Coaching youth basketball can be a real challenge. As a coach, you may only have a certain set of players for one year, and unlike a professional or even college franchise, it’s nigh impossible to come up with a set style on offense that can be carried from team to team.
When you’re dealing with ten to twelve unique children at different skill levels and different ideas of how offense should be run (namely, through their own hands), it’s important to have some set plays that you can rely on and instruct the team in to keep them all on the same page.
The five-pass offense is the very basic starting point for young basketball teams. When you first speak to your players about offense, tell them that no shot may be taken until the ball has been passed five times.
Older players can be instructed to take the open shot if it is there, but younger players will probably fare better if they keep it in their minds that they must pass five times before shooting. This will encourage a team mentality. For an extra challenge, say that the ball must be touched by all five players before a shot.
Another good offensive type for young children is the four corners offense. One player assumes the role of the point guard and starts at the top of the key with the ball; the other four players take one of the corners of the key and then set screens for one another, always ending up at one of the corners, until they can take a shot.
You can throw in diagonal screens if you want to confuse the defensive players. This offense is good for young players because it gives them a spot to mentally aim for when they are charging across the court, a defender in tow.
This offense is very simplistic, however, so it is not recommended for teams above the elementary school level unless some additional complications are added — defenders will catch on too easily.
Similar to the four corners offense, but making use of the entire half court, a screen offense involves your players setting continuous screens for one another until an open shot is available.
A player sets a screen by planting their feet shoulder-width apart, protecting themselves (boys at the groin area, girls at the chest), then standing firm without movement as a fellow player essentially scrapes off their defender on the screening player.
In a screen offense, several players become screeners and move about the court, setting screens for the ball handler and then “rolling” to get open in case the ball handler can get them the ball for a hook shot, layup, or even a dunk. A screen offense can be adapted to just about any playbook entry you can fathom, and knowing how to set effective screens is a vital skill for players on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
When implementing any of your offensive tactics, you want to start out by having your players run them “dummy,” or without defensive players getting in their way.
Remember that patience is the most important virtue when coaching young children — with gentle directions and repetition, they will eventually understand. But be tough, too! Coaches without firm commands are rarely obeyed.
Of course it’s important for them to be able to run offense with the other team in their faces, but to really help them memorize the feel and flow of each offensive style, you want to start out with sets of five players going through the motions and taking the shots without defenders.