Note: this is the 5th article in a 5-part series:
Looking over the Google Analytics reports for these articles, I’m impressed that so many thousands of you are reading these articles, and that you are staying so long on each page. After all, these articles aren’t inane fanboy blather; you have to be pretty sharp and dedicated to actually want to dive this deeply into such specialized and focused basketball topics. The analytics are a real testament to the popularity and genius of Rick Torbett‘s Read and React Offense as well.
I started Basketballogy.com because I wanted a place on the web where people could have intelligent conversations about basketball without being overrun by dismissive, belittling, and often juvenile fanboys who attack you just because you lack the “intelligence” to worship the same players and teams as they do, or because you see things differently and can articulate it above a 5th grade reading level.
Consequently, it is gratifying that the RGB series of articles on half court offense is doing so well in analytics reports. It makes me feel like perhaps all this time spent writing, doing graphics and creating animations isn’t in vain. At any rate….
This article, “Part 5,” starts with 4 caveats:
1As I indicated at the outset, this series of articles was targeted at coaches who already know the Read and React Offense and were looking for another way to teach it. Ergo, if you are unfamiliar with this offense, I probably lost you many times in these articles. If you don’t already have them, I recommend buying Rick Torbett’s DVDs from Better Basketball which present the offense in its entirety.
2Just because I presented the offense this way to coaches, that doesn’t necessarily mean I would present it to my players this way. In fact, I wouldn’t present the offense to my team this way. Parts 1 through 4 of the RGB series were about laying a foundation for coaches, and now in part 5, I’ll tell you how I’m teaching it to players.
3In real life, how I would teach half court offense to players depends a great deal on the situation. For example, I would not use the same methods to teach a high school team that I’d use to teach a youth team, even if the two groups were the same age. Teaching must consider many factors, including the amount of practice time you have to prepare your players. Since I do not know your team and your circumstances, it is impossible for me to tell you what to do. Instead, I’m trying to provide enough general guidance, melded with useful specifics, to allow you to make your own way.
4I’ve held back information from these articles both to make them briefer, and to make sure that people who buy the book when it is out get a significant amount of added value over the free content found here. Besides, Basketballogy’s Fundamentals of the Game: What every coach, player and parent should know about basketball is a holistic approach to teaching basketball that goes far beyond just teaching a half court offense.
Okay, on to the Basketballogy Method for teaching the Read and React Offense.
The Basketballogy Method for Teaching the Read and React Offense
The BackstoryA couple of years ago I had a group of players who couldn’t practice with the team at the beginning of the season because of their involvement in another sport at the high school. Consequently, when they did join our practices, I had a group of guys who I’d been working with for weeks who knew some Read and React, and a group of boys (including my starting point guard) who I needed to quickly get up to speed. So out of necessity, I came up with a simplified, accelerated way of teaching the Read and React Offense.
However, as I taught the newcomers, I noticed that the guys who I’d been teaching as per the DVDs made quantum leaps in understanding and executing the offense as well. That’s when I decided to try teaching the Read and React offense in a completely different way.
I have now taught 4 teams using this “Basketballogy Method,” and all 4 have won their league championships, with 3 of the 4 going undefeated along the way. That’s my way of saying that I discovered an unexpected benefit to being able to teach the offense in less time:
When teaching your half court offense doesn’t dominate all your practice time, you find you have more time to put into teaching your players to be good at other things such as early offense, defense and player development.
Rather than teach the Read and React Offense in layers as outlined on the Better Basketball DVDs, I first teach an offense I call the “Elemental Offense,” which is based on my RGB principles and features Read and React type movements, then use the Elemental Offense as a launching pad for the Read and React Offense.
The Basketballogy Elemental Offense can be taught in one 90-minute practice, making your group instantly able to play solid basketball with Read and React – like elements, then in subsequent practices I evolve their understanding of half court offense until they are playing a full blown Read and React Offense.
This is great news if you have a youth, intramural or amateur league team that you need to get playing solid half court offense right away.
