Coaches Network: Breaking Pressure, Reducing Turnovers
All teams will be working on the basics when practices begin this season. But coaches need to prepare for all game situations. With that in mind, here is this week’s question for the USA Basketball Coaches Network:
Particularly early in a season, what are some principles and concepts that youth coaches can use to break pressure defense to reduce turnovers?
Eric Flannery, head coach, St. Edward High School (Ohio)
Coaches at all levels can use very similar principles and concepts to break pressure. There are a few key areas in which you need to attack but also key concepts to follow when handling pressure. The key concepts would be to always have your eyes "up the floor" -- seeing what's in front of you and seeing who is open.
Also, players should be taught at an early age to pass the ball effectively in order to beat most pressure defenses. We do many drills that incorporate both dribbling with eyes up the floor and breaking pressure without dribbling at all. The other concept we put a significant amount of time into is "meeting" or “running through" passes that are thrown to you. So many turnovers are caused by the receiver of the ball not coming to meet the pass strong --- allowing the defensive player to step in and steal it. All are important to handling pressure effectively.
The principle we stick to against most pressure is always having a person on the sideline, in the middle, and behind the ball for a reversal. No matter what pressure we are seeing (man, diamond, 2-2-1, half court), we always have players on the sideline, in the middle, and behind the ball. When planning your strategies to beat pressure, the best advice is to have that triangle approach to attacking it -- always think “sideline, middle, reverse.”
Don Showalter, head coach, Iowa City High School (Iowa)
The ability to break pressure defenses is something that needs to be worked on daily from early in the season. I found that it was usually easier and more productive to play pressure defense early in the season, as many teams did not work against pressure defense. The key offensively for a team is to have several very good ball handlers and passers on the floor to break pressure. Learning to keep the head up while breaking pressure is crucial along with keeping the dribble alive while finding an open teammate. This dribbler must be able to back up the dribble to create space and to make the pass. Another key is to always have three options available for the passer -- a pass to the middle of the floor, a pass straight down from the ball handler and a pass back to a teammate. This helps to break the pressure.
The practice situations must be set up to break traps and pressure defense so the players learn how to attack the pressure defense and it’s not new to them when they get into game situations. Passing drills while being closely guarded or passing out of double teams are examples of drills that can be used in practices.
Sue Phillips, head coach, Archbishop Mitty High School (Calif.)
There are two areas in which coaches can prepare their teams to counter defensive pressure: 1) drilling certain fundamentals; and 2) integrating pressure release schemes within your system. Individual defensive pressure can be thwarted through mastering ball skill fundamentals. In particular, executing ball handling drills and passing routines with heavy ball pressure and contact. Be sure the players are equally skilled with both hands by getting reps of ball skills on both sides of the floor. A simple but effective passing technique is to always have your players “fake a pass to make a pass.” The receiver of the pass must likewise create a lead with a v-cut and he/she should always meet the pass with two hands.
As defensive pressure relates to a trapping double team, drill the options of attacking two defenders. A dribble “crab-out” into a pass or into turning the corner on the slower defender are both effective ways to handle a perimeter double team. If trapped in a dead-ball situation, drill the skill of chinning the basketball to split the double-team with a step-through pass. If a post is doubled at the low block, teammates should communicate “double” and the post player should skip pass to the weak-side diagonal wing.
Another way coaches can help their team counter defensive pressure is to incorporate schemes or strategies to relieve pressure. For example, creating an offensive situation in which there is on-ball action of a post setting an on-ball for a guard (“big on small” on-ball screen). A systematic pressure release also involves back cuts. A general rule is to utilize a dribble entry whereby offensive player dribbles at their teammate on the wing, triggering a back cut. In addition, within your press breakers integrate a ball reversal trailer commonly dubbed a “point forward.” This post player has size and decision-making skills to see and pass over traffic and/or the handles to attack the pressure off the bounce.
Coaches should also remind their players to avoid dribbling into corners and picking up their dribble. This is an automatic trapping read for defenses. We also teach our players to avoid “two-point turnovers.” For example, when trapped and no alternative for a pressure release, the lesser of two evils is to take the five count. We never want to force a pass that's an automatic two points for our opponent. Remember to regularly drill the ball skills and incorporate offensive schemes to effectively handle defensive pressure – the ball is golden … value it!
Brian Robinson, head coach, Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School (N.C.)
Teaching young players how to break pressure while reducing turnovers can be challenging. When pressured, most young players like to put their heads down and try to out-race the defender up the court, which typically leads them into the corners of the court or into tough areas to make a pass. Working on changing speeds with the ball can help ease pressure.
A couple of other ways to help young players be successful against aggressive defensive pressure is to teach them the value of passing instead of dribbling, ball-faking before passing, and how to create passing lanes for the ball-handler by making various types of cuts like the 'V' or 'L' cut. Also, teaching players to screen in the back court for players that are dribbling is a way to relieve some pressure on the ball.
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