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4 Must Have Team Defenses


It is no secret that players are made during the offseason. It is here that they can focus on improving specific skills that could potentially redefine who they are as an athlete. Like great players who take advantage of this period of time, great coaches do the same. Because the game is drastically evolving, coaches who do not continue to improve each offseason run the risk of being left behind.

A few years ago, I had a coach email me about wanting to know what he needed to improve on in order to take his team to that next step. After an email or two, we pinpointed that defense should be his off-season’s priority. This coach’s problem was not his lack of knowledge but rather a lack of philosophy.

When I asked what kind of defenses his team runs he answered that they primarily were a man to man team. However, when diving deeper, I found out that this coach has not only implemented but devoted a considerable amount of practice time to each of his team’s 6 defenses; man to man, 2-3 zone, 1-2-2 zone, 1-3-1 trap, run and jump press and a zone press.

The two main problems with having six defenses implemented is that A) its difficult to get good at all six, so instead you’re left with 6 mediocre schemes and B) running 6 types of defenses takes a ton of practice time, which could otherwise be spent improving other facets of your team.

Team Defenses

In order to maximize practice time, maximize player potential and maximize team results, coaches should only have 4 types of defenses in.

Defense #1: Half Court Man to Man

Perhaps the greatest benefit of implementing a man to man defensive scheme is its ability to improve individual defenders. No matter what type of defense you run, your player’s will have to be able to A) guard the ball and B) protect the basket. By breaking down each aspect of man to man defense you can improve your players’ stance, close outs, ball pressure, boxing out and spacing. These individual skills will certainly carry over and improve the other types of defenses your team executes.

Defense #2: A Full Court Press

The next type of defense that your team needs is that of a full court press. Pressing allows teams to not only control the tempo of the game but it also provides opportunities to create turnovers which could result in easy baskets.

When selecting which type of press to utilize you should first ask yourself two questions:

  •             What is your primary objective with the press?
  •             Are you more comfortable teaching man or zone?

Depending on how you answer those two questions you’ll have a variety of schemes to choose from including: man to man, a run and jump press, 1-2-1-1 zone press and 2-2-1 zone press.

Defense #3: Coach’s Philosophy

The two defenses above should be a staple in every coach’s philosophy. The third type of defense should be determined by what the head coach is most comfortable teaching as well as what type of defense meets the team’s overall goals. Examples of these include: 2-3 matchup zone, 1-1-3 Ameba or 1-3-1 trapping defense.

Remember the rule of 30. If you cannot see your team running this type of defense for at least 30% of your team’s defensive possessions, you are wasting your practice time working on it!

Defense #4: A Timeout Twist

Lastly, all coaches need to have at least one go-to wrinkle that they can throw at the opposing team coming out of a timeout. A popular scheme is to double the post. Because the rotations for this are similar for both a man and zone defense, it is an easy to implement but effective wrinkle!

Written By Dave Stricklin

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