Of course an offense taught in 90 minutes is far from perfect, but it is surprisingly effective and is much better than just sending your players onto the court with nothing, or with a couple of set plays. Best of all though, the Basketballogy Elemental Offense lays a foundation that greatly accelerates learning the more full version of the Read and React Offense.
How to teach the Elemental OffenseNot all the kids show up to practices on time, so I start my practices with a useful yet non critical activity such as a shooting drill from the elbows and short corners, or a Basketballogy scrimmage (more on that later). When I have everyone, I like to set their expectations (and their focus) by telling them what our goals are for that day. On day one, our goals are:
1. DEFENSE: Rebounding.
There’s no point in playing lock down D if you are going to let your opponent get the offensive rebound and score anyway off a layup. Today we are going to start learn the true value of rebounding.
2. OFFENSE: The Elemental Offense.
Offense needs spacing, ball movement and player movement to be effective. Today we start to learn to use these 3 basic elements of offense to our advantage.
3. PLAYER DEVELOPMENT: Shot selection.
Not all shots are good shots. If your opponent knows that, then maybe there’s a reason you’re so open. 😉 Today, you start to learn what a bad shot costs your team.
Here is how you teach the Elemental Offense:
A. Introduce the 3 elemental “RGB” concepts of offense (spacing, ball movement and player movement) to your team.
B. Teach your players the spots in the 5-out formation, calling them the “arc” or “perimeter” positions.
C. Teach your players the spots inside the arc, including the short corners, calling them the “post” or “interior” positions.
D. Have your players mark the perimeter and post spots on both ends of the floor with a 2-inch piece of tape. You want your players to do it so that they experience the concern of having the spots exactly right. You want the spot markers small so as players move, they learn good spacing more by the painted lines on the floor, rather than from huge colored spots that aren’t there come game time anyway.
E. Do the end to end Formations Drills described in RGB part 2: Spacing and the Read and React Offense to help them quickly learn to form with proper spacing in transition. By the way, since the point of this drill is to accelerate their learning to play from the spots, use a variety of formations. Example: “3-out, Sam and Javier in the high post. Go!” “4-out right, Josh in the mid post. Go!”
F. Teach your players the 3 Rules of Elemental Offense:
1Space Correctly. Space the floor only on the spots coach taught you, with at least 3 players outside the arc (3-out), and with the perimeter (arc) spots nearest the ball always filled.
Spacing in the Elemental Offense:
2Give Back. When you pass the ball, go help your team by cutting and either filling a spot in the formation, or setting a screen on or away from the ball.
Passing in the Elemental Offense:
3Open Windows. When someone dribbles the ball, open a passing or driving window by: (a) moving right away with them (and with your hands ready) into a passing window where you could potentially get a pass, or (b) sliding away from the dribbler to open driving lanes, or (c) setting a screen for a teammate so they can cut into an open passing window.
Dribbling in the Elemental Offense:
If you have read through the first four parts in this series, you will instantly recognize those 3 rules, and the reasons behind them. It’s surprising how much Read and React-esque basketball you can play with a basic understanding of formations and just those 3 elemental rules. In fact, at some levels, with some teams, just the Elementals may be sufficient.
G. 5-out Perimeter Passing drill – Before your players can play by the 3 elemental rules, they need to get used to moving properly on the perimeter, and the best way to teach perimeter spacing and rotation is with a 5-out passing drill.
Unlike the R&R DVDs, I do not emphasize “circle movement” along the arc. Instead I teach that the ball handler always needs safe passing options, so we try to keep the perimeter spots nearest the ball filled. To fill those spots, players need to circle along the arc.
In other words, I teach circle movement is a by-product of fundamental half court offense, not an objective of it.
One of the reasons I like the read and react so much is that it can be played from many formations with the rules being the same in all of them. That allows players (and coaches) a great deal of flexibility against defenses without a lot of extra learning and remembering.
To simplify their 5-out pass and fill drill, teach your players to fill to the corner opposite the direction they passed. For example, if they pass to the right, have them cut to the basket, then fill to the left corner.
