There are a lot of games within the game of basketball.  Can we please stop acting like it’s all the same?  Yes the objectives of the game are the same. For the most part, the rules of the game are similar. However, there are differences in every team, even the ones at the same level. As coaches, we have to know how to play these games for our players and teams.

A quick, but not so quick side note.

Kids younger than 12 shouldn’t play 5 on 5.  Most of them aren’t strong enough make a pass from the top of the key to the wing, much less make shots consistently from anywhere outside the lane. I know there are a lot of debates about whether teams this age should be allowed to play zone.  I have no problem with them playing zone as long as it’s a 3 man zone.

Kids that age need more space to play effectively. Ten people on the court at one time is too many for their size, strength and skill set.  Not to mention, 94 feet is too far for them to run at that age.  They spend more time just running back and forth and not enough time actually getting to play the game.  Understanding transition and how to play in transition is certainly important.  At that age, they need as many opportunities to touch the ball as they can.

Back to the topic….

Men’s basketball and women’s basketball at the professional levels are different.  Men’s basketball is played above the rim. Women’s basketball isn’t.  Even at the college level, the games are different between the different levels and many times even within a level.  It doesn’t make one better than the other.  It only makes them different.

So you’re probably thinking, “Thanks Captain Obvious.”

Then why isn’t it so obvious in how we coach and teach the game? Whether it’s in our skill development, X’s and O’s or our practice planning, just because our favorite coach or trainer did it, doesn’t mean that we should. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. It just means we need to think critically about our choices with our players and our teams and how what we do fits who we are coaching.

In most cases, simpler is better. Do they get better every day? Do they play hard? Do they play unselfishly? Anything after that is icing on the cake in most situations. So many teams don’t do these things well and therefore they aren’t nearly as successful in the things that they attempt to do.

I used to think every youth team should play man to man.  Before that, I thought every team should play man to man.  That is certainly my preference, but that doesn’t mean that fits every situation.

One season, our best defense was a box and one.  One of our best athletes struggled playing help side defense.  So we played zone and that player denied the other team’s best player.  For that team, for that season it worked.  The next season, our best player played a one man zone in the middle and everyone else played man to man.  It was more about keeping him out of foul trouble and letting him contest the rim.

The same goes for offense.  You can win 20 games a season with no plays and you can win 20 games in a season with 90 plays.  That’s not an exaggeration.  I’ve lived both experiences.

There are so many ways to play the game. There isn’t a one size fits all formula.  What do you know inside and out?  What can you teach?  How much time do you have? What can your players learn?

To truly teach anything well, it takes time and repetition. It’s our job to help our players win the games within the game.

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