Attacking Pressure in the Opening Rounds of the Tournament

UMMarch Madness doesn’t disappoint does it? There’s a little something for everyone – amazing finishes, Cinderella upsets, touching personal stories, and for all of us – players, coaches, and fans, a grab bag of lessons to draw from.  After the pre-tournament hype about the pressure defenses played by teams like Louisville and VCU, I went into this past weekend looking to see how teams would deal with pressure and it reinforced what I believe as a coach and as a Christian that it’s better to attack pressure than it is to attempt to handle pressure.

BASKETBALL – Attacking Pressure

Three games offer perfect illustrations of dealing with pressure.  Michigan not only has terrific athletes, but John Beilein’s players executed with spacing and press break principles that consistently attacked the heart of VCU’s press.  They stayed on high alert and relied on teamwork to make VCU pay for their Havoc style.  Bruce Pearl broke it down well on ESPN:

 CSUColorado State on the other hand, failed to attack Louisville’s press and put too much responsibility on one or two players to deal with the Cardinals’ relentless pressure.

And finally, a surprise for all of us was watching Florida Gulf Coast surge in the second half against both Georgetown and San Diego State. The Eagles protected their leads by attacking a variety of FGCUdesperate traps.  It’s easy to fall in love with the lob dunks and the three-point bombs of the Eagles, but as you break it down, FGCU used exceptional spacing, proper positioning against traps, and unselfish passing to secure their spot in the Sweet Sixteen.

Going into the tournament, I took a closer look at VCU’s heralded Havoc defense by watching VCU Basketball’s Full Court Press Highlights.  Coaches, take look at these examples and see how your plan would address the situations highlighted in the video.  It’s a helpful exercise, even if you don’t see the type of athletes that Shaka Smart can throw at you!  Here are some basic principles for Attacking Pressure Defenses of any kind:

1. Awareness

2. Coordinated spacing and positioning

3.  Stay away from trouble areas

4.  Attack the defense

My philosophy of attacking pressure has developed from past failures of handling pressure and by learning how other coaches prepare their teams. Many of my teaching points are influenced by hearing former Wake Forest coach, Dave Odom, in several coaching clinics and from watching a young  Sean Miller, Arizona’s head coach, when he first worked on the men’s staff at Wisconsin for Stu Jackson.  Odom taught team principles and how to use a big man like Tim Duncan, while Sean is one of the best I’ve seen at teaching the finer points of point guard play and its role in attacking pressure (Take a quick look at a clip from Miller’s Beating Pressure DVD).  Coaches, check out my notes and diagrams for Attacking Pressure.

LIFE – The pressure that all of us have to handle.

Kara and I are parents of three teenagers.  We feel immense responsibility to teach our kids how to deal with peer pressure.  If we don’t have a plan and if we assume they’ll figure it out for themselves or we push it off to their teachers and coaches, our teens will give in to negative pressure.  Pressure from peers, though, is a challenge for all of us, no matter how old we are.  Retired NFL coach, Tony Dungy is committed to inspiring today’s parents.  Here’s his take on peer pressure:

Just like basketball, use the same concepts to attack peer pressure by staying alert, having a plan, staying away from trouble in the first place, and then going on the attack to deal with it.

FAITH – Christians must have a plan to deal with growing pressure.

Throughout history, Christians have been under attack from the culture they live in.  Don’t kid yourself.  You have to be on guard and you have to be ready and willing to attack that pressure.  As our culture addresses moral issue likes alternative life-styles, abortion, and debt management, each of us will be pressured to accept views contrary to God’s Word.  That shouldn’t be a surprise, however, as we are instructed in 1 Peter 5:8:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Get a plan for attacking that pressure.  Stay in the word and grow in your faith and knowledge and have a reason for the faith that you have.  My friend Brad Alles is devoting his work to helping young people, and the rest of us, develop a plan for defending our faith.  Check out his blog for valuable inspiration and information for attacking the pressures from our society!

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