H. Pop Quiz – While the players catch their breath, get water, etc.,quiz them on the 3 Rules of Elemental Offense.
I. 4-out Passing Drill – This drill is the same as the 5-out Perimeter Passing Drill, except that now there is a post player to pass to as well. Have the players play 4-out from the 5-out spots, passing the ball wherever they would like to and doing the right player movements after. Make sure everyone, including the post player, plays from the spots.
Here is another tip to teach your players for when a perimeter player is passing to a post player:
If a perimeter player passes to a post player, then the open corner will be on the weak side.
(It doesn’t matter if the formation is 3-out, 4-out or 5-out, it always works out that way.) For example, in 3-out, if the right wing passes to the post, the other perimeter players will circle the arc to fill the spots nearest the ball, leaving the wing on the weak side vacant for the cutter to fill to. And if the top player passes to the post, again the perimeter players will circle the arc to fill the spots near the ball so the vacant corner will be on the weak side.)
“Wrong Corner” Remedies.
If a player ever does fill to the “wrong corner,” there are two things to teach your team so that good basketball can still come of it.
If they are playing 5-out or 4-out… have the cutter set a screen for the person in the corner, then fill the vacated corner as the new cutter cuts to the far side corner.
If they are playing 3-out, then when a player fills to the “wrong corner,” have all the perimeter players circle along the arc to fill the wing and top spots.
When the wrong corner is the right corner.
I am reluctant to call “wrong corner” fills “wrong,” because good basketball can come come of them.
For example, say you are playing 5-out and you have a big player, or a highly skilled player in one corner.
In this case, you might WANT to cut and fill to the “wrong corner” and set a screen for the larger player. In so doing, the bigger player could either get a wide open cut to the basket, or be picked up on a switch by a smaller defender — both of which are ideal situations for your offense.
J. Pop Quiz – Again quiz the players on the 3 Rules of Elemental Offense, then ask them if they are ready to scrimmage with them.
K. Teach your players the Basketballogy Half Court Scrimmage (see below), and let them have fun while ingraining good spacing, player movement, ball movement and rebounding indelibly into the natural texture of their play.
L. Between Basketballogy scrimmages, re-teach and reinforce concepts and movement. This is the time to start sneaking in extra information, like:
- Read line cuts
- Post slides
- Perimeter dribbles (“Dribble at”)
- Skip passes
- Reverse dribble (pick and roll)
Be careful not to teach too much at once; let them scrimmage and feel comfortable with what they know, then incrementally add to it in a natural, organic way from things that you observe in their play. In other words, don’t teach them according to your arbitrary, externally conceived schedule; move them according to what you see happening in scrimmages.
In my experience, by the end of practice players as young as 12 years old will be very comfortable playing with the basic things you want from an elemental Read and React offense: good spacing, good player movement, and good ball movement.
Any good teacher will agree that “telling” and “teaching” are not synonyms. For these rules to become habits, players must immediately practice the concepts you have told them in a drill or a scrimmage specially designed to make good habits.
Obviously I believe in drills, but I also believe they are overused by many coaches. I’m also a musician, and in music we are taught that performances are far better when we make our practice time as musical as possible. Likewise, in basketball I’ve observed a real disconnect between skills learned in drills and how a player folds those skills into actual playing on court. Therefore, I believe that where ever possible, drills should be as game-like as possible; it increases the likelihood those skills will also be habits which make their way into actual games.
Again, give players a few bites of instruction, then let them chew on them in the Basketballogy Half Court Scrimmage. Then rinse and repeat. The Basketballogy scrimmage was design specifically to turn good teaching into good habits.
The Basketballogy Half Court Scrimmage
Basketball is a game of habits. I’m reminded of this all the time as I watch players do bone headed things like step out of bounds or stay too long in the key.
These players hurt themselves and their team not because they lack talent, but because they (and their coaches) are lax about insisting on good habits while practicing. As a result, many players have to “put on” good habits for a game, and “be careful” in order to stay out of trouble, which obviously puts their team at a competitive disadvantage come game time.
