Monday, October 22, 2012

Helping Teach Help Defense: Rethinking Defense

I believe that this is one of the most important posts I've written. We all believe that Defense is important. We all agree "Defense Wins Championships". I would take that a step farther and say that Great Help Defense is what wins Championships. Let's face it. Help Defense isn't very fun. It's the Offensive Lineman of Basketball. You don't know something is wrong until its done something negative to bring attention to itself. The more trained eye will recognize good help but for most part we take it for granted. It's either there or not there. Fact is help defense is where mental toughness and playing present  on the defensive end come it to play because it's in the shadow.You have to be mentally engaged. It's not the focus of play.  Help defenders make or break the defensive possession

In this post, let's look at more than the positioning of the help defender. I'm guilty of this and I'd wager most of you are too. When we are in Shell Drill, we teach when the ball is here, help defenders go here. When the ball moves, you move. That's great and it really is the foundation of great defense. Being in the right spot at the right time. But what do we teach our players to do in help? Most players would answer "I'm here to protect the basket, stop a drive and say Help, Help over and over until I get to move into deny or ball defense." How can we as coaches get the most out of our help defenders? Is being in help enough? Here are a couple of ideas that I've picked up and have spent some time thinking on. Some of these you'll like; some you already do and some will not be what you want. Either way, Let's think about help defense together. Here we go...

#1 Help with Your Inside Foot on Post or Non-Driving Player
As discussed earlier, I believe that positioning is the foundation of any defensive position, especially help-defense. Let's look deeper at the position. A defender helps with the inside foot. (Inside foot = foot closest to the action). When most think of help defense they immediately picture shell drill- ball in the corner - defender head under the basket "guns"up. (Teaching Point: Help Defense has to be a mentality for the entire floor, not just under the basket) Teach defenders to "jab" at the ball. This rule goes for defenders in deny position and more than one pass away. This action causes the ball-handler to prepare for and focus on the rest of the defense as well.
Even if you are not a trapping team, causing your opponent's players to think you are by jabbing at the ball will lead to unease for their players. Players only jab with their inside foot. When the ball is in the post, the same rule applies. The defender "digs" or jabs down on the post player to cause the offensive player to pick the dribble up.
Only the Inside Foot. If the defender helps with both feet you might as well go ahead and trap. Helping with the inside foot allows the defender to help without giving up positioning.

#2 Up not Over
When a defender is in help on a drive, they must help up and not over. We've all said "Step over and take a charge." Change that to "Step up and take the charge." Imagine it. Player with the ball driving, help defender slides over Offensive player stops and makes a pass for a kick-out 3 while two of your defenders stand their hopelessly watching. (Hopefully they at least block out). Coaches have done a very good job of teaching players to stop and kick. We have to find a way to counter that. The answer is up. I use this analogy a lot. "If you fall down, I'm not going to run to you but stop about 2 steps from you and ask if you need help. I'm going to get to you." The same is for help defense on a drive. Don't get close; Get there.

(Teaching Point: Help Diagonal. Step Diagonally in front of the Offensive player driving.) When you are helping on a player driving the help-defender must make contact. As described before, stopping the drive isn't enough. The defense has to find a way to not allow a kick-out for a clean 3. When the defender helps, He has to step up into the drive, with outside hand out to attempt to deflect the kick-out pass. There has to be a collision. If they drive, someone has to hit the deck.

#3 Don't Over-Help
Only help when help is needed. After that statement some of you said to yourself "Help is ALWAYS needed." I'd agree that being in the position to help is always needed but you only help when needed. Scenario: Offense is in a 5 out set. Player on wing dribbles towards the player at the top of the key and that defender slides up and over to stop the ball giving up a back door cut. Why? (Teaching Point: Help Only to Protect the Rim) Earlier in point #1 I mentioned teaching jabbing and digging at the ball. This keeps pressure on the ball but doesn't give up position. Too many times players will help when it's not necessary. I wrote a post earlier on Defending the Dribble Drive. One of the teaching points of the the DDM Offense is to drive to create help for passes out and away from help. Defenders should be in a position to help but ONLY  help when it protects the rim. This stops unnecessary kick out 3s.

I hope this helps you when you're teaching help defense. Take this and use it with your defensive philosophy to make for a strong defense this season. I'd like to hear from you at