My name is Austin McBeth, and I am the assistant men’s basketball coach at Truman State University. Film breakdown is a huge part of what we do as a program. We use a program called Synergy Sports Tech, which is one of the top film software programs on the market. It gives us the ability to import our practice film, break it down possession by possession, and it also breaks down all of our game footage for us. While it is a pretty expensive subscription, we are fortunate at this level to be able to afford it.

Film breakdown, in my opinion, is one of the most important tools to develop basketball players. I also think it’s one of the most underused, due to lack of resources and time commitment. In today’s culture of basketball, it seems that a player’s skill development and talent far out-shadow a player’s basketball IQ. High school coaches spend the majority of their school’s tryout period focusing on who is the most talented/skilled. College coaches spend their summers going to AAU events in search of the same thing. And parents spend hundreds of dollars for their son or daughter to train with a skill development coach. I am not saying that these things aren’t important, because they are critical. The area that seems to be taking the biggest hit in basketball today is the maturation of young player’s understanding of the game. As a Division 2 college coach, I see it each and every year on the AAU circuit, and with my incoming freshman (or transfers).

I see players who can shoot the cover off the ball from the 3pt line, but can’t get open off of a down screen or a flare. Post players with incredible hands, and great touch around the basket but don’t know how to seal after setting a pick & roll. Lightning-quick guards who can blow past any defender in the gym, but constantly make poor decisions when they get to the paint. All of these things highlight the increasing talent in our up-and-coming youth, but it also shows a lack of understanding of how to grow as the level of competition gets more difficult.

Something that I’ve learned in my 7 years of collegiate coaching is, “Perception is not always reality”. I was fortunate in college to play both football and basketball at Iowa State University. As a football player and a quarterback, I watched nearly 12 hours of film per week. To be a successful QB, you have to know the defense, and its schemes, as well as you, know your offense. This helped me tremendously when I went back to the basketball court.

What I now understand when I’m coaching my players is, “what they think is happening on the court, isn’t always what is actually happening.” But it’s not enough for me to understand that, they have to understand it as well.

Great players don’t react to what happens on the court, they anticipate. They see a cutter being open before they start to backdoor. They flare to the corner off a down screen the instant their defender tries to short cut a pin down. They know the guy they’re guarding is going to always euro-step from right to left in transition. All of these things are learned from studying the game. Yes, studying. It requires hours of watching yourself, and your opponents to see things in a game before they happen. Now, I will say there are players who naturally learn faster than others, and can develop their basketball IQ quicker than others, but everyone is capable of becoming a smart basketball player if they are willing to put the time in.

The biggest hindrance that I’ve seen when it comes to film breakdown is the lack of manpower to make it available (video camera, a person to film, a software to cut/edit it, and a projector/computer to play it back) and coaches who understand the game enough to teach players while watching it. Nevertheless, film breakdown is an incredible resource that can take your game, or your team’s game to the next level.

If you aren’t sure where to start the process of understanding how to watch film, please go to my website and download my free online book The Gap Theory. I discuss my philosophy of how to have a successful offense, and show over 100 videos that demonstrate what I teach. Good luck, and thanks for reading!


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