This article was written by Basketball HQ Co-Founder Kyle Ohman.
Why do the majority of basketball players dislike defensive basketball drills or playing defense? Is it too hard, boring, not fun, etc.? The reason is not because it is too difficult or too boring; it is because of the players’ mindset.
When a player hears “time to practice defense,” he immediately assumes the worst because his mind has been conditioned over the years not to enjoy defense. As a basketball coach, it is crucial to try and break this idea of defense being negative in the player’s mind. If you can start to change this mindset and create a culture of defensive pride, you will start to see something special happen within your basketball program. Here are some great ways to develop this type of defensive mindset within your program.
Defensive Basketball Pride
For a team to be good at defense, they need to enjoy it and want to practice it. There needs to be a sense of pride in each player’s defense. It is the coach’s job to change the negative mindset and replace it with a positive one. Defense in basketball should be exciting because it is a chance for your team to win games and potentially championships! It is a chance for a player who struggles on offense to get more playing time by playing great defense. These are all things that a coach needs to be preaching daily.
How do you begin to change the mindset of the team, though? For the players to buy into this concept, the coach needs to especially work on the best players. These are the team leaders, and if they begin to enjoy defense, then the rest of the team will follow. Don’t allow your best players to slack off on defense just because they can score points on the other end; hold them accountable, and the rest of the team will follow.
The coach needs to make a conscious effort to reward good defensive plays like charges, deflections, high hands, etc. This is how you let your players know what you value. It is important that you create a standard of what you are looking for and then reinforce your expectations. Whether it is doing basketball drills that focus on defense in practice or playing defense in a game, you need to be reinforcing what you expect from your players. Be careful not to promote bad habits, though, like reaching for steals or trying to block every shot. This will get your players in foul trouble and usually leads to easy baskets for the other team.
Basketball Team Defense
Basketball coaches should stress that it is just as important to lock your man down on defense as it is to score on him. There should be a team concept where each player is willing to help their teammate if they are beaten and need help.
People always talk about ball hogs and how different players are selfish on the offensive end of the court. However, many people don’t realize that a player can be just as selfish on defense. Players that don’t communicate, aren’t in the help, don’t rotate, etc., are either willingly or unwillingly defensively selfish. As a coach, you must constantly be preaching help defense and being there for a teammate. No defender should feel like they are on an island defensively.
For a defender to guard to the best of his ability, he/she needs to know that there is help behind them, and the helper needs to know that there is help behind them. This is a fun style of defense if you can get your players to buy into the idea of being unselfish and selling out for each other.
It is the coach’s job to generate excitement around the concept of defense. There are many different styles and philosophies about defense. Still, whether it is a man-to-man defense, a 2-3 zone defense, or a full-court press, players need to be excited about defense to have a truly great defense in basketball. It all starts with the mindset.