I coached two basketball teams this year, an 8 and under recreation team and a 6th grade boys CYO team. This is the 6th year I’ve coach youth and my 3rd year with the Read and React Offense, but the first where I went “all in.” Here are the top 10 things I learned this year.
10. The new layer order is great. When I first started 3 years ago, layer 1 was circle movement. I spent way too much time then on circle movement. It was too hard for the (then) 4th graders who had never played basketball. It also gave everyone too few touches. Having pass and cut as layer 1 is terrific. Even the 6 year olds this year were able to pick this up.
9. Buy the spots. Spacing and position are so important generally, but absolutely with R&R. Invest the money and get the floor spots. They work great.
8. Clean the spots. We practice in school gyms that don’t always get swept or cleaned before we practice (or the teams before us muck it up). You should have a damp cloth (not too wet) to make sure the bottom of the spots and the floor are generally dirt free. You will know if they are dirty…the kids will start to slide on them like bananas in a Hanna Barbara cartoon.
7. Patience. This probably isn’t really a R&R one, but we needed to be patient and not force the ball. This was especially true against zones. When we made multiple passes instead of trying to hit the first cutter (or any cutter that was running a gauntlet if three players) we did fine.
6. Follow the yellow brick road. I was having a hard time getting the boys to get the ball up the center of the court on the press break. I took all of the “baseline drive” spots and lined them up the middle. They are yellow, which let me simply shout “How do we get to Oz?”… “Follow the yellow brick road!”. It helped.
5. Less is OK for the Young. The 6th grade team faced a lot of zone. While we talked about “hook and look” and “hunt the gaps” the defense wasn’t so sophisticated this year that just playing and moving the ball around eventually got us good looks.
4. Fundamentals thru R&R. This year I finally learned to practice and drill the basic fundamentals using drills that apply to the R&R layers. For example, we never do layup lines, we always use a pass and cut to get to layups, especially in pre game warm-ups. Watching the “Practice DVD” was my “ah-ha moment.” We also don’t run lines (often), we just work on our transition with a ton of pass and cutting…they even get winded faster.
3. Go deep on Pass and Cut. I decided to go deeper on pass and cut instead of adding a lot more layers. It paid off in their grasping what was going on. For both teams, I had a dozen people comment (and compliment) the team on the amount of passing they did. Things like “your team really passes a lot, how do you get them to do that?” and “what drills to you use to teach pass and cut, they do it so naturally.” This was very satisfying for me.
2. Spacing and position. The biggest difference between when we played ok and really well was our spacing and position. If we moved aggressively to the right spots (in particular being 3 feet outside the arc) we did fine. When we stood on the 3 point line, or even inside it, we turned the ball over… A lot. The reason: it takes away the read line, which means no back cuts and more importantly, most any pass to the now closely guarded teammate is easily picked off by anyone faster than a slug.
1. It does work at all ages. The 8u boys got it. The 6th graders get it. I think I should teach it to the men’s adult league team I play on. The latter might work if we actually practiced instead of just playing pickup games when we get together.
Final comment: In the four total years I’ve coached 8 and under (including three 6 year olds this year) doing the very basics of Read and React (like pass and cut) and centering as many drills around the movements and reactions made it easy and fun for me as a coach. No “plays” to try to get them to remember, no complicated anything. The two “plays” I did add amounted to me having a code word (like BLUE) to tell the boy with the ball where he should pass it. I was simply telling him what to do and everyone else got an extra second to begin their reaction (as I told the whole world “the Read”).