Creating an Effective Play Card

As Bob Knight once said, “The key is not the will to win… everybody has that.  It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” For successful coaches, that preparation comes in the form of countless hours spent in practices, film sessions, putting together scouting reports, and creating game plans.  However, it’s the ability to carryover pre-game preparation into game time decision-making that makes the most successful coaches truly elite.

One resource that your coaching staff can use to help successfully carryover your pre-game preparation into successful in-game decision-making is an effective play card.  A play card can benefit you on the sidelines in several ways, including:

  • An effective play card helps coaches to make quick yet effective in-game decisions.
    • The game of basketball moves at such a fast pace and if you think too long on a decision, it will be too late.  A play card gives you all the information you need to make a quick, informed decision.
  • An effective play card allows coaches to compile their game plan in a clear and concise way to use in the heat of the battle.
    • As coaches, we go into games with a game plan that we believe gives our team the best chance to win the game.  During the heat of the game, your play card can serve as an organized reminder of each part of your game plan and potential adjustments to that game plan, if needed.
  • An effective play card can be a reminder of important details that can benefit your team  in crunch time situations late in a game.
    • There are 2:00 left in the 4th Quarter, it’s a tie game, your ball coming out of the timeout… what do you run? There are 18 seconds left in the game, your team is down one, the opponent has the ball… who do you foul?  It’s these types of situations in crunch time where you can refer to your play card for assistance.

Here is an example of a play card that we use in our program:

Our Play Card is made up of the following components:

  • Our entire playbook:
    • Man to Man Offense (including transition offense, base offense, man to man offensive series’, and man to man sets plays)
    • Zone Offense (including base zone offense, zone series’, and zone set plays)
    • Special Teams Sets (including baseline out of bounds plays, sideline out of bounds plays, and after timeout plays)
    • Defensive Calls
  • Game Specific Priority Series/Sets
    • We adjust our play card for each opponent and our Priority Series/Sets are the offensive options that we’ve identified through scouting as being most likely to be successful vs. the particular opponent.
  • Game Plan & Adjustments
    • Plan A, B, and C
      • This is our primary game plan and potential adjustments that we’ve identified through scouting as being most likely to be successful vs. the particular opponent.
    • Player Personnel
      • Each team has unique personnel and through our scouting we label certain players with terms like “Monster”, “Curry”, and more.
    • Who to Foul?
      • These are the players that we need to foul late in the game, if needed.
    • Other Notes
      • Any tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, etc. of an opponent that we have picked up on through our scouting can be listed here.
  • End of Game Situational Sets
    • These are special sets to score in crunch time.  With these end of game situational sets, we try to be prepared for any scenario that we may face.  We have sets prepared that we believe will be effective against that particular opponent in the following areas:
      • Baseline out of bounds plays
      • Sideline out of bounds plays
      • Full court sets
      • Half court sets
      • Sets that we may have run before in special situations but we need to draw it up as a reminder.

Other additional information that you may want to include in your own play card:

  • Opponent’s set plays
  • Sets you may want to run for specific players
  • Sets you may want to run when you have a specific lineup in the game
  • Specific Lineups (i.e. Best Free Throw lineup, Best Pressing Defensive Lineup, etc.)
  • Special Plays (i.e. Tip Off Play, Delay Game Offense, Sets on a Purposefully Missed Free Throw, etc.

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