Bad habits are concocted and calcified in practice time, and coaches thoughtlessly cultivate bad habits in their players by doing things like scoring scrimmages by “1s and 2s” instead of by “2s and 3s.” Scoring by 1s and 2s literally encourages horrible shot selection, and punishes excellent rebounders for their good habits. If a coach doesn’t want horrible shot selection and bad rebounding from his players in a game, then he shouldn’t be encouraging it in practices.
Think about it. Someone with a 25% 3-point percentage has no business shooting 3s, however if you’re keeping score by 1s and 2s, a pathetic 25% 3-point shooting percentage is the effective equivalent of shooting 50% from inside the arc, which is actually a good percentage. Additionally, all those long shots make for lots of long rebounds which ultimately reward people for not crashing the boards or boxing out.
Scoring by 1s and 2s simply encourages bad basketball, so unless you are coaching one of the teams in the leagues my teams play in, I’d encourage you to abandon that senseless practice immediately if you are doing it.
Good coaches always give careful thought to the habits they may be nurturing in their players in practice time, and that is the thinking behind the Basketballogy Half Court Scrimmage.
The Basketballogy half court scrimmage is a hybrid drill / scrimmage that encourages good teamwork, spacing, player movement, ball movement and rebounding practices, and builds good habits in players using a realistic, game-like setting.
The Basketballogy scrimmage is based on we call “the 3-2-1 rules.” What does the “3-2-1” stand for?
3 = The three rules of Elemental Offense: (1) Space correctly, (2) Open windows, (3) Give back.
2 = Two dribbles. Players are only allowed 2 dribbles (and a “control dribble” where applicable)
1 = One point is awarded for every rebound
I’ve personally seen players as young as 12 years old almost instantly adapt to playing the 3-2-1 rules of a Basketballogy scrimmage, and I imagine younger players can too.
1 Point per ReboundAwarding a point for a rebound, while scoring made shots in 3s and 2s, rewards the right behaviors in a manner that is immediately apparent to the players. Not only do players in a Basketballogy scrimmage box out and crash the boards better, but awarding points for rebounding actually affects shot selection.
In a Basketballogy scrimmage, players tend to work for higher percentage shots — inside shots and open jumpers — so as to not give their opponent easy defensive rebounding points for collecting any garbage tossed up.
Isn’t this exactly how you want your players to play as a habit, without even thinking about it, coach?
Then why not use the Basketballogy half court scrimmage to indelibly infuse rebounding and good shot selection into the natural texture of your team’s play?
[EDIT: By the way, during the scrimmage we call out the score every time it changes. So after every made basket, free throw or rebound, at least one of the players will call out the score so everyone hears and knows, and so that the good deed is acknowledged.]
2 Dribbles OnlyAs for for dribbling, on the third bounce I blow the whistle and it is a turn over. And if I happen to miss that a player has dribbled 3+ times, the opposing scrimmaging players sure don’t. Interestingly, in a Basketballogy scrimmage everyone is aware and jumps on any player who tries to dominate the ball. We don’t care if you are Steve Nash; it’s two dribbles or less for everyone.
You would think that the 2 dribble rule would increase turn overs, but once players are used to the rule, the opposite is actually the case. When players know they can only dribble twice, they don’t want to squander those two dribbles and they play smarter overall.
When players can only dribble twice, they think about where they are going when they dribble, and how best to use those precious two dribbles, and they are thinking about passing options well ahead of typical play.
Seriously, you’d be amazed at how that kind of thought and care with the ball cuts down on the turnovers.
Plus, because in a Basketballogy scrimmage the ball handler can only dribble twice, teammates are forced to immediately move without the ball as soon as the ball hits the floor giving the ball handler passing options he wouldn’t ordinarily have in a regular scrimmage, otherwise the ball handler will quickly be in trouble and have no one to pass to.
Now, after all that talk about only dribbling twice, I will confess that I have used 3 dribbles instead of 2 for younger players starting out with the Elemental Offense. 😉
3 Elemental RGB RulesFinally, as you can imagine, there is much more passing in a Basketballogy Scrimmage than a standard scrimmage. In a Basketballogy scrimmage, the 2-dribble rule creates fantastic ball movement. In a standard scrimmage the coach has to keep getting after his players to make them pass. The Basketballogy scrimmage instils a habit of wonderful ball movement without the coach getting after a single player! What’s not to like about that?!
