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Should You Tweak Your Offense?

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Have you ever installed your offense, worked on it endlessly in practice so your team could execute it perfectly and then start playing games only to find out that it's just not working? I have and I'm willing to bet that hundreds of other coaches have too!

So what's the best thing to do in that situation? Do you keep running your offense the exact same way and hope that it eventually "clicks" and starts working like it does against the JV team? Do you scrap the whole thing and start over with a completely different offense? It's been my experience that most coaches do one of these two things but I personally think the best option is to keep your basic offense in place but to tweak it until it becomes more effective.

A great example of modifying an offense to make it more effective can be found by analyzing Phil Jackson's use of the Triangle. When he was coaching the Chicago Bulls, Jackson used his center primarily as a passer while his guards and forwards (including Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen) were constantly cutting and were the focal point of most scoring options.

However, with the Los Angeles Lakers, the same Triangle set was much more stationary as the center (Shaquille O'Neal) constantly looked to score and cutters would only bring extra defenders down into the post. The basics of the offense remained the same but the modifications let each team make it their own and run it with championship results.

If you are in the situation where you need to make some immediate changes to your offense here are a few things to consider before taking any drastic action:

1. Don't overreact prematurely. Don't forget that you are running your current offense for a reason. If things don't go well at first cool off a little and think a lot before adding and changing too many things. If you act too quickly and the new modifications don't work either you'll soon find yourself in the exact same predicament. If the cycle keeps repeating itself you'll end up wasting a lot of valuable practice time working on several plays and options that you'll never use.

2. Make sure any and all modifications that you make fit your player's existing skill sets. Perfecting new offenses in a limited amount of time is hard enough without having to develop entirely new skill sets as well. Your objective now should be to salvage and/or improve this season and save all major changes and improvements for the off season.

3. Simplify everything. It's possible that your current offense isn't working during games because the players are slightly confused and they have trouble processing the required information at game speed. If that's the case adding complicated options is only going to make things worse. Keep in mind that it doesn't do any good to confuse your opponents if your own players are confused as well.

4. Limit the number of possible options. Even if everything is extremely simple, most teams don't need more than five options. In offenses like the Triangle, Horns, and Dribble Drive there are literally dozens of possible options and set plays and so you should choose very carefully. Decide if you want to run things for a specific result - get an open 3, a backdoor lob, a pick and roll, an isolation, etc. or if you want to run things through a specific player such as your best three point shooter or best overall scorer. Making necessary changes and adjustments is one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of coaching. Like everything else, there are some who can do it well and some who can't do it at all. Those who can are usually at least a little more successful.

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