Scouting the opposition
Tips for gathering and dissecting information that matters
Scouting is agonizing for some coaches and simple for others, but the process of identifying tendencies of upcoming opponents is a lot easier for everyone if they have a system.
Honey Brown, assistant basketball coach at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, talked about this once at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s annual convention. The key elements of scouting often falls into the hands of assistant coaches, and making sure that everything is completed thoroughly and efficiently starts with having a plan of attack.
Here are a few of the points Brown discussed.
1. Provide only what’s needed.
The head coach understandably has a lot to do, so don’t overwhelm them with information that’s not going to be useful in game planning. Brown said to give them what they want and what they need.
The scouting reports should be simple, making it easy for the coach to learn about the opponent and develop strategies for beating them. Brown suggested that coaches should play to their own strengths, being careful not to develop strategies that don’t align with the team’s core defensive and offensive philosophies.
2. Deliver the breakdown.
The relevant information is in hand, now you just have to develop a way to apply it.
Dissect the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent as a team and with the individual players. Begin to think about the matchups, and which players on your team are best suited to defend the opponent’s post players and guards. It’s also important to think about how you’re going to defend them, whether they’re a threat on the perimeter or someone inclined to drive the lane whenever they have the ball in their hands.
3. Offensive analysis.
Brown said it’s crucial to identify which offenses your opponent runs the most and which ones have the potential to give your team the most problems. Consider how you’re going to defend and determine appropriate counters to ball screens and coverages. Through watching film, note how other teams have tried to defend, what’s worked and what hasn’t. All of this is useful for your upcoming game.
The coaching staff should discuss tendencies, lineups and how the opposition likes to adjust in certain situations. Be careful not to get caught up in details that won’t have a significant impact on how you’re going to play.
4. Defensive study.
The film room is also where coaches want to get a feel for the opponent’s defense and how it likes to react when facing an offense similar to the one you run.
Brown recommends identifying the opposition’s three most common defenses, specifically noting which it likes to deploy most. Coaches should be on the lookout for how the defense plays individual personnel, how it handles transitions and whether team’s have trouble getting the ball into the post. Brown said to identify quick hitters that might be effective, and develop your plan of attack based on weaknesses and opportunities.
5. Apply what’s learned.
The new knowledge is what helps you develop a game plan, and that game plan is what drives your practices leading up to tipoff. This information also must be presented to the team.
Ted Anderson, former coach at Valley Center High School in Kansas, said this presentation shouldn’t include the athletes at the high school level. Practice time is limited, so it should be up to the coaches to do the homework — the athletes have enough of that in the classroom.
“Our team has watched only about 20 total minutes of our opponent’s game tapes with our kids in the last three years,” Anderson said. “As a coaching staff, we need to watch the tapes and do the work. We do not want to have our players stick around at practice for an extra two and one half hours. We’ll do some walk through stuff on game day with the players.”
That’s different for coaches at the college level, and Brown said DVDs are often sent home with the players so they can do their own film study. The coaches might even edit it to create customized film cuts for guards and forwards.
Project confidence in the game plan, Brown said. Coaches need to sell their players on the strategy that they’ve put together and they can only do that by having faith that it’s going to work. Describe the plan of attack, why it’s going to be effective and emphasize the keys to winning the game. That’s how you give your team the best chance to come out on top.