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6 Moments You Should Use A Timeout


Two seasons ago my team was playing on the road against our conference rival for the league championship. Both teams were on a five game winning streak entering the game and both teams knew that the winner was going to get the home seed for the rest of the playoffs. Needless to say, it was a HUGE game for both teams.

With 7 minutes to go in the second half, my team had built a 9-point lead. I had two timeouts left for which I was determined to save. All of a sudden the opposing team went on a 9-0 run erasing our lead. Their offense and defense had finally clicked on all cylinders. After a careless turnover by our point guard the other team knocked down a three point shot to go up 3 with 5 minutes to go. As I looked to my assistant as to ask “should we call a timeout” I heard a whistle. As I turned around I saw my players running over to me and the referee signaling for a 60 second timeout.

I couldn’t believe it! Our opponents had all the momentum on their side; they just went on a 12-0 run, no one was in foul trouble, they had two timeouts (before they called it) and instead of forcing me to make a crucial decision about whether or not to use one of my last two timeouts, the opposing coach actually used theirs!

In short, we were able to make adjustments in the huddle, the timeout stopped their momentum and we would go on to win by seven. One the bus ride home I watched those last 7 minutes of the game film. I still was in shock that the other coach called that timeout. Then it hit me, this wasn’t the first time that I’ve seen this happen! In fact, it happens so much that it almost seems that its part of some coaches’ coaching philosophy!

Most of us have never truly been taught about when is the right time to call a timeout. Instead, we rely on our “feel” of the game, which may or may not be correct.

Here are the 6 reasons on why you should call a timeout:

Use a Timeout

Stop Momentum – Perhaps the most popular reason why coaches call a timeout is to STOP the other team’s momentum. In general, when another team seams to go on a run, you hope that your team can produce a bucket or a stop in order to disrupt their flow. However, if your team cannot do this and the other team begins to make a run, stop the game. Use a timeout.

Soothe a Panicked Team – If the other team is going on a run, it’s a high pressured situation or if your team cannot buy a basket, most players will begin to panic or at the very least get anxious. It’s okay to use your timeout to reassure players that everything is going to be alright. Just make sure you are projecting confidence in your huddle.

Make an Adjustment – Basketball is like a fast-paced real life game of chess. Combining so many moving parts with team strategy, there are going to be times where your players are “stumped” and cannot adjust on their own. It is during these times when timeouts can be effective. Calling a timeout to make a complex adjustment, whether for your offense or defense, can help regroup your players and change the trajectory of the game.

Rest Your Star – It’s two minutes left in the game, you’re up by 1 and your star player is beginning to show signs of fatigue. What do you do? Do you keep him or her in the game or substitute them out? Well depending on your situation, you might want to use a timeout! Sometimes all a player needs is a quick 60 second rest and a drink of water to get their legs back underneath them. By utilizing this strategy, you can keep your star player in the game, make an adjustment and limit the potential risk of having a bench player enter the game during crunch time.

Design a BLOB or SLOB – Football is often regarded as having three areas; offense, defense and special teams. It has always amazed me at how few coaches fail to see the potential that special teams (BLOBs and SLOBs) have on the game of basketball. Because most defenses don’t scout or spend enough time preparing for these situations you have a golden opportunity to score! Using a timeout in order to draw up one of these plays can prove to be crucial especially if your team gets a bucket!

Organize End-Game Strategies – Lastly, a coach should call a timeout in order to organize their end-game strategy. Most coaches discuss in their pregame talks how they want to start the game but how many coaches talk about how they want to end the game? My guess is not many! Using a timeout in the last 60 seconds, two minutes or even three minutes of the game to organize your team, set up your offense or defense, discuss a fouling situations can be essential in your efforts to win.

In closing, I want to admit that while these are the primary 6 reasons on why you should call a timeout there are other factors that could come into play such as the clock-score situation! After your next game, take a few minutes and analyze the timeouts that were called during the game. Ask yourself; Did I call good timeouts? Was I effective in the huddle? Were there any circumstances that I should have called a timeout but didn’t? Did the other coach call good timeouts? Remember the only way to learn is to get feedback! If you fail to analyze your performance after games, you will surely stunt your growth as a coach.

Written By Dave Stricklin

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