How "Mapping" Speeds Up Decision-Making, Improves Aggressiveness, & Makes You a Better Scorer

“Indecision is the enemy of success”

This technique removes doubt, indecision, and makes you more confident and aggressive.

It also speeds up your decision-making.

One of the best ways to increase your number of scoring opportunities is to make quicker decisions.

This gives the defense less time to rotate and get in position. Additionally, the help defense is constantly scrambling and out of position.

This means more open shots, more driving lanes, and more passing lanes.

Bottom line, you are more effective.

And one way to accomplish all of this is through a technique called mapping.

How “Mapping” Works

I learned this technique from Don Kelbick. And just like everything in his Attack & Counter Skill Development System, mapping is really easy to learn.

Here is how it works...

  • Immediately look for Option A.
  • If option A isn’t there, do option B.
  • If option B isn't there, do option C.

For example, one thing that Don teaches is that you should always "Think Shot" when catching the ball.
  • This helps prepare you mentally and physically.
  • Your feet are lined up to shoot, your eyes are up so you can see the entire floor… both the defense and open teammates.
  • You put more pressure on the defense. They have to close out more aggressively which can create gaps in the defense.

Option A - If you have the ability to shoot a high percentage, you’re open and in rhythm, you shoot the ball... as long as it makes sense with the time and score.

Option B - If you don't have the shot, you instantly think lay up.

Option C - If defense rotates to stop the drive, pull up for a jump shot.

You would be amazed what these simple mapping tips do to your assertiveness and aggressiveness on the court.

Mapping can also be applied to all aspects of the game!

In Don’s Attack & Counter Skill Development System, he shows you how to apply it to many areas in the game… triple threat attack, attacking ball screens, down screens, zipper screens, moving without the ball, etc.

When I first saw Don teach this in person, I immediately applied it to my teams, my training, and my camps because I saw how effective it was.

Now, what if your quick decisions are poor decisions? What if it’s causing more issues?

In the next article, we’re going to add another layer to “mapping” your basketball moves.

We’re going to show you how to design your basketball moves, so they automatically put you in good positions.

That way, you make quick decisions that put you in high-percentage scoring situations.

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


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Coach Duke says:
3/31/2019 at 3:03:30 PM

I returned to coaching this year after raising my own 2 kiddos, and am rethinking some of my coaching strategies. I’m considering purchasing the Attack & Counter series, but trying to figure out if it’ll be effective with my HS girls team...many girls are lower percentage shooters and less aggressive on offense, so we’ve emphasized moving without the ball and getting open cuts for layups. But maybe I’m selling them short and need to give them the tools to be more offensively- minded?...

  1 reply  

Ernie says:
3/30/2021 at 12:17:32 PM

Coach D, this system works great with all levels. As a HS girls' coach, the principals are the same. get them to a spot where they are a threat, you don't have to be a 3 pt shooter. Get them to the elbow or short corner. if you have players that aren't a scoring threat, use them to get your scorers open. Their best becomes pass first, screen second, layup third. Find that something that they are good at and build from there. Know your spot and get there. We had a girl this year all she could do was a left handed layup. But man! she was good at getting there from anywhere, both elbows, blocks short corners 3pt line, didn't matter. For a 5'6" post she could be unstoppable.
As Don says "The same things happen over and over, just in different locations" "If you weren't open, no one would pass you the ball"


Coach Duke says:
3/31/2019 at 3:03:29 PM

I returned to coaching this year after raising my own 2 kiddos, and am rethinking some of my coaching strategies. I’m considering purchasing the Attack & Counter series, but trying to figure out if it’ll be effective with my HS girls team...many girls are lower percentage shooters and less aggressive on offense, so we’ve emphasized moving without the ball and getting open cuts for layups. But maybe I’m selling them short and need to give them the tools to be more offensively- minded?...


Rick Patterson says:
3/26/2018 at 11:33:19 AM

Interesting on Options A, B, and C. I did not see passing and getting the ball to an open man, as an option. (See GS Warriors).

If all players are to think 1) Shoot, 2) Layup, and 3) after driving, pull up and shoot, it would seem to me to be a pretty individual, static, 1 on 5, or "isolate" offense?? How do you work in the teamwork aspect - getting everyone involved, playing smart, getting the open man a shot, etc.?

Why not option 1 - "Move the Ball"...get everyone involved. Much harder to guard 5 guys moving, cutting, passing, than one guy my view.



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Jeff Haefner says:
3/26/2018 at 4:26:49 PM

Rick - Good questions. There are plenty of different opinions on this. I'll give my two cents.

You can take the mapping concept and tweak it a lot of different ways.

First of all it works for a lot of things... not just decisions "off the catch". I have used mapping a fair amount and will say it works really well for us. I use it for what you do after you pass, what to do when coming off a screen, and so on. It just makes kids more decisive.

Next I'll say that it might sound counter-intuitive, but the A-B-C concept above can actually help with passing and ball movement because you push players to make decisions immediately (attack) and faster. If there don't have a good shot or drive they make the pass to the open guy really quickly.

I know some coaches that tweak the decision process. I have seen it a number of different ways including:
- Shoot, pass to post, reverse
- Shoot, drive, pass
- Etc

I know some coaches that give each player a different decision mapping sequence. Some tell them to look to pass first. Or drive first.

