot of kids.) None of this bothers you too much because they are dribbling with their heads up, making good passes, getting a lot of rebounds and doing a lot of things right. All this is happening because you have LS's, not practices. Because you don't talk in a monotone to the kids. AND BECAUSE YOU HAVE HELPED TO MAKE BASKETBALL A FUN GAME!!!!

Who won the game? How should I know, it's your game!!!


This is the chapter I have avoided writing for the longggggggggest time. I know that not all of you are in agreement with my Coach =Teacher and winning comes in second place. Sports are competitive and competition means there is a winner and a loser. When you lose a game and look at those sad little faces, you'll want to win the next one, just for the kids. I do understand all of this. I may be ignorant, but I'm not totally stupid. The one thing you need to know is that 1 hour after a loss, these kids aren't worrying about who won or lost. The only people who worry about a game an hour later are the coaches and parents. An hour after a game the kids are wondering what can they do next to keep from being bored.

So why do I dread this chapter, because I am going to give you a few tips on how to win a game at this age level. With one sweep of the pen, I am negating all of the good things I have tried to teach you. I am going to talk about winning. I am going to start off with good thing to learn, and end up with the not-so-good things.


A turnover is where your team has the ball, and you lose it to the other team. A turnover can come in the form of a stolen pass, a pass that you throw out of bounds, it can be where they steal the ball away from your dribbler, it can be where you have a player stand in the paint for over three seconds, etc., etc, etc.

If you can reduce the number of turnovers, you greatly increase your chance of winning. Here's several great ways to accomplish this:

  1. Bounce pass whenever possible. It's harder to steal a bounce pass.
  2. When receiving a pass, step toward the passer when you go to catch it.
  3. Teach your kids never to dribble the ball higher than their waist.
  4. Only yell "ball" when you are really open.

free throws

It doesn't matter if it's 4th grade , or high school, or college, or even NBA teams who are playing, most games are won or lost on the free throw line. You will find that you will get 8-20 free throws a game. If you make 50% of them at the younger ages, you will rarely lose a game.

My team just played in a tournament in Illinois. I have an 8th grade team, and the team we were playing was a 7th grade team. This 7th grade team had never lost a game, not ever. At the end of the game, the score was 40 - 38 and we won. Here's the interesting point. The other team only scored 2 baskets against my girls tough m-2-m defense. But they made 34 free throws, we only made 6. They almost won, even though they only scored 2 real baskets the whole game. And yes, at the end of the game, 5 of my players had fouled out.

The lesson to be learned is that you now need to incorporate shooting free throws into your LS's.


I hate to give you this one. If you are coaching a 3-5th grade team, think twice before you use this defense. Two of your players are going to work real hard, and the other 3 can become lazy. Lazy is not a good thing!

Place a forward on the block on each side of the basket. Next, place a forward halfway between the basket and the free throw line. These three forwards play a, ugh, zone. Their job is to make sure that no one gets a good shot off when inside their designated area. The other part of their job is to make sure they are in position to get every rebound. This will clog up your middle and in order to score, the team is going to have to shoot from outside. At this age, very few teams have good outside shooters.

This still leaves you two other players. Let's make one of them the Chaser. Take your fastest and best defensive player and place them about 6' from the half court line. This is your Chaser. Their job is to play m-2-m defense against the person with the ball.

Let's call your remaining guard the Stealer. This needs to be your second best defensive player. They are stationed around the top of the key. As the Chaser chases the person with the ball, the Stealer is watching to see who the dribbler is going to pass to. As soon as the dribbler stops dribbling and starts to pass, the Stealer moves to intercept the pass. If they don't steal the pass, then they usually end up closer to the person who now has the ball. When this occurs, they yell out, "Chaser!" And the person who was the Chaser, now yells out, "Stealer!" What they are doing is communicating to each other their new positions. The Stealer becomes the Chaser, and the Chaser becomes the Stealer. They have to communicate or this defense will not work.

Some people call this a 1-1-3 defense, I just call it chaser - stealer. It's a great learning experience for the chaser and stealer, but your 3 forwards learn very little. This is why I don't like this defense for younger players. Once players know how to play great m-2-m defense, then this is a viable defense. Until then, it does nothing to help your forwards get better. It will win games for you, but at what price?


A fast break is where your team gets the ball and has to travel the length of the court to shoot. I love fast breaks. Many a team makes a living off of fast breaks, including my team. The idea is to get the ball down the court quickly before the other team can set up it's defense. Done properly, you will get a lot of lay-ups from this.

The problem is that at the younger ages, a team that can fast break on a regular basis will cream most of the other teams. But this is a good thing, you say. Yes, and no. Yes, you score a lot of points. No? The no is that you learn no other offensive skills. Once you come up against a team that can handle your fast break, then they own you. You learn all about fast breaks, but the rest of your half court offensive game goes down the toilet.

Here's a simple drill for fast breaks.  Have 5 players circle the basket. You shoot from the free throw line. Tell the kids you plan on missing because it's part of the drill. Why tell them this? So you don't look like an idiot when you miss a free throw. Here's the progression from there:

  1. Whoever rebounds yells "Blitz"
  2. 1 forward runs towards the out of bounds line on the side. Once there, they run down the sideline toward the opposite basket yelling, "Lane, lane, lane!!"
  3. When this player reaches halfway between the half court line and the far free throw line, they run directly toward the basket. The whole time they are looking for a pass.
  4. Another player does the exact same thing as this last player, but they do it on the opposite side of the court. So now you have the player who rebounded holding the ball, and you have a player running down each sideline toward the far basket.
  5. This leaves you 2 free players. Both of these players run toward the half court line, one about 6' to the right of center court, one about 6' to the left. Both yell "outlet, outlet, outlet!"

    out of bounds under basket
     X = rebounder with ball
       outlet player      outlet player  
    lane player   lane player  
     Half court line
  6. The rebounder passes to one of the open outlet players.
  7. The outlet player passes to a lane player who is breaking to the basket, and makes a lay-up. Notice that in this drill, I never used the word dribble. The ball should never hit the floor unless there's a bounce pass. The key to this is communication. That's why you teach them to yell outlet and lane, so they know who has what position. The other important thing is that the lane players have to get down the court as fast as they can, or this doesn't work. Here's a neat little twist that I wouldn't teach them till 5th grade. If the rebounder can throw a baseball pass with an arch, meaning no line drives, then the rebounder skips throwing to the outlet player, and baseballs it to the lane player. This will catch the defense off guard for a while at least.


This little tip works at all ages, but works especially well at the younger ages. Here's a typical 3rd-5th games scenario. The other team shoots, misses, and you get the rebound. The other team will normally turn and jog back down the court to play defense. If your team brings the ball down the court as fast as they can, every time they get the ball, they will have the opportunity to shoot many a lay-up. lay-ups are good things.Another aspect of this, is that you will wear the other team down. When you see a player bent over, leaning on their knees, they are tired. When you see a player tugging at their shorts, they are tired. Anytime you see an opposing player show the "tired symptoms," get your team to go even faster. Speed will win you a lot of games.


COACH = TEACHER Teach them enough, and they will win.


Coaching always boils down to priorities. You should be far enough along that when you re-read the opening chapter about priorities, you ought to have a clue about what you want to accomplish. I want my kids to be winners in life. I want to be a positive influence in their lives. I can teach my kids how to win games, that's too easy. All I have to do is teach them a couple of the basics, a lot of tricks, and enter them into very weak leagues and let them play against teams that suck. They will win every game. The Parents From Hell will be happy, and the players will have a false sense of "Oh yeah, I'm good." But what will you have accomplished? Absolutely nothing! The kids don't learn a thing and by 6th grade they will start losing more than they'll win.

