3 Defensive Stations to Start Your Practice
With the start of fall just around the corner, most Americans are eagerly looking forward to the changing of leaves, pumpkin spice everything and Sunday football. However, successful basketball coaches are using this time to begin preparation for the five-month season that’s looming ahead. As you begin to scour your notes looking at offenses, defenses and old practice plans I want to remind you of the importance of building correct defensive habits. To do this I highly suggest using defensive stations.
Perhaps no facet of the game is more habitual and needs more attention than that of defense. The reasoning behind this is because kids have grown up playing offense. Whether that is shooting in their driveway or pick up in their park, most have already received some coaching and skill instruction surrounding passing, dribbling and shooting. It is not until a more formal setting where athletes receive feedback on their individual defensive capabilities. This is why the earlier that you can develop your team’s defensive foundation, by practicing solid techniques and building strong habits the better your team will perform. By the time the last round of league games come around, the top teams in the upper half of league will all be able to score the ball. What will separate the top one or two teams from the pack will be their ability to get stops on the defensive end!
At this point, you might be injecting “how can I even think about defensive stations when I don’t even know what kind of defensive scheme we are going to run this year”. The beautiful thing about the stations that we will cover is that they are universal skills that will be applicable no matter the scheme you run. If you are hoping to be a good defensive team, you must first start by improving the individual abilities of your players!
Defensive Station #1: Stance
No matter the type of drill you use, a defensive stance is the first building block of a sound defensive player. The major benefit of a proper stance is that it allows athletes to react quickly. To start with I would suggest doing some form of the Zig-Zag Drill. This drill will begin to build proper form and will strengthen the muscles players need in order to stay in a stance for an entire possession. After athletes have proved that they are capable of staying in a stance, try adding an offensive ballhandler to make the drill more game like. *Remember the primary purpose of the drill is to work the defense. Ball handlers should not try to “blow” past the defenders but try “work” the defender.
Defensive Station #2: Closing Out and Ball Pressure
The next step to building a shut-down defensive player is to instill strong habits for once the offensive player has caught the basketball. For my team, I’ve always started with the Closeout-Shadow Drill. Again, there are a ton of drills that you can use, but picking a drill that puts an emphasis on closing out and ball pressure is ideal. To start, have players divide into two lines (depending on the number) and line up on the blocks with the first person in line facing the coach standing at the three-point line with the rest of the players behind them. The coach, who has a basketball, will slap the ball to start the drill. The first player in line will run towards the coach, breaking down about five feet before the coach and begin their close out. The player will then shadow the ball for five seconds before sliding to the near sideline. As soon as the player begins to slide towards the sideline the next player begins the drill. Players then switch lines. I like to have coaches with the balls at the top as it allows players to get the maximum number of reps and keeps them in a defensive mindset throughout all three defensive stations.
Defensive Station #3: Boxing Out, Pursuing and Rebounding
The next drill progression deals with the actions that need to take place after an offensive player shoots the basketball; boxing out, pursuing and rebounding. Again there are a million rebounding drills out there today. Just make sure the one that you pick, you hold your athletes accountable for each of the three phases; correct box outs, a quick purse and rebounding with two hands.
Because defense is so habitual I recommend incorporating these three stations into your everyday practice plan. What I have done with my teams, is after a 10 minute warm up which focuses on passing and dribbling we put our team through a 5-10 minute dynamic stretching routine. My assistant(s) would then get the defensive stations started. Typically, we would do all three stations as a team at one basket. This is primarily because I only have one assistant coach. After two minutes we would transition to the next station. It is important, that coaches are high energy during these six to seven minutes! After the three stations we would move into some sort of shell drill which would be the first “live” thing we did as a team. Early on in the season, our shell would emphasize the basic jump to the ball rotations. However, once we have progressed we might emphasize stopping dribble penetration or collapsing on the post. Again, the goal of these stations is to build strong habits in practice so that once its game time these movements are second nature.
Written By Dave Stricklin
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