Teaching “The Play”

Teaching players plays is a very popular way to teach offense. Many coaches have done this and continue to do this in teams of all ages and levels.  In an effort to do what the coach says, many players think they have to “run the play.” Let’s examine why “the play” exists and how we can change how our players think about “the play” so that they can play more effectively.

Every moment of an offensive possession provides the ball handler another opportunity to decide how the possession will proceed.  Whether everyone is moving or no one is moving, the ball handler is constantly trying to decide what to do next with the ball in order to create a scoring opportunity for themselves or a teammate.  From the moment they possess the ball until the moment that they give up possession, players have the opportunity to evaluate their next decision.  Do I shoot?  Do I pivot? Do I attack to the left or right?  Do I make a ball fake?  Do I pass to a teammate?  If so, which one? Do I retreat dribble?  Do I dribble left or right?

Of course, making the right decision and executing that decision are different entirely as we know. A player who doesn’t feel comfortable shooting a 3 probably doesn’t consider that as an option even if they are open.  A player who can’t dribble with their weak hand probably never evaluates that as an option even though that may be the best available option.  A player’s ability to execute a decision is certainly part of that decision. How many times when we put sugar packets on the table do we consider the skill sets of the sugar packets? When we’re moving around salt and pepper shakers like chess pieces, we usually don’t consider each player’s abilities.

So for now, let’s not worry about that (even though I think that’s more important.) For now, we are just considering the decision.  We aren’t worried about executing the decision.

“The play” helps players make these decisions.  “The play” helps that player eliminate certain options and focus their thinking.  “The play” gives the coach more control over what happens next.  “The play” provides structure and organization to the unit so they can function collectively yet independently.

When the coach teaches “the play,” these decisions are communicated to the players.  The coach may communicate all of these decisions or one of them or a few of them.  How many decisions does the coach give as options?  For each decision within “the play”, what is the consequence of that decision? What does each player do when a specific decision is made? Each decision inevitably effects all 5 players on the court in one way or another.  Does each player understand how to react to a given decision?

More to come on “The Play”………..