At the 8 to 9 and 10 to 11 age levels, you probably won’t adjust your team tactics, or plays, too significantly during a game. Rather, you’ll focus on the basic tactics, and during breaks in the game, you’ll emphasize the specific tactics your team needs to work on. However, coaches of 12- to 14-year-olds might have reason to make tactical adjustments to improve their team’s chances of performing well and winning. As games progress, assess your opponents’ style of play and tactics, and make adjustments that are appropriate—that is, those that your players are prepared for. You may want to consider the following examples when adjusting team tactics:
- How does your opponent usually initiate their attack? Do they aim to get around, over, or through your defense? This can help you make defensive adjustments.
- Who are the strongest players on the opposing team? The weakest players? As you identify strong players, you’ll want to assign more skilled players to defend them.
- Are the opponent’s forwards fast and powerful? Do they come to the ball, or do they try to run behind the defense and receive passes? Their mode of attack should influence how you instruct your players to defend them.
- On defense, does your opponent play a high-pressure game, or do they retreat once you’ve gained possession of the ball? Either type of defense could call for a different strategy from you.
- Ask your players, “What does the player you are guarding do well?” Then ask, “Do you think you can stop the player from doing that?” This will help players adjust their game to what the opponent does best.
Knowing the answers to such questions can help you formulate an effective game plan and make proper adjustments during a game. However, don’t stress tactics too much during a game. Doing so can take the fun out of the game for the players. If you don’t trust your memory, carry a pen and pad to note which team tactics and individual skills need attention at the next practice.
This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Basketball, Fourth Edition.