With my team at the developmental level, we run a very unstructured offense. We have a “play,” but it rarely looks as good as it does on paper. In games or practice scrimmages, players speed up, lack patience, or pivot too slowly, which prevents perfect execution.
Luckily, my goal is not to run the play. I imagine that we could spend time at every practice running through the play 5v0 until the players memorized exactly where to go and our timing would improve. When we entered into the high post, we would pivot quicker and see the open cutter for the lay-up, rather than passing too late or missing the cut altogether.
However, if we spent so much time memorizing the play, what would happen when the defense learned the play and adjusted? If we spend hours trying to eliminate thinking, how would we adjust?
Rather than practice precision timing, we spend most of our practice learning to adjust and adapt. We have our primary goals: shoot close to the basket or open three-pointers. We have our strategy to create these shots: disorganize the defense and force the defense to defend sideline to sideline. And, we have our primary tactical skills that we emphasize: give-and-go cuts, high on-ball screens and dribble-ats.
Therefore, when we run our initial action and someone forgets where to cut or the defense takes away the first option, we can adjust. The players can make the decision to make the best possible play. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. But, we’re never stuck. We may not always look pretty or precise, but we also do not waste time “setting up.”
At the developmental level, these are the two options: either spend a lot of time memorizing certain plays so that the team offense looks precise or teach players some simple tactical skills to use over and over until they manage to create a good shot. The first option typically leads to quicker results; however, these teams are easy to defend and players are not necessarily learning the skills employed in the offense. The second option takes more time and often looks ugly, but players learn more and as they improve, they become more difficult to guard because they can adjust to the defense.
By Brian McCormick
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League