Too Much Offense or Too Little Offense?

With this general thought as a backdrop, let’s examine some related thoughts:

Grinnell College Basketball

Many of us struggle with this question on an annual basis and rightfully so.  We can either bog down our players with too much info and have them confused and/or afflicted with “paralysis by analysis” or the opposite problem for coaches- being caught short-handed by defenses taking away our best action, options or players with scouting reports.

  • No matter what offenses, plays or sets are put in, players have to execute them well. Running plays shabbily, no matter the number, doesn’t get it done against the teams that are competent or better.
  • Mature, successful programs likely find it easier to add offense to an already developed system.  Years of honing, practicing and running an offensive system allows coaches and players to “layer in” additions rather than throwing a lot at players in a short amount of time.
  • Basketball I.Q’s enter the equation.  Do players understand quickly and do they retain?  This may very well be the single biggest reason some coaches have thin playbooks.
  • Experience counts a lot.  Players who have played for a variety of coaches in a number of systems have basketball encyclopedias burned into their brains.  Sorting through terminology and concepts is easier when one already has a highly developed “filing system”.
  • Talent is a factor.  It’s much easier to run a lot of offense with athletic, skilled players, regardless of experience or basketball I.Q.
  • Fun is a variable.  Some coaches have creative ways to teach offense, including wild, vivid or contemporary names for plays from modern culture- movies, songs, celebs, news stories etc.  The more fun players can have in this regard, the better they’ll retain info. Unique sets and action are also attention grabbers.
  • Offenses can be very simple or very complex.  Executing a lot of simple sets is obviously less of a problem than trying to execute a ton of complex stuff.
  • Whatever action is run in any offense, if there aren’t built in counters and/or the players can’t “play” off the original action, the defense will eventually get the edge.
  • Both too much offense or too little offense are problems.  Each coach has to decide for oneself the amount and complexity of the playbook.

Given a decent blend of experience, BB I.Q. and talent, I personally would tend to slightly err on the side of too much offense.  I’ve seen too many teams, including my own, get game-planned into defeat especially in the second half of the season. Modern access to scouting info at most levels is unprecedented, better allowing opponents to know your offense as well or better than your players.  

Coaches add and delete offensive maneuvers from their system all the time-even in-season (even late in-season).  Flexibility is the key. Trying to find the right balance for YOUR team is the challenge.

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