How Much Offense and Defense for 8th Grade Girls?

I was recently asked by one of my readers, "how much offense and defense should I teach my 8th grade girls?"

Here is my reply.  So much depends on the talent and basketball savvy of your girls. If you have more information that could help me know your situation better, that would be helpful.

Since I didn't get an answer to my question, I will try to build a case here for understanding that how much you attempt to teach depends on several factors.

I repeat my earlier statement:  So much depends on the talent and basketball savvy of your girls.

Let's say, your girls have played together for a year or more and have decent knowledge of the game and execution of basic individual fundamental play as well as team play.

With a review of last year's progress and how they ended up the season, after re-covering what you ended with last season, start right off with that amount of offense and defense and begin building more offense and defense onto it--slowly! (I am presuming that the coach has decided that last year's offenses and defenses worked well and wants to use them again. At any rate, always use the piece-method when teaching offense.  Get the pieces right before putting the whole offense together.) 

This year, there will be added maturity on the part of your players.  They are a year older.  They could be a little faster, a little taller, and a little more aggressive, because they are a year more experienced.  They have played together for at least one season already and they have a better understanding of the game and the coach's methods and expectations(With new players added into the mix of seasoned players, you will have to assess how much and how fast you can move and keep everyone on the same page.)

With seasoned players you have an ideal environment in which to try new things.  If your offense hasn't previously incorporated these, try these things:  Add screens for the dribbler; Add post screens, both on the ball and away from the ball;  Set up special plays for specific players; Use flashing moves with players coming from off the ball through the key toward the ball;  If your players are slashing/penetrating the lane, and they meet opposition going to the basket, can they dish and do you have players in the right place to get the pass and take the shot;  If not passing, can your players finish at the basket; If using one offense, will it work vs. both zone and man defenses and be sure you teach the nuances of executing vs. both defenses and vs. changing zone looks, double teams, etc.

Good passing, floor spacing, strong movement of players without the ball--these are key to any attack.

Have different ways to get your offense started--guard to guard pass, guard to post, guard to wing (including pass and cut, pass and screen away, guard around, etc.)  Include also in this mix starting with the ball coming up the sideline, as in a sideline fast break.  And speaking of fast break--have you got a plan for attacking off the break, including a secondary break?

Don't forget building your team rebounding into your offense.  A team living off getting just one shot, will not survive.

Defensively, have you been versatile before, or have you stayed with one defense? Teach man first, in order to understand how to play defense, before you teach zone.  Trying to go with zone, before teaching man principles, will make your players less effective.  (See http://www.top-basketball-coaching.com/whyteachmanD)

When teaching either zone or man, you can try adding traps at the corners, at half court and at the high wings (between the 3-point line and half court).  Be sure to teach how to trap and contain the dribbler and refrain from silly reach-in fouls.

When teaching zone half court defense, have a base set (1-2-2, 2-3, etc.) and add some other looks, because you may come up against offenses with a two guard front, with no post player, a very tall post player, double posts, etc., which may require adjustments within your basic set.  If you haven't practiced these, making an adjustment during the game may not be productive.

Again--rebounding.  Can you get the ball and limit the opponent's number of tries to score?  Are you able to get the ball off the rebound, or any turnover and get your girls out in to quick-hitting transition?  Great defense in the open court and before the offense can attack the basket will pay huge dividends.  Get the ball and run!

The above ideas are by no means inclusive of everything you could do.  Indeed, it could be too much, as these are not yet high school players.  Too much to remember or too much sophistication can work against you.  Simple done well beats too much done poorly. 

Talent and savvy--If your girls are not well schooled in team play or don't have good individual offensive and defensive fundamental skills, what I have outlined above will be catastrophic.  Teach the basics first!