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Building Clarity with Defensive Puzzle Pieces

By November 2, 2018 No Comments

Recently I wrote a piece that I’ve now sent to hundreds of coaches. It’s titled, “88 Defensive Concepts and Terms” and came as a surprising result from an opportunity to work with some hard playing high school athletes last spring. Last March 26 players signed up for a “Defense Only” month of improvement at our AFES Gym in Fort Dodge. Yes, if you are like most you are saying, “No Way.”
For 12 hours we started from scratch, starting with the most elementary concepts and built a defense day by day.
I wanted to see if the players could see the defensive end of the floor like a puzzle.
What I learned was amazing.
They went from clueless to knowing all 88 items by the end. I gave them a paper quiz and 12 hours of verbal quizzing.
They actually “saw” the why, what, how, when, and how hard aspects of defense and the picture was “clear” to them by the end of that month.
In all my years it was one of the most gratifying experiences and frankly, I was as surprised as I’ve been in my career.

Actually the main reason this happened is 1) 26 kids wanted to become better players on the defensive end and increase their IQ, understanding, and clarity of what defense looked like. 2) I planned everything out prior to the beginning of the event. Although I didn’t know if I could accomplish my ultimate goal, I knew what that goal was. Every piece we worked on had a direct application to some part of defense and the key was for me to teach in a way to get players to see what each piece was on its own, but even better, how pieces begin to fit perfectly together. The more this happened, much like when constructing a 1000 piece puzzle, some areas come into focus early, some in the middle, and some late, but progressively, the picture as a whole is becoming clearer and clearer every day.

Players asked before the event told me essentially that they would do the same things they had done the previous.
And, when asked what practice was like, they said it was just a list of drills their coach had them do…..one after another after another. From pressing, to free throws, to motion offense, to rebounding, to……………there was no synergy of activity that was preparing the team for improvement and for the next game.

By no means do I want to make it seem like I’m saying that HS coaches, or any coach for that matter, doesn’t coach the right way. They coach “their” way, just as I do. But, when I see things over and over I tend to make generalizations about what is being taught in HS’s, in travel ball settings, and in youth ball.

I have 20 years of college players coming into our program ill-prepared for their first practice from an effort and execution standpoint, and defensively, a lack of “clarity” of what defense is. If that’s the case, then I can speak about the teaching the average college player is getting. I earned that right.

I hope you will read this email and attachment in earnest. This is one of my skills; the ability to construct the “whole” then divide it up into tangible parts that all fit into the whole like a glove. To me, that’s coaching.

Randy Brown

About Randy Brown