The Basketballogy Half Court Scrimmage

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 born and bred 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.

  1. RickRick12-08-2011

    Just ran this yesterday in practice. It was excellent. It complemented the “Double Dribble” drill that I had created myself – the rules were similar enough that the girls required almost no instruction in running the scrimmage.

    One issue, however, was keeping track of scoring. I coach at a medium-sized district (800 students) without much basketball tradition. I have 10 varsity athletes and 9 JV athletes. One of my 16-22 minute players sprained her MCL this week, so I’m practicing with the team when we go 5 on 5. Needless to say, keeping track of scoring was difficult.

    Even with that issue – it was excellent, and the girls were asking when it concluded if we were going to do it again.

    I’ve also worked on evaluating my drill and I will have a new post on my blog (in the next week or so, somehow we have 3 games in 6 days starting today) outlining how to run my drill to practice against the full court press or to work on your transition offense.

    Incidentally, have you considering rewarding an extra point to offensive rebounds? As a motivation for both teams? Seems like it might fit with the idea of trying to get the players to see it as a virtual turnover.

    Thanks again!

  2. Tom7Tom712-08-2011


    I’ve thought many times about suggesting coaches play with their players in scrimmages, or at least play with other adults using the Elemental Offense and Read and React offense.

    I TOTALLY believe there is a different level of understanding for a coach when he has to PLAY in the system he is teaching his players to play in. For one thing, he learns first hand how clear his instructions may or may not be and can change them so it translates better for players.

    In my case, when I scrimmage with the players I hold back a lot so that my squad looks to each other for the win and not to me. For example, I will not shoot unless I have such an obvious layup that it would be bad team basketball for me not to.

    I don’t know if you remember when volleyball went from traditional scoring to “rally scoring,” but basically, it used to be that you could not score in volleyball unless you were the team that served. Rally scoring made it so that errors by the serving team not only resulted in the other team getting the ball, but getting a point. That is the same double whammy that the offensive team gets when they fail to grab a rebound, so no, I don’t award 2 points for an offensive rebound.

    It is one point per rebound for whichever team gets the rebound.

    By the way, I’m going to edit the post to mention that we call out the score EVERY time it changes. So we call out the score after every made basket, every made free throw, and every rebound. It helps us all keep track, and it is positive reinforcement for the players doing the right things.

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