Part V: The Breakdown

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series R&R Intro

In this blog, each “layer” has its own section dedicated to it.  The section will begin with a description of the layer.  Following the general description will be points of emphasis and fundamentals for the players involved in the reaction.  These points of emphasis should be the primary teaching points as each layer is installed.  The teaching breakdown of each layer follows these points of emphasis including building blocks that can be used to create drills to reinforce the teaching points.

These building blocks could be used as drills.  However, drills should take a number of factors into consideration. Here are three of many important factors:

  1. The number and skill level of players on the team
  2. The number and skill level of coaches on staff
  3. The number of available baskets

Coaches should start with these building blocks and design drills around them. I will be posting a whole bunch of actual drills.  However, any compilation of drills is not all inclusive. There are so many useful variations that will fit other teams better. If coaches understand the building blocks, they can create drills that are better than what I will post, because they will fit the needs of their own team.

However, the building blocks are the keys to building a complete system.  They will follow a logical progression in a Whole Part Whole Methodology.  If defensive concepts can be taught with a specific block, those concepts will be discussed as part of the description for that block.  The specific defensive strategy or philosophy is mutually exclusive from the offense.  However, all defensive strategies have certain concepts that must be taught.  The drills used to teach the offense can be used to teach many defensive concepts as well.

The whole part whole method is used for teaching each individual layer.  Significant time does not need to be spent on the initial “whole” segment. However, it is important that players see the big picture prior to the breakdown of the layer so that the smaller parts will make sense. Many of the building blocks used to teach the individual layers of the offense can be used to teach other parts of the game as well.  They are great foundations for teaching defensive fundamentals, footwork, ball handling, and a long list of other fundamental skills.

No matter what concept is being emphasized, repetition of the layers is required to make the reactions habitual. If the repetition of fundamentals are the focus, defensive players should be eliminated or be dummy players. If the purpose is to test fundamental skills or to improve on the execution of the offense, the defenders should be live.

For coaches who have time to work with their players in the off season, the building blocks can be used to repeat the habits of the offense with the focus being on their individual fundamental skills.  Once practices start, the same building blocks can be used with the focus being on the team execution of the offensive and defensive strategies.

As a general framework for this implementation plan, introductory building blocks for each layer will include 2 offensive players and 1 action.  As players become comfortable in 2 player single action building blocks, additional offensive players will be added to build the complete picture.  In most cases, it will not take long for players to be able to successfully execute 2 player 1 action scenarios.  These basic building blocks are good for the initial installation of each layer as well as the teaching and repetition of the fundamentals required to make each layer work.  However, they should not be relied upon over time for the improvement of overall offensive execution.

If the goal is to improve offensive execution of the Read and React, it is important to use drills that incorporate multiple layers and multiple actions. This of course means that multiple layers must be installed first.  Once teams can execute the foundational layers effectively, the rest will fall into place fairly easily.  Coaches must emphasize the layers they want their team to employ beyond the basic layers. As one of the advanced layers is mastered, coaches can add another one to the team’s repertoire.

The seamless execution of the combination of layers is something that players must master.  However, players should not be expected to execute a combination of layers until they are able to execute them individually. Youth teams may find that the foundational layers are enough for their complete offensive system.  However, once this foundation has been installed and becomes habit, teams should be able to add optional layers in later years to increase their sophistication.

The execution of combinations of layers can be achieved in a couple of ways.  Some coaches advocate the drilling of preset combinations of layers. This is one approach.  However, this blog will advocate giving the players the freedom to combine layers as they learn them with the expectation that the layers that the players choose to execute be done so properly.  The combinations that they employ should not be predicated in teaching offense. Predicated actions are good ways to teach specific defensive concepts.  However, in order to encourage offensive creativity, execution, and an increase in basketball IQ for players, it is imperative that players are encouraged to create their offense as they go.

There are a few ways to achieve this goal. If I was smarter, I might be able to think of more.

  1. Limit the actions to a certain group of actions.  (Attack Dribble would always be in the mix for me).
    1. You can only Attack Dribble or Dribble At.
    2. You can only Attack Dribble or Pass to the Post.
  2. Give them freedom to do whatever they want but they must include a specific action.
    1. You must set at least 3 back screens.
    2. At least 1 guard and 1 post must set a pin screen.
  3. A certain player must always execute a certain action
    1. Kristen must set a screen for every passer.
    2. Michael must Attack Dribble every possession.
  4. A certain player can never execute a certain action.
    1. Johnny can do anything except Pass & Cut.
    2. Christina can do anything except set a ball screen.


To achieve mastery of the offense, all players must be comfortable executing the offense as perimeter and post players. Players must understand that their role is determined by their location on the court, not the position listed in the media guide. To start teaching the offense, post players must be eliminated. Post players may not spend significant amounts of time on the perimeter and visa versa for perimeter players.  However, it is inevitable that there will be moments where players will need to be play outside of their comfort zone and must be able to react properly.

Any player who enters the lane or the area immediately around the lane is considered a post player.  Players who find themselves outside the 3-point line are considered perimeter players. Skill sets are irrelevant to the label of post or perimeter for offensive purposes.  At any given moment any player could be either a post or perimeter player and must react appropriately.  The majority of the structure for the offense is for perimeter players.

The Read and React only requires that post players react properly to dribble penetration. Coaches may add other rules and requirements for post players. We will get into some of the possibilities for these types of rules later.

So I’ve made two promises: a bunch of drills and types of rules that you might want to set for your posts. That’s all much later. We’re not there yet. Next, we are going to talk a little about using offense to build your defense.

Series Navigation<< Part IV: The BasicsPart VI: Defense >>

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