Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How do we cover that?

Talking with Michelle yesterday, she was concerned about the press break used by our next opponent, Carthage College, currently in first place and undefeated in the league.  I won't go into details of their attack, but Michelle asked me to help her figure out how we should cover the intial cuts.

After experimenting with a few variations, she commented, "Yes, but if we take this away, who will cover that?"  In other words, she was realizing that there is literally no way to guard everyone when using a trapping defense, unless we put six defenders on the floor (which against Carthage might be a good plan.)  "Well, Coach," I replied, "I guess we will just have to figure they are going to break our press, and our job will then be to force them into mistakes via our defensive transition." 

Given that there is no way to cover everyone, new System coaches eventually come to understand that it's what happens after the opponent beats your press that counts.  Are you really sprinting back to recover?  Are players looking for opportunities to back-tap the ball, and/or aggressively pursuing the dribbler? Are defenders running to the lag and middle areas, or are they overly worried about moving back inside the arc to establish a defensive perimenter?  Bottom line: are your really making a point of "attacking from behind?"

These are critical--and often overlooked--defensive concepts.  Most of us think in terms of Xs and Os, and drawing up who covers who on the front of the press is a well-defined situation that we think we can control.  But remember:  for every steal your team generates out of the initial trap, there will be ten situations where the opponent will dribble-escape or pass-escape, and then you must have a recovery plan.  All too often, your kids' plan (unless you teach them otherwise) will be "Oh well, they beat our trap again... I'll guess I'll jog back and hope our safety makes a play." Probably not a great plan. 

The better plan in response to the question, "How do we cover that?" is, "Do the best you can, anticipate and gamble, but accept the reality that you'll get beat most of the time, and when that happens just attack from behind, cover lags and middle, and make something happen!"

Unfortunately, "Attack from behind!" is hard to draw up.

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