A Coaches Biggest Mistake
and How To Correct It
by Sidney Goldstein
Copyright © 2001
As I hiked with a former college/pro tennis
player, I asked how much time does it takes for a tennis player
to learn doubles. His answer was, "Not much, maybe 15 minutes."
'Well', I replied, "basketball coaches routinely spend most
practice time teaching doubles, ignoring the skills needed to
play tennis." Of course he thought this ridiculous. "But,"
I said, "many coaches spend most practice time on plays,
ignoring the skills needed for offensive success." He shook
I could have continued saying that when a play does not work
in a game, coaches figure they just need a better play. So they
search for that super play that will work. Unfortunately, this
search is in vain because offensive skills neither start, nor
end with plays.
Let me explain. A play choreographs where and how players move
in relation to each other, but not the steps. The manner in which
a player cuts, fakes, catches, passes, communicates and so on,
are not spelled out in the play. However, the success of the
play depends on these skills (which are individual fundamentals).
All that you need for a successful play is for one player in
the low post to get a half step on the defense, then flash to
the basket for a pass & score. Of course, the passer must
be looking at this instant, and be able to throw an accurate
pass. This is not easy, but understanding what's involved in
this simple play leads a coach to a better understanding of offensive
Remember, the objective of the offense is to take advantage of
a defensive weakness or mistake. To accomplish this task each
passer must be able to throw fast accurate passes. Even more
fundamental, each passer must be looking for a defensive mistake
(open player), communicate with the catcher, fake the defense,
and then time the pass correctly. The time frame here is in instants,
maybe tenths of a second, so there is little room for error.
The catcher must properly execute some similar skills- look,
communicate, fake, time the cut -plus a few others like catching,
making the move to the basket, and shooting. This is no easy
feat considering the simplest of plays. Most pros have not developed
these abilities to their fullest. Quite often, less able players
have not even begun.
Of the 200 or so drills in the coaches manual (The Basketball
Coach's Bible), most, not counting shooting, cover the offensive
skills that I mentioned above. If you can incorporate these skills
into the simplest of plays, then you will have an effective offense.
Understand that plays don't teach offense, so there is no need
to search. The simplest play will work just fine if players learn
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.