Playing Without Play Calls
Tips for making yourself increasingly unnecessary
In a recent episode of The Hoops Forum, Coach Tony Miller of A Quick Timeout Podcast and I conversed about playing without play calls. You can watch the full episode above, but I thought I’d share some of the the highlights in blog format.
First, let’s set some parameters. “Playing without play calls” does not mean playing without plays or playing without structure. Instead, it means teaching a style of play in a manner that makes me (the coach) increasingly unnecessary.
Some ideas for playing without play calls:
First, you have to want to. There are coaches who don’t and that’s ok. If that is not your coaching style or a direction you are interested in going, that’s fine. Some may want to go that direction but don’t think it is possible or don’t know how to proceed. This post is for you!
Implement a motion or conceptual style offense. Begin with an alignment and teach some concepts that govern your play in practices, small-sided games and even game play.
“Let the ball call the play” - There are systems such as Princeton Offense or a secondary break or early offense system where whatever happens “first” calls the play and there is no need to dictate the action from the bench. If we pass ahead to the wing we are in this option. If we reverse through the trailer we are in that option. If we dribble handoff with the wing we are in another option. The ball calls the play, no words needed.
Have only one option! I am reminded of Bob Knight’s excellent teams of yesteryear. Playing a weak non-conference opponent? Motion Offense. Playing the best team in the Big Ten? Motion Offense. Playing in the Final Four? Motion Offense. Up 30? Motion Offense. Down 30? Motion Offense. Playing a team for the second time in a season? Motion Offense. You get the idea. There is no need for a team like that to “call” anything. Just come down the court and play our way. Sure, those teams ran motion from subtly different alignments from time to time, but the concepts of the offense remained the same and the players never had to wonder “what are we in?” for they had only one option.
Accept the “Seamless Challenge” - here’s one action step that you can take right now to move in the “playing without play calls” direction. Place a rule on yourself as the coach that you will not interrupt or interject yourself and call a play when there is a live ball change of possession. When your team gets a defensive rebound, just run into spots and flow into your offense. When your team gets scored on, just run into spots and flow into your offense. Reserve “calls” for only those possessions beginning from a dead ball start. Accepting this challenge will require you spend more time on transition spacing and offensive connection, but it is a way to begin to make yourself a bit more unnecessary. If you teach in this manner during live ball changes, there is no need to call anything.
I hope you will listen to the full conversation in the video above. Helping coaches take steps in this direction is what I do! If you’d ever like more guidance, please reach out.
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