Basketball is a team game, which I love, but so often it comes down to the individual. Defense requires a team concept, but so often it comes down to the player. Our team is struggling through some defensive inconsistencies which is reflected in our 6-6 record. We can really score on the offensive end and relentlessly attack the basket, but our opponents are scoring just as much. While we force turