Starting with the NBA and trickling down to the youth level there has been a shift to positionless basketball. Players that are versatile and can play all over the floor on offense and defend any position have become more valuable than ever as the game of basketball has evolved. Typically, this shift has occurred with taller players that traditionally would have played close to the basket moving out onto the perimeter and developing skills more closely associated with smaller players. Taller players who could shoot from the outside, handle the ball, or function as playmakers used to be very rare. In today’s game, including the youth level, all players are taught these perimeter skills. However, we don’t always teach the game the opposite way with smaller players learning traditional post play. I am a huge proponent of not locking kids into a position when they are young and we have no idea what their body will look like when they reach maturity. I see an opportunity for coaches to make their players even more versatile by teaching all players regardless of size how to play with their back to the basket.
Towards the end of the AAU basketball season last spring we realized that our 4th grade boys would catch the ball with their back to the basket, a defender behind them, and have absolutely no idea what to do. I thought to myself, we are always teaching kids perimeter skills regardless of their size so why not teach post play to everyone? Up until that point I had spent almost four full youth seasons (two travel, two AAU) without teaching any post play to any player. The only traditional post player drill we had done was the Mikan Drill and that was done primarily for footwork and weak hand development.
Here are some reasons why I believe teaching all players some basic post moves will benefit all of your youth basketball players, regardless of their current size.
If we are truly talking about positionless basketball then we want all players to be able to play outside and INSIDE. A guard that can catch the ball in the post and score or a guard who can defend the post is a valuable asset.
Footwork and balance is the key to performing just about any fundamental skill out on the basketball court. Post moves require reverse pivots, front pivots, rip throughs and balance. I found that our players’ footwork improved dramatically after only a few practice sessions working in the post.
Players, especially at the youth level, often catch the ball in the post with a defender behind them. Most kids catch the ball and dribble out to the perimeter or turn and toss up an off-balance shot. By teaching your players a few basic post moves you’ll be giving them tools they can use to score in the post during a game.
How and what do we teach about post play?
Last season as fourth graders we taught our players three basic moves in the post. We did this from two lines on the baseline with the players passing the ball to a coach on the wing and stepping out above the block when it was their turn. The player would catch the ball, “get big”(ball underneath the chin, elbows up high), and then execute the move.
There were three moves we worked on last season.
The first was the basic drop step where the player reverse pivots stepping towards the basket with the leg closest to the basket, takes a power dribble, and then goes off two feet for a power layup. Executed on both sides of the basket with both hands.
The second was a drop step to the middle where the player reverse pivots stepping towards the middle with the leg furthest from the basket, takes a power dribble and then goes off two feet for a jump hook. Executed on both sides of the basket with both hands.
The third was an up and under move where the player front pivoted towards the middle stepping with the foot closest to baseline. Once the player was square to the basket they executed a quick head fake and then ripped the ball through with a cross step moving the same leg, keeping the pivot foot still, finishing with a layup. Executed on both sides of the basket with both hands.
We also had players play one on one from the post. The offense catches the ball with the defender behind and they have one dribble to try and score. This helps transfer the learning to game situations and creates decision making opportunities that players just like players will have in a game.
This season we will probably add a reverse pivot square up off the catch in the post to what our players already have learned.
Don’t neglect post play as a youth coach. Give all your players an opportunity to learn to play from different areas of the floor. It’s great that that the tallest players on any court can make three pointers and handle the ball, but wouldn’t it be great if every player on your team could catch the ball inside and have different ways they could score? By teaching basic post play, I think you’ll find players benefit from improved footwork all over the court and they’ll know what to do when they catch the ball on the block in a game. After all, maximizing scoring opportunities close to the basket should be the goal of every youth basketball team. Great players can play the game well outside and IN!
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