Last month, I had the privilege of helping a local friend introduce the Read & React Offense to his AAU teams ranging from age 13 to 17. We were able to practice about 3 times per week for a month. Although I came away with some fresh ways to teach, drill, and coach the R&R, here’s what I want you to consider this week:

First of all, installing the Read & React is messy, tough, frustrating and yet the most exhilarating thing I’ve done. Some practices left me scratching my head and wondering if I’m speaking English, while practices that followed would show a leap ahead that I was not expecting. And watching them have a “break-out” game leaves you feeling like it’s all worth it!

If you’re new to the Read & React, it will be easier if you understand that ALL teams (and coaches) go through this frustrating and sometimes ugly time period early on. Just hang in there, keep pressing, and one day it will bust out of its shell!

After your team begins to “break-out” and stick to the Read & React possession after possession, you’ll find the same thing that I did: GETTING GOOD SHOT OPPORTUNITIES IS NOT A PROBLEM! CAPITALIZING on these opportunities is the problem.

I use the word CAPITALIZING because its not always MAKING the shot that’s the problem.

It’s PASSING at the right time, with the right hand;

It’s passing to your teammate’s OPEN hand;

It’s CATCHING the ball on the MOVE;

It’s catching the ball on the move and NOT TRAVELING;

It’s catching the ball on the move and making one more dribble without LOSING the ball;

It’s DRAWING contact when you’re at the basket, instead of avoiding it;

It’s being able to make a scoring move from the SHORT CORNER;

It’s putting some PEPPER on your pitches after you’ve driven and drawn defense;

It’s catching the ball in a SHOT-READY stance to beat the close-out;

Etc, etc, etc…

What does this have to do with DIAGNOSTICS? I found that my practice plans and practice PLANNING took on the following pattern:

Day 1: Teach, Train, and Flow. TRAIN is the drills or reps. FLOW is LIVE action I used to test what’s been taught and trained.

Evaluate why the players failed or had problems with the FLOW. Create Day 2’s warm-up drills and Player Development drills based on Day 1’s weaknesses.

Day 2: Player Development drills based on Day 1. Teach, Train, Flow

Evaluate the drills. Did the drills improve and correct what I wanted? If not, try a different drill. Evaluate the FLOW of Day 2. Add, create, or replace drills to solve those problems.

Day 3 and following: REPEAT this cycle until you have boiled down your team’s weaknesses to a dozen drills that you can spend 15-20 minutes on each day. As they master certain fundamentals, swap out drills to address another skill that’s needed.

This DIAGNOSTIC attitude keeps me from being frustrated with what players cannot do. When the team turns the ball over, or misses a certain type of lay-up, or pass, etc, a DIAGNOSTIC attitude leads me to think like this: “Well, that R&R action simply exposed what I need to teach and train in tomorrow’s practice!” versus: “Well, we stink at that! Why can’t these players do it!” followed by excuses, punishment, frustration, etc.

SUMMARY: Instead of assuming what your players need and running them through “pet” drills that you have become comfortable with, use the Read & React to DIAGNOSE EXACTLY what your players need in order to be successful. Yes, this takes more effort. Yes, it’s sometimes messy. Yes, you’ll always struggle with the balance of Player Development vs Team Coordination. But using this method means every drill, every rehearsal, every scrimmage has a PURPOSE.