Know The Enemy

As it relates to the game, my job as coach was to help put my players in the best position possible to win.  There are so many factors that ultimately contribute to whether games and championships are won or lost and, as a coach, some of those factors are within our control.  For our program at White Oak, an area that I believe benefitted us greatly was scouting and in this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I will give my thoughts on the benefits of scouting, the things we looked for when scouting, and an example of a scouting report we would give our players during district play and the playoffs.

First of all, I rarely scouted our non-district opponents unless it was during a tournament or close by.  Like most coaches, I would contact coaches who had played these teams for some information or possibly get film on them but we rarely ever did a formal scouting report for a non-district game and this was by design.  

For one reason, in non-district, I wanted to see how our team and players would respond to schemes or situations that we had not prepared for in order to see how we could adapt.  Secondly, once we got to district play, I wanted our players to feel much more prepared than they did during non-district. This was all part of the plan of making non-district as challenging or more challenging than district play.  

Prior to district, I wanted to put our team under duress to see how we would respond and train our team on how to respond.  During district, I wanted our team to have a feeling of knowing they were prepared but if something came up we had not anticipated, they would have the security of knowing they had been trained to adjust on the move during non-district.  

However, when it came to district play and the playoffs, my goal was to leave no stone unturned.  As much as I could, I did the scouting for district on my own because I wanted to see our opponents for myself.  Regardless of the district team, I tried to see each one in person at least once prior to the start of district play if possible.  If not, I would try to acquire film on them.

With the advent of Hudl and Krossover, film swap has become so much more convenient, that I can’t think of a reason to not see an opponent before competing against them.  However, I always preferred to see each team in person if I could because so many more things could be observed. One of the most important advantages of being at the game in person was being able to watch pregame.  During this time, I would watch each player’s shooting stroke, check out their range, and look for any other shooting tendencies such as how well a player shot off the dribble or in a catch & shoot situation.

Another aspect that could be observed better in person was how players interacted amongst themselves, how they interacted with their coach and officials, and their body language on the bench.  So much could be learned about a player’s mental makeup by observing them in pregame, during the game, and after the game. I think it’s much harder to read these types of intangibles when watching a game on film.

Once the playoffs started, I was always fortunate to have assistants who were capable of scouting as well as having coaching colleagues who were willing to help.  An area in which as I was also extremely blessed was to have former players who knew what we looked for in scouting reports and they were always willing to help if I needed them.  During our 2 year run to the State Tournament, several of my former players who either lived in different parts of the state or were attending college around the state scouted for us at various regional tournaments.  Guys like Clay Copeland, Trevor Wait, Ian Story, and Colby Carr all scouted for us during the playoffs and I knew I could always trust their input.

Finally, each coach has to develop a philosophy on who he is going to trade film with and who he is not.  I know some districts have it in their rules to not trade game film of district opponents but I also know not everyone adheres to those rules.  Personally, I was pretty much willing to trade film with anyone as long as I felt like they would return the favor. Rarely did I refuse to help another coach but if I did it was most likely because they had burned me in the past.  

Also, I always felt it was unethical to pass on a film of a game I had received to someone else without permission from the coach who had given me the film.  Personally, I have felt basketball should be more like football once we entered district play and the playoffs and just swap a couple of games. I know some coaches believe this rewards some coaches who are too lazy to scout but in most cases, your opponent is going to get film of your games from someone.  I was always willing to agree to this arrangement if the other coach wanted to swap.

The following is a list of things I would look for myself or when someone was scouting for us.




*List starters – note height, position, strengths/weaknesses, any individual

tendencies (favors strong hand, etc.)

*List substitutes that are in the regular rotation – same info as starters

*Draw baseline and sideline inbound plays

*Try to pick up offensive patterns or plays if the opponent is playing man


*Draw press break and denote the type of press used against

*If they play zone defense, denote type of zone and where each player

is positioned, denote how post is defended along with strengths

and weaknesses observed

*If they play man defense, denote degree of aggressiveness and whether

or not they deny one pass away, denote how post is defended along

with screens on and off the ball

*If they press, denote man or zone – if zone, put players in position –

look for strengths/weaknesses

*If game is close – denote end of game tendencies – set plays, do they guard

inbound man on last second situation, etc.

The following is an example of a scouting report (names changed or omitted and diagrams omitted) we would give to our players during district and the playoffs.  I would normally allow 30 minutes for each scouting report and during this time our JV would be learning some of our opponents sets and defenses in order to simulate these during practice.





