• Ian Stacker

Three on Three Could Cure Some Woes

Basketball here in Melbourne is a yearlong commitment, perhaps it’s too much for some people, perhaps three on three can provide a viable alternative.

The concept of 3 on 3 basketball as another format of the game was first conceived by FIBA in 2007. 3 on 3 was a form of the game that was attractive to younger people, it can be played in parks and playgrounds where there was already a massive participation rate. It didn’t require referees or coaches or a full court, it can be played with a minimal amount of support other than a hoop and some players, a ball also helps too.

FIBA grew the concept and by 2011 there was a World Cup and the promotion of a World tour. Here in Australia we are now having more and more 3 on 3 tournaments and in the school system we are part of the Molten 3 on 3 challenge. FIBA’s dream is to have 3 on 3 as an Olympic event sometime in the future.

From a coaching point of view 3 on 3 is certainly one of the best ways to practise most of the principles used in half-court basketball. Those who have been consistent readers of my blog would know that I promote competitive drills as the best way to practise all the skills of the game. The only thing missing really is transition from offense to defense in a full court scenario.

In 3 on 3 all players are involved in the play, it is very hard to hide. You are either guarding the player with the ball or guarding a player close to the ball. When on offense you are always involved in the play too, all players get chances to shoot the ball and handle the ball in competitive situations. Often in 5 on 5 play players can go up and down the court several times without even touching the ball. Gaining possession in the half court game is also very important so blocking out and attending the offensive boards become a greater priority.

Several of the best coaches in the world I have had the pleasure to talks hoops with promoted 3 on 3 play as the best way to teach and experience the game. This was long before FIBA started their mission to develop the game in the 3 on 3 format.

So, 3 on 3 is great, but what are the problems it can help fix?

For a start basketball, here in Melbourne is a yearlong event, there is virtually no break except for the school holidays. The top junior leagues and the local domestic competitions are running all year, unlike the more traditional sports of AFL, Netball, Soccer and so on. In most other Countries basketball is seasonal, it’s a winter sport. Even in the USA where the sport began it is predominantly a winter sport. The NCAA is just starting to wind up their winter of basketball that starts in October and finishes in March. This is the same for high school basketball in the USA.

Summer in the USA tends to be when players play more pick-up games in parks and playgrounds and in the high school age groups. Some also play AAU basketball which is a type of club basketball with far more of an emphasis on playing than coaching.

I can remember Luc Longley talking about how he felt he improved his game more playing pick-up basketball during the summer than during the winter in his college program. I’m not sure if that’s an indictment on college hoops or an endorsement of playing coach free pick-up basketball, where you aren’t tied to the structure of an offense or the whims of a college coach.

While basketball for me has always been a 12 month a year interest it is not always that way for parents of players. Sacrificing each weekend for most of the year is a price some are not prepared to pay. These parents will often discourage their children from playing basketball, especially those who want to play at the elite level in Melbourne where they could be forced to travel deep into Victoria Country for a Friday night game. A quick check of my players at TC today found that I had several heading to Bendigo, Geelong, Leongatha and MSAC for a Friday night game! This requires great dedication from parents, especially those not from a basketball background and especially those who might have a fishing boat, a holiday house, a social life or a sporting interest of their own they want to stay involved in.

So why do we play all year long? I expect it must be to do with money.

Here in Melbourne we have a tremendous number of indoor courts throughout the metropolitan area. Councils have long supported the development of basketball facilities as they have proven to make money. Once money becomes involved then filling the stadiums each day of the year is a big priority, the simplest solution is just play all year.

Perhaps if there was a drive to promote 3 on3 as a viable alternative to the regular competitions held, it could still provide the opportunities for players to enjoy playing basketball and even provide a great way to improve the concepts of the game. Given that you could have two three on three games going at the same time, that makes 12 players on the court at one time, each game would only require 1 referee, so still two referees involved. It is usual for three on three teams to have a total of four players so the numbers involved in participation are not that different to the current situation where there are about sixteen players involved in each game.

So, if the economics cannot be effected then it would make good sense to consider three on three as a viable summer alternative to the usual league or grading competition held throughout the state.

The league could be made coach free, thus giving the coaches a break to spend a little more time with their families while allowing players the chance to experiment with developing their game through trial and error. It would also give players the chance to work on their leadership and communication skills often somewhat diluted by the leadership a coach provides.

At the elite level the 3 on 3 competitions could be regionalised, even hosted by the Association that players play representative basketball for, thus eliminating the massive amount of travel that parents are required to do during the Championship season.

I think the concept is certainly worth exploring some more. I often promote the fact that our players here in Melbourne have the massive advantage of the VJBL competition which is by far the best in the Country. However, I often hear stories of parents not wanting to get involved due to the massive amount of commitment required from the whole family. Perhaps shortening the major season to just winter and developing a regional 3 on 3 league, coach free, might be a way to keep the game moving forward while still allowing a viable option that provides enough variation to keep everyone interested.

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