Acquiring the film in a form that allows you to pause and rewind is a necessary first step. From there, it’s all about approach. The approach I follow is one I learned when I first got my start in the basketball world. I was working for Dean Oliver, one of the leaders of the basketball statistical analysis movement, watching film and tagging each play according to a certain system. The work I was doing was monotonous, but it was very instructive. I broke down each play at an elemental level, watching to see what caused the outcome and tagging it appropriately. It trained me to think through the game, to watch each play and ask why?
I would recommend the same approach when you watch film. Watch to see what happened on a play—say, a wide-open three, for instance. Then rewind and watch again, this time trying to identify why the player was open. How did the defense move? Why did it move in that way? What were they supposed to do? One trick is to watch for player and coach reactions after plays, or listen for mics picking up their conversation. With a little guesswork, you can learn a lot about what they expected to happen.
Then think through the strategy of it all. Would you have done it the same way if you were playing or coaching? Or would you have tried something else? Then put yourself in the other team’s shoes. How would you counter your own counter? Do this analysis often enough and you start to see patterns, and those patterns help you pick things up faster on each subsequent viewing.
This is chess. I’m ready for tonight. Basketball is back.