Teaching Individual Basketball Defense

By: Ronn Wyckoff

"More than anything else, playing inspired defenseis a matter of will." Phil Jackson

We have to get the ball in order to play with the ball! Defense gets the ball! Period!

If both teams are equal and every player handles the ball equally, how much time will each player have with the ball? In This example, defense is fifty per cent of the game. Well, then that means half of the game is spent without the ball, trying to stop the other team from scoring and getting the ball so your team can score.

Defense is too important to just hope that players will get it. The coaches must teach it.

Not too far into my coaching career, I became acutely aware of the importance of teaching defense. Early on, I had been just setting up defenses and walking players through their positions and assignments. I realized that just telling the players to play defense wasn't getting the job done. I learned "what" and "how" and then I began to teach every component, from the placement of the feet and the stance, how to react, how to play on the ball and off the ball, against cutters, in the post, etc., etc. We were rewarded with better play and I became a fully dedicated advocate of teaching defense.

Defense is so integral to the overall success of a program it cannot be afforded a cursory inspection, like I was doing in the first few years. Once we teaching-coaches know the "how", it can then be taught easily enough, then drilled to perfection the same way we develop offenses-over and over and over, until it becomes UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE!

In my more than forty years of coaching, I have come to the following realizations about defense:1.There is often a lot of generalization rather than specific teaching being done;2.Many coaches believe zone defense is easier to teach than man defense;(Defensive skills are easier to teach than offensive skills.) 3.Creating a good defensive player is infinitely easier than creating a good offensive player;4.A team can play good defense and win even when the offense is having an off game;5.Defense has always created most of my offense.

Throughout my career, at all levels of coaching, from the playgrounds in the beginning, to national teams, we won nearly three out of every four games we played. I had some high scoring teams, and on only few occasions was I blessed to have any superior offensive players. My highest scoring teams were my best defensive teams.

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