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15 Points of Emphasis in Becoming Defensively Sound

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One of the great coaching & training truths is that you get what you emphasize. The question then becomes, "What should be emphasized?"

Instead of worrying about how to stop the many different offensive philosophies and systems that you may encounter we feel that if you concentrate on becoming defensively sound you will be prepared for anything and everything.

Here are 15 points of emphasis in becoming defensively sound:

1. Stance, Stance, Stance: Team defense starts with a proper individual defensive stance. Without a proper stance (butt down, back straight, hands out) a player cannot possibly be in a position to quickly react and move.

2. Jump to the Pass: Too many players often wait and jump towards the ball on the "catch." By reacting sooner and jumping to the ball on the pass it puts your defender in a much better position to force the cutter behind him and to deny the offense all give and go opportunities.

3. Chest Up All Cutters: By simply bodying up the offensive cutters you will accomplish three things A) Interfere with the line or path the offensive player wants to take B) Discourage the passer from making a pass since it would be high risk little reward and C) Ensure that your defense will never have a potential pass receiver cut in front of his face.

4. Stop Penetration: More specifically your defense must stop dribble penetration. Allowing dribble penetration into the key will increase the chances of your defense crumbling and the result will be layups, drive and kick 3's, and fouls.

5. Don't Over Commit: If your team does allow dribble penetration don't compound the problem by over committing. Instead, teach your players how to fake and retreat on penetration. Often times many great penetrators aren't great finishers. Instead they are merely penetrating in hopes making the defense over commit so they can pass out to a spot up shooter (Steve Nash). Make the penetrator prove that his is a great finisher in traffic before you over commit.

6. Foul with a Purpose: Now before you jump to conclusions, I am not saying intentionally foul or foul to injure a player. This should never be the purpose of a foul. However, there are times when it is in your team's best interest to foul. If you do find yourself in a position when fouling would be a benefit, make sure you teach your players to eliminate all risks of giving up three point plays. An "and-one" can bring a dying team back to life. Having a couple "fouls to give" at either the end of the first half or the end of the game can pay huge dividends if used properly.

7. Rebound Defensively: This could be the most over looked aspect of defense. With so much attention focused on stopping your opponent's offensive sets and guarding their best player, many coaches often overlook the simple fact that a possession is not over until a rebound is secured. Send five to the glass if you have to but don't give up offensive rebounds!

8. Trapping: When sending multiple players to trap the ball make sure they follow the three B's. BE loud, BE big and BE aggressive.

9. Pressure the Back Court: Incorporate some type of full court pressure into your defensive system. By picking up the opposing team's point guard, especially early in the game, you're giving your team a chance to rattle his or her confidence and generate turn overs. The extra pressure may also take a physical toll on the point guard and wear him out.

10. Deny Transition Layups: One of the biggest mistakes young coaches make is that they assume their players already know how to do this. Don't assume anything! Teach your players the finer points of transition defense such as how to properly fake and retreat and also how to veer off the ball handler.

11. Smother the Passer When the Dribble is Dead: I have seen so many close games come down to the wire and the opposing team calls a timeout, draws up a play and then wins the game. A great way to FORCE the other coach to use his timeouts throughout the game, so he doesn't have an extra one in crunch time, is to pressure the ball handler when he picks up his dribble. If he doesn't call timeout then you have a chance to get a deflection and a steal or a five second count.

12. Box out the Free Throw Shooter: Don't take a chance and allow the offense to gain another key possession. Make sure you team is communicating who will assume the responsibility of boxing out the shooter.

13. Guns Out: Never lose sight of the ball and your man. The old teaching point of "pointing your pistols" is a great way to insure that your players see both ball and man and are more actively engaged in team defensive positioning.

14. Decide and Defend: There are so many different options (Fight over, slide under, switch, trap, jam, etc,) on how to defend the basic pick and roll. As a coach it is your job to decide how you're going to defend on ball screens and then thoroughly teach those tactics until your players can execute them flawlessly.

15. Front the Paint: Inspire your athletes to aggressively battle opposing post players and to front the paint. Teach various ways on how to get around the offense such as spin, swim, faceguard, and duck over in order to gain great position.

Some of these points of emphasis need constant drill work while some others can be drilled a couple times a week. However, all must be discussed and emphasized in every drill, in every practice until they permeate your team's personality and becomes the basis of how you play.

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