I want my kids to look back 30 years from now, as this experience being one of the best memories they have. I want them to remember how much fun they had. I want them to become better individuals because they learned that they can work hard, learn the meaning of teamwork, and good sportsmanship, and still have fun doing it. This is a chapter about how to win, right? I would rather see them win in the game of life and lose a basketball game, than win the basketball game but teach them the wrong things about life.  What are your kids going to remember 30 years from now? They won't remember a single game at this age. What they will remember is how you treated them, and was it fun. What is it that your players are going to remember about you?

Chapter 29 - Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - Who's the Most Confused of Them All?

I know some of you have been scratching your head because I left out a word here. I misspelled a word there. Diagrams are wrong, and lots of other mistakes. Here's the deal. Whether I originally typed out or hand wrote every chapter, the chapters of this Book of Babble are typed out to Alaska's, Jackson's, or Powerbasketball's e-mail address by me. (I'm a 2 finger typist and prone to hitting the wrong key, A LOT!) This would be ok, but I usually type these e-mails when I am at work. So I don't normally have a lot of time to review or correct the typing errors. It couldn't be that I can't spell well, because I just won the spelling bee at my local pub, (hiccup.)

Enough excuses, here's another neat thing about this being a work in process, I get about 50 e-mails a day asking questions. This let's me see what I missed teaching you. So, this is a question - answer chapter for some of the more commonly asked questions. Let's see how many misspelled words, wrong punctuation errors, and the like you can find. The person with the most wins a tootsie roll pop.

QUESTION:  "I like your philosophy of not teaching them too many offensive plays, but after seeing our opponent last night with 3 or 4 good plays, (working to perfection,) I'm wondering if we shouldn't be injecting a set offense or at least 1 or 2 plays?" This was asked by James who coaches 4th'5th grade boys.

ANSWER: I have been asked this question a hundred times in various shapes, forms, and sizes. In my iddy biddy bwain, (misspelled on purpose,) it depends on your priorities and what stage your team is at.

Priorities - if they are to win at all costs, go to Jackson's site and he's got a bajillion plays you can download. If you are there to teach, then make sure YOUR WHOLE TEAM is past the beginners stage and ready for plays. If they aren't, then stay with the basics.

I used my own team as an example. My 8th grade girls team still doesn't have a set offensive play. We pick and roll, pass and cut, and get a lot of points off of our aggressive m-2-m defense. AND - we definitely win more than we lose. Should we have some set plays, probably, but my team still learns, wins, and has a lot of fun. It's still a game to them.

QUESTION: "I am a female asst. coach for my son's 4th grade basketball team. The head coach is an ex-high school player who thinks he knows it all. He talks for 20 minutes and then expects the boys to know how to do everything he has told them, and they don't. Then he starts yelling at them. I have read all of your book and I agree that we need to learn the fundamentals before we starting piling a lot of plays on them. When I mention something to the coach, he just ignores me. I need some help." This was sent to me by Laura.

ANSWER:  I've gotten over 20 of these types of e-mails. This is a major problem with no easy solution. First let me explain a fact of kid's land, if I talk to my girls for more than 5 minutes, I lose their attention, and they are in 8th grade. 4th graders probably have a 2 minute attention span. Riley's Rule # 28 = When you see your player's eyeballs rolling in their heads, quit talking!

1.  I would 1st try the honey vs. vinegar approach. I.E. "You know, you have some wonderful plays that the boys need to learn. Why don't we split up the practices, he won't know what a LS is, and I'll work with them on some basic skills like ball handling, lay-ups, and stuff like that. You take the 2nd half of practice and teach them the more exciting and advanced things, like plays."

Make teaching the basics out to be dull, dreary, and something he would probably hate doing. Make his stage of the teaching seem more exciting. Maybe he'll go for it.

2.  If #1 doesn't work, get gym time for a second practice and you teach them the basics. Print my book off of the net, hand it to him, and tell him the kids need to learn the basics.

3.  If #'s 1 & 2 don't work, remember the invisible sign over every gym door, NO WEAK SISTERS ALLOWED. Sooooooo -take control and FIRE HIM!

Two summers ago I started an AAU club. I had 238 girls play ball for me. My wife coached a team of girls that no one wanted. They were cut by all the other teams. Another parent agreed to co-coach with her. After the second LS, she called him up and fired him. He had just as much authority as she did, but she took control and fired his screaming butt. It wasn't easy and it took a lot of guts, but 3 of her players now play for my advanced team and are great players. The end result was worth it.

Get together with enough parents, on the side, and explain to them that you believe that the kids need to be taught the fundamentals and you plan on firing the head coach. Get some people behind you, then just do it. One of three things will happen. He will quit and take his kid with him. Or, he will quit but leave his kid on the team. Or, he won't quit and the parents don't back you publicly, so you may have to quit and find another team for your son to play on. There are too many teams out there to put up with a bunch of nonsense.

Ok, this seems a little drastic, right? Wrong!!!! Coaches can make or break a child. I would rather my daughter not play for a season than hook up with the wrong coach. I know, I had one in jr. high that affected me for years. Remember, you have just entered the wonderful world of macholand. NO WEAK SISTERS ALLOWED.

QUESTION:  I can't get the drill Ring Of Fire to work. What am I missing?

ANSWER:  Draw a pie on a piece of paper. Now draw lines and divide the pie into 6 pieces, and number the pieces 1-6. In the center of the pie draw a small circle. The small circle is the player in the middle who catches and passes. Let's call this player M, for middle. Start  with M holding a ball and #1 holding a ball. Here's the sequence.

M passes to #2.  #1 passes to M. M catches and passes to #3, as #2 passes to M. M catches #2's pass and passes to #4, as #3 passes to M. etc. etc. etc.

QUESTION:  One thing I want to improve on is making quicker passes. How can I improve their reaction time?

ANSWER:  Two drills. One is Ring Of Fire. The other is 4 Passes and Score Drill.  For this drill get 2 kids standing on the baseline about 12' apart. They must go the length of the court by passing it to each other without dribbling. They must go the entire length of the court and are only allowed to pass the ball to each other 4 times. Then they are allowed one dribble for a lay-up and must SCORE. Also, they are not allowed to travel, or walk with the ball.

Now let me take a moment to explain the difference between shooting and SCORING. Shooting is where you take a shot. Scoring is where the involved players keep on rebounding and shooting till they score. No one on my team is allowed to move on to the next drill until they score. If they take a shot, they must follow it up and keep on rebounding and shooting until they do score. This improves their rebounding, following up their own shot, and shooting skills. It's a drill, without being a drill.

QUESTION:  I have 2 players that if I turn them loose could win every game for me. Should I let them play their game?

ANSWER:  If you do, then take a seat in the stands because you have just given up your coach's scepter. Ok, so you have 2 wonderfully gifted natural athletes, big deal. I've seen 100's of Jimmy and Johnny shows. They pass to each other, are extremely gifted and win games for you. So what?? If they were of varsity age I'd say, "That's cool." These are younger kids. Do they personally learn anything that will make them even better? No!

Here's an even bigger point, what about the other 6-8 kids on your team. They will never get to touch the ball. What are you teaching them? Are they learning the game? And as a role model what are you teaching them? Are you teaching them teamwork and good sportsmanship? And what happens when you come up against a team that plays as a team? I'll tell you what happens, you're screwed. You lose by 40 points.

COACH = TEACHER  Take these naturally gifted kids and turn them into real players along with the rest of your team. They will thank you in the long run.

