By Mike Mackay

One of the most powerful ways to aid players in their deeper understanding of the game is to practice time and score scenarios. It is amazing how many players and coaches do not know the rules of the game and how they get magnified late in a game or shot clock. I have found the following benefits:

  1. Players and coaches come to have a deeper understanding of the rules and how they can be applied 
  2. If allowed to take ownership of the scenarios (coach themselves) the players move to higher levels of thinking. They begin to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate and create.
  3. If the coach uses the players as chess pieces, they are appraised on remembering to execute what the coach has just said. This creates robots who cannot think for themselves. This ultimately leads to disaster as the coach cannot control all the variables of an end game scenario. Players realize they must think for themselves even if the coach doesn’t promote this habit. The more instinctive they players become the more success the team will have. 
  4. Since the game is the best teacher of the game; it brings a greater focus to what the players and team are doing well and need to improve on.
  5. When you work on skills and concepts there is greater focus, retention and transfer since players see relevance. 
  6. You build confidence and resiliency as players experience the ups and downs of winning and losing. They develop a growth mindset since they see that their actions can have an impact. There is always a solution. 
  7. You get a chance to practice the mental  (distraction plans, centred breathing, imagery, BAM) and social /emotional  skills ( leadership – giving energy, following, leading others, communication)
  8. It makes you a better coach. You get to know the game and your players at a higher level. 
  9. IT IS FUN  

Here is a description of how I conduct time and score scenarios.

  1. After a drill that has raised the player’s heart rate into the red zone we have the player’s split off into groups of three. Each player shoot two fouls shots, (three to a basket). Other players work on a live box outs. This forces the players to work on their centering (breathing to lower heart rate). The live box out forces concentration when tired. This is not social time. 
  2. I call in two players from opposite teams. The others are getting their water. 
  3. I give them one piece of information; for example– the score is tied ( this varies each time, sometime I don’t tell them anything) 
  4. By asking me questions they must decipher the situation 

  • a. Who’s ball?
  • b. How much time on the clock?
  • c. Which basket are we shooting at? (often forgotten)
  • d. Who’s possession arrow?
  • e. Shot clock? 
  • f. Time outs? 
  • g. Fouls situation – bonus, personal fouls?
  • h. How is play restarting – inbounds, made or missed, front court or back court, foul shot 

I write the information on my coaching white board as they ask? This helps them remember the information and decide what questions need to be asked. It also helps quell any arguments that may occur later if we did not write it down.

 If they do not ask for information I will always find a way to mess them up. My favorite is to inbound near half court. If they have not asked about the inbounds I will call back over if thrown in the backcourt. If they did not ask about fouls I will foul out the first person who fouls. If they did not ask about the shot clock I always have the clock go off after one or two seconds.

5. The two players go back to their team. They are the coach. I give her about 15 seconds to describe the situation and then give the team a 50 sec time out to develop a plan. The player who has the information is the coach for this time and score. Her voice should dominate. I try to have white boards available for each team.

6. We play out the time and score. I have been known to be a very impartial official who often is quick to give technical fouls or call intentional fouls for not playing the ball when trying to foul to stop the clock.  I always call the touch foul on desperation shooters last second shot. Anything that brings focus to the decisions the players are making. If a time out has not been requested it is not granted, if not cancelled they are forced to use it.

7. We debrief the time and score? Questions

  • What was the plan?
  • What did we learn?
  • What might you do over?
  • What skills/concepts do we need to improve?

8. We move on to the next part of practice. I have gotten very good at leading the players to a skill /concept I know we need to work on and was just exposed in the time and score. The concentration, transfer and retention have been vastly improved.

9. In a typical two hour practice we average three time and scores a practice, one we get into our competitive season. We will often replay the time and score situation later on in the practice.

10. During the scenario debrief the temptation for the coach is to tell the players what they did right or wrong. It saves time, but in the long run they are not learning to think for themselves. It is like looking up the answers to your math homework in the back of the textbook. Saves time, but you fail the test when it really counts. Players come to see time and score as a knowledge based activity where there is a right and wrong answer. The purpose is to build all level s of thinking; knowledge, understanding, application, analyze evaluation and creativity. This will only happen if the coach asks probing questions, give the players time to think, listens and values the player’s answers.

11. A simple template that the players can use for planning and debriefing is the 6W’s + H

  • Who –will inbound, screen, shoot, pass (offence) match up, defend an area (defence)
  • What – actions will we run , or method to defend  
  • When – in the clock do we want this to occur
  • Where – corner, wing, swing,  key, left , right, front court, backcourt 
  • Why – this is the understanding piece;  reason for your plan 
  • With – Which player are on the floor, who is the subs ready to go, using subs to foul, offence defence
  • How – describe the plan; use imagery to paint a clear picture. Everyone needs to see the same picture 

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