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Coaches Network: Advice For Organized 5x5 Play

  • Date:
    Sep 4, 2015

With USA Basketball set to host more Youth Coach Academies next month, and youth recreational leagues preparing for tipoff, there will be plenty of learning opportunities for youth coaches. With that in mind, here is this week’s question for the USA Basketball Coaches Network:

If you were speaking to a group of youth coaches who are just starting to get into organized 5x5 play with their players, what is the most important advice you would want to impart when it comes to on-court coaching?


Brian Robinson, head coach, Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School (N.C.)

Depending on the level of youth, the techniques to be taught probably will be different, but the bottom line is you'll need the ability to clearly explain the desired technique in a way the players can understand. Study the desired technique first, write it on paper and have it readily available for you to review as part of your practice plan.

Go over what it should look like in your mind and then teach it part by part. Give everyone the role they'll need to perform during the drill and see if what you are trying to teach matches what you had in mind. If not, correct the pieces that need to be improved, and run the drill again.

Repetition and correction of the drill will help the players in their improvement. However, don't spend the entire practice on that one segment. Spending too much time with one drill will cause your players to not have the opportunity to improve in other areas of their game. Run the drill on consecutive days and look for continuous improvement and then try it in a game and make more corrections the next time you have the opportunity to practice.

Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty High School (Calif.)

In a team setting, you are what you emphasize. With our team, we emphasize teamwork and unselfish play through praise and rewards. When communicating with your team, choose your words wisely. Effective feedback is vital to your team’s success. Feedback should be more frequent early in the learning process, but reduced as your team becomes more skilled in their execution. As a staff, we provide feedback in the form of a “sandwich.” Give one correction “sandwiched” with two different “kudos.” Be equally mindful about the type and timing of your feedback. For player/team achievement, feedback from coaches that is positive and prescriptive will foster motivation and increase your team’s learning curve. Prescriptive feedback should be geared towards performance enhancement adjustments. “Freeze your finish” is an example of prescriptive feedback.

Pausing before feedback affords your team time to internally process their actions and manage their own corrections. Learning is more effective with delayed feedback because your player can incorporate both intrinsic and extrinsic feedback. We like to pose questions as feedback to increase self-analysis and spark corrective communication among teammates.

Lastly, consider the concept of “bandwidth feedback.” Allow your team to experience setbacks within a predetermined margin for error window. Avoid stopping team play after every turnover.  Perhaps only address those turnovers from poor decisions, and reserve comment for a mishandled pass.  Bandwidth feedback will decrease their coaching dependency and strengthen their own error management. The ultimate goals of feedback are empowerment and promoting self-sufficiency. 


Eric Flannery, head coach, St. Edward High School (Ohio)

The most important advice I would give a coach as he/she is beginning to work with their team and 5x5 is to have patience. Understand you are a teacher first. It is your responsibility to teach your team and each player. It is very easy to get caught up in coaching or teaching only the "good" players and it is very easy to get frustrated if the players are not "picking up" what you are installing, at least right away.

Always take a step back before, during, and after practice to make sure that you are teaching things in a way in which your players understand, not just you.  Also, evaluate if you spent time with every player and gave them the attention they deserve.

There are so many other things that we need to worry about and implement as coaches, but I think coaches many times get "caught up" in making sure they have certain plays in or look smart doing it. In reality, simple is often better and teaching your kids is not only better for them, it is more gratifying to the coach.


Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City High School (Iowa)

Youth coaches ready for 5x5 play should start out in a very controlled situation. This would include transition from both offense to defense and defense to offense. A good method to start the 5x5 is begin with 5x5 half-court, then transition after a made or missed basket and continue the 5x5 at the opposite end of the floor.

The 5x5 game can continue up and down the court for several times -- play to a certain number of baskets or time period. This 5x5 game can start with an out-of-bounds play, then continue the 5x5 competition.

Youth coaches should not be too quick to stop the play until it is complete after the series of transitions. Players need to play through the mistakes during the 5x5 competition without interruption. Coaches can then make corrections after the break in action.

Another thought for the 5x5 situations is to keep score based on what you as a coach want to emphasize, such as a point for offensive rebound or subtract a point for a turnover.



Are you a youth basketball coach looking for more resources to better yourself and help your players? Join the National Standard and become a licensed coach today! Register now



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