QUESTION:  I have a parent who is constantly telling me his kid needs more PT, playing time. His child is a good player and I am tempted to give in. What should I do??

ANSWER:  It depends upon your priorities. If winning is your #1 goal, play the kid more. If your goal is to be a teacher of the game, remind the parent of your equal playing time policy and thank them for their concern. THEN WALK AWAY. Don't have a long drawn out conversation. Let them talk to the back of your head as you walk away. Do not get into a debate with the parent, you'll lose every time.


Your season must be in full swing because I've received at least 100 e-mails about m-2-m defense. It seems that most of the teams you play are using a zone defense, and you are losing your games because of it. The common thread appears to be, why can't I switch to a zone defense? Let me tell you a story and see if this helps.

I have a friend that I coach against , named Pat. For the last 2 years he has taken his team to the city-county finals of the catholic league. Let me put this into perspective. This league has at least six districts, and 3 to four divisions in each district, and this is per grade. So there are about 180 teams playing in each age group. He has been the second best team out of 180 teams for the last 2 years in a row. So, let's just say he has a very nice team.

My team plays his about 3 times a year, and every game is a barn burner and we take turns winning. FYI, I'm not in that league. We played his team 2 weeks ago and his team played worse than I could ever have imagined. It was obvious within the first few minutes that my team was going to win. The next day I  called and asked him what happened to his team. He laughed and explained what he was doing.

Every year he had his team playing a 1-3-1 or a 2-3 zone defense. His girls were great at it and you really had to be on top of your game just to compete with him. This year he was teaching his girls m-2-m defense. He waited until they were in 8th grade, to teach them man-2-man. I have watched 2 more of his games since then, and he lost both of those.

So why not revert back to his winning ways? He says because if his girls ever want to make a high school team, they have to learn man-2-man defense. Imagine how these girls, who have the reputation for winning, are having to swallow their pride now. I honestly feel sorry for them. I will give them credit, they are handling it very well.

I don't respect a single win he has had in the past, compared to how much I respect him for putting his girls basketball futures ahead of his own ego. If you think it's hard for you to see your team lose at their age, how much harder would it be for you to try to explain to your players, and their "Parents from hell," why they should learn m-2-m after they had been one of the best non-select teams in the city for 5 years in a row?  

Very few coaches would do what Pat is now doing because they are in search of the almighty win. Riley's Rule # 00 = Most youth coaches start out coaching for the right reason, then become egotistical power mongers. We all start out coaching for the kids. Most coaches end up coaching because of their own secret agenda, their own ego.

How do I look at Pat? PAT IS MY HERO! Here is a person who is standing up, taking a bunch of crap, simply because he realizes that he should have started off teaching m-2-m defense and didn't. Instead of hiding from that fact, he is now trying to help his girls the best he can, by teaching them m-2-m now. Is it too late for some of his girls, yep. It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. But it's not too late for all them. Wanna know something else, IT'S NOT TOO LATE FOR YOU!!!!

I know you are frustrated and maybe even taking some heat from the parents. By the way, pretty soon you will understand why I call them the "Parents From Hell." The point is you need to stick to your game plan.

Think of it this way. A man is walking down the street in front of you. No one else is on this street. No one else sees you or him. He drops a bag without realizing it. You pick it up and there are 100 dollar bills falling out of it. Do you do the right thing and run after him and give it back? We all say we would, but we never know until we are in that position. What if you were behind on your mortgage and in trouble at work, now would you give it back? Doing the right thing isn't always easy.

When you learned to ride a bike you probably fell off of it a dozen times and hurt yourself. Why didn't you quit trying to a ride a bike after all of those falls? Normally, it's because your parents wouldn't let you quit trying. Now you can ride a bike. You wouldn't trade all of the pleasure you had when you were young riding your bike, for anything. As a coach you are like your own parent who wouldn't let you quit trying. If you do the right thing, these kids will thank you in their later years. Do the right thing.

I don't know how to make a more passionate plea. There are people in life who walk toward the light. Then there are people who go over to the dark side. Want to know how they get started toward the dark side? By taking the first step.

That first step toward the dark side in basketball seems harmless. "My teams not winning, so I'll teach them a little zone defense. After we win a game or two, I'll go back to teaching them m-2-m."  The sad thing is that 99% of the coaches in the world don't have Pat's courage or love for his players. 99% of the coaches never teach their players good solid m-2-m defense because it stands in the way of them winning their next game. We are a right now society, and that's not a good thing.

One last thing, I want to thank all of the folks at for letting me share this book with you. They are the most recent site to post it for you. Remember, please e-mail the site where you found this and thank them for their time, energy, space, and patience for putting up with me.


So you're down in the dumps just a little bit. You can handle the fact that your dog hates you, your boss hates you, and the horse you bet on came in 4th. What you can't handle, is watching your team suffer against these coaches who think they are Super Coach. They are great because their team plays a zone and they win their games.

Now before I go into the next part, I want you to do something for me. Sit straight up in your chair. Come on, you can do it. No slouching! Now stick out your chest very exaggeratedly. Head up! Come on now, humor me. Now keep this posture while you read the next section. Remember, it's the Christmas season, and I have Santa's twin brother here. His name is St. Mortimer and he can tell if you are following the directions. So sit straight, head up, and chest out. When you read this, read it out loud like a tv announcer would, in a low distinquished voice. And do not read this in a monotone voice, put some juice and excitement into it.  Ready?

It's not the players who win these games, it's HIM/HER, it's .... Super Coach. Super Coach is king of all he/she surveys. See the kids play their hearts out? They play for him, Super Coach. If one of his players mess up in a game, Super Coach knows what to do. Super Coach jerks the kid out of the game and benches them. Super Coach then looks at the player that is going into the game.

"If you make the same mistake as this unlucky soul," Super Coach yells to the sub as he points to the kid that just came out of the game. "Then you will suffer the same horrible fate as this dweeb."

Super Coach knows what to do and how to motivate children. Super coach makes his players fear him. Who  is able to jump off the bench faster than a speeding bullet? Whose lungs are more powerful than a locomotive? Able to leap  tall buildings in a single bound to make sure you do everything he screams at you to do? IT'S SUPER COACH !!

And who are we? Why we are meek and mild mannered Clark Kent. Every week, we Clark Kents have to go into the gladiator's arena and play against Super Coach. Everyweek we come out of that arena with our tail between our legs and what is Super Coach doing? Gloating! "See how MY GREAT ZONE DEFENSE beat you, Clark Kent! No one beats Super Coach!!!!!

Now sing along to the tune of Ghost Busters.

When there's something wrong -

in your neighborhood -

who ya gonna call?


There are lots of complicated plays that will bust up a zone, but you, Clark Kent, coach younger kids with a 2 minute attention span. Complicated is a bad thing! Simple is a Good Thing! So here is your kryptonite so you have a chance against Super Coach.

Here's a secret. Hopefully this comes out in a small font like I am typing it, because secrets should be in smaller type. Coaches hide their weakest defensive players on the left side of the basket.

There, now you know something about Super Coach. Knowledge is Power. Now you hold your 1st piece of kryptonite. The first thing you do against a zone is attack the left side. I guarantee you that if Super Coach's zone has a weakness this is it.

Want another piece of kryptonite? OK! Overload his left side! You've heard of overweight, overfed, and overtaxed, but you aren't familiar with overload? This is where you have 3 of your offensive players on the left side of the basket. Have these players constantly move to get open and make sure they don't stand in the paint for over 3 seconds. When one of them finally gets passed to, the other 2 players in that area screen the defensive player or players. At this age, you should be able to get a clear shot from within 10' of the basket about 70% of the time. Overload is a Good Thing! Overload can beat Super Coach.