And because the 3 Elemental RGB Rules require a passer to cut and “give back” to his team after he passes, all that passing creates fantastic player movement as well.
The 3-2-1 rules of the Basketballogy scrimmage makes for beautiful, spontaneous offense, and the more your players scrimmage, the more it becomes a habit.
Think about it: the Basketballogy scrimmage makes really nice half court basketball a habit, and it does it against defenses, and in a game like setting. What drill beats that?!
And is if all that wasn’t cool enough, my teams love the Basketballogy scrimmage much more than any drill we could do. In fact, they would Basketballogy scrimmages all practice long if I would let them — and I’m often tempted to, given the great things that come from it.
Moreover, when the players are used to playing in Basketballogy scrimmages, it just feels wrong in a real game not to move the ball, move your feet, and rebound.
That right there is the secret sauce that makes the Basketballogy scrimmage so appealing for coaches, but!
But there’s the surprise ending for the Basketballogy scrimmage.
As players Basketballogy scrimmage “Elemental Offense,” they naturally grow towards the “higher” components of the Read and React Offense. Seriously. Once players can play in an Elemental Offense, learning the Read and React Offense is a splendidly organic process.
The players, for competitive reasons, just eat up any instruction you can give them during and between scrimmages on how to circle to stay in passing windows, or where to slide to in the post when the ball is being driven, or how to best “give back” in certain situations. They want you to teach them so they can win the next scrimmage.
In short, not only does the Basketballogy scrimmage teach players to play beautiful Elemental Offense, but players genuinely want to the learn how to have the competitive edge in spacing, player movement and ball movement, and want you to teach them Read and React Offense principles.
The players literally pull offense from you, rather than you having to push it on them.
Now coach, doesn’t that sound nice?
I do ask one favor of you though: as you use the scrimmage, please call it by its name: the Basketballogy half court scrimmage. After all, I’ve given this insight away for your benefit and would appreciate credit being given where credit is due. Besides, it helps me build my brand. 😉 Cheers.
Add Passing ElementsThroughout the first couple of scrimmages, you may need to remind players that if someone passes from the perimeter and cuts, they have vacated a spot that needs filling. His teammates need to see that the positions nearest the ball always need to be filled, so they will need to circle rotate to fill them. The direction of the rotation is determined by what keeps players in spots near the ball.
For the most part though, the thing you will be reminding their players is to play from their spots until a rule from the offense makes them move. I had one player who was so anxious to spontaneously cut from a perimeter spot when he saw an interior spot he could fill that I thought his skin was going to peel off of his body and make the cut without him. He would make these cuts and sometimes they would result in easy buckets, but usually he just confused the ball handler and knocked him off of what he was about to do.
“Freelancing,” breaking from the offense and going rogue, can be a good thing in a game if it will obviously lead to a bucket or a trip to the free throw line. But in practice it must be discouraged otherwise it slows down learning what can be done if your players play by the rules of the offense.
At any rate, when players are comfortable playing the Basketballogy scrimmage with the elements you have given them, gradually add other Read and React concepts. Because there are so many passes in a Basketballogy scrimmage, I like to start with passing.
One of the first things you can teach them is to stay put on a skip pass. Also, teaching them where to cut when they pass to the post is something you will want your players to understand earlier than later.
When I teach Pass and Post, I have the players play 4-out so that there is only 1 post player to keep track of, and have the post player vacate his post position and fill to a corner when the passer makes his cut to a post position.
After scrimmages, don’t let the players go right into another scrimmage right away. Teach a quick concept, or reinforce teaching you’ve already given them. For example, “Guys, what are the 4 ways to give back to your team after you pass the ball?”
1Pass and Fill
Pass, cut to the basket, then fill a corner position along the arc.
2Pass and Post
Pass, cut, then take a post position around the key, or a short corner.
