The 3-on-3 Movement

3-on-3 (also known as 3 vs 3 or 3×3) basketball is certainly not a new discipline. Whether you have participated in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament like Hoop-It-Up, or simply played in an impromptu 3-on-3 pickup game at the local playground or driveway, this format of play is fun, entertaining and easy to organize. With over 250 million players worldwide, it is among the most played recreational sports in the world.

At the grassroots level, 3-on-3 basketball serves an even greater purpose! Not only is 3-on-3 a fun game, it is an effective tool for technical and tactical development for young athletes!


Benefit 1: The Ball is Shared = More Touches

When youth play tradition 5-on-5 games, it is common for some players to rarely touch the ball. This is especially true when a team has dominant players who are the best ball handlers or are early developers. Teammates tend to pass the ball to those players and those players tend to take the ball to the basket and sometimes coast to coast, failing to work on team and decision making skills. The result is other players are not developing their skills, the dominant player is only working on a few skills, and the team isn’t developing as a whole.

In 3-on-3, everyone must be involved for a team to have success. All players get to handle the ball almost every possession allowing for more skill repetition in a competition environment and therefore, providing the best opportunity for skill development.

Benefit 2: Better Spacing

Even with the smaller bodies of young players, 5-on-5 games are crowded. Youth basketball is not the right environment for players to practice dribbling through double teams or passing through multiple types of coverage – their skill package is underdeveloped to be successful in those areas.

3-on-3 opens the court up and provides players with more room to operate. Youth can play in open space, allowing them to practice and load their skills without multiple defenders crowding the ball. This spacing also allows for players to practice individual and team decision making skills (advantages, when to shoot/pass/drive).

Benefit 3: Focus on Basketball Skills and Actions

3-on-3 emphasizes individual skills as  well as 1, 2 and 3 player actions that are the foundation for successful 5-on-5 play. The focus is on concept development as opposed to being system and set oriented. Defense for 3-on-3 is player-to-player, creating opportunities at the offensive end for freedom, decision-making and creativity to develop.

Benefit 4: More Directed Competition

3-on-3 games are shorter in duration but more frequent, allowing players to face multiple opponents in one competition day.  The number of players is reduced, allowing for maximal competition experience and playing time during this developmental stage.

As coaches, our goal is to provide a rich, high quality experience for youth players.  The 3-on-3 game is player oriented and designed to help youth develop proper fundamental skills in an environment that is developmentally appropriate.  As such, it is the preferred and recommended format of play for all youth at the FUNdamentals and Learn to Train stages of development.

If you have any questions, please contact Don Shackell at

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