Basketball on the Edge – The Benefits of 3 on 3

Awhile back I wrote about cross-ice hockey and the huge benefits it had for the development of young hockey players. I thought the same principles would be observed in 3 on 3 basketball. Head Start Basketball and Hoop Guru recently completed our first 3 on 3 league season and it was a huge success. Going into it there were many aspects of the 3 on 3 format that we believed would enhance the players’ experience and improve their basketball skills at the same time. We now have some data from the league to back up the fact that 3 on 3 is ideal for developing the skills required for long term success in the game of basketball.

We charted some statistics for both 3 on 3 and 5 on 5 with the same players for the same length of game time, 15 minutes of running time. Here is what we found.

• Players in 3 on 3 were actually 3 x more likely to touch the ball than in 5 on 5. More touches of the ball means more opportunities to make decisions and develop game skills.

• Players in 3 on 3 took 4 x as many shots as they did in 5 on 5. Possessions were shorter because time wasn’t wasted dribbling the ball up between the top of the keys. It was easier to get a good shot because of the open space created by fewer players on the court. There is nothing better than getting up more game shots to improve a player’s ability to finish during an actual game.

• Players in 3 on 3 threw 6 x as many passes as they did in 5 on 5. Possessions after a score had to start with a pass. There was more screening and cutting action with the floor less congested. We think there was a natural tendency to pass more because the players knew they would be getting the ball back. Often in 5 on 5 players who hadn’t touched the ball in a while felt compelled to shoot fearing the ball might never come back to them.

• There was clearly less congestion and better spacing. The reduced number of players on the court allowed more room for driving to the basket, team play, and making split second in-game decisions that are critical to a young player’s development.

• The players had fun. This is more anecdotal than statistical, but the kids we talked to about the 3 on 3 league loved it. You get the ball more, get to shoot more, and have the chance to develop your skills. My son and his friends had a great time playing in the league. The parents we talked to felt much the same way. Every parent likes to see their child get plenty of opportunities to be involved in the action and 3 on 3 was clearly a success on that front.

• No coaches meant kids had to make decisions for themselves. Players today don’t have that opportunity as often as in the past. Most playing opportunities are parent or coach directed. The players in the 3 on 3 league had to figure things out. That helps them think the game, communicate, and become better teammates.

Overall, the 3 on3 league confirmed what we believed heading into it. There is no better way to develop young players than with short squad games like 3 on 3. More touches, more shots, more opportunities to make in-game decisions on both offense and defense.

Keep checking back with us for updates on when our next 3 on 3 basketball league in conjunction with Hoop Guru will take place. There is no better way to help your young player take advantage of the skill development opportunities 3 on 3 basketball presents.

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