4 Keys to an Effective Motion Offense

Motion offense is the most flexible offense in a coach's toolbox, but that flexibility only turns into production when each of the four key elements are in place. When your team has all four elements, they create an offensive attack that is more than a little difficult to stop.

Key No. 1: Good Rules Make for Good Choices

The "rules" in a motion offense are better thought of as rules-of-thumb. They're the guidelines you'll expect your team to follow to keep the overall offensive approach within your philosophy. You want to find a balance between giving your team the flexibility to adjust to the competition and the structure to stick to your approach as a coach.

Rules create this environment for your team.

You'll want to create rules for every phase of offense. You'll want your team to have a rule of thumb for the number of reversals, when to dribble, cutting options, and more.

These rules help guide your players' decision-making when they're on the court. Rules such as:

  • Don't stand for more than two seconds
  • If the ball is dribbled, you go backdoor
  • Every fourth pass must be to the post
  • Dribble penetrate only after the second ball rotation

Rules like these act as guides to your players when they're on the court. As coach, your control over your team while they're on the court is minimal. These rules will be their guide when on the floor.

You will find your rules change from year to year. Each year you'll analyze your team, weigh their strengths and weaknesses, and design a new system of rules. Create rules that take advantage of their strengths and protect their weaknesses.

Key No. 2: Proper Spacing Makes for Difficult Defense

Poor spacing allows the opposing defense to help one another out when beaten. Proper spacing, on the other hand, makes this much more difficult. Helping out against a team that is properly spaced leaves offensive players open.

Fifteen feet apart is a good guide for spacing. Assigning "spots" to spaced positions allows you to get proper spacing back when, in the course of a practice; your team starts to lose its spacing. Get them to their spots and allow them to start the offense again and they'll soon build a habit of maintaining good spacing. But remember, the "spots" are simply guides or teaching tools. Don't make them hard and fast rules.

Key No. 3: Many Roles, One Team

Motion offense forces each of your team members to develop more fully than any play-based offense can. Ball handlers are forced to develop their basketball shooting, and shooters are forced to be good screeners. Any player can end up at any position on the floor, so they better be ready to play every facet of the game.

On the other hand, it would be naive to say that every player will become equally good in every phase of the offense. Some will always excel at shooting; others will always be better rebounders.

Your team members must understand what their role is on the team, but they must also understand everyone else's main role on the team. A top-notch screener will need to develop his shooting, but should not be taking a shot before the ball has touched a shooters hands.

The better your team understands each other's roles, the more effective motion offense will be.

Key No. 4: Maintain Discipline at All Cost

Discipline is probably the biggest key to a successful motion offense. Your team can know the rules inside and out, they may be perfectly spaced, and they may know every role on the team as well as they know their own. But when they lose focus or get emotionally rattled to the point that they aren't keeping these first three keys on the court, things will start to get ugly.

Instill in your team a trust for the motion offense system. Make sure they realize that they must stick to the system, no matter what happened the last time they came down the court. The moment they start to doubt the system and start trying their own thing, things fall apart because the rest of the team can no longer anticipate their next move.

Develop these four keys in your team and you'll create a motion offense that is difficult, if not impossible, for opposing teams to stop.

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