The 5 Moments Throughout a Game You Must Call a Timeout


Photo Credit: MIKECNY via Compfight cc

Timeouts are a crucial part of a basketball game and can be the difference between going home with a win or a loss. Yes… they’re that important.

Every coach must learn at what stage of the game their timeouts will have the best impact on your teams success.

I received an e-mail a couple of days ago requesting advice on when the best times are throughout a game to call a timeout. Obviously, this differ from game to game, but there some hard-and-fast rules that every coach seem’s to stick by that I want to share with you.

Here are five times throughout a game when you should call a timeout.


The 5 Moments You Must Call A Timeout

1. To stop the momentum of the other team (and the crowd)

Just as your team will undoubtedly get hot during certain stretches games, there will be times when the opposition also goes on a run where they seem to make every shot they attempt. Once this starts to happen, their players build on their confidence and your players will start to doubt themselves. If nothing is changed this can quickly turn into a disaster and the next time you look up at the scoreboard the opposition has put on a quick 10 points. Which will possibly be the difference in the game.

Having said that, you should always call a timeout in this situation. Especially if you’re playing on the road. It calm’s down the crowd, re-focuses your players, and cools down the opposition players.

It’s all about momentum. You don’t want to let the other team get their confidence up.


2. To change your game strategy

Another reason to call a timeout is when you want to make a big change in your strategy.

For example, if you’re in a zone-press and it’s just not working and you want to bring your players back into a man-to-man defense. Or you’re getting killed in the post and need to explain to your players who you want to double the post.

Sometimes it can be hard to call out the changes that you want to be made, especially with younger players. You need to call a timeout so that you can talk to them and explain the changes without distractions.


3. To draw up a specific play

This is most often used towards the end of a game. Ever wondered why the last 3 minutes of a basketball game seem to go for 10 minutes? Timeouts are the reason. In a close game that goes down to the wire it’s not uncommon to see 3 or 4 timeouts called in the last couple of minutes.

Down the stretch is when a coach can start to be the crucial difference in a game. Calling a timeout gives you the opportunity to diagram a new play to give you an open look. Whereas if you didn’t call a timeout, your players may be forced to run a play that the other team may have learned how to defend during the game and your players may not get an open look.


4. To give your players a rest without substituting

3 minutes to go, the scores are tied, but unfortunately, your best player is running out of gas. Do you really want to sub them out of the game for a chance to rest? I doubt it.

That’s where timeouts come in handy. They allow you to give your players a break without being forced to substitute them out of the game.


5. To fire up your team

I was on the ledge as to whether to include this one as some might think ‘to fire up your team’ also falls under the ‘momentum’ point. But I don’t think it does.

We’ve all coached games where our players start off the game sluggish and seem mentally out of it regardless of what the score is.

This is a time you should call a timeout to give them a good ol’ kick up the backside to get them focused on the game at hand.


Over to you…

I know we all have different opinions… are there any other stages of the game you think coaches must call a timeout?

– Coach Mac

PS. I love Twitter.

  • Coach Mo

    I will not hesitate to use the “fire ’em up” time out within a minute of the second half if we are not doing what was discussed, come out flat, whatever. Never a wasted time out. It doesn’t do you any good to save time outs if you are getting your butt kicked.

    • Coach Mac

      Couldn’t agree more Coach Mo.

  • Raul alejandro

    Thats all situation are really good ones and i use all of them in most ocassion , another one
    That i learn againts a rival coach its to destroy the other coach time out when he set the set a play after a call time out you read the set play and after that you call another time to change your defense or prepare tour players for that game situation and believe me if would give hard time to offenvive team after that specially its your las time out of the game
    I really like your article email me any comments or suggestin please and
    Than k you
    Raul alejandro
    American military academy jv and varsity boys
    basketball head coach
    Also my cell phone number is
    787 603 3763

    • Coach Mac

      Hey Raul,

      Yeah you do see that used a bit. It can also work the other way. If the coach doesn’t like how the defense is set up they can call another immediate timeout and change up the offensive set.

      – Coach Mac

  • Coach Rude

    Agree very much so on these situations and I also call a timeout(depending on the feel/flow of the game) after a huge bucket that we scored just so that I could get my players focused and cued in what is in front of them rather than letting the momentum shift because heads can get big after these occasions.

    • Coach Mac

      Interesting view.

      A lot of coaches would disagree on this because they want to ride the momentum of a big shot. But each to their own. If it’s working for you and your team then keep it up!

      – Coach mac

  • Coach Ramirez

    Should I waste a timeout when Im not agree with a ref call?

    • Coach Mac

      Coach Ramirez,

      I wouldn’t. We know they’re not going to change the call so why waste one of our important time-outs? 🙂

      – Coach Mac

  • patrick

    Every once in a while I will use a time out to give a ref a piece of my mind. Save those for special occasions. But I do love the article

    Coach mangos

    • Coach Mac

      Coach Mangos,

      I have to admit… I’ve been known to do the same thing from time to time! It depends how important the game is and the score on whether I’m willing to do that.

      – Coach Mac

  • Kevin McDonald

    I’ve called a timeout literally after the first play of the game. If the other team is doing something your team isn’t prepared for. No use in turning the ball over 4 times before you call the TO!

  • Hey Steve,
    That’s a great time to use it. Especially when they’ve got on a roll as of late!

  • Earl Santillanes

    Good article, I agree with you

  • Good option Adam!

  • Thanks, Coach Mendez.
    I would keep an eye on how many timeouts the opposition has too. Sometimes it’s better to force to not have a timeout at all so that they can’t set up their offense.

  • You’re right. Can benefit both teams in different ways. Depends on a lot of factors, as does every other point. Thanks!

  • Can’t argue with you on this one. Both of the options can work.
    Letting your players learn to play through these bad stretches is beneficial if you’re willing to give up a few extra points and possibly a win. It probably won’t help you in the current game, but could towards the end of the season when the team’s in the same position.

  • Makes sense. Each coach has different preferences and if your team is used to that it might work well for them.
    As for me, when my team is on a great run, I’d prefer to hold the timeout until later in the game.

  • That’s definitely important!
    Always nice to be able to call a timeout and draw up a play to get the team a good shot.