When to Use the Triple Threat

by Paul Cortes
Head JV Boys Coach, Jewish Community High School of the Bay
Youth Basketball Coach, San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department
AAU Coach, Bay City Basketball

This is to piggy-back off Brian’s last post on “Problems with the Triple Threat“. Brian may or may not disagree with something I post here, because my thoughts are my own, but we share similar philosophies and I agree with many of the sentiments in his post. I originally started to respond in the comments section, but as my post grew in length I decided to make a separate post. The topic that came to mind is when to use the triple threat, and how to use it correctly. Read more

Andres Iniesta and Small-Sided Games

“I started off playing small-sided. Everything grew from there.” — Andrés Iniesta

Play, small-sided games, and talent development

Nearly every child starts basketball in a 5v5 league, and nearly every week, I watch or referee varsity high-school teams with players who lack basic skills. If insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, why are parents and coaches so opposed to starting youth basketball players in small-sided games rather than 5v5 leagues? Baseball players start with tee-ball, and soccer players start with 4v4, 5v5, or 7v7. Why are there so many objections to modifying basketball? Read more

Complexity and Small-Sided Games

At halftime of a recent college game, two youth teams played at halftime. The children were tiny, and the crowd loved it, and everyone went crazy when a player finally scored as they were leaving the court after 10 minutes. In 10 minutes of fullcourt 5v5 basketball, more children face-planted by tripping on their own feet than made a shot! Read more

Managing a practice with small-sided games

A coach sent me the following questions about using small-sided games during practice:

When you play small-sided games (2 on 2, 3 on 3), do you play continuously on a full court or do you play half court? Read more

3v3 as the Optimal Pathway for the Development of Youth Basketball Players

Here are the slides from my presentation at the USOC and NFHS sponsored National Coaching Conference:

USOC Presentation

Small-Sided Games Expand Sports Acumen

Originally published in Los Angeles Sports & Fitness, September 2011.

When Massachusetts had a five-year period where 16,000 youngsters quit youth hockey before they turned 8, USA Hockey re-evaluated its programming. Roger Grillo, regional manager for USA Hockey’s developmental program and a former coach at Brown University said in a Boston Magazine interview that “The research shows that it’s burnout. It’s too serious too soon.’’ USA Hockey adopted the American Development Model to guide the development of its young players through a long term athlete development plan.  Read more

Learning Skills & Small-Sided Games

Here are the slides from my presentation at the Boston University Sports Psychology for Coaches Conference presented by BU’s Institute for Coach Education.

Read more

Physiological Requirements of Small-Sided Games

Small-sided games provide more on-ball activity for players, meaning more opportunities for technical and tactical skill development. However, the perception is that small-sided games are easier than full-sided games or that they fail to reproduce the same physiological responses as a full-sided game.

In a recent study in Revista de Psicología del Deporte by Jaime Sampaio, Catarina Abrantes & Nuno Leite (2009) studied the heart rate of 15-year-old boys in 3v3 and 4v4 games. First, they used a yo-yo intermittent test to find the players’ maximum heart rates. Then, during the 3v3 and 4v4 games (25-minute games), the players’ heart rates were over 80% of HRMax with the 3v3 games posting slightly higher heart rates.

The researchers wrote that these games produce “similar cardiovascular stress as other intermittent exercises specifically designed to improve athletes’ endurance.”

Therefore, small-sided games are not easier than full-sided games and provide a comparable physiological stress for young athletes.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Small-Sided Games & Player Development

Many sports adapt or modify rules to create more meaningful competitive environments for young participants. On the playgrounds, young children modify rules to create more equal competition, but few organizations modify the game. Most modifications have to do with the size of the ball or the height of the basket.

Small-sided games, and specifically 3v3, are a modification aimed at improving the developmental and competitive elements of the game by creating more space, more time and more ball possessions.

Parkin (1980; cited by Weidner, 1998) found that with 9-11 year-old boys, the best-qualified players obtained possession of the ball 30-160 times, while for the least qualified it ranged from 12-82 times. Engelhorn (1988) obtained similar results for girls, as did Ortega, Cárdenas, Sainz de Baranda and Palao (2006) for boys, showing the vast differences in participation by 14-15 year-old players.

This is typical in full-sided games: the best one or two players tend to dominate the action. When the top players possess the ball the most, take the most shots and make the most decisions, these players have more opportunities to improve. In essence, the players who grow early, are more coordinated or are the stronger, more aggressive players have the advantage due to more game opportunities.

A Playmakers Basketball Development League coach did an unscientific study on the differences between a PBDL and a full-sided recreational league and compared meaningful touches and engaged defensive plays in each. Meaningful touches were defined as “the opportunity to execute a practiced skill in a game situation: a pass vs. a defender, a triple-threat move, a dribble move vs. a defender, any shot attempt.” An engaged defensive play was defined as “any time the player actively plays defense: guarding the ball, defending a cutter or actively helping and recovering; and any defensive rebound; standing in the key in help defense or protecting the weak side would not count.”

The coach found:

Offensive Meaningful Touches
3v3 both teams total touches 101
5v5 both teams total touches 80

Engaged Defensive Plays
3v3 both teams total touches 104
5v5 both teams total touches 84

While not scientific, if those total plays are divided evenly amongst all players – which we know won’t happen – 3v3 players average 37 meaningful touches and 38 engaged defensive plays during a game, while 5v5 players average 16 meaningful touches and 17 engaged defensive plays.

The average 3v3 player gets twice as many opportunities to make a play with the ball against a defender and twice as many opportunities to defend an opponent than a 5v5 player. Multiply that over the course of a recreational season (let’s assume 8 games), the average player gets over 160 more offensive and defensive opportunities in which to execute skills, read opponents and make plays.

If the goal with young players is to develop skills, 3v3 leagues create more developmental and learning situations than 5v5 leagues and feature the same competitive situations.

By Brian McCormick
Author, Cross Over: The New Model of Youth Basketball Development
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League

Next Page »

  • What Is A Playmaker?

    Who decided that a point guard has to be small? More importantly, what is a point guard? We expect a point guard to be a leader and have a high basketball I.Q. Why don’t we expect or challenge all players to develop this game awareness? Why rely on only one player? Read more →
  • The PBDL Concept

    English soccer academies wait until players are 11 to play full 11v11 soccer; in Italy, youth basketball players participate in skill-oriented clinics at 6-years-old, but start competitive games at 12. In the United States, kids play 5v5 full court games and compete for national championships when they are 8-years-old.

    Read more →

  • Starting A PBDL

    The PBDL emphasizes learning and development. Presently, players and parents have numerous recreation options - leagues based on fun and equal participation, typically for beginners - and numerous competitive opportunities - teams focused on strategy, game preparation and winning. There are few true development leagues - until now.

    Read more →