How should I teach the Read & React?

That question finds its way to me a lot. And, my frustrated answer is this:

You have to run the Read & React in order to improve at the Read & React. Period. You can’t get good at something that you’re not willing to commit to. You can’t get good at something unless you’re willing to plow through the bad times and growing pains of learning something new. That applies to everything, and it applies here as well.

There, I feel better! And, now to the steps.

Step 1: Teach the 3-player reaction drills for the layers you want to cover.

Commit to running each drill for a few minutes at the beginning of every practice. The 3-player drills maximize the number of reps that each player gets and carve the habits into their muscle memory. Without the Reaction Habits, there is no Read & React Offense and understanding it is not good enough, each player has to internalize the habits – the drills are the quickest way to do that.

If you chose 10 drills covering the layers you were working on and spent 90 seconds on each, that would be the first 15 minutes of practice. I would integrate my warm-up, skill development, and shooting practice into that 15 minutes. And, if I only had 15 minutes to practice, those 10 drills would be the agenda.

Step 2: Get repetition with 5 vs 0.

Your team should be able to Pass & Cut without taking a shot and without messing up. Once they are capable of that, then you can begin to add layers. Your team should now work on stitching the previous layers together with the same goals – no shots and no mistakes.

Give each group 5 minutes. If you have access to more goals, then get groups working simultaneously and train them longer. This could account for another 15 minutes of practice.

By the way, there’s no need to move on to the next step before perfection is achieved at this step. If your team can’t successfully run a layer without defense, adding defense will just lead to frustration.

Step 3: Move to 5 vs 5 with Dummy Defenders.

Do this with only the layers that have been perfected in Step 2. If you are developing Layer 3, but it isn’t perfect yet, then in this step work only on Layers 1 and 2.

In this section, the offense cannot take a shot and the defense cannot touch the ball.

I would spend a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes on this section. Why? The half court is where most of the game is played on both offense and defense. You can sharpen both your half-court offense and half-court defense simultaneously right here.

Step 4: Add the 5 vs 5 Deflection game or something similar.

This is “semi-live” and I don’t need to explain it. Look on the DVD! I explained it and demonstrated it in almost every layer. Spend 5 minutes with each group on offense and defense. Again, two birds with one stone.

Step 5: Now you’re ready to test the offense 5 vs 5 Live.

With that said, be prepared to take a step back if their cohesion falls apart. I’m not saying that it has to be perfect. It’s not going to be perfect for a while. But if players “freeze” and don’t know where to go with each action, then you must take a step backwards and drill more. It’s hard to say how much time to spend going live in the half-court. Since I don’t know your level, for this example, let’s say 10 minutes.

Total time so far: about 1 hour. Now you have the remaining practice time to work on those other things that your teams needs: Transition, Press Break, Out of Bound, more Defense, just to name a few.

Soapbox Time

You cannot get good at something that’s repeated for only 5 or 10 minutes per practice. The Read & React must become what you do when you play offense. It can’t be something you “run”; it must become how you play – all. the. time.

15 Responses

  1. On the DVD it says it’s Pass and Cut and also on the DVD it explains why it’s Pass and Cut rather than Circle Movement : Dribble Penetration.

    Starting from scratch, you need to start with Layer 1, Pass and Cut. It will be easier for your players to pick up on this offense when you begin with Layer 1, and don’t move to Layer 2 until Layer 1 becomes a habit.

  2. Hi Rick,

    One thing that confuses me is which is Layer 1.
    On DVD its pass n cut, but other liturature states that Dribble Penetration and Circle Movement is Layer 1.
    If you are starting this system from scratch with U14 girls who can play, which should i start with or how would you start as i really only got 1 hour a week?
    Many Thanks

    1. The first filmed version of the Read & React had the layers in a slightly different order. Since 2009, when Rick finalized the DVD set, Layer 1 is Pass & Cut. Some literature on the internet still refers to the old DVDs.

  3. Coach,
    I have worked as a Jr High Coach for 9 years and went to the Read and React just this past year. Talk about a relief! It was so great focusing on fundamentals and then in games basically just letting the kids play the game. I liked it so much that I taught the first three layers to my daughter’s 6th grade travel team. They only lost one game all year and even put up 68 points one game! We literally had to run a delay version the entire 4th quarter because the other team just couldn’t stop the pass and cut action. The kids love it, practices are easier to design, and it works. I now get those same girls this year for Jr High play and I am curious how far would you take the layers at this level and how long would you spend on each layer? The issue I foresee are the new kids who will assuredly come out and have not yet been introduced to the RR. I hate to delay the growth of some, but I see it as inevitable to some degree. Our Varsity coach doesn’t use the RR (yet) but she has seen my daughter’s group use it so she is not opposed to it!

