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Decision-making in basketball

The basketball game that is practiced today, is increasingly intense which forces decision making to be faster.

Decision making is the skill in which a player reads an offensive or defensive situation and takes action. For example, the player decides to attack the direct lock, if the defense decides to defend 2x1, the ball player has to make a decision whether to pass or attack.

Unfortunately, the training of young athletes is increasingly focused on pure and hard technique and athletic skills rather than on decision-making.

A player who makes good decisions is always closer to being a good player. The fact of having a good technique allied to a good decision making will make the player very difficult to defend.

Role of the coach in decision making

Less and less during the game, the coach is able to control the decision-making of his athletes. The most that the coach can do during the game is to guide his athletes to make decisions.

During the game, the coach only controls between 5% and 10%, this included time discounts, defensive and offensive strategies and for last substitutions. The remaining 95% to 90% is all controlled by the players and their decision-making.

If the coach is impossible to control the decision-making of the players, the same must turn to practice. Training is the only place where the coach is able to control 90% of the player’s decision making. He can guide and explain the decision to make in a specific situation, but it will only come true if he is trained and trained time and time again.

For example, any player who has the least quality of dribble is able to dribble without the pressure of a defense, however if a defense is placed some players will already have some difficulty. Let’s imagine that now, in addition to the defense ahead, we have the opponent’s pavilion filled with 20 seconds left and the team trailing by 2 points. Will the same player is able to keep the dribble safe through defense pressure and public pressure.

The answer will be depends. It depends on the player’s decision making and their experience.

Training in decision making

It has already been concluded that coaching decision-making is as important or more important than training athletic skills as pure and hard technique.

Decision-making training has in turn forced the player to make decisions, preferably without the coach giving the solution immediately. Guiding the player to decide without giving the answer is no easy task, the coach has an obligation to put the player to think about the decision.

The first time the most certain is that the player will not know how to make the decision, it’s like everything else in life. Certainly the first time you ran a game, you didn’t steer in the best way. Nobody is born taught, and the role of the coach is exactly this, to teach the player to make decisions.

A coach who intervenes little in the game is a sign that everything is going well and that the players are making the right decisions. Which in itself means that the coach did his job and taught his players to make the right decisions.

To train decision making it is essential to put the player real game situations. A player cannot constantly train 5x0 if this never happens in the game. This does not mean that it is wrong to train 5x0, if the goal of the training is to work the offensive organization is very likely to go to 5x0. However it is no use to constantly train 5x0 if in the game we will attack 5x5.

What to do to train decision-making?

Decision making as explained above puts players in real game situations, so it is indispensable to introduce defenses to the exercise. Because during the game we have defenses, if it is one, two or three defenses already depends on what is the goal of the training.

1st Drill: 11 Fast Break Drill

11 Fast Break Drill

This exercise is already quite old and much used by coaches. Without a doubt, it is a fairly rich exercise to force players to make decisions, as it places players in a constant situation of numerical superiority, forcing players to decide quickly.

11 Fast Break Drill - Decision Making

The exercise starts with 3x2 in a backboard after the 3x2 game who wins the rebound attacks 3x2 to the opposite side with that outside. In addition, the exercise continues in this direction.

The exercise starts with 3x2 in a backboard after the 3x2 game who wins the rebound attacks 3x2 to the opposite side with that outside. In addition, the exercise continues in this direction.

Rotation: who was defending occupies the outside columns, who was attacking and did not win the bounce passes to defend

2nd Drill: 1x1

Another way to force the player to make decisions is to play 1x1, but play 1x1 in various ways. The defender cannot always be stopped in front of the attacker, we have to force the attacker to play with the defender in front of him stopped, next to him, behind him. Only this way the attacker will be able to attack 1x1 anyway.

Drill 2.1: 1x1 with attack advantage

This exercise starts with two to two with a ball, one player attacking and another player defending. The player who is defending will touch the cone and try to contest the throw, in other hand the attacking player will finish on the empty side. This exercise only ends when there is a defensive bounce or converted basket.

1x1 offense advantage

In a second phase of the exercise, that is, when players are performing well, we must place limitations on the number of dribbles (Chart 1)

1x1 offense advantage

In the second graph the player with ball starts backwards, rotates forwards and the defense makes the decision to choose the cone (only when attacking player rotates forwards). (Chart 2)

A third variant, will be the player with the ball and barely the defense can decide which cone will touch, and the attacker has to quickly change direction or not (depending on which side the defense touches) to go finish.

1x1 offense advantage

A fourth variant, will be face to face in the midfield, come slowly (back defense, forward attacker) to the three-point line and the defender chooses a side and attacker, attacks empty side. (Chart 3)

1x1 offense advantage

The last variant will extend the cones until the extension of the free-throw line and the intersection with the three points. The defense chooses aside and goes around the cone, attacker attacks the empty side. (Graphic 4)

Drill 2.2: 1x1 attack closeout

1x1 attack the close-out

The objective of the exercise is to improve the decision-making of the attacking player. At first, it’s important to limit what kind of close-out is – long or short. Player attacking, important to check if you attack the most advanced foot or the clearly empty space the defense has left.

1x1 attack the close-out - Decision Making

The dynamics of the exercise begins with 3 columns two in the corners and one in half. The column of the corner passes to the middle and half passes to the other corner. Whoever made the first pass will defend the other corner.

It is important to change attack positions so that the attacking player is able to attack different spaces on the field.

Drill 2.3: 1x1 in 6 seconds

1x1 in 6 seconds - Decision Making

The exercise begins with 2 columns, in the extension of the key one with ball and another column without ball. Column player with ball, dribbles up to 1 meter from the 3-point line and hands the ball to the player without ball. From the delivery of the 1v1 ball. Attacking player has 6 seconds to finish, there is no limit to dribbling.

It’s not over until there’s a converted basket or a defense ball. If there is offensive bounce, attack has only 3 seconds to throw and so on.

Variants: Change ball delivery position

3rd Drill: 2 to 2 Decisive Shoots

A differentiated exercise, authored by Basketball Immersion is the decision-making throwing exercise. It is quite useful for a player to receive and be able to make any decision through the reaction of the colleague.

One player shot and the other one catches the rebound for a minute. After that minute, they switch jobs.
When you return to your initial duties, you switch positions. 

3 positions to choose from.

The player passing the ball has to make a gesture and through this gesture, the player who throws has to make the decision.

Show hands – Return the pass

Hands on the bottom- Receive and shot

Close Out with right hand and right leg – Attack the right side of the defense

Close Out with left hand and left leg – Attack the left side of the defense

Jump to the side – A penetrating dribble to that side changes direction and ends from the bottom of the basket

Watch this video on YouTube.

Mindset to put more emphasis on decision making?

Note that training just decision-making is not enough, the athlete to be able to decide has to have tools to be able to do it. What good is a carpenter knowing how to nail a nail if he doesn’t have a hammer.

A player to be able to play a 1x1 making his decisions has to know how to shot, dribble and stop. These are the player’s “hammers”, everything else is their decision.

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