Having watched many younger age-group basketball games over the years I have always felt that the players at younger ages would be much better off if they played half-court games of 3 on 3 instead of playing 5 on 5 full-court.
Some of these young players are just moving spectators. Instead of having 10 players on the court at a time you could have four games going on at each of the four side baskets, which means you would have 24 players actually on the court playing instead of 10. This is great utilization of a gym for basketball.
You could match these teams up by ability in two directions. Each team could have one above average player, one average and one below average. This would allow you to have them play against and matched up against someone of their own size and ability level.
Or you could match the teams up by abilities and have parents coaching and reffing these games.
The best skill builder for basketball is 3 on 3 because there is no wasted time in going from one basket to the other. Teams just have to clear the ball to the 3-point line when they get a rebound, the other team scores or get the ball on a turnover.
Also, players do not get as tired playing 3 on 3 and they play more basketball.
You get all the offensive skills you need in a game of 3 on 3: shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding. You have five offensive things you can do when you pass the basketball to a teammate: pass and stay, pass and cut (the old give and go), pass and screen away for another teammate, pass and screen to the player with the ball, and pass and go get the ball back from the player you passed to.
It is easier to teach these basic offensive moves in a 3-on-3 setting and then you have the advantage of having to learn how to defend these offensive moves.
I remember teaching the basketball unit in physical education classes in junior high school in the 1960s. We never played full-court, when it came to playing the game. We always used the side baskets and played 3 on 3.
You can adapt some rules if you like such as each of the three players have to touch the ball once before your team shoots the basketball. This involves each offensive player on every offensive possession.
I used 3-on-3 games as a high school coach to teach the fundamentals of the game.
One of the biggest problems that I see when kids start playing basketball before they are really ready is that we really don’t know how many of these youngsters we lose because they have a bad experience playing before they are ready physically and mentally.
Basketball is a very failure-oriented game, especially for younger players. Being a moving spectator moving up and down the court without ever touching the ball as the other players dominate is also not very much fun.
I can understand why lesser-skilled kids could very well get turned off from basketball and look for other activities.
Before we had organized leagues for kids, we usually started playing basketball when we were ready to play, not when our parents thought we should be playing.
I started playing at age 7 in second grade when I got interested as I watched the fifth- and sixth-graders playing the game in the schoolyard. The game fascinated me.
I remember going home and asking my dad to put up a hoop off the garage in our gravel backyard. I would practice shooting and dribbling by the hour. Then we would play l on 1, 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 all day in the backyard.
My dad saw how involved I was so he had driveway hot topped to give us a better playing surface.
I had no formal training or coaching until I reached the fifth grade. Until then, I learned by trial and error and by watching older players. Also, I would go to all the Bangor High School home games.
Some kids are ready at age 7 and some are not ready until they are 10 or 11. Again, late bloomers are not handicapped by starting playing basketball at an older age.
However, it was starting when I was interested and ready that allowed me to develop my interest and skills of the game. But as a former physical education teacher and coach I wonder how many good players we have lost over the years because they started too young and quit because they had a bad experience.
For young kids to flourish in basketball today, they need to want to play, the experience needs to be positive and they should begin with 3 on 3, not 5 on 5. Doing so will allow each youngster the chance to be involved with offensive and defensive play and improve their skills
Original Author: Bob Cimbollek