Today's Quote:"Coaching is preparation." - Pete Carril
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Today's Theme: More on Game Strategy
My last email discussed end of game strategies. This newsletter discusses some more game strategies. These are just some of my thoughts, which you may or may not agree with, but hopefully will get you thinking so you can come up with your own ideas.
Prepare by scouting, or reviewing game films of your opponent. Who are their best players? What is their style of play? What do they like to do? What are their weaknesses? If you have played them previously, review old game stats, notes and films.
Here is a good habit: soon after playing a game, make notes of the game, your observations of the opponent and save them. Refer to these the next time you play them. Use this to develop a game plan that will favor your strengths and attack their weaknesses, and deny their strengths.
But I would not change my game plan from what we usually do successfully to something else solely designed to stop our opponent. Let them change their style of play to try to stop you! Discuss your game strategy in practices. Discuss defensive assignments so each player knows his/her role.
If you have never played this team before and have no prior information, try to discern early who their best players are and what style, what tempo, they like. Once you know this, you can make quick adjustments in a time-out, or at the end of the first quarter.
Try to set the game tempo to the style that best suits your team. If you are a running, pressing team, and your opponent is a slow-down team, push the ball up the floor on offense, press on defense, and create havoc!
If you are better in a half-court slower paced game (less team quickness and only average ball handlers), then bring the ball up the court more deliberately, and get back on defense to prevent the fast break. If your opponent is a great fast-breaking team, prepare your team to stop the break by having one, or maybe even two, guards back, and have your big guys jam the rebounder with hands up so they can't get off the quick outlet pass.
What does your team do best, man-to-man or zone? Are they quick, good defenders (go man-to-man), or do you have a couple slow defenders (maybe go zone)? Teams may try both at various times in the game. Here are a few things that I look at.
If the opponent has good outside shooters, use man-to-man to keep pressure on their shooters.
If their strength is inside post play, you can play man-to-man and double team the post with your weak-side guard. In this situation, whenever the ball goes into the low post, have your low post defender deny him the drop step to the baseline, and have your weak-side guard slide down quickly to prevent the move to the lane.
Or you can go 2-3 zone to pack the paint with your defense. This leaves the outside more vulnerable. During the course of a game, if the opponent is getting most of their baskets inside, I may switch to a 2-3 zone to jam the paint and force them to shoot from outside. If they can't shoot consistently, this may be the best way to stop them.
Some coaches play only man-to-man. Others use only zones. As a coach, I believe I should use every possible tool or strategy that I can to win a game. I personally favor pressure man-to-man, but will not hesitate to go zone if I feel it will give us a better chance of winning.
One exception, youth players should learn how to play good man-to-man, before using zones.
When do you switch from man-to-man to zone, or vice versa? There are different ways of doing this. Some coaches will change defenses frequently, in order to confuse the opponent - as long as you don't confuse your own players! I personally like riding success until the opponent shows me that they can beat it.
You might change from man-to-man to a zone if one or two of your better players are in foul trouble. A zone can sometimes help protect them from additional fouls.
This depends on whether your team has quickness, stamina, and bench support, and whether the faster pace favors your team. Some teams will press the entire game because it favors their quickness, and they have a deep bench.
Some will press at the start of the game to get off to a quick start. Some will press the last few minutes before the end of a period, realizing they can rest at the break. Some teams will press after each made basket. Some teams only press when they are behind late in the game, but often it's too late by then.
I like to start the game pressing. If the opponent starts breaking the press, or gets a couple lay-ups, I'll drop it. I'll put it back on later as a surprise tactic, or if I sense a critical time in the game where a couple quick steals and lay-ups could make a big difference.
If key players are in foul trouble, we might have to drop the press.
If we have a 10 point lead with a just couple minutes left in the game, I would drop the press, slow the game down, get back on defense and make the opponent work hard in the half-court for their shots, working the clock down.
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Put in a new offense or defense this season.
Run a special inbounds or buzzer-beater play and look like a genius!
Use a special defense to shutdown a star player.
Teach your team how to break a press.