Basketball & Defense: It’s All About Effort
By: Matt Brocker, B.S., C.S.C.S
Defense wins championships. We have all heard the saying but do we believe it is true? I often ask my basketball athletes what they think is the most important aspect of the sport and I receive a wide range of answers. They say shooting, passing, and ball handling. Rarely do I hear the response I am looking for; defense. Defense is the one component of basketball that is most determined by your effort. How hard are you willing to work? How much pride do you take in shutting down your opponent? How much do you want to win? If you want to be a great defensive basketball player these are the questions you need to be asking yourself.
Another question I like to ask my athletes is who their favorite professional basketball player is. I ask this question for two reasons; first, I want to know more about my athletes and their interests. Secondly, I want to see what type of basketball players they admire. I find it interesting that the answers I hear are always the same: Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant. Stars of the NBA who consistently lead the league in scoring. On the other hand, defensive minded players such as Ron Artest (2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 2x NBA First Team Defense), Serge Ibaka (2012 NBA First Team Defense, league leader in blocked shots), and Tyson Chandler (2012 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 2x NBA Second Team Defense) gain little recognition by fans, but are key factors in making their respective teams successful. Without these guys doing the dirty work and playing their role on the team, the stars of the league would not have the chance to be as great as they are.
The one thing that all great defensive players have in common is effort. Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden was a great coach for many reasons but most importantly because he got the absolute best effort out of all his players. Wooden stated, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” These words ring true in all walks of life but especially in sports where dedication and hard work will always be the main components of a great athlete.
Being a great defender starts with your defensive stance. The defensive stance is one of the most fundamental elements of basketball and should be given a lot of attention. Visually, your defensive stance should look as follows: feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, arms extended out to your sides, butt down and chest tall in an athletic position. While in your stance you should always be on the balls of your feet ready to react to any move your opponent makes. Focus on keeping your arms long and active to discourage passing lanes and make yourself a bigger defender. Take the time to practice these defensive techniques and you will be on your way to becoming a great defender.
Defense is not always fun, it certainly isn’t flashy, and it probably wont get you the team MVP award. However, great defense is something that will consistently win games, earn you playing time, and gain praise and recognition from coaches at any level of competition. So if you want to be a great basketball player that helps your team be successful don’t just worry about being a great shooter, dribbler, or dunker. Instead, focus on being great at preparing, practicing, and giving maximum effort every time you step on the court. Because, in the words of John Wooden, “Effort is the ultimate measure of success.”