  4. Coach Torbett,

    I was asked to help coach a 5th grade team that had a sad Winter Season last year and a worse summer season. I hesitantly agreed to help coach, but under the guidelines of running R&R, discipline and dedication. We are two games into the season and have won both games. However, I am banging my head and MORE than frustrated!! The other coach had me teach the boys the layers, I have refused to move past layer two b/c they don’t have it without thinking yet!! Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that we run the R&R 5 out and 4 out 1 in, but none of the R&R drills. Instead, he has the boys running a 3V2 full court play, 1V1 plays and scrimmaging. None of those enforce the R&R, not even in the scrimmage. I will stop the scrimmage and ask why a v cut was made and they did not cut to the spot under the basket and then fill. It messes up the WHOLE FLOW!! I believe you have come up with a great system, and until our team executes all layers flawlessly I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. It would be a waist of time to try to do so.

    Additionally, in the game, I am only allowed to coach the boys when they come to the bench…no on court decisions can be made by me. He tells the boys to “run and gun”, which has worked for us so far. When they are unsuccessful, he tells them to set up 5 out or 4 out (remember they couldn’t even run it in practice!!)

    So, my question to you is…what do I do? I am a “girl” dying to see these boys be successful. I was not under the impression that I would be his administrative asst. I come to the practices with a practice plan and he does what he wishes. d

    Second, as much as I hate to admit this to him….this offense has taught the boys movement!! So, the reason we are winning is b/c they are not just standing around and will eventually end up in their spot. (they don’t realize how difficult they are making their success) If we ran this offense properly, I am 100% positive that we would be winning our games by 20 or more points…not just 4 or 8.

    Any and all advice to the both of us would be appreciated.


  5. Coach Matt,
    You didn’t say if you were talking about during a game or during practice. During practice, you can certainly do something like that. If you look at the Deflection Game in Layer 1 on the DVD, you’ll see teams playing without driving at all! The only way they can score is with the Pass, Cut, and Read Line. The defense can only score by deflecting or stealing the ball. This little game puts pressure on both the offense and defense.

    During a game, I wouldn’t put a minimum number of passes on them unless they were blowing the other team out. At the 5th grade level, it might only take one pass and one cut for a drive opening to appear and I would want the ballhandler to take it. HOWEVER, this is just my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt, because we’re talking about training YOUR players and YOU know them best!

  6. Coach Torbett

    I’m coaching a 5th grade team this year and have installed Pass/Cut and Circle Movement. It has been amazing watching the boys pick it up so fast. The first practice I had to stand under the basket and point to the corner they should fill out to. By practice three they were doing it on their own without me saying a word. I’ve read a lot of posts that say the first couple games can be very challenging. I guess my question is, should I put minimum number of passes on the boys before they can drive, so that they at least start to pass and cut and get used to running the offense under pressure?

    Coach Matt
    Lebanon, Ohio

    1. Coach Rowe,
      Thanks and I hope to provide you with a lot more as time permits. Luckily, I get to draw upon a lot of smart and creative coaches like yourself. Eventually, we’ll have the implementation down to a science!

  7. Coach, I agree with your plan and comments. We continue to use most of our practice time for drills. Our pregame warmup is also including R&R drills. I looks a little funny to coaches from the other teams (-: I use every minute available to get reps in and the pay off is starting to show.

    1. Ed,
      Maybe I should film your practice! Practice is where the rubber meets the road. Look for a new DVD on the website in the next 2 weeks called “Emmanuel Practice”. I filmed Emmanuel College running their practice in real time. Maybe it will give you even more ideas.
      You’re among a handful that goes as far as pregame warm-ups with R&R. I love it – it’s a great use of time!

  8. Rick,

    Great post. Some of us need the step-by-step approach. Don’t get frustrated. Remember, with coaches, just like kids, “slow is fast, and fast is slow.”

    Any thoughts about having a “webinar”(?) where you can answer questions emailed directly from coaches for an hour or two? It certainly might help some of us, especially at this time of year when we’re trying to implement the offense.

    1. Bob,
      Thanks for the encouragement! I’m only a little frustrated at times. If I was in this for the money only, I wouldn’t worry about what coaches do in their practices. But I want them to be successful and they will only be frustrated (there’s that word again!) if they try to implement the R&R as if it’s just another offense that can be taught by memorizing a few patterns in 10-15 minutes per day. It took me 2 years of experimenting on my own and then another 3 years of “trials” using coaches on all levels before I put it on DVD and made it public. Now, with 2 more years of feedback, I have a total of 7 years to draw upon. And the coaches who successfully implement it, do so the way I described in the article. I think more and more time in the future will be spent on practice planning, etc; i.e., how to implement it.
      Your suggestion about a webinar is timely to say the least and a great idea! We were just discussing it last week. Hope to let you know something very soon!

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