Building Confidence in Your Defense

This entry is part 1 of 20 in the series Practice

We have had significant discussion on this blog about the tangible parts of the Read & React. We’ve talked about different layers, different fundamentals, and how to teach these concepts and skills.  We have also talked about integrating offensive and defensive concepts in building a complete system. There are a lot more of things that we have yet to discuss.  Those are coming.

I think it’s important that we also talk about the intangible side of offense and defense and how the Read & React can mentally impact a team on both ends of the floor. As coaches we must be cognoscente of our players’ psyche and how the Read and React can have an impact on how they think especially when it comes to playing against other teams.

There are numerous qualities that make the R&R hard to guard.  Even in the early stages of implementing the offense, the unpredictability of the offense keeps defensive players on their toes. They can’t predict the actions of the ball handler or cutters.  They must always be ready to help on the drive.  They must always be ready to get hit on a screen.  They must be ready to defend the backdoor cut.  They can’t take a break defensively.  This is good for training your defense, right?  I think so.

Now if you spend 90% of your practices emphasizing offense, this might not be a big deal to you. However, the purpose of this blog is to describe how offense and defense can be taught together. This is a result of the importance and emphasis we place on defense. While we want to score, we believe that winning championships is really all about being able to keep the other team from scoring. We teach, preach, and emphasize defense.  This defense is playing against the Read & React every day.

If you run the Read & React, you don’t play offense the way a lot of other teams play offense.  It’s not about the play or the set.  It’s a different style.  As a result, your defense is challenged in a whole new way.  As coaches, we must use this to our advantage.  We must use this to encourage our players. We must remind them that we will be as hard to guard as anyone we face.  Especially with the constant attacking mentality that we impress upon our team, if we can guard ourselves, we have to believe we can guard anybody.

We must emphasize that we play defense the way we want to play defense.  We cannot let our offense dictate how we play defense.  If we do, we will not play defense confidently.  We must demand that we play defense the way we want to play defense even though the offense will likely expose the defense regularly. We must be reminded and we must remind our players that good offense will almost always beat good defense.

We always tell our offense to keep attacking.  We must constantly encourage our players to do the same defensively.  We cannot let offensive success in practice dictate our defensive mindset.  If you get beat off the dribble, work hard to not let it happen next time.  If you got hit on a back screen because your teammate didn’t call it, then get it right next time.  If you get beat back door, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be in the passing lane if that’s how we’re going to play.

We have to remember that we’re trying to guard players in a system that’s very challenging to defend.  While we hold our players to a high standard when defending ourselves, we must also remind them that most other teams systems will not be as hard to guard as this one. Of course the other teams’ systems are made up of different players.  Guarding those players may be more difficult, but their systems are more predictable.  Many of them will be tied to their set or their play.  We can use this to our advantage and maybe negate or at least lessen a personnel disadvantage.

Playing against the R&R on a daily basis can cause defensive players to play tentatively.  We must demand that players play defense the way we want to play it even through the challenges that our offense creates.

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