Combining Actions Part III: The Power of 3 Player Building Blocks

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Combining Actions

The 2 player building blocks have their place and their purpose.  They are great for putting a couple actions together and drilling the actions and reactions of the offensive players. They are good for teaching skills and concepts related to individual and team defense.  They are also good for drilling fundamental skills that are tied to these actions.

However, the game is played with 5 players on the court.  We have to get there eventually. In theory, you could put 5 players on the court right now and they have all the tools they need to execute basic offense.  If defense is taught in concert with the offense, then the team should have a general idea of team defense as well.  They have been drilled in all of the basic perimeter actions and how to defend them. They won’t be perfect yet, but I would recommend a little more patience. They might have played 5 on 5, but everything has been very controlled. We don’t want to let them loose quite yet.  Let’s take that next step….

The use of 3 player building blocks provides an excellent teaching and learning environment. Placing 3 offensive players in a building block significantly increases the number of options that players have for the actions and reactions they must execute.  For a team that will play with 2 post players, 3 player building blocks complete the perimeter part of the offense. The third player automatically makes the reactions less predictable and as a result increases the difficulty of properly executing offense correctly.  It’s also easier for one coach to keep track of three players, while providing game like situations for players to be able to learn. It also provides the opportunity for players to focus on what they are doing without worrying so much about what their teammates are doing.  It is also still feasible for coaches to dictate the order of actions of players with three of them on the court (although I would not recommend this).  I’ll explain.

For a 3 player 3 action drill, there are approximately 27 different combinations of basic actions with the layers that have been installed. When you consider that the actions could go left or right, the combinations increase.  When you consider that players have the option to fill to the left or right, combinations increase.  If you consider the baseline drive a different action from a non-baseline drive, the number increases anytime the ball is on the wing or corner. If you consider the skip pass or the read line layers as separate layers, that adds complexity as well.

There are also other variables to consider.  The timing of the actions adds variability.  A draft drive will generate a post slide.  A delayed drive will create circle movement.  The starting points of the ball and players add more variation.  We can really complicate things for players or we can make it simple. It’s all about how we teach it.

Coaches can try to control each of these variables, or they can let the players control some or all of them.  The coach must carefully consider what they are trying to accomplish in designing drills from these building blocks. How these drills are designed and implemented will impact how the players play the game.

My recommendation:  Give the players rules to follow and let them play.  

Here are a few options.  This list is far from comprehensive.

1. Execute any 3 (or 4 or 5 or 6) actions.
2. This possession must include at least 1 (or 2 or 3 or 4) of a specific action.
3. A certain action is not allowed in this possession.
4. The ball must change sides of the court 2 (or 3 or 4 times).
5. The ball must stay on the left side of the court for this possession.
6. All actions must be executed in pairs.
7. No action can be executed a second time.
8. Everyone must execute a certain action before the possession is over.
9. Execute actions but #11 can’t touch the ball.
10. Every other action must be a certain action.

Now try combining some of these rules. Things can get interesting really quickly. What does this do?

It gives the players something else to think about.  They are supposed to be focused on the ball handler. Until now, that’s all they have been forced to think about.  In a game, there are other things to think about besides the ball handler, namely the defense.  While there’s nothing like putting defense on the floor against the offense, you can make the offense think without defense being there. The abilities of your players will dictate which of these rules you will implement.

If we try to teach every possible combination of actions, we would drive ourselves crazy and our players would think that they have to remember every one step by step.  Instead, let players make decisions.  If you want them to make a certain decision, construct rules that encourage certain decisions.  If a player makes a mistake, the question should be asked in some form, “What happened with the ball?”  That dictates what the player without the ball should do. This is tougher for more experienced players.  They tend to want to worry about the actions of other players more than they should.

You can put defense on the floor and play with the same rules. There are additional rules you can install. You can choose to let the defense know what the offense is doing or not.  There are advantages to both.  All this is with only 3 players.  You can really create a lot of variety in what you do while at the same time work on the same habits and fundamentals on both sides of the ball.

This is really fun.  Ok at least to me it is.  I would love comments on different rules that you use or that you come up with.

I’m in the middle of drawing up some of those 3 player building blocks.  My next post will include diagrams of these combinations.  I hope to get that posted this week.

Series Navigation<< Combining Actions Part II: The Draft Drive (2 player building blocks)Part IIa: Limitations of 2 player building blocks >>