Want another piece of kryptonite? Let's try passing around the zone. Here's a simple little drill.

  1. Keep a forward  close to the basket where they are running from one side of the paint to the other. They look for a pass, or for the rebound if another player shoots.
  2. Keep a forward at the freethrow line running from one end of the freethrow line to the other. They receive passes and look for a cutter or an open shot.
  3. Your other 3 players play pass and cut just outside of their zone. They can also pass to the player on the freethhrow line and then cut to the basket. The whole time you are doing this, your players are having fun, and Super Coach's players are running their tails off to catch up with yiour passes. If your players can be patient, someone will end up wide open for a layup. The secret is the person with the ball has to keep their head up and look for the pass.

These are 2 simple Zone Busters. If you will teach your players these 2 simple ideas or plays, you can then become ZONE BUSTER. And Super Coach doesn't have a chance against ZONE BUSTER!! You will be King of all you survey - but - you never deserted your m-2-m defense. You have now become a TEACHER OF THE GAME!!!!!

I hope I gave you enough so you can TEACH YOUR KIDS HOW TO WIN THEIR NEXT GAME.

CHAPTER 32 - Is there life after the regular season?

So there are a few of you that I didn't scare off with my last chapter. I admit I was OUT THERE with my Super Coach approach. The thing is I bored myself with the previous several chapters, so I know I had to have bored you. Sometimes you just have to say what the heck, it's time to have some fun. Chapter 30 was fun for me. Thanks for staying with me.  

In all honesty, I have given you everything you need for your first year. Some of it will work for you, some of it won't. I started out trying to make it so you didn't seem like a pocket protector toting dweeb. I wanted you to have enough confidence that you could actually teach your kids the fundamentals, without stuttering or becoming an alcoholic. I have tried to give you enough info so that you could become a teacher.

I have never hidden my second agenda, I have tried to influence your present and future definition of coach. COACH = TEACHER AND ROLE MODEL. With all my heart I believe that this is the perfect definition of a coach. I have tried to instill my belief system. Whether I have succeeded, only time will tell. I believe that this is a game for the kids and should always remain FOR THE KIDS. They don't sign up to be yelled at or picked on. Kids sign up to play a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

So what is left for me to teach you - HOW TO AVOID THE POST-SEASON BLUES! Yes, Susan, there is a Santa Claus! And there is basketball life after the regular season ends.  This section is definitely not for everyone. At the end of your regular season, you may get down on your knees, face Mecca, and be thankful that it's over. But there are some of you that will be sad. Your will visit your local shrink at O'Rileys Pub, and cry in your beer. Some of you will want it to go on, and on, and on, and ..... You will be living proof that I am not the only sick puppy in the world.

After the regular season ends, you need to find out about the post season local leagues and tournaments. Here's how you find your info:

  1. Check your local and city newspapers
  2. Ask the league coordinator of the league you just played in
  3. Throughout your regular season, make friends with the coaches you play against and ask them if they know of any.
  4. Network - get the name and phone # of every coach and player you can
  5. Ask you high schools Athletic Director and coaches if they know of any

These will get you started. A lot of them require you to do some homework throughout your regular season. Oh well, no rest for the weary. Just keep asking everyone you meet, if they know of any spring, summer, and fall leagues. Sooner or later, you'll find some games.

Then there's AAU. AAU is a set of national and regional tourneys. It is not a way to play a lot more games. You play a 2 or 3 game qualifying tournament, and if you don't qualify, the AAU is over for you. The exception to this is the older  AAU traveling road teams. These teams play in tourneys all over the country. At the 3-8th grade levels, it's just not worth the money to travel.

Once you find a place to play, then you need to figure out who you want to play for you. Do you want your regular school team? Do you want to put a select team together of the better players from different teams? Do you want to keep part of your team and just fill in the holes with other players? This is all up to you.  I won't tell you what to do, this is 100% whatever you want to do.

The hardest part about off season is finding gym time for your LS's. Go back to the beginning of this book to the chapter that dealt with finding gym time. Re-read this chapter and then hit the phones.

Who is the off season for? It's for the kids who want to play. It's for the kids who want to get better. It's for the kids who want to play ball in high school. BASKETBALL PLAYERS ARE MADE IN THE SUMMER. TEAMS ARE MADE IN THE WINTER!

My girls started in 5th grade and have played ball 11 months a year ever since. At times this seems like it's going to overwhelm me and the girls, but I wouldn't trade these times and memories for anything. I have spent quality time with my own daughter, that I probably wouldn't have spent with her otherwise. Is the off season for everyone, no! The off season is only for those brave souls who have already had their lobotomy. Before you commit to the off season, make sure you are not prone to alcoholism. AND - make sure your marriage is on a firm foundation because this will sorely test you and your marriage.

CHAPTER 33 - All Presents should be neatly wrapped with a bow.

Basketball Encarta, that's what I call Alaska Coach's and Coach Larry Dean Jackson's websites. Only problem is that Coach Jackson's site on tripod went down. After listening to them tell him he never had a site on tripod, he switched servers. His new address is:

When I go there I don't use capitalized letters, but it probably doesn't matter. LD's site has more plays than any site I've seen. He's my X's and O's library. When he lost his site on tripod, he lost his audience but now you know how to get there. Try it, you'll like it.

It's early in the morning on Dec. 24th, 2000. My wife and daughter are a sleep and it's almost X-mas. This is my quiet time when I can look back over the year and  think, "Man am I glad this one is over!" I've done a lot of things wrong this year. I haven't gone home to Lexington, Kentucky to see my mom, sisters,  nieces, and their kids enough. Between working 60 hours a week and basketball the rest of my waking hours, I haven't spent enough quality time with my own family.  Ok, sometimes I can be a true s**t. Yes, I'm allowed to swear because it's my book! (sorry, not on this site - grin - Steve)

The biggest event this year was my father dying in Feb. Talk about a wake up call. This made me think a lot about those idiotic cliches like "Why am I here?"  and "If I were to die right now, what difference would my life have made?"

Now you are saying to yourself, "This guy has lost it. He is even further out in left field, than he was when he did the Super Coach chapter." No, I'm still with you.

My point is  that 16 years ago I met Jennifer and got married. My getting married to my best friend doesn't change the world. But this was a part of something that made a difference, my wife and I had Crash, our daughter. In some way, this changes the world. She will be something that I helped make a difference with.

Next, there's my extended family, the girls who play for me. I have tried very hard to let sports teach them teamwork and the value of good sportsmanship. I believe this can make a difference in the world.

And last, there's my Christmas present to you folks, and that is this book. If this book helps you, to  believe in your heart and soul that COACH = TEACHER AND ROLE MODEL, then I will have made a difference. Riley's Kudo = we are only vertical for so long, then we are horizontal forever. We should have as much fun as the law allows, and still be able to make a positive difference in another's life. IF YOU CAN'T HAVE FUN, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG PLACE! Basketball can be a state of mind where you can have fun and bring others into your playland with you. If you teach and have fun, so will everyone else. Ok, I'm rambling, so here's a silly X-mas present for you.













20 TO 20
20 TO 20










Chapter 34 - Parsley May Make It Look Better, But Who Would Eat It?

Jennifer and I take Crash to a restaurant on The Hill, here in St. Louis.  For those of you who aren't from here, The Hill is a district that has some of the finest restaurants in the state. My wife and I order veal oscar. The presentation is excellent. (Notice, I'm using 50 cent words that apply to the restaurant business, just simply amazing!) It's a thin slice of veal with crab on top, topped with a sauce. Asparagus adorns the plate. It looks great! Crash orders a hamburger, medium rare, with american cheese.

