Youth Basketball Press Break Basics

Youth Basketball Press Break Basics will help you understand this important part of the game. The Press Break is one of the hardest basketball skills to teach, and the hardest part for young players to retain. On the other hand, if your players get proficient at breaking the press, your team increases its chances of succeeding, and winning more games. There are teams out there that execute a “fierce” and “relentless” press. The score can get out of control quickly if your team is not ready to run a press break.

press break

If you are looking for more information on breaking the press, check out the new download AVCSS Basketball publication “Press Breaking for Youth Basketball” (more info at the bottom of the page).


Press Break – Notes / Tips

1) Make “breaking the press” a teaching priority for your team, especially when coaching the younger players.

2) Reminders to players:

a) Passing gets the ball up the court “faster” than dribbling the ball up the court. Coaches should demonstrate this to the players during the first practice where breaking the press will be taught.

b) Stay away from the corners! Stay away from the areas that the Press wants to “steer” you in to! Get to the middle of the court as much as possible.

c) Use the “Pull-Back” ball handling skill to help get out of traps (see below for video clip).

d) Back Court – Understand what passing or dribbling “Back Court” means?

Backcourt Examples

3) Ball handling can be extremely beneficial with helping to break a press. Players that can use both their right and left hands to dribble usually have no problems helping their team break a press. Use ball handling to “counter” traps, but always remember that passing, not ball handling, is the key to breaking the press efficiently!

4) Execution of a press breaker is critical to the success of a team’s ability to compete in the game.

5) If the other team cannot set up the press, they can’t run it: Your opponent will usually press you after they make a basket. Teach your players to pass the ball in quickly in an effort to keep the other team from setting up a press.


Important Note Regarding Passing in the Ball:

1. After a Made Basket: After a “made” basket by your opponent, the ball is now yours, try to get the ball in quickly (see Video Clip), if not, set up your press breaker as quickly as possible! Remember – Your team has 10 seconds to get the ball past half court.

Get the Ball in Quickly

2. Important Player Reminder: After a “made” basket, the player passing in the ball can run the baseline to pass the ball in. The younger players tend to forget this, so remind them often.

Run the Baseline after a Made Basket

3. Passing Lanes – Teach your players to understand that the press breaker is always attempting to create “3 passing lanes” on every pass. Use the examples below to assist you with identifying passing lanes.

press break

Passing Lane Examples


Beware of the Traps

When players are attempting to break the press, there are certain areas of the court that the other team wants to “steer” the ball into. Teach your players to stay away from corners, and the areas marked “best places to trap” on the diagram below (handout).Keeping the ball in the middle of the court is always best when attempting to break a press.

Best Places to Avoid the Traps – Handout

Stay away from the corners and get the ball to the middle. Ball handlers should be able to easily dribble past any defenders attempting to trap in the middle. Even though some players can dribble through a press single handedly with their dribbling skills, it is the pass, not the dribble beats the press!

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Beware of the Traps Press Breaking Tips


Ball Handling Drills to “Counter” Traps

The absolute best ball handling drills for getting out of traps are the Basic Pull-Back (for the younger players), and the Pull-Back Crossover (for the advanced, older players) Ball Handling drills. Both these drills are a must for any team, and will definitely help your team get out of traps…Only the Pull-Back Crossover drill video clip is shown below.

Pull Back Crossover Drill - Front View

 Pull Back Crossover Drill - Rear View


Press Breaking – Teaching Points

1. Coaches should teach their players to understand that if the team’s press breaker is not executed correctly then the team will have a tough time being successful in their game.

2. Players should always be looking for the ball! If the play breaks down players need to be ready to “go to the ball” and help out whenever needed. Be ready.

3. During the press break, players should take advantage of opportunities to utilize the “cross court” skip pass to break the press quickly. When executed, this type of pass really cuts through a pressing defense.

 press break

Basic Diagram of the Cross Court “Skip” Pass

 Cross Court Skip Pass (animated example)

Cross Court Skip Pass – Handout

4. Sometimes your best ball handler will be able to break the press all by themselves. Although this does not follow the basic principles of press breaking, it is a welcomed outcome in some cases. Not exactly what the coach wants, but sometimes a much needed boost for the team.

5. Teach your players that the PASS, not the DRIBBLE is the way to beat the press (see notes below).

Demonstrate how passing gets the ball up the court faster than dribbling the ball up the court:* Have players line up (3-4 players depending on ages) to pass the ball (A), and have 1 player line up with a ball to dribble (B). The coach should blow the whistle to start the demonstration. The players in line (A) should start passing the ball, and the player in line (B) should start dribbling. Then ask the players which ball got there first? This should make the point that you are trying to make.

Pass vs Dribble Coaching Tip


The “Stack” and “Split” Sets

Here are two basic sets that are used in many press breakers. Coaches (and players) should understand when to use them, and why they use them…

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Use the “stack” set vs. a Zone Press!


press break

Use a “split” set vs. a Man to Man (Denial) Press!


A Basic Press Breaker – Video Clip / Handout

Here is a handout that will show you a basic press breaker. This is one of the most basic, but most used press breakers in youth basketball. This handout, along with all the information on this webpage will get you started on breaking the press. Good Luck!

Basic Press Breaker

Basic Press Breaker Play – Handout

Don’t forget that we have many more Press Breaker plays that are available for Coaches…

More Press Breaker Plays / Video Clips – Menu Page


Basic Press Breaker Coaching Points / Drills / Etc

 Here are some Video Clips with coaching tips, drills, and additional information regarding youth basketball press breaking basics. If you stick with the basic principles of breaking the press, your team will have success!

 Press Breaker Tip / Keep the V Going

Press Breaker Common Mistakes

Reversing the Ball Coaching Tip

Press Breaker Drill


Basic Coaching “Etiquette” regarding Pressing

Some coaches just don’t know when to call off the “Dogs” What do I mean by this? – There are some coaches out there that will press another team into complete submission and embarrassment. I have been in games where we were down by 40 or 50, and the other team comes out and starts pressing again (knowing we are done, and have no chance of winning the game). I have seen this at the younger age groups, middle school level, AAU levels, and at the high school level. This is not part of the game – some coaches love to beat other teams by 60, 70, or even 80 points, in my opinion, this is not exactly a victory to cheer about. As a coach, you need to prepare for this type of game – and make sure that you talk to your players about what took place (yes, your team may have not run a great press breaker, but they did not deserve to get embarrassed).

Coaches must incorporate good sportsmanship into the game – we are here to teach the players basketball skills and competition, but also “Life Lessons” (and embarrassing other teams needlessly is not part of any of that). So when it comes to pressing, use it to win the game, but know when to call off the dogs!

 press break



Check out the new download AVCSS Basketball publication “Press Breakers for Youth Basketball” Lots of information on Press Break Plays, Drills, Traps, Teaching Points, Notes, plenty of Diagrams and Video Clips to help bring the information to life (can’t beat this price for this much information).

press break

Press Break

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