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Get What You Want Out Of An Offense

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What You Want Out of An Offense & How To Get It
by Sidney Goldstein Copyright © 2001

Martin Luther King once said, "I have a dream," and so do I, and so should you. My dream involves players being trained to play basketball like you have rarely seen before.
Let's dream about the type of offense you want. What about a fast break offense: everyone running, passes leading cutters, players moving at the right speed in the right place (filling the lanes). Passes are so quick that the defense has no chance to react. Think also of an Olympic or division 1 volleyball game: the passes are bang, bang, bang. The timing must be exact on net plays. Players even fake cuts to the net to through off the defense.
Translate this to a half court offense. One, no one holds the ball or dribbles in place. Two, the periphery players, left and right of the ball, cut and fake so the ball has at least two outlets if the inside is not open. Three, the two inside players cut and fake to receive a pass as close to the basket as possible. At no time does any player retire while on the court. Each player is constantly trying to set up and beat the defense. Only a half step is needed, only 1/4 of a second. Of course you can add a simple in and out pattern of movement and you must deal with scoring, rebounding and transition separately.
So, if this type of offense is effective, why do we accept less. I'll tell you why:
1. You need to dream.
2. You need to learn how to train players.
Now the dream is vitally important, especially to experienced coaches who have long ago given up. They write poor performance off to players lack of ability and instead dream of recruiting players that play their type of game. In other words, they are looking for players that know how to play, that do not need instruction! (What is the coach for?!)
Beginning coaches do not want to fall into the contagious hypnotic spell of denial of their elders. You are here to train players, to give, not to take. Your players do not serve you, you serve them. To serve them you need to learn effective training methods.
What's going to make our above offensive dream work? Now we are getting to the Nitty-Gritty of the game. Let's make a list:

1. Players must learn to effectively cut and fake. There are at least 3 types of fakes to learn. Cutting to the open space or to the ball is not as easy as you think. Again there are at least 3 to learn. Even pros rarely execute these skills well.

2. Passing with defense in your face. Passing is the most difficult ball skill to learn. Passes are just flicks of the wrist, the arms must not move or the pass is telegraphed. The old chest pass is worthless because 1) it's an arm pass that telegraphs the play to the defense; 2) it can only be thrown to the side, left or right, of a defender, not through a defender.

3. Looking is a skill which needs to be taught. How many times have you seen players open in a game, that the person with the ball did not see. This is the main reason that plays do not work. Players must look everywhere all the time, not focus looking in one place, like a play forces players to do. The purpose of running 10 offensive patterns is to get players looking everywhere, not necessarily to learn the pattern. Ten year olds can learn any pattern in 10 minutes. unfortunately this won't help the offense because they need skills.

4. Communication is another skill that depends on looking. Offensive players must instinctively know what teammates will do in any situation. This can be practiced many ways, the best is in groups of two, rather than a team set up.

5. Timing is the key or rather Achilles Heel of most offenses. After players learn skills, split second timing beats defenses almost every time. Like communication, timing takes a long time to master. We rarely see good timing, but when we do, on an alioope (spelling) pass or a fast break, it brings up a smile and a "wow."

The exercises needed to master these offensive skills number in the hundreds. So, if you still wonder why your plays don't work, the answer is simple: you skipped everything players need to know to run the offense! Start dreaming and learning.

To learn more about the hundreds of drills on offensive skills read The Basketball Coach's Bible and view Videos 1 covering individual skills and Video 2 covering team skills. Videos 12-14 cover offensive skills.
Video 13 covers timing, looking, and communication.

Your comments are welcome.
Sidney Goldstein, author of The Basketball Coach's Bible and The Basketball Player's Bible, has successfully coached both men's and women's teams over a period of 15 years.

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