I know some coaches give them the mapping decisions and also tell them to have an idea what they will do before they catch the ball (in other words... you generally have an idea if you'll be open to shoot before you catch -- or if the defense is loaded on on ball side and you should pass right away). In any case, the mapping decisions are still they same... you just make the decision sooner.

I personally tell my players to look for shot and drive first (immediately). And then we really emphasize ball movement. Our players generally move the ball really fast and make really fast decisions. I'm not one of those coaches that make them square up every time. I know some very good coaches that make their kids do that. We often times make a catch and then pass right away without squaring for a shot because they already know it's not a good shot and the defense is loaded on ball side. But it all starts for us with "think shot" first mentality and then "lay up". I do not want them passing up good shots! So that is always the first thought. We do not shoot many pull up jump shots but if I'm training a player individually I will add that option.

I think the key take away is:
- to do something immediately (it just makes everything better)
- the mapping concept is an effective tool to use for a variety of different decision making situations
- this simple concept gives players an effective tool and confidence in the decisions they make on the court


Joe Haefner says:
3/30/2018 at 10:09:58 AM

Hey Rick, great questions. Jeff covered a lot of this already, but I wanted to add one thing.

The mapping sequence refers to individual offense. If I recall correctly, Don Kelbick (creator of the Attack & Counter mapping principle) does this because, as Jeff alluded to, there are many ways to teach offense and passing. He didn't want to restrict people using his skill development system because they had different team offense beliefs.

You can always modify things to better suit your belief system and team. I know some coaches who say whenever they catch the ball on top of the key, if guarded, immediately reverse it. They don't want them attacking the rim because they want more ball reversals.

And in fact, I know a few coaches that teach everything in Coach Kelbick's skill development system except mapping and the mentality. These coaches just have some different beliefs on offense and decision-making.

Personally, I teach this mapping sequence. Then once I am satisfied with my team's aggressiveness from a 1v1 perspective, I create one simple rule for offense and passing.

"If a player has a better scoring opportunity, immediately pass them the ball."

And you gradually teach them as you progress.

Of course, players are going to miss opportunities. They are going to make mistakes. But I don't like to add too much to their thinking process.

If they start catching and pausing, they won't be effective on the court. Catch and attack or catch and pass.


Ernie says:
3/30/2021 at 12:05:04 PM

Rick, other Don Kelbick's keys are 1," you are never more open than when you first catch a pass", 2, "do what you do best" & 3, "make the defense read you. " All of these together lead to the A,B,C mapping that you create for your players, each WILL be different depending on their skill. So first, always be in a position where you are a threat. if you aren't a 3 point shooter get to where you are so that you can be a catch and shoot threat. If you take it to the hole best, attack the rim immediately, then go to B & C, pull up, pass. if you can't make the pull up jumper, your pass game comes in. every player should know what their ABC is and their team-mates' ABC is. That's when the magic happens.
Best of luck! Ernie


Kelvin Ben says:
3/27/2017 at 8:11:52 PM

This is very insightful. I believe I am a shooting oriented coach and my team down here in Africa has a high shooting average than the rest of the league. I am however finding it difficult to condition my team to make that extra pass. What drills or principles must I teach my team?

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
3/28/2017 at 4:27:01 PM

Thanks for the question, Kelvin Ben. Whew... that's a tough one to answer via a forum like this. There are many variables.

Is it a knowledge thing? Do they know when they should make the extra pass?

Is it an experience thing? Do they have enough repetitions to recognize the situation?

Is it a selfishness thing? Do players just want to score themselves for some reason?

Is it a situational thing? Does it only happen in certain situations?

What age group is it? If they're young, they may not "see" it, similar to the experience question above.


Jim Thorson says:
3/27/2017 at 1:16:41 PM

You have one of the best sites for usable information on teaching the basics of basketball. After coaching at the NAIA and NCAA II college level for 40 years I'm now teaching the basics to1st graders thru college level. Your articles reinforce what I've taught and also make me reevaluate other teachings.
I would like to meet you sometime. Will you be at the Final 4?

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
3/28/2017 at 4:16:09 PM

Jim, thank you for the kind words. That's an honor to receive a compliment from someone with that much coaching experience. We will not be at the Final 4... need to get to the next one!


charlie says:
3/24/2017 at 11:39:55 AM

We have used this idea for a long time now and it has helped us immensely, and it is used by all players at all positions.

It is taught in our system as "A to B to safe". Have plan A in your mind before catching the ball, quickly execute A if possible, counter with B if necessary and then go to a safe pass to keep the action moving in our offense".

Players sometimes are uncomfortable at first with making mistakes when trying "A & B to safe", but with lots of teaching, emphasis and practice they will learn to make good plans and decisions and will have better successes than when they used to just hold the ball.

Our coaches encourage mistakes when we start to teach this process knowing that mistakes learned from usually do not get repeated very often.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
3/25/2017 at 8:30:41 AM

Thanks for sharing, Charlie!


Eric Leifer says:
3/24/2017 at 8:20:33 AM

Hi Joe. Thanks for your great articles. They are not only insightful, & technical, but you can immediately apply them to your game. Don teaches my son at his academy in Miami, and I can truly say don kelbick is the real McCoy as the saying goes. I bought the attack and counter because of my little knowledge of the game. And the way it was layed out and taught really opened my eyes as to what basketball is all about. Ex. Footwork. Etc. Keep sending articles they are greatly appre ciated. Keep up the great work!!Best regards eric

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
3/24/2017 at 11:34:33 AM

Hey Eric, the check is in the mail. :)

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