Let’s say that you run a set play in a game that delivers a basket exactly like you planned it.

What’s the temptation?

There’s a voice that says, “We can do that EVERY TIME down the floor – with every possession. (This is the same voice that speaks to you after you make a great shot in golf. It says, “Yes! You can do that EVERY TIME you swing the golf club!)

So you spend 80% of your practice time working on a collection of these marvelously engineered set plays. Here’s the rub: As good as they are, and no matter how well you practice them, they’ll probably only account for about 20% of your scoring.

If you’re a Read & React coach, these set plays may be destroying the habits of the Read & React that account for 80% of your points! Also, how much more point production would you have if you used that “set play” practice time to grease the wheels of the Read & React?

One solution for this problem is to use Quick Hitters (from my Read & React Quick Hitters DVD) that are constructed of only Read & React actions. In this manner, your players are never breaking the reaction habits that you’ve been drilling since Day 1.

Another solution is to use your set play only at very special times. Put 80% of your practice time into the Read & React and you’ll get most of your point production without calling a set play. Then, when the defense least expects it and when you need it the most, you call your set play. Perhaps it’s after a time-out. Perhaps a hot hand has hit two 3-pointers in a row and if they hit a third one, it will change the momentum. Then by all means, use the set play!

Your players must see the set play as the exception and not the rule; the cherry on top of the dessert, not your meat and potatoes!

9 Responses

  1. Thanks for the post, Rick. This is the main reason why I recommend the RRO to coaches everywhere.

    It made me think of that old adage, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”

    There is a place for both. For instance, you wouldn’t tell a starving toddler, “Here, let me teach you to fish; it will just take 4 weeks of practice to learn the layers you need to do it.”

    On the other hand, my father, who is a commercial fisherman in Alaska and definitely knows how to fish, would not snub free food at a salmon bbq. Even if your team is very adept with the RRO should be open to the idea of set plays and “quick hitters.”

  2. Agree 100% with both of you! We run maybe 3-4 quick hitters a game max but every one we have put in or will put in are all ones that either reinforce or require R&R actions (Dribble at to clear a side, pass and cut & set a screen on the way out, etc.) so as not to preach mixed messages. Added benefit is if something breaks down we’re already ready to play within the R&R we spend 85% of practice on.

  3. For me, the timing for this post could not have come at a better time. I just got the rest of my team from football, and we have been a read and react team for 2 years. They came back rusty, but remembered the habits very well. The problem is that I had got intrigued with another offense and added some quick hitters that did not reinforce our habits, and had spent alot of time working on them with my non-football guys. The conflicting information destroyed our flow and chemistry. Last night, we played a very well coached team that changed defenses alot, played ball control offense, and really forced us to grind it out in the half court. It was difficult to substitute the way I needed to because I needed certain personnel groups on the floor to run the new stuff. We won a squeaker, but I learned my lesson. I literally cannot wait to get to practice and get back to work on creating the culture that the read and react fosters.

  4. There is a big problem about relying on set-plays: Every tactical action can be defended by a well-coached defense. In fact every read-and-react action can be defended aswell. But there is a huge different. A set-play wants to get certain players in a position to score. The read-and-react creates an opportuny or even multiple oppurtunies to score on every offensive action. You can guess what is harder to defend. Once a set-play does not work, the offense has to adjust its actions. A lot of players struggle do this which just breaks the flow of the offensive action. This is even true if you run a set-play and then proceed with the read-and-react after the set-play has been broken. The players have to recognize that they got to change their actions and that is not an easy reaction. To regogince that your defender is over the readline and make the proper reaction is much easier to learn.
    That is why I think that any team is better of with concentrating on the read-and-react. Set-plays should be for special situations only. In fact you can be succesfull without out set-plays at all. That is certainly true if you just have limited pratice time. In the end players will win games not the coaches.

  5. This is exactly why we only have 2 set plays right now, and I only plan on teaching maybe 5 all year. And those set plays are a maximum of 3 movements (steps), each of which is an RnR movement or habit.

    As an added bonus to our practice, I’ve started practicing our Out of Bounds plays and our sets during our Full Court Trips. Just blow the whistle at the end of a layer and your players quickly set up for an OOB. Love the concept of practicing your entire offense in the first 15 minutes of practice.

    Come to think of it, where could we share our RnR quick hitters or sets with other coaches?

  6. Coach Thurman,
    I’m glad to hear that it helped! When I hear your talk about playing a team that changes defenses and your difficulty in making substitutions, it reminds me of the first “thorn” that got under my skin back in the late ’90’s. My system of set plays and numbered positions kept me from consistently having the best 5 basketball players on the floor – especially in highly principled situations like you described. This “rub” started my search and eventual creation of the Read & React.

  7. I’ve now got the layers of the offense installed and am now shifting my focus to defense! Hopefully our defense will improve and while it does our offense will as well! I look forward to seeing how the next and final month of the season goes!

  8. I remember during my last season of coaching Sr (Varsity) girls, we were playing our final league game with a depleted roster. The game was critical for seeding going into our zones. Despite the injuries and sickness to key players, we stayed in the game and were only down by 3 pts with under 30 seconds left. Getting a timeout and an inbounds play in our end, we talked about what to run. We had a set R&R SLOB play. However, we spent most of our time out talking about who would want to take the shot and where she wanted to take the shot from. We had never run that as a ‘Set Play’ in practice. However, after running R&R with the team all season, the girls all understood the principles. Thus, it was easy to draw up a simple play based on those principles that would get the ball into her hands. The play worked well, we managed to get the shot off, but it didn’t go in.
    The next weekend, with a full roster, we met the same team at our zones and beat them by 25pts to qualify for the provincial tourney that year.
    My point is; teaching the R&R (and it is teaching) provides players with the tools to ‘fix’ things on the run and to adjust if it doesn’t work. Plus, it respects the intelligence that all players bring to the game, which they are then able to use in a system that just makes sense.

  9. I’ve been a fan of R & R for the last two years. The result this year was a state championship built on R & R Principles. We did have a few set plays that we ran, but before we installed them into our offensive scheme we tweaked the way they were run to be consistent with R & R rules and it has worked out very well. In fact, it just made the execution of the plays much more effective and successful.

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