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 mindset of the players.
When a player hears, “Time to practice defense” he immediately assumes the worst because his mind has been conditioned over the years to not enjoy defense. As a coach it is very important to try and break this idea of defense being a negative in the players mind. If you can start to change this mindset and create a culture of defensive pride, you will start to see something really special happen within your program. Here are some great ways to develop this type of defensive mindset within your program.
In order for a team to be good at defense they need to enjoy it and want to practice it. There needs to be that sense of pride in each individual 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 that is struggling on offense to get more playing time by playing great defense. These are all things that a coach needs to be preaching on a daily basis.
How does the basketball coach begin to change the mindset of the team? In order for the players to buy in to this concept, the coach needs to especially work on the best players. These are the leaders of the team, 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 such as; 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 everyday in practice and games. 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 lead to easy baskets for the other team.
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 beat and need help.
People always talk about ball hogs and how different players are selfish on the offensive end of the court. However, a lot of people don’t realize that a player can be just as selfish on defense as well. 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 be constantly preaching help defense and being there for a teammate. No defender should feel like they are on an island defensively.
In order for a defender to be able 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 as well. 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 an excitement around the concept of defense. There are many different styles and philosophies about defense, but whether it is a man to man, 2-3, or full court press; the players need to be excited about defense in order to have a truly great defense. It all starts with the mindset.