Consequence of Choice
How This Phenomenon Affects Your Players

As coaches, you try to prepare your players for every possible situation they might face in a game...

When you teach skills, you try to present things that that will help your players to excel in every area. In our desire to create a formidable basketball entity (team or player), we don't realize how complex we make the game for players.

Taken individually, what we teach is not complex. However, once you start adding plays, options, contingencies, reads, film sessions, adjustments, etc., you take a simple task and make it extremely complex. We needlessly add to their cognitive load.

There is a psychological phenomenon called the "Consequence of Choice."

It says that the more choices you are faced with, the more difficult it is to decide. When you finally decide, it has taken longer and you are less confident that is was the correct choice.

Mattress Shopping and Decision Making

Consequence of choice is evidenced all around us. I am in the market for a new bed. I want to choose between a traditional innerspring mattress and a pillow top.

I went to the mattress store and they had 40 models of each. I was overwhelmed and decided not to buy anything. When restaurants are calling in consultants to help their businesses, invariably the first thing that is recommended is to limit the menu, limit choices.

Here's an experiment. The next time you are with your team or a group of friends, or even better, your family, and you want to decide on an activity, ask, "What would you like to do today?" See how much discussion is generated, how many questions and answers come up and how long it takes to make a decision.

The next time, instead of asking just say, "Let's get pizza." See what happens then. You might be surprised.

How Does This Translate To Basketball and Coaching?

As we prepare our players, we lay out option after option. We give them choices. Then, we tell them to read the opponents. As they are trying to figure it out, we jump on them for not acting or taking too long with the ball.

All the while, players are going through all the flip cards in their mind to see what you have taught them is appropriate for that situation. In truth, they are acting but we can't see them.

They develop "analysis paralysis" because we have given them too many options. That is a consequence of choice.

How The Best Post Coaches... Rick Majerus and Bill Cartwright... Fixed This Through Mapping

Am I saying not to prepare them or teach your players? No. I am saying, instead of giving them choices, give them a map to follow. What does that mean?

To give it some relevance, let's look in the post.

Two of the best post coaches I have ever been exposed to are the late, great Rick Majerus and NBA veteran Bill Cartwright. While other coaches are teaching "Read your defense" upon receiving the ball in the post (and then probably jumping on them for holding the ball), they are teaching their players to act.

Each has a definitive reason for teaching what they do, but we won't go into that here. Upon receiving the ball, Majerus taught, "immediately look baseline." Left handed, right handed, right side, left side it didn't matter, look baseline. If the baseline is guarded, go middle.

Cartwright teaches, "Attack the middle." Left handed, right handed, right side, left side it didn't matter, attack middle. If the middle is guarded, go baseline.

Even though they are different, they are the same. They give their players a plan of action and a map to follow. They consciously reduce their players' cognitive load.

Obviously, they go much more in depth, but the thinking is the same. They do not lay out "Consider this, this and this and then choose." They teach act, if it does not work out, look next.

If you examine post players who have been taught by these two coaches, you will find some of the most effective post players on their levels. They actually expand their players' games by limiting choices. The result is a quicker, more definitive and effective decision-making process.

I have found that a significant limiter of player effectiveness is not that they don't know what to do, but they have too much to choose from. I have had great success in improving players by trying to lessen the "Consequence of Choice."


In my Attack and Counter System, the triple threat of "Shot, Shot, Shot," players really only have one decision to make; not to shoot. If they make that decision, I give them a map of where to go next. But, the initial decision is to act.

It might be counter intuitive to say that you can expand a player's options by limiting their choices, but in actuality, that's what happens. Indecision is a player killer.

By limiting the "Consequence of Choice," players become more aggressive, more decisive and better players.

More From Don Kelbick

Don Kelbick also directs Basketball Camps for Breakthrough Basketball. He conducts Attack and Counter Skill Development Camps, Post Play Camps, and Shooting Camps. To check them out, CLICK HERE

To view DVDs and eBooks by Don Kelbick, CLICK HERE

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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James says:
8/19/2014 at 1:25:30 PM

Excellent article, will use it next time on a training session.


Jason Roberts says:
7/30/2014 at 8:05:09 PM

I've got several players (4th going into 5th) that I am constantly getting on for not reacting. These are the kids where the game is still to quick for them but, after reading this I might look at it differently. They ARE reacting, they are just going through their options because we are constantly giving them numerous ones. simplify. kiss. nice work.


Scott Doehrman says:
7/29/2014 at 11:30:59 AM

Excellent article. We just introduced an option to our basic offense at our the last practice. I found the players either made up their mind ahead of time to do the new option or they stood frozen with the ball. Great suggestion with the post play. I was also a huge Rick Majerus fan. I was fortunate enough to be a student at Ball State when he was their head coach. I was able to observe about 90% of their practices. Coach Majerus was both extremely knowledgeable and entertaining.


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