#1 – Name – 5’11” – Sr. – Guard – average athlete, scrappy – solid defender – will use him to shadow the best wing player – will try to get into your head with physical and disciplined play – solid ball handler – solid shooter but only shoots if left wide open.

Game plan:  1) regular rules 2) must challenge his outside shot

#2 – Name – 5’10” – Sr. – Guard – plays the point and the wing – intense competitor – emotional leader of team – solid ball handler – drives to pass – very good spot up 3 pt. shooter – excellent on ball defender – moves feet well and plays with a lot of intensity – plays physical.

Game plan: 1) run him off 3 pt. line 2) be ready to help on drive then recover quickly

#3 – Name – 5’9” – Sr. – Guard – average athlete – solid ball handler – good shooter if given open look – will attack basket if given an advantage – solid defender but not as intense as other starters.

Game plan 1) regular rules

#4 – Name – 6’3” – Sr. – Forward – good quickness, explosive jumper, intense competitor – main post up threat – likes to attack the basket – almost always shot fakes when facing the basket – capable mid range shooter and will attack basket from perimeter – solid on both boards – tends to get in foul trouble.

Game plan:  1) deny ball in the post 2) don’t bite on shot fake 3) play drive from perimeter 4) must block him off boards 4) must always think he will shoot it

#5 – Name – 6’3” – Sr. – Guard – good length, solid quickness – best perimeter player – LOVES TO SHOOT – will shoot anytime and from 3 to 4 steps behind the line – solid off the dribble but wants to take jump shots – run a lot of set plays for him – solid defender – very good on boards.

Game plan:  1) no ball side perimeter help off him 2) chase him off all perimeter screens – try to beat him to the spot 3) make him dribble the ball 4) must block him off the boards

#6 – Name – 6’3” – Sr. – Forward – good strength, average quickness – best perimeter shooter of forwards – 2nd best 3 pt. shooter and will look to take 3 pt. shot – will attack basket from perimeter – solid ball handler – solid defender and on both boards.

Game plan:  1) run him off 3 pt. line while keeping leverage 2) must block him off boards.

#7 – Name – 5’11” – Sr. – Guard – LEFT handed – average athlete – solid ball handler but will prefer to drive left – solid 3 pt. shooter.

Game plan:  1) play his left hand

#8 – Name – 5’8” – Sr. – Point Guard – not strong, average quickness – solid ball handler – uses body well – mainly looks to distribute

Game plan:  1) regular rules

The Ficts have a season’s record of ______.  The strength of their team is solid overall fundamentals, offensive execution, great defensive intensity and technique, and playing physical.  Their weaknesses are a heavy dependency on #4 and #5 to score and the ability to create off the dribble with complimentary players, lack of a post game besides #4.


The Ficts will play at a medium pace in the full court and be very patient in the half court except when #4 and #5 have the ball.  The Ficts will run numerous set plays mainly for #4 and #5 and the rest of the team will play off of those 2 players.  They execute their plays with great precision – full speed and with physical screens.


Game plan:  1)  recognition of set plays

                      2)  stop ball reversal – dribble and pass

                      3)  know individual strengths

                      4)  make #4 and #5 work to catch the ball and shoot contested shots

                     5)  PHYSICAL BLOCKOUTS and FIGHT FOR THE BALL!

                     6)  Regular ball screen rules


Set Play Recognition:


                    1) Maryland – pass to #5 on perimeter (off down screen) or flex action

                                            (usually #1 on flex cut)

                    2) Double –  dribble handoff or double post on elbow

                    3) Box 1 –  fake handoff

                    4) Post Screen – switch big/big


*When #5 is away from the ball, he will be running off a single screen or stagger.  Screener defenders must protect against the curl and help on lob!



The Ficts play a very physical brand of half court man defense.  They are solid individual defenders and play excellent team defense.   They will most likely double the post.  They will use a hard hedge on the ball screens and be very physical with cutters.


Game Plan:  1) must not play the entire game 5 on 5

                     2) select good shots – have patience if quick shot is not there.

                     3) must hold our ground on screens

                     4) use “hold” on right block in dead ball situations

Face Guard:  1) use 4 man or spread (move 3 to corner)

                       2)  use “44” (must attack rim)

                       3)  103


In summary, I believe scouting can give a team a great advantage especially on the defensive end of the court.  By knowing player tendencies and how an offense is initiated, I always felt we would have a great chance to take away what a player or team liked to do best.  If we could make the opponent play to their weaknesses individually and make them run their counters or take them out of their sets completely on offense, then I felt we always had a good chance to win.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!