What does this have to do with basketball, you ask. As adults, my wife and I have more "cultivated" tastes and enjoy the appearance of the food. My 13 year old daughter's tastes are simple and uncomplicated =  gimme a burger and fries and 86 the rest of the garden stuff.  As coaches we can learn a lot from this analogy.

Coaches want their teams to appear well trained with sophisticated and complicated plays. Kids just want to play a game. The secret to coaching is to be able to teach the kids the game, while still keeping it a game. And remember, games are supposed to be fun.

Even as we speak, I am hosting my own tournament, both 5-on-5 and full court 3-on-3 for 8th grade girls. There are 16 teams who are playing. When a coach is waiting for their next game, they will huddle together with the other coaches, and compare notes. I sat in while some of the coaches compared notes about their flex offense, and their motion offense, and their 1-3-1 offense, and the ole what's it's name offense. This is like the veal oscar and it's presentation. To listen to these folks, you would thing it was a convention of college coaches. They were totally impressive with how they talked about the various offenses.

Now in reality, I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy.  My coaching is the same way. As I've told you before, my team does not have any set offense. We don't run patterns, we don't have specific plays that we learn. So you can imagine that I was somewhat impressed by the coach's conversation. There was one coach who was extremely vocal about the fact that his team had three different offenses that they used to keep the other teams off balance. My next game was against this coach. Let's call this coach Bob.

I did not change my gameplan for this game at all. I told my girls to play a hard physical game, play man-2-man defense, and I'd like to see a little more passing than the last game. Bob had 3 different offenses alright. When the first one failed, he went to the second offense, and when that one failed he went to his third one. His girls knew their offenses, but when they went up against a hard m-2-m defense, it took them out of their rhythm. His girls ended up in the wrong spot, or were 2 seconds too late in getting to their spot. You've heard of common sense? Well, his girls had no basketball sense. They didn't know what to do if their offense was out of sync. They couldn't think on their feet.

At half time the score was 27 -2, we were winning. Three different complicated offenses and yet they couldn't score. That team's problem was that his kids knew a lot about those offenses, and very little about the fundamentals of the game. I don't believe in running up a score, so I held my girls back the second half and we won 45 to 20.

Here's the funny part. After the game, Bob came up to me and asked me what the name of our offense was. He had no clue !  He should have asked us what our defense was because I'm sure he thought that it was some new hi-folluting laboratory designed defense with a 50 cent word for a name. I told him not to tell anyone, but we had just learned the new P-C offense, mixed with the P-R offense. He nodded his head up and down judicitiously as if he had heard of it. By the way P-C stands for pass and cut, and P-R stands for pick and roll.

Bob is the veal oscar. He tried to introduce adult tastes and appearances before his kid's taste buds were ready for it. My kids were the burger and fries, uncomplicated and knew the game.

So that brings me to the next point, YOU FOLKS! I have tried to teach you how to make your LS's fun. I have given you enough simple drills for younger kids to learn. Don't be the veal oscar. If you can teach your kids to handle a basketball, how to pass to a target,  how to make layups, the correct shooting form, m-2-m defense, proper footwork, how to communicate on the floor, how to keep their head up when they dribble, how to set a good screen that seals, how to block out and rebound, and if you can teach them this all in the first year, you are a better teacher than I am Charlie Brown.

You have enough info to drown an elephant, you just don't know it. Don't keep looking for that magic wand, you are the magic wand. It's not the neat offenses and defenses that win games at this age, it's man-2-man defense and teaching the basics of the game. Don't be the veal oscar. It may look good with that sprig of parsley on top, but who eats parsley?

I really need to clarify a point here. I am not advocating that you never need to learn a set offense, plays, X's and O's, or whatever. There is a time and place for patterned offenses, I just don't happen to believe that 3rd - 5th grade happens to be the time or the place. As you have probably learned by now, gym time is your most treasured resource. I believe that whatever little gym time you have, should be spent teaching your kids the basics, not wasted on learning set offenses that won't help them grow as an individual.

Let me change the timing here, slightly. You  should start learning set offenses and zone defenses when:

  1. Your team can make 7 out of ten layups, natural hand, at full speed
  2. When they can make 5 out of 10 layups with their opposite hand
  3. When they can play a full court pressing m-2-m defense, and not lose their player
  4. When every member of your team can lead the fast break and make it 7 out of 10 times
  5. When every member of your team can dribble with their head up
  6. When your team can shoot with their shoulders squared to the basket, and use the correct shooting form
  7. When your team uses the proper footwork and spacing on their m-2-m defense
  8. When you have finally decided that the kids are not going to take this sport seriously and you have lost too many games by 30 points or more

You wanna know something, I just looked over this list and I missed one . How about when the cows come home???? My team plays about 80-100 games a year, and we have probably played over 150 different teams. Not one of these teams could meet the qualifiers I just gave you. So, ok, I'll revise it. When 70% of your team can do the above, then it's time for a set offense and defense. See, I can be a reasonable type of fellow.

Please understand that what I am about to say puts me in the minority. In fact, there's probably only 3 people in the whole world who will agree with this, and that's me, myself, and I. I really don't know of a single coach who would agree with what I am about to say, so here's from the "For what it's worth department!"

I honestly don't know that as long as teaching is your number one goal, you should ever use a set offense or defense more than 15% of the time. Once the kids hit 9th grade, then let their freshman coach teach them his offense and defense. Until then, I personally would not use them unless needed.

I know that LD and Alaska and some of my other buddies are shaking their heads about now. Why? Because every once in a while in a moment of weakness, I will ask them about what offenses and defenses I should teach my kids. We all have our moments where we wish we had that magic wand. I have to remind myself that when my team is off of their game, I need to go back to the basics. Basics wins games, and teaches the kids at the same time. It all goes back to what I talked about in the beginning, what are your priorities?

Let me tell you a little story. I told you in the beginning I don't have a long list of credentials. In fact I was honest about not even having a resume. But here's what teaching the basics can do. Plus there are a few other lessons to be learned from this sory.

Every summer, Nike has basketball camps at various places around the country. Crash and one her buddies went to the one in Chicago this past summer. They spent 5 days at a college campus doing b-ball from 9 am till 9 pm. They learn, they have individual contests, team contests, and get to eat that wonderful glop, known as college cafeteria food. (Doesn't that just tittilate your taste buds?)

Remember, these are 12 year olds getting ready to go into 8th grade. (Both kids are young for their grade.) Crash wins the 1-on-1 contest for the 12-14 year olds. This means that out of between 70 to 100 real basketball players of the same age, Crash was the best on that given day.

Emily, Crash's buddy and team mate, was good enough that they moved her up to play varsity with the 16-18 year olds. And she helped her team win the 3-on-3 championship against varsity girls. This was a 12 year old playing against 16 & 17 year old kids.

How were they able to achieve this? They knew and could execute the basics. Forget about fancy smancy, teach your kids the basics and you will never ever regret it.

I told you there were other lessons to be learned from this. Here's another one. A little background first. College coaches run these camps, with the help of some very good high school coaches. The kids who attend these camps are normally very good players. What parent would spend close to $800 to send their child to a camp, if the kid didn't have the desire and some ability?

