By Arron MacDonald
Coach MacDonald walks you through different ways to implement your team's offence...
When it comes to coaches, we're generally quite an opinionated bunch... almost every coach I speak to has a "go-to" offence against different defences (it's one of the reasons we didn't want to be another site offering basketball plays for coaches!).
But when I speak to less-experienced coaches, while they're equally apt to fall in love with a motion or action that they've seen, they're sometimes not too sure how to go about getting their team to run it, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to work through some of the steps I've previously used with my teams to help them to embed a new offence.
For me, everything on the offensive end starts here...
If you cannot break the set down into certain actions giving multiple options for a shooting drill, it's probably not a very effective play!
Think about ways to break the play down into the actions you want, and get every player reps in every part of these actions - as this will help everyone to embed the offence more quickly.
I absolutely realise that on-air work is less than ideal in terms of building decision-making, but I'm still yet to see a better way to simply introduce structure.
We generally move from the breakdown into the "flow" of the offence in a short (5-10 minute max) "on-air" section of our practice.
Before we're ready to run with the offence, we need to build some decision-making into it. As coaches, we have to accept a certain element of chaos in whatever we're running, purely because we cannot account for the actions of the defence.
I like to work with 3 defenders playing "semi-live". In this context, I mean they're encouraged to get into passing lanes, close out to the ball, contest shots and box out - but not to chase steals, block shots, etc... this is because I want my players to see the potential obstacles they'll face in the game with the confidence that they can still beat it - remember, at this stage, we're still learning the offence and "feeling it out".
To help us to embed the offence, we normally move into "up-downs" - going up the court either "on air" (but conditioned to run a fixed number of passes / ball reversals / a certain action) or in a semi-live overload situation (as above), before coming back down court against a full team of players.
We find that mixing it up like this (and giving two offences for every full defensive possession) really helps us to understand where the defence is likely to cheat, if there are any pinch points in the offence and where the gaps are.
I'm a big fan of conditioned scrimmages in most training sessions, so having one where we're implementing an offence likely won't surprise any of the players I've worked with before!
While I see a lot of coaches go to the "minimum number of passes/ball reversals" (and I believe this has merits), I feel there always has to be a "real game" feel to scrimmaging, while still rewarding the team for improving their execution, so we always set the tone that every competitive drill has a defensive focus on it... we want to develop a team who compete for stops.
Other ways I've done this before is to add a point for every ball reversal or pass before a basket - which naturally adds an element of competition (after all, a layup after multiple passes suddenly becomes more valuable than a three). Another way of adding the "game real" element is to return the ball to the attacking team on a fast-break score, or if they manage to get an uncontested layup within the number of passes we desire - as this really ramps up the defensive intensity.
During scrimmages, I regularly give teams a 30-60 second timeout to discuss what's going on. It's important to me that these interactions are player led (although I often have an Assistant Coach monitor them and steer the conversation, where necessary - particularly early in the season).
One way I've changed this up recently (after listening to a podcast with Coach Alan Keane) is to have the players ask whether they've committed to the game plan (ie: appropriately running the offence and defence) - if the players cannot honestly answer "yes", they forfeit the timeout... because we don't want to spend time and energy focusing on fixing poor behaviours.
Finally, we move into running the offence in a live environment, (generally) free of conditions - and hopefully, we've got it down!
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