No matter your age, chances are you’ve played Hide and Seek. It’s a great game that every kid (and some adults!) love to play. Basketball players are constantly playing their own version of Hide and Seek during a game. One of the hardest skills to teach a young player is how to move without the ball.
If you have ever had the pleasure of watching first or second graders play basketball you have probably witnessed the following scene. One player with the ball, two teammates way across the court standing still with their hands up yelling for the ball (Hiding), two other teammates surrounding the player with the ball trying to get a hand-off (Seeking taken to the extreme). I have a second grade daughter so I see it all the time with her team and the teams we play against. Players at this age are just beginning to learn where to go and what to do when they don’t have the ball.
No matter what level of basketball I have coached from kindergarten girls to high school varsity boys getting players to understand how to move without the ball has always been a huge challenge. So often I’ll hear players (or their parents) grumble about how they don’t get the ball enough and yet, when I watch them play, they are guilty of hiding all over the court. It’s not that they are actively trying to “hide” from the ball, it’s that too often players just stand there waiting for the ball to come to them instead of seeking the ball and making themselves available for a pass. It’s easy to get in the bad habit of hiding out on the court. When a player gets used to standing or cutting lazily or jogging down the floor they are hiding.
What can a player do to become better at seeking the ball rather than hiding from it?
You must first be aware of what is happening around you, of where the opportunities are, and how you can take advantage of those opportunities. If you are not actively thinking the game you are missing chances to get yourself open, get easy baskets, or help a teammate who is being pressured. Look for every opportunity to cut, sprint, or move to an open area of the court where you can catch the ball. Trust me when I tell you that you are not open as often as you think you are. Too often you are hiding, concentrate on seeking the ball during a game and watch the opportunities to get it in your hands more often increase.
If your teammate is being double-teamed, or if they have picked up their dribble and their defender is pressuring them, you must be 10 feet from the ball or you are hiding. If you are under the basket 25 feet away with your arms up waving for the ball in this situation there is no chance your teammate can get you the ball. The pass to you will be stolen. It’s too long of a pass for a teammate to throw while being pressured or double teamed.
Our 5th grade boys team last season improved dramatically against the press when we coached our guards to cut through the ball side elbow in the back court to receive a pass from the other guard instead of drifting down the opposite side of the court or moving diagonally into the middle. By cutting the distance the pass had to travel, we cut our turnovers against full-court pressing defenses.
Here’s a common situation. The ball is on the wing. There is no one on the ball side block. A player is on the opposite block. Instead of cutting hard to the ballside block and getting in front of their defender the player just stands on the opposite block and never moves. That is hiding. The defense can relax, they’re in better helpside position. The offensive player is not putting any pressure on the defense to react or move, making it harder for the offensive team to score.
I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have been a part of the following scenario. Guard has the ball in the middle of the floor in a fast break situation. A player on the wing is jogging next to their defender. I yell from the sideline, “Run!” and suddenly the player starts sprinting ahead of the defender and gets a pass from the guard for an easy layup. I always ask players after that occurs, “Why did I have to yell “Run!” for you to start sprinting? Don’t you like to score?” As a player, getting baskets like this requires no basketball skill at all. Just don’t be content to hide next to your defender as you both casually jog down the court.
Don’t just talk about wanting the ball more, make seeking it a priority. Some of getting the ball more is simply desire and effort. Some is knowing where to be or how to get open, skills that are gained through experience. In your next practice or game put a FOCUS on seeking the ball and see if it makes a difference. The less time you spend hiding on the court the more opportunities you’ll have to get the ball and impact the game in a positive way.
Hide and seek is a great game for the backyard or recess time, just make sure that on the basketball court you seek way more than you hide.
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