Improving a team’s Reads on offense can come from a number of different tactics and strategies. For many coaches involved within the sport working with adolescents or senior coaches exposing elite players to complex systems the reads made by players are the difference between success and failure. Without the deliberate focus on exposing players to the possible offensive options and then exploring each one, players will simply not learn to exercise their judgement to make the right choices when desired situations are presented.
The first aspect which needs to be explored is for a coach to analyse each players fundamental and technical skills. Many times in offensive situations, players become limited in the choice they can make because they do not have the fundamental skill needed to help them take advantage of a breakdown in play. For example, a player who is strongly dominant with their right hand will often find defensive teams overplaying this side to the point of exposing the left hand side driving lane. Nevertheless, the player can never take advantage of this opportunity because of their poor development of left hand dribbling. This is seen in all levels of the sport and can be seen in many scenarios that play out in every game.
The next aspect which needs to occur is a coach must breakdown each of their phases of offense and plays to be implemented to discover the different reads. It does not matter in which phase we are examining whether it be a fast break, secondary transition or terminal half-court offense all have specific reads associated with the general flow of the play. An effective coach must first identify these for themselves, decide on the desired options and then plan for these to be incorporated into their teams preparations. This then leads to the second part of this aspect, the players need to have the reads identified and explained to them by the coach.
The third aspect which needs to be explored in the effort to improve a team’s reads is the incorporation of dills into training sessions which afford players a range of choices. A common problem which is seen in many training sessions is a reluctance by coaches to give players too much choice so to limit the amount of time it takes for players to perform the right sequence. While this however is a fantastic strategy to be used with in regards to scaffolding and drill progression. The problem starts with the restrictions on freedom of choice never being fully removed and so players only learn to play within a limited scope of scenarios over a short period of time. For example, it is common practice for coaches to use breakdowns of offensive plays to help their player’s experience and improve their reads in specific situations. However, how much time is afforded to these same players in 5 v 5 situations where they have multiple possessions in a row and have to make reads to different situations consecutively. The most common answer is not very often, most coaches during 5 v 5 drills still believe in providing feedback after short periods of time instead of allowing players the opportunity to practice reads on the fly without periods of static analysis.
In wrapping up the discussion on improving the offensive reads of a team there are a couple of strategies which are suggested for every team to employ. These are:
- Use video footage to help individuals or the team to see what happened and what the possible options were. Nothing quite hits home like a player having their performance broken down so they see themselves on the screen and not just a hypothetical discussion on court during a training session
- Develop a detailed playbook. As a resource a playbooks can start the thinking process for players especially if structured to highlight the reads and scoring options possible