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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Talking On Defense

Talking on defense might be the second most important or effective skill you can use to become a better defensive team. Nothing replaces strong defensive fundamentals, but talk can help your team in at least two ways;

1) Communication between your players will let your players know what is going on behind them, and how they should play their man. If the defender on the ball hears his teammate talking to the ball “I have help at baseline” he knows he can play his man a little closer and force in that direction.

2) There is an intimidation factor that stunts some teams. If a player with the ball hears a help defender talking to the ball “I have help at the elbow”, then they might be less likely to attack the elbow, knowing it’s covered.

However I question the way we teach talk on defense. A lot of noise coming from 5 players to my thinking is not useful. It’s just noise. It’s the difference between hearing and listening.

If the ball defender is screaming “ball ball ball”, can they really listen to their teammates instructions?

Also can they really be effective in covering their man if they are so focused on yelling “ball ball ball”?

If the ball defender is yelling “ball ball ball” and 3 or 4 other teammates are yelling “deny deny deny”, where is the useful information for the ball defender. Do you really think the ball defender can hear and distinguish all the different players yelling “deny” and even if they could, would it be useful information? Would they know where each of their teammates are when they are yelling deny, and would they be able to process that information quickly. Compare that, to these instructions;

Elbow help Sean
Baseline help Eric
Open post Colin

Some will argue that yelling “ball ball ball” will have a negative effect on the player with the ball. I’d like to suggest that, it is really not the case, check your game tape. If it does have an effect, then my guess is your playing against younger teams, and I’ve even seen referees ask teams to refrain from that behaviour, because at a certain age they find it doesn’t fit with fair play rules.

Some will say, yelling “ball ball ball” triggers or initiates the rest of our defenders to play in a certain style or position. I would suggest, that of all your players, playing up on the ball with pressure is the one thing, that we all want as coaches. It’s really a given or a standard, so calling “ball” is more chatter than useful information. The rest of your team are behind the ball. They can see the ball and their man, it’s really the players behind the ball that should inform the ball defender how to play, and let him/her know, that they have support.

I think the key to developing your defensive language is to get rid of useless chatter, and replace it with information packed key words or phrases. John Wooden would run drills in this fashion and I have tried to adopt this behaviour when running drills. Teach the principles you want to be emphasized in your drill, then when the drill is running, you simply call out words that reflect those principles, when they are not being done; “catch two hands”, “run lanes wide” etc. This same principle can be applied to developing a defensive language.

I would suggest the first thing you need to do is develop a defensive language for your team. Short quick phrases or words or sound packets that are rich with information. The language of course should be built to reflect your defensive principles. Whatever you want to do with your defense, then come up with short phrases or words that communicate these principles.

Getting players to communicate! If you have coached youth boys, then you know this is always a struggle. How do I get them to do talk? I searched long and hard for an answer to this puzzle. I went around from sport to sport, team to team looking for players that were good at this skill and asked them how they developed their ability to communicate effectively. Usually what I found out was that player was a coach’s son or daughter, or they were a natural team leader and the concept came easily to them. So I decided to do what I did for any other skill. I scored it and had consequences for not doing it. For e.g. if you are in a shell drill, score defensive talk, as well as rebounds, or paint touches. Apply a consequence for not doing it. Just like in lay-up drills if a player misses, I have them automatically go to a safe place to do 10 push-ups before they get back in the drill. There is motivation to get back in the drill because we are also scoring team makes. Apply the same technique to a missed defensive instruction. I think you’ll find it works.