3Pass and Screen
Pass, then cut to set a screen off the ball to free up a teammate.
4Pass and Pick
Pass, cut, then return to the ball handler to execute a pick and roll.
Add Dribbling ElementsI don’t think we need to worry too much at the outset that our players don’t know all the dribble reactions from the get-go. In fact, I must confess that I let one of my teams play most of a season without ever teaching dribble reactions other than post slides, dribble-at and pick and roll.
For most of the season this team didn’t circle in the same direction, or do many of the things Read and React requires of them, but their own decisions and movements to free up teammates and clear driving and passing lanes resulted in sound, elemental, and winning basketball anyway.
Usually though, I build on the elemental offense gradually teaching teams, “When the ball handler dribbles, how can you “open a window”?
1Move into a passing window
Open a window by moving to a place on the floor where you could receive a pass.
2Set a screen off the ball
Open a window for a teammate by screening away from the ball, so they can cut to the basket.
3Do a post slide
Open a lane for the dribble drive by sliding to another spot such as a short corner or elbow
4Pick and roll, pop, etc.
Open a lane for a dribble drive by setting a pick then popping, rolling, etc.
Of course, when they are ready to build upon the Elemental Offense with dribble reactions, the first thing players need to understand is that for the purposes of reading and reacting in a half court offense, there are 3 kinds of dribbling in a half court offense:
1. Dribble penetration – meant to position the ball inside the arc.
2. Perimeter dribbling – meant to position the ball along the outside of the arc.
3. Reverse dribbling – meant to signal a pick and role
Players need to be able to instantly recognize which is which in order to make quick and correct reads the moment the ball hits the floor.
Likewise, players need to understand is that their reactions to the ball handler’s dribbling depend in large part on where they are positioned at the floor at the time dribbling takes place, so teach the players that the formations we’ve learned break down into 3 components:
1. Post Positions
2. Corner Positions
3. Arc (Perimeter) Positions
When players read which dribbling is taking place (penetration, perimeter or reverse), they must then react according to where they are on the floor, not according to whether or not they are guards, bigs, etc.
These concepts can be taught in conjunction with perimeter dribbling. Perimeter dribbles, a.k.a. “dribble-at,” are simple and teach the circle movement along the arc, so they are an ideal place to start teaching dribble reactions.
For more on this topic, see Dribbling and the Read and React Offense – Part 3 of 5.
In ConclusionOne of the points I tried to make in part 1, the RGB of the Read and React Offense, is that people tend to more fully commit to something when they know reasons why.
“After all,” I wrote, “It is one thing to tell a kid to climb a mountain, and another thing altogether to tell a kid to climb a mountain because a giant tsunami is coming.”
- Before teaching the Read and React Offense, I taught the three RGB elements of all offenses.
- Before teaching formations, I taught the importance of spacing.
- Before teaching player movement, I taught that championship basketball depends on what a player does with the 90% of the time he plays without the ball.
- Before teaching passing, I taught about the power of teamwork.
- Before teaching the Basketballogy scrimmage, I taught the importance of developing good habits.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that pattern as well.
But most obviously, before I gave the specifics of how I teach an Elemental Offense and grow it into the Read and React Offense, I wrote 4 articles to lay the foundation so you would understand the “why” behind this methodology.
Now that Part 5 is “in the wild,” I encourage you to start with part 5, and then use parts 1 through 4 to teach help your players as you grow them from the Elemental Offense into a full blown Read and React Offense.
The great philosopher, Anonymous, once said, “The biggest room in the world… is the room for improvement.”
I couldn’t agree more, and knowing me, a year from now I’ll have this refined even more — and hopefully with your help. I’d love to hear from you, and I’m installing a contact page on basketballogy.com to assist with that. After all, none of this was handed to any of us on stone tablets.
I’d add that the book is always better than the blog as well. For example, the book includes a detailed practice plan of what to teach in each practice, so please keep an eye out for my coming book: Basketballogy’s Fundamentals of the Game: What every coach, player and parent should know about basketball. Of course I’ll announce it on basketballogy.com when the book is finally in the wild as well, so check back often.