Now for the lesson. They let the girls play the game. Basketball is a very physical sport, and these college coaches let the kids play. The camp started out with one trainer to look after the wounded. I believe they ended up with 3 before it was all over. When I got there to pick up Crash, the place looked like a mash unit. There were more girls with band-aids, knee wraps, taped fingers, ankle and knee braces, and more. One girl broke her ankle, another her wrist, and Crash broke 2 fingers. A kid would get hurt, run to the trainer and say "Tape me!"  They didn't whine or complain, they just wanted to go back out onto to the court and play some more.

For those of you who are in leagues where the refs wear a sign that says, "If you touch, you foul," this is not basketball. Basketball is taking your butt and moving someone out of position. Basketball is a bunch of bodies battling for the rebound. Basketball is a hard physical game.

Let's get back to the basics vs. set offenses and defenses. I believe I was advocating my philosophy of not going too heavily into X's and O's until 9th grade, right?

So why am I going into the basics as much as I am? Because if the average coach has ten steps to success, and in order 1-10, they always want to skip steps 2-6 and get to step 7 too soon. The average coach will introduce themselves and then say, "Now let's learn some plays." What's wrong with this picture? How can you execute a play effectively if you skip the fundamentals? Trust me, this type of coaching goes on everyday.

Ok, this is for you doubting Thomas's of the world who are only interested in the win. You want to win more games? Follow this line of thought. My team played one of the best teams in St. Louis yeaterday in my tournament. We have played this team at least 10 times before, and never gotten within 7 points of them. They are really, really good.  This team played a flex offense. Defensively they played m-2-m and also a 1-1-2-1 trapping zone defense. So much for their gameplan.

We played 100% m-2-m defense and no set offense. They never could figure out our offense, because there was no pattern and we scored because of good ole fashioned basketball sense. My team fought through their screens and stayed with their girl on our m-2-m defense and we won by two. This was the first time we had ever beaten them. You want the almighty win? How can a team stop you if they can't figure out what you're doing?

Is this type of play for everyone? Nope, nope, nope! It's not even for most teams. But if you teach your kids enough, it can be for you.

Let's hit one more subject. I've spent an aweful lot of time on priorities, coaching style, and having fun. Why do you think that is? Am I into the save a whale, save a tree, or save a kid crusade? I don't think so.

Being successful at whatever you do is comprised of only two parts, learning how to do something, and doing it with the right attitude. Attitudes win games. If the best player in the world has their head up their patooty, they will have a bad game. If an average player has his head on right, he will play better than average that day. Scream at a younger kid and watch what type of attitude you get. Next, watch how they play, because they will suck. Encourage a kid, praise them when they do something right, and they keep on TRYING to to it right. Bad attitudes = a bad game ! Kids are rebellious at this age anyway, don't add to it.

I have given you all you need to know for year one. You have some basic drills that will help you teach your kids the game. I have tried to brainwash you into having what I consider to be the right priorities. I could go into oodles more, but you have more than enough on your plate at this time. Remember this is your and your players first year. SIMPLE IS GOOD!

There's only one more chapter and this will be a fun one. I asked a bunch of my buddies at Chalk Talk to give me a basketball cliche or saying. I have compiled a list of them for you. These will be quotes you can use and impress the wee-wads out of other coaches and parents with. There will also be a lot you can learn from these quotes. I know, because I learned a bunch from them. Remember, COACH = TEACHER AND ROLE MODEL !!!!

Have any questions or need any help, e-mail me at  In case any of you are interested, my e-mail address comes from my team's name, Team Firepower. Someone else had firepower so I could only use firepow. The  55 comes from the old speed limit of 55 mph. Why 55, because it's a constant reminder to myself not to speed with my team. When you speed, you skip steps!

CHAPTER 35 - How to Impress Your Fellow Coaches - or, I can talk the talk!

Behind every cliche, platitude, or country saying, there is a kernel of truth or more. Here is a collection of sayings from my buddies at Chalk Talk. Most of these sayings have more than a kernel of truth. These are also sayings you can use at basketball frat or sorority parties. You can use these on Super Coach! Or, as my buddies have done, you can use them to help teach your kids. Some of these need no explanation. When I need to jump in and explain one, I will, but it will be rare. Here's the format: author, then the saying. Most of the authors use e-mail names, so sorry if I don't have real names for some of them.

Sbay Coach: If the clock is running, then why are you standing still?

Alaska Coach: Learn to do the simple things perfectly

Coach MacKinney: Practice makes habit. Perfect practice makes perfect!

Alaska Coach: Nobody ever drowned in sweat! (God, I love this one!)

Sbay Coach: Don't spectate, participate

Coach Mark Bonifield: Defensive position is like the new Dodge, wider is better!

Coach MacKinney: If you want to get open, set a good screen (to get your teammate open)

Coach MacKinney: Win the old fashioned way - outwork your opponent

Andrew Haysom: No stance - no chance!  (on offense, if your shooting form is wrong, odds of you making a shot are slim. On defense, if your footwork and positioning is off, you are easy to score against!)

Sbay Coach with a Ricky Birdsong quote: There is no glory in rebounding, JUST VICTORY

coach mph: Scoring a lot of points may impress your girlfriend or boyfriend, but defense wins games, and rebounding wins championships!

Sbay Coach: To win, you must defend!

Alaska Coach: Behold! The power of possession! (Offense isn't just the best defense, it's the perfect defense. Teach the kids the power of possession. The other team can not score, if you have the ball.)

Sbay Coach: Maximum effort, all of the time!

aussie coach: A winner finds reasons, a loser makes excuses!

Coach Mark Bonifield: If you want to Be like Mike," take a hike! I will have no 360 double pump from behind the back board, tongue hanging out, windmill finger roll lay ups on my team. When you make the pros, go for it. BUT NOT IN THIS PROGRAM!

aussie coach: a successful team is like an iceberg, everyone sees the star, but  underneath it all is that big, wide, strong base: the rest of the team. Without that base, the star sinks too.

Sbay Coach with a Michael Jordan quote: Always focus on what you want to achieve

Sbay Coach with a Bill Walton quote: Winning is about having the whole team on the same page.


b-ball ed: Simple is good!!!!!!

Sbay Coach: when you get to the end of your rope...tie a knot and hold on!!!

Country Coach: There will come a time when winter will ask, "What have you done all summer?" (Basketball players are made in the summer!)

Anon.: Basketball players are made in the summer, teams are made in the winter!

Anon: Your players won't remember the score of a game 20 years from now. But they will remember if they sat the bench rather than played. And, they will remember how you treated them!

b-ball ed: You are always teaching your players something. When you scream at them, what are you teaching them? Before every practice or game, you need to decide, "WHAT WILL YOU TEACH YOUR KIDS TODAY, AND HOW WILL YOU TEACH IT?"

You want to know what to teach your players? Every one of these sayings could make an extremely valid LS. There is a lesson to be taught in all of them. I thought this would be the last chapter, but after all of the e-mails I have received, there will be one more question - answer session. This will be a meat and potatoes session.

I have debated about doing something for the 2nd and 3rd year coaches. If this appeals to you, let me know at

Chapter 36 - Your are Only Vertical for so Long, Then ...

Q: I coach 8th grade boys and we have always played zone. How do I teach them m-2-m defense?

A: With Difficulty!  The 1st question I would ask myself is do I have any players who could make their high school team, and is it more than one? If the answer is yes, then teach them m-2-m. If the answer is no, then you might want to skip it. If they have gotten this far with a zone, and had fun, then why upset the turnip truck if they aren't going to go any farther.

