While visiting a recent college practice, I was amused with how fundamentals were drilled and stressed at that level. The same things that every youth coach should be teaching 8-9 year old girls were being reinforced at the Division 1 level elite young women. Some of the teaching points follow:
1. Communication- One particularly seasoned and nationally recognized coach yelled " Lack of talking will kill you both offensively and defensively". This coach continued to repeat that communication was too important to neglect. This coach repeatedly drove home this fact during transition defense where a lack of communication led to minimally contested lay ups. Giving up lay ups at any level is a recipe for failure.
2. Closing Out- A decent amount of time was spent on proper closing out on the perimeter. The familiar command of "chopping" feet was repeatedly given. One of the most overlooked aspects of close-out defense was focused on and that is foot placement. When one defender closed out and arrived with an exaggerated staggered stance, one coach showed her her folly. By closing out with one foot too high, a good offensive player will attack that high foot. I find that a lot of local coaches teach that high foot close-out, which inevitably allows dribble penetration when our local kids/teams play outside of San Antonio.
3. Jump Passing- This coaching staff reiterated to an extremely talented but young player that jumping to pass leads to turnovers. More times than not, a player that jump passes routinely is more prone to turnovers. Some innovative coaches at the Collegiate and Pro levels actually teach the jump pass. John Calipari teaches it as a weapon for his Dribble Drive Motion and the increasing popular "Drift Baseline Pass" is also taught and well executed at the elite levels. However, young players should be taught NOT to jump pass and later advised WHEN to do it.
4. Lay Ups- This college team practiced lay ups! It has been said that more games have been won or loss due to missed lay ups than any other shot. Especially in girls/women's basketball, where the game is predominately played below the rim, layups can make or break at team. This practice featured layups from different angles, with different hands and many non-traditional ones like reverse lay ups and strong-strong strong-hand lay ups.
5. Post Defense- The head coach stressed the importance of not allowing the offensive player to catch the ball in the post. This alleviated the need to double down from the perimeter. If the post never caught the ball in a scoring position, defenders can stay at home and not double team. This fundamental philosophy led to wrestling match for position on the block. This is one of the areas where youth basketball can do better. Very few youth coaches effectively teach low post defense. Do you front, 3/4 deny or play from behind? The lack of dominant Bigs at the youth level leaves a lot of kids not knowing how to defend to post.