I love defense. When things aren’t going right on offense (maybe my shot is off or I’m having trouble handling the ball), the one thing that I can ALWAYS count on is my defense. It’s a little more difficult now that I’m not in great shape, but during my years on the court as a player I focused my energy on this part of the game, and as a coach I did the same. To help my players, I took what I have learned on the court, and from the coaches who I assisted (and those I read about and listened to at clinics) and put my favorites rules of defense together in a “10 to Win” list. If you play, or coach the game, these rules won’t be anything new to you, but it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder, and it’s always nice to have them all listed together in one place. When I was coaching, I had the list plastered around our locker room, as the Westside “10 to Win” Rules of Defense, to remind our players what we expected from them on the court every day in practice and in games.
- See ball – See man
Always keep your eyes on the basketball as well as your player (point one hand at the ball and one hand at your man or on your man).
- Jump to the ball on a pass
Unless you have been designated to face guard your player, you should jump in the direction of the ball when it is passed (still seeing your player and the ball at all times). This gets you in the right position for defending your man if he cuts, and it keeps you in good help position.
- Close out with intensity
When your player gets the ball you should react quickly, and with your knees bent and feet moving, get one hand up in your player’s face and deny the shot (some coaches prefer both hands) while anticipating the drive. I like to force players away from the middle (this varies with coaches), or if you are guarding a player who can only dribble with one hand, force her the other direction. Bottom line, don’t let your player take an easy shot or get an easy pass, and be prepared for the drive. Be ready to move.
- Pressure the dead ball
This is one of my favorites. When your man (or woman) picks up his dribble, GET IN HIS FACE! Your man should hate having you guard him. He can no longer dribble so make it impossible for him to pass, make him panic. I like to holler “Ball! Ball! Ball!” while I’m at it. (Even to this day, as a forty-nine year old rec-league player.) Be relentless.
- Bump the cutter
This means don’t let your player go willy-nilly around the court, make her work. When she cuts, deny the cut, make her go a different direction. Offensive players hate this. Good defenders LOVE this. Reek havoc on your player and her team. Relish being your opponent’s worst nightmare.
- Fight for position
This rule goes hand in hand with the last rule, but especially if someone is trying to post you up, fight! Don’t allow them the position in front. Unless you are told to play behind your man, don’t allow him to post you up, trust that your teammates will help on the lob, and fight for position on the side or in front (depending on your teams philosophy).
- Block out!
I’m a stickler about this one. I am 5’ 9” (with shoes on) and I was one of the top rebounders at my college because I blocked out like a mad woman. Always fight for inside position when you see the ball go up (it also helps to have everyone on the team holler “shot” when the ball is in the air so that the entire team knows to block out). And then continue to work to keep your position, because even if you don’t rebound the basketball, neither will your player. Nothing is worse than having a player slide in and grab the ball, because one of your teammates didn’t block out his player. Everyone must block out!
8, Force ball out of the middle.
The middle of the court is a dangerous place for the ball to be when you’re on defense, what I mean by this is that once the offense gets the ball to the middle (whether breaking a press or starting their offense) they have more options, they have both sides of the court to work with, more places to pass the ball and more ways to attack the basket. When you are on defense you should work to keep your player on the outside, where you can use the out-of-bounds line like another defender and where your player has fewer options and can be more easily trapped.
- Talk to your teammates.
This is paramount. Communication is the key to great team defense. Let your teammates know you are there for them on helpside, let them know if there is a screen coming, let them know the ball has been shot, talk to them at all times.
- Never get beat back
Have someone designated to get back on defense and if that person is driving to the hoop make sure someone gets back in his or her place. Nothing is worse than working hard on defense and then the next time down the court your opponent gets an easy bucket on a break because no one sprinted back. This is a killer, always hustle back on defense!
I hope this information was a good refresher for players and coaches and please feel free to download the PeaceLoveBasketball 10 to Win Rules of Defense and plaster it all over your house, your room, your bathroom mirror or your locker room, as a reminder of how to be your best on defense. Or simply take bits and pieces from the list to make it your own. And then the next time you’re on the court, remember to push yourself, and your teammates (or if you’re a coach, your players) and find a way to get excited about defense, because, like the old saying goes, “Offense sells the tickets, but DEFENSE wins the games.”