Basketball Game Coaching: What’s on Your Game Day Card?

Ever since Stan Van Gundy explained his game day pocket card on the Basketball Podcast I have gotten asked for more ideas. I decided to ask a cross section of coaches to give you some ideas to stimulate the creation of your game day card.

Here is what Van Gundy said about his game day card on

The Basketball Podcast: EP32 Stan Van Gundy on Philosophy and Tactics

“My game day card on one side was just a listing of all our sets. And then what I would do from that is highlight or star certain things that I definitely wanted to run that night that I thought from our preparation would be successful in that night.

On the other side would be lineup specific sets. With my starting lineup these are the things I want to run including things that I wanted to run for each guy. I want to run this for Blake Griffin. I want to run this for Reggie Jackson. And when I go to my second unit now these are the things that I’ll look to do.

I would also have an entire list, probably after 25-30 things I wanted to think about after timeouts, plays to draw up and run, things we have worked on but weren’t necessarily calls that we ran all the time. And I always had a section on the other teams specials after timeout plays, late game play, things like that that they would run. I would have their free throw shooting on there if we had to foul people late in the game. So really a lot of stuff but divided into different sections.“

Stan Van Gundy, NBA Analyst

A game day card is a cheat sheet for you as a coach. It is the information you value most during a game. The goal is to develop an organized, easy to follow resource sheet. Given the emotion of a game it is nice to have something of value, and comfort, to refer to when you need to make a decision. It also guarantees that you will never forget what is most important to you.

Not all coaches use game day cards in the same way. In fact, even though Penn University head coach Steve Donahue‘s card has all his teams play calls, he says “I actually try not to rely on the sheet. I like to look at the game and make decisions based on the game action.”

The best coaches are always adaptable and this is true of a game day card too. Bethel head coach Doug Novak points out that, ”these game day cards change throughout the season depending on who we are playing, and things we are doing well at any given time.”

Doug Novak Game Day Card

Get more great advice on Game Preparation from Cape Breton head coach Fabian McKenzie:

Saigon Heat head coach Kyle Julius connects the game day card to his scouting report. Their game day card is a specific byproduct of their scouting report.

Building the play card from the scouting report allows me one last thorough analysis on our opponents and our plan. This process creates a peaceful calm going into the game knowing we were well prepared and set up to play with a sharp focus and clear mind.

Most importantly It helps the staff as an in-game reminder to the plan in the heat of the battle where emotions and flow can take over. The play card allows us to make more informed decisions play calling, substituting and anticipating the opponents next move.

Kyle Julius, Saigon Heat Head Coach

Basketball Game Day Card

Game day cards are not exclusive to head coaches. Assistant coaches often have their own game day cards, and responsibilities. Coon Rapids varsity girls high school head coach Debbie Peterson says

“My game day card lists lineup combinations for the situations we know we want to run based on the scouting report, which one of my assistants keeps with them on the bench.”

Debbie Peterson, Coon Rapids Varsity Girls Head Coach

Debbie Game Day Card

Professional Coach Liam Flynn has all of his, and his opponents, end game sets, and ATOs “already drawn up and held with the assistant coach so that if I want to refer to one during the game I don’t need to have them memorized either.”

Coach Flynn offers more great advice when he talks about narrowing your focus on your game day card.

“I don’t have every set or every defence we run on the card. That wouldn’t be narrowing my focus, just putting more information on the card that I need. It’s actually more stressful when you are looking at your entire playbook on your card. Just have the most important ones that you have selected after thorough analysis of the opponent on the card and then allow your creativity and natural coaching talent to take over.”

Liam Flynn, Pro Basketball Coach

England U18 National Team head coach Alan Keane stresses the importance of not just play reminders, but also reminders of the keys to victory and what they should be ready to do. This information is even more important in a short tournament where preparation and practice time are reduced.

Alan Keane Game Day Card

Possible Items Listed on a Game Day Card

  • Pregame notes, including keys to the game. All offensive play calls, including half-court, baseline and sideline inbound, after timeout (ATOs), press breakers, and end game special situations.
  • Highlight offensive play calls specific to that game.
  • Defensive names and calls.
  • Team depth chart in case of foul trouble.
  • Key defensive adaptations if needed (For example ball screen coverages, ATO defensive ideas, zone trap or extended full court pressure.
  • Opponent worst free throw shooters.
  • Lineups and preferred matchups.
  • Scouting report notes (For example, reminders about where to force a player in isolation, or what changes when a certain player subs in or out of the game).

Learn more about timeout strategies here:

More Options for Game Day Card Resources

Download Game Card Package from Shaun Roger. Shawn is the Coach Development Manager for Basketball in NSW, Australia.

NSW Game Day Card Package

A number of coaches have requested a game day card that can be filled out online. Here is word document available via John Leonzo.

Fillable Game Day Card

Thanks to all the coaches who offered their insights and shared a sample of their card. Also, note that in some cases the game day cards shared have been changed to protect the play calls and specific opponent information.

Please follow each coach who participated:

Kyle Julius @Juliushoops

Debbie Peterson @debpeterson12

Liam Flynn @coachliamflynn

Steve Donahue @Coach_Donahue

Alan Keane @CoachKeane14

Shaun Roger @BNSW_Shaun

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