Teaching Your Defensive Philosophy

This post was submitted by Coach Tom Kelsey.  Coach Kelsey has been a Head Coach at Belhaven University, Faulkner University, and Greater Atlanta Christian High School.  He has also been an assistant at LSU, Alabama, Murray State, and Lipscomb.  He played at Lipscomb under Coach Don Meyer.

Does your team have a defensive identity?

Do your players know what you want on the defensive end of the floor?

Can you quickly state what you want your team to be known for on the defensively?

What defensive concepts will help put your team in the best position to win your league?

All these questions you need to answer when putting together your defensive philosophy.

Taking ideas from years of coaching and finding how respected coaches teach their teams.

Here is a list I have used with my teams and it helps remind me as a coach the areas we need to concentrate on for each game and practice.


Defensive Philosophy

  1. Transition

As soon as the ball changes hands (made shot, missed shot, turnover) we are sprinting back to half court to pick up our defensive assignment. Whether man or zone, we make every defensive transition a sprint to half court. Once we get to half court, our next immediate job  is to find the person we are guarding. If we are in a zone, our job is to pick up shooters in our defensive area.

  1. Stop the Ball

It is the point guard’s responsibility to stop the ball from getting into a penetration area (inside the three-point area). Off the break, we are going to keep our opponent outside the three-point line.

  1. Pressure the Ball

Once a team enters into their offensive set or motion offense, we will keep an extreme amount of pressure on the basketball. We do not want the offensive at any time to be able to pick apart our defense. Point guards will pick up the ball from the half court area and all other players are to keep pressure on their man if they have the ball within 25 feet of the basket.

  1. Contain the Dribble

Players will keep the ball in front of them. Containing the dribble is a key component to us having success on the defensive end of the floor. We have to each be able to contain the dribble by being aware of how close we can guard the offensive player.

  1. Deny the next penetrating pass

We will have a hand in the passing lane when the player we are guarding is the next possible receiver and they are a penetrating pass away. Our goal is to deny each penetrating pass for the player with the ball.

  1. Helpside defense

Our ball side defense will make us tough and our help side defense will make us great. Our defense each possession is a team defense. We have a particular player to guard, but we will guard them as a team. Each player must be ready and willing to rotate spots as the ball changes positions on the floor. We will not allow easy drives to the basket in our half-court defense.

  1. Fronting the Post

We teach each post player to defend the post. When the ball is above the baseline, we will front on the high side. When the ball gets to the baseline, we will rotate our position and guard from the low side. We never want to be directly behind a post player unless our scouting report dictates that is the only way we can guard that particular post player.

  1. Doubling the Post

We will double in the post from different areas of the floor. Depending on the player and the opposing team, we will double from different areas of the floor. We will never double the post leaving a shooter open on the floor.

  1. Guarding Screens

Our way of guarding screens will vary from game to game depending on the opponent. We will start the season by not switching any screens in the post or on the perimeter that are away from the ball.

  1. Guarding Ball screens

On ball screens, we will work on switching the screen, going on top of the screen and staying with our man and we will work on trapping the ball screen.

  1. Closing Out

We will contest each shot taken by our opponent. Each day we will work on our closeout position and stance. We will sprint half way to the opponent then break down in a defensive stance using short chopping steps to closeout. Our weight will be back and our hands will always be up with one hand contesting the shot. We will leave our feet each time to closeout on the shot.

  1. Block out and Rebound

We take pride in making sure to have a good block out each time an opponent takes a shot from the field or free throw line. Our goal is to give our opponent only one shot each time they come down the floor. Once the ball comes off the rim or backboard, we want to put the basketball under the chin with our elbows out.


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