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Thoughts on Timeouts

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

I put together a tweet thread last week on some of my thoughts on timeouts. I'm putting them in blog post form to keep them all in one place.

In Massachusetts we get five "full timeouts" per game, and because we play four quarters we have three additional breaks in the action. During those eight breaks in the game coaches have the opportunity to send their players key messages and adjustments. Although most of what we are going to talk about can apply to halftime and end of quarter moments, we are going to focus in on timeouts.

Those sixty second timeouts serve as crucial moments for coaches and players to regroup. The thoughts we'll discuss are a combination of lessons I've learned, and interesting ideas that I've gathered from other coaches. Hopefully I can add a little more context & insight to the tweets.

1. Call it Following a Score

The majority of timeouts are used as a means to stop a run or a to make a change. However, using a timeout after a big shot or after momentum building moment can be really powerful.

Let's think about the difference in the huddle in that moment. One team goes to their bench dejected - and the other heads back excited with their teammates greeting them on the floor.

Those are the moments where I think timeouts can be more than just a break in the action.

2. Give One Actionable Message

Coaches probably have a "laundry list" of things they would like to address by the time that first break in the action occurs.

For the players sake though, we need to send them out of the huddle with one simple actionable message.

Coaches need to filter themselves an ask, "what is the most important item we need to address at this moment?" Then send them out of the huddle that message in hand.

3. Tactical Not Emotional

I would say I tend to be a bit more on the emotional side throughout the game - so this is a good reminder for myself.

On occasion coaches may need to get after their team a bit - but the vast majority of the time diagnosing the necessary adjustment is what truly needs to be done.

  • Changing Defenses

  • Reminder of the Plan

  • Reinforce Principles

  • Counter Denial or Sagging Defenses, etc.

More often than not those are the kinds of things that coaches need to address in order to help their players.

4. Timeouts as Momentum Shifts

The thought I had in mind sort of pairs with #3. If we are calling timeout and then harping on a poor play for an the entire time what did we accomplish?

We didn't make any adjustments and perhaps lost a chance to make a tactical change.

There is no guarantee that our adjustments will make a difference on the scoreboard - but by providing our players with a clear and focused message that least we are arming our players with confidence in what needs to be done.

5. Improve TO Efficiency

This is sort of an interesting concept that I have heard coaches discuss in the past.

For example a coach might dictate that players sit according to position:

  • G, G, C, F, F

That way there we eliminate that moment of confusion with coaches looking for a certain player or wondering who is in the game at that moment.

Perhaps another idea might be water... Designate certain players to get water bottles ready so players in the game can be ready to listen more quickly.

6. The First 10 Seconds

I'm not advocating that we waste time, but perhaps in those first 10 seconds the Coaches meet quick and the Players get their water.

Let's collect our thoughts quick and then get to the heart of our message.

  • (#2) 1 Actionable Message

Coaches are eager to get their message across but if the attention is not turned to 100% that message may be lost in translation.

7. Bench Brings Energy

This kind of stuff is really indicative of your culture. You need players who bring energy whether they are in the game or not.

As a coach I just like the idea of our bench players being connected to who is on the floor.

  • Players are Connected

  • Backups Know What Defense we are in

  • Starters encourage their back ups

  • Attention is turned to 100%

None of those things are measurable in anyway but are all great culture building concepts.

8. Videotape Your Timeout

This is perhaps something that most teams do anyways. I think having this footage will provide us opportunities for positive and negative reinforcement.


  • Meeting Guys on the Floor

  • Players are Locked In

  • Players are in right spots

  • TO is Efficient


  • Guys Not Paying Attention

  • Guys Walk to the Huddle

  • Wrong Players Sitting Down

  • Late out of the Huddle, etc.

9. Track What is Discussed

This is a really interesting concept that I've heard over this quarantine. Designate an Assistant Coach to track what is discussed in each timeout huddle and break in the action.

The goal would be to reflect on the messages that were sent in those moments.

  • Did we execute?

  • Was the wrong message sent?

  • Was I being too emotional?

  • What feedback was given?

I really feel like this is a concept that could really improve the quality of our timeouts and breaks in action. Check out the Google Doc below which you could use in game next season.

Tracking Timeout Document:

10. Have a Timekeeper Coach

This is the personal thing I need to improve on in timeouts. It is really easy to get caught up in the opportunity to address your players in a timeout huddle. I can not tell you the amount of times I have been warned by referees to get out of the huddle quicker.

Perhaps, if we have one assistant coach who records what is being said in the huddle - your other assistant coach can be in charge of tapping you on the shoulder to get you out of the huddle.

Just another way to improve your Timeout efficiency & quality.

Concluding Thoughts

I hope in discussing these thoughts you were able to pull out a new idea or perhaps reinforce your own best practices. Coaching is a learning experience and I most certainly have had to try and improve in this very small (but important) part of the game as well.

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Coach Lynch Contact Info:

Twitter - @CoachLynch_21

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