Your team is up 3 late in the game, and now you have a decision to make, do you foul or don’t you? It’s a question with no universal answer. Ask 100 basketball people and they’ll likely be split 50-50 on what their philosophy is. Today I want to share my philosophy and reasoning behind it in hope it might help you cement your own strategy.
I’ll start by saying I support the Foul side of the argument. The simple reason is this, if you choose not to foul the other team only needs one thing to go right, a made 3, for them to send the game to overtime. If you foul the other team needs at least four things to go right, a made first FT, a perfectly missed second, offensive rebound, and made basket, to send the game into overtime.
Now ask yourself this, how often do athletes practice shooting game winning 3’s? How many days and nights have been spent with that internal clock running down, counting out 3, 2, 1 swish? Think about your own time as an athlete, how often did you do it? I know for me, as an athlete, from the first time I ever picked up a basketball I mentally practiced that shot. I’d never finish a shooting session without putting up a few “game winners”. It is ingrained in our athletes to want to make that big 3 to win a game. You might never have the athleticism to make the highlight reel dunking or having a monster block but anyone can make that highlight reel with a game winner.
On the flip side, how often do athletes practices missing FT’s? How much time is spent working on offensive rebounding a purposely missed FT? I know for my program it’s something we never work on, and as an athlete playing I certainly never practiced missing shots.
Some of the arguments against the fouling philosophy are; fear that an athlete will foul an active shooter, there is now a possibility you could lose in scenario that tip out after second FT miss leads to 3 for other team, and if there’s too much time your team may have to inbound against pressure and hit their out FTs after. My theory on those things are it comes down to practice. If you are going to have a system philosophy that fouling will occur if up 3 late then you need to practice when to foul and how to foul. You need to spend time everyday focusing on securing defensive rebounds off FT’s, and you need to have confidence in your practice and team that they will execute these things when they matter.
My last argument for fouling is very simple, I’ve never seen a team lose when doing it. Now that’s not to say it has never happened. I’m quite sure it has but I don’t believe it’s occurred at the same frequency as a made 3 has. That is something I’ve seen far too many times to want to take my chances with letting it happen.
Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you whether you agree or disagree and why you stand on that side of the discussion.
State championship winning basketball coach, Chris Woodside, shares his journey to becoming a college level coach as well as life lessons learned on + off the court.