That being said, if you have potential players and need to work on m-2-m, then I would hold a team meeting. Explain to them how you plan to change their game plan and why. Here are some pointers:

1.   Start with proper footwork - sliding, running backwards, etc.

2.   Teach them to fight through screens or to switch off with another teammate

3.   Teach them spacing = 2 arm lengths or more away from your player on the weak side - closer to your player on the strong side

This will get you started. Be prepared for some whopping losses during this learning phase. That's why you have the team meeting.

Q:   I can't keep my kids from dribbling down the sidelines and then from getting trapped in the corners. How do I break them of this habit?

A:   When you find a quick solution to this, we can package it, and make a million. The sidelines and the corners are  kid magnets. You can preach, bribe, beg, and threaten, but that's one heck of a strong magnet. Even when they do the right thing 4 times in a row, don't become too smug thinking you've broken the habit. #5 will see them go back to their prehistoric instincts, and go down the sidelines again. I understand kids are smart, but the kid magnets are stronger than their reasoning powers. Solve it by telling them over and over and over and over .....

Q:   I have 2 problems. My guards dribble with their head down so they can't see who's open, and my forwards won't move to get open. Help!

A:   In your LS's, scrimmage without dribbling, more often. This will help both problems. In your next game tell your guards they aren't allowed to dribble more than 4 times without passing. When they do this, YOU AREN'T ALLOWED TO LAUGH! You will hear your guards counting out loud to 4, then looking for someone to pass to. At first you just want to laugh, but laughing is not a good thing. No player wants to be laughed at. You will lose ground if you laugh. After a while, you will start to see improvement.

Q:  I have a 5th grade girls team that does the basics pretty well. We have won all of our games by over 30 points, but I want to find a new offense that will let me win by even more. Defensively we play a 1-3-1 zone and with my teams height, it's really hard to score against us. The area we need to improve on is our offense. We play a flex and a wheel offense. I would appreciate any ideas for new plays so we can win by an even greater margin? 

A:  This book is for beginning coaches who teach the fundamentals. Secondly, to play a 1-3-1 zone, at the 5th grade level, is only ok if your team is extemely solid in a m-2-m defense.  I doubt that they could even spell m-2-m, let alone be proficient at it. To ask me this, makes me seriously doubt if you have even read my book. You are one of these coaches that I preach against. To ask how to beat other 5th grade teams by 50 points, means you shouldn't be allowed the privilege of coaching kids. Once you are up by 20 points or so, basketball courtesy says you don't run up the score. This is especially true for the younger kids. AND 5TH GRADERS ARE YOUNGER KIDS !! To you, the readers of this book, I hope you understand my anger with jerks like this. I guarantee you that his kids know his zone defense and zero m-2-m. By 7th grade the other teams will catch up to his team, and then start beating them soundly, as long as they have coaches that teach. This guy is coaching for his own ego, and not for the benefit of his players. 

Q:  While I support your beliefs about teaching the fundamentals and m-2-m defense, my team is being beat by the 2-1-2 zones that the other teams play. Do you have any ideas that could help us win at least one game? 

A:  Please re-read chapter 31, that's the one about Zone Busters. At this level there are only 3 things that I can think of to solve this problem. 

1.   Shoot over the zone. Get your best long range shooters to square their shoulders to the basket, and start shooting. One thing to remember about this. LONG DISTANCE SHOOTS USUALLY MEAN LONG DISTANCE REBOUNDS. If your players try to stay within 2 feet of the basket, THEY WILL WATCH the rebounds soar over their heads. Long distance shots mean long distance rebounds. 

2.   Pass the ball around the zone quicker than their players can react and cover the ball. Someone will end up open for a shot. 

3.   Overload their zone. This is explained in chapt. 31. 

Q:  The referees aren't calling enough fouls and someone is bound to get hurt. Should I point this out to them or what should I do? 

A:   I've never seen jumping a ref work. If you want to pull them aside at the half and ask them to watch a specific player because of their swinging elbows, that might work. Basketball is a hard physical sport. Remember, NO WEAK SISTERS ALLOWED! Now let's add to this puzzle. Most referees for youth leagues lack a solid knowledge of the rules and the game. Most receive $6-$8 per game. You get what you pay for. These folks usually take every comment you make personally and negatively. This puts your team on their bad side. Unfortunately my advice is - Grin and bear it! Watch the college coaches. They don't believe you can get quality refs, even at the college level. 

Q:   My 4th grade players have a hard enough time getting the ball to the basket with 2 hands. I understand that I should be teaching the proper techniques, but what do I do when they aren't strong enough to do it one handed? 

A:   Getting it to the basket one handed is a matter of learning and the right mental attitude. Start them shooting one handed about 3 feet away from the basket. As they get comfortable at this distance, slowly go to 4 feet, then 5', and so on. Next, in 7th grade, I had a 5'6" girl who weighed 150 pounds and couldn't shoot a free throw and get the ball there, unless she did it 2 handed. At the same time, my best 3 point shooter was 4'10" tall. My short player thought she could, so she could. My bigger player didn't believe she could, and she was right! Kids will find a way to get something done, when they want to.

Q:   I coach 5th grade boys. I have read your book and it is working great on defense, but I need some help on offense. We are getting open shots but they just won't go in. We played a team last night that we should have beaten. We out shot them by two to one, but ours just wouldn't go in. Help! 

A:   First look at their shooting form. If this is ok, then just get them to shoot more in your LS's, and on their own. You might start every LS with what I call the 30-30-30-30. This is 30 shots, from 6 feet out, 30 from the right, 30 from the middle, 30 from the left sides, and then 30 free throws. Depending upon how many baskets your gym has, this normally takes about 10 minutes. Then at the end of your LS, give them homework. They are to shoot 300 shots on their own at home. You will see your shooting %'s increase dramatically.  Now if your shooting form isn't ok, then spend a lot more time in your LS's on the proper form. 

Q:   I am having problems with my defense. I did as you suggested and we are playing strictly m-2-m defense. Our 1st game we lost by 30. The next game was by 18. The next was 12 and our last game we lost by 6. Everyone keeps telling me to go to a zone. What do you think? A:   Your losses are by a slimmer margin every time. It would appear that your kids are getting better at m-2-m. I wouldn't switch to a zone when your team is showing major improvement. It sounds like you need to work on your offense more, not your defense. Next time you scrimmage or play a game, watch your kids shooting form, watch their screens, are they rebounding the missed shots and putting them back up and in, and the shot selection. If they are making 25% or more of their shots, then look at your defense. If you are only making 10-20% of your shots, then it's not your defense. 

Q:   I am coaching my son's 1st grade team. Any ideas would be appreciated. 

A:   I am not a big believer in 1st or 2nd grade teams. I haven't ever coached that young a team, so I may be speaking out of ignorance. My best guess is to concentrate more on passing and dribbling contests. Make sure everything you do is fun. At this age the kids are just looking to have fun. If you can make learning fun, you will have succeeded big time! 

Q:   I coach a 4th grade girls team. Our next opponent has a guard that scores about 20 points a game. Any ideas? 

A:   A guard that scores 20 points at the 4th grade level probably makes a lot of their points from lay ups. Also, they probably score almost all of their teams points. 4th grade scores are normally 15 to 10, 20 - 8, etc. Two ideas come to mind. When your team has the ball, always make sure that you leave a guard around the top of the key. Your guard is there to keep the other team from making a fast break every time they get the ball. Next, figure out who the other teams weakest player is, and don't guard them. Double team the 20 point player, and make their weakest player beat you. 

Q:   In our league, I don't have a choice who is on my team, and I can't kick anyone off of the team. I have a boy who has the worst attitude. He verbally picks on the other players and keeps everyone upset. The other players are good kids, but I'm losing them because of my trouble maker. Help! 

