Read and React Offense

Read and React Offense

For the past several years one offense that I have continued to use has been the read and react offense developed by Rick Torbett.  Rick Torbett does not refer to read and react  as a motion offense, but despite this you’ll find some similarities to dribble drive motion offense.  Despite this there’s still some key differences between the two, and ultimately I would call read and react a continuity offense, but the reality is that both offenses allow your players to play.  Despite this there is structure to the read and react system and in my opinion there is a lot of good basketball principles that you are coaching through the read and react system.

There is a lot to the read and react offense, and Rick Torbett has written 100’s of pages and made multiple DVD’s, so I don’t think I will cover it all in this post but I can give you some impressions of it, some thoughts, and guide you to some resources I have found related to the read and react offense.  First off I like the freedom that the offense provides, but for some coaches they might have a tough time given up this freedom.  The reason I like this however is that many of the teams we play are more athletic than us, and when they play man to man defense we sometimes have a tough time getting into our sets as easily I would like.  This offense allows your team to react to what the other team is doing (ideally) and use it against them.  But if you are a team that likes set plays, this is still a good offense to have, as you can get into this offense easily from any set, even if it breaks down which makes it a nice offense to have available.  Ultimately read and react teaches good offensive principles that can be adapted to any teams strengths and weaknesses.

The Basics of Read and React

Read and react is meant to be installed layer by layer.  Again, I won’t get into details (check the links below for that) but the layers range from pass and cut, dribble penetration, post reactions, and more.  Rick tells coaches to implement layer by layer until the players become bored with it, at which point you can add another layer.  In the video below you can see an excerpt from the pass and cut layer.

One thing you will notice in the resource below is that they teach the dribble penetration layer first, but this video shows pass and cut as the first layer.  In my opinion, the dribble penetration can be difficult for kids to become good at, and I would recommend teaching pass and cut first as it’s a bit more simple and still addresses the most important part of read and react and that is spacing.  As you’ll notice in the video, Rick will emphasize the importance of good spacing.  Again, this is just one of those good basketball principles that all players should learn.

What I like about the offense

Here are some things I like about the read and react offense.

  • Adaptable to your team, can be run as a 5 out offense, or 4 out 1 in or even 3 out 2 in depending on your personnel.
  • Can be added layer by layer, making it a simple offense that grows in its complexity.  The key though is that it only grows in its complexity as your players become capable of running it.
  • Can be run by youth teams who wish to run just the first few layers.  This also makes it great for high school programs want to have an offense that is run throughout its program.
  • Teaches good basketball skills like: Spacing, pass and cut, movement without the ball.
  • Very easy to get into the offense even if it breaks down.  This also makes it great for running it after a set play or if a set play breaks down.  Some motion offenses can fall apart if a pass can’t be made, read and react always has another option.
  • Freedom – Let players play.  Some may not like this ‘lack of control’ and see it as a downside, but I think many players are better when they aren’t overthinking things.  NOTE: Another key to read and react  is that the players become comfortable with each layer to the point where it’s natural and that they’re automatically reacting and not thinking about the offense.
  • There’s a counter to whatever the defense does to try and stop you.
  • Can allow your players to do what they’re best at doing.

What are some downsides to read and react

Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter what offense you’re running there’s always going to be some issues.  Here are some things to be aware of and some potential concerns with the read and react offense.

  • The dribble penetration layer is difficult.  The basic idea behind the north/south dribble is to get players to attack the basket and the other four guys on the floor to rotate with the drive.  The reality is kids are very used to standing still while someone drives and breaking them of this habit is difficult.  Along with this they often don’t anticipate a drive, and kids who lose focus will often not rotate or they will rotate too late (they’re not reading and anticipating a drive).  Of all aspects of read and react I have found this to be one of the most difficult to teach (Note: I have not run all of the layers, but of the ones I have taught this one is difficult).
  • Spacing is very important, but it takes some time to master this.  You would think it seems simple, but once the game gets going you will find your kids moving closer than you want them to be on a consistent basis.  Last year I purchased a couple of these Sklz shot spotz to place on the floor and help show kids where they need to be.  For a $20 purchase I found them to be helpful and better than trying to tape the floor all the time.
  • Patience is key, and patience can be difficult.  As mentioned before it is important to have kids master a layer to the point where they are bored before moving to the next layer.  This takes patience, as some layers that seem easy enough can be much more difficult than you would anticipate to master.  Along with this, you’re always dealing with more than 1 kid, so while some may master a layer others may not and you may find yourself wanting to move ahead before everyone has figured out what they’re doing.  This is tough as a coach and might lead to leaving some kids behind if you’re not patient.
  • It can look very ugly at times as kids learn what they’re doing.  As mentioned above the resources below teach read and react by having players learn dribble penetration first.  If you do this it can look very ugly as kids try things they’re not capable of.  Eventually they will learn what they can and can’t do, and subsequent layers allow them to do things they’re good at and avoid things they’re not good at.  But I can say initially it may look a bit ugly.  Give it time.  Also, as stated above I plan to run the pass and cut layer first because it is easier to master and will help make the offense look better to begin with.

Read and React Resources

Here are several read and react resources that you can use to learn how exactly how each layer works and drills you can use to implement the system.

Read and React Offense (This is everything you could want to know and more, tons of detail)

Read and React Offense PowerPoint (Also concise and includes some extra visuals)

Read and React Offense and Drills (Concise and to the point)

If any other coaches out there have run the read and react or currently run the read and react I’d love to hear what you have to say about your successes and/or failures with running the offense.


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