A:   Every team will have at least one player that is a source of cancer. Me personally, I would give him a warning, verbal and written, in front of his parents. If it occurred again, adios amigo. You can't do that, so here is an alternative. Give the verbal/written warning in front of his parents. The next offense will be dealt with in practice with suicides. Every offense there after will result in reduced playing time. Finally you will get to a point where there is no playing time. Make the kid quit. Everything you do will need to be in writing and given to the parents. Also make copies and send to  your league coordinator and bring a copy to each game where you plan on benching this player. This way you are justified in what you are doing and it shouldn't be able to backfire on you. ALWAYS COVER YOUR TUSH!!! 

Q:   I want to give a friend of mine a copy of your book, so could I have your permission to do so? 

A:   As long as it is not for reprint in any media form, or for the intent of making money. As long as it is for your personal use, or theirs, copy away my friend. These websites and I are putting this 1st book on the web for free. It was written with the sole purpose of trying to help that 1st year coach. It was never intended to make anyone a profit. 

Q:  My 6th grade team just got beat 40-6. The other team put a full court press on us the whole game and we couldn't get the ball across the half court line. What can I do? 

A:   First let me say I don't believe in full court presses in rec. leagues. I totally believe in full court presses for everything else. My team has full court pressed every minute of every game since 6th grade. When we are up by 20, we stop pressing. But we are not a rec. team. That said, how do you beat it? Unless you have one fantastic dribbler, you beat a press by passing. Here are a few of the basic rules: 

1.   You try to keep the ball toward the middle of the court. Basketball is just the opposite of soccer. In soccer, you take the ball down the sidelines and pass into the middle, close to the goal. In basketball, it's just the opposite. You bring the ball down the middle of the court, and dish off to the wings, close to the basket. If you bring it down the sidelines, it's too easy for the other team to trap you against the sideline. 

2.   Unless you are making a long pass over the opposing player, try to make all of your passes bounce passes, they are harder to steal. 

3.   Take fewer dribbles and pass it down the court. Whenever my team has a problem bringing it down the court, I make them play like it's a  no dribble scrimmage. Even though we are in the middle of a game, I will not allow them to dribble the ball. This forces everyone to move to get open. We have never had a problem bringing it down the court this way.

Q:   I want my forwards to be able to move without the ball better, and actually handle the ball better. Any drills that will help me with this?

A:   Other than the no dribble scrimmage for movement, try this **** FULL COURT 3-ON-3 *** Sometimes I am really a forgetful bonehead. This will help your players as much, if not more than any other single thing they could do. Most gyms have baskets on each side of the regular court. This makes for a shorter basketball court. Play full court, across the big court, 3-on-3. That's 3 players vs. 3 players. Your forwards will learn how to handle a ball because of this game. This is not the normal half court 3-on-3, this is full court on a short court.

My team has played this as a real game in 3-on-3 leagues I have hosted. Because of full court 3-on-3, every player on my team is great at leading the fast break. Even my big girls can now dribble a basketball. When I get compliments at how well my forwards can handle a ball, I just want to laugh. I didn't teach them this, 3-on-3 did. NO DRIBBLE SCRIMMAGES AND FULL COURT 3-ON-3 ARE THE 2 MOST IMPORTANT THINGS YOU CAN HAVE YOUR TEAM DO. No other single drill or game even comes close in my book. You folks want less preaching and more help, full court 3-on-3 is the real deal.


I apologize for the lack of continuity, the spelling, and all of the other mistakes I have made. This has been typed when I had 5 minutes here and 15 minutes there. I never took the time for spell check. In fact there were times, I would have to retype 90% of a chapter when I was kicked off line because I would be interrupted and then take too long coming back to the computer. Does this mean work is not a great place to type your book? Probably not! Please over look all of the little mistakes and take a look at the big picture.

I have enjoyed writing this for you folks. In the 4 months that it has taken to e-mail this to the various sites, I have averaged over 40 e-mails a day from you asking questions. Most of these questions were the same, just asked in different ways. I have responded to every e-mail but one, I deleted that one by accident, sorry whoever you are.

According to the e-mails, there are at least 6 major school systems, with over 100 coaches each, that are using this as a guide. Add this to the rest of the people who have told me they are using it, you get over 1000 coaches   using this.  

So what does this mean to me? Nothing financially, not a single penny has been made because of this. If coaches use the drills, but coach for their own secret agendas, meaning to promote their own ego, then I have wasted months of work. I believe that COACH=TEACHER AND ROLE MODEL! If none of you adhere to this, then I have failed.

As I told you earlier, my father died this year. This made me think about the legacy I will leave behind. I want to be known as a most wonderful husband, father,  and as a Coach who gave back to the game that he loved. If I can have just one positive influence on my wife, my daughter, my friends, and on even just one future coach, then I will have considered my life a total success.

Folks, you have some choices to make. As a coach your number 1 priority will be to decide what direction you are going to take your team. Does coach = # of wins or does coach = teacher and role model? This book has come full circle, it started out with priorities, and is ending up with priorities.

Again, my heart felt thanks go out to COACH Steve Jordan, COACH Larry Dean Jackson, the Powerbasketball Team, and Norm from Chalk Talk. Believe me, I am not one of those folks who use the word Coach lightly. Alaska and Larry Dean have more than earned that title. I am not always the easiest to put up with, but it helps to take me in small doses. Without you folks, this project would never have happened.

My thanks to all of the regulars at Chalk Talk who have helped to teach me and who have helped mold my twisted view of the basketball world.  Most of all I want to thank you, the readers, for putting up with my ranting and raving.

PS, thanks to my wife and my daughter for supporting me throughout all of this. For you single folk out there, make sure that the person you love and then marry is also your best friend, it makes for a most wonderful life. They even let you do crazy things like this.

Let me leave you with a couple of thoughts. First, NEVER PUT YOURSELF IN A COMPROMISING POSITION. I.E., never give a player a ride home when it's just you and them. Compromising positions are not good things, I know from experience. If I do book 2, I'll tell you about it.

Next, your kids are learning something from you every day, WHAT WILL YOU TEACH THEM TODAY? Your kids also learn from your actions. WHAT WILL YOU SHOW THEM TODAY?

Last, I would like to poll you. As you can tell this was a book strictly for 1st year coaches. I was approached by a sporting goods co. to publish a 2nd book. (Yes, of course they told me I would have to clean up my material, spelling, grammar, etc.) Even though this has pretty much fallen through,  I am still thinking about doing book 2 anyway. Book 2 would be " SURVIVING YOUR SECOND YEAR AS A YOUTH BASKETBALL COACH." I could call it "HOW TO LOSE YOUR HAIR AT A RIPE YOUNG AGE." Or how about "THE LOBOTOMY HELPED A LOT, THANKS MOM!"

All kidding aside,  e-mail me if you would like to see a book for the 2nd year coaches. If I get enough e-mails, I might just continue this lunacy. Yes, I would go into more drills and some plays.

To all of you, my new found friends, may God bless you in your endeavors, have patience, believe in yourself and those around you, and please keep your head up when you're dribbling, (you can see the Mack trucks that are gunning for you this way!) I have always had this attitude that you are only vertical for so long, then you are horizontal forever. Just like life, all good things must come to an end.  So it should come as no surprise that this is the last chapter in the book. I am going to give you a Readers Digest version of some of the e-mails I have received, asking specific questions. Then, I will give you my most "unworthy opinion" on how to fix the leaking facets. The first one proves that I can be a real jerk sometimes. Once you've read it all, I hope you understand why!

copyright 2001 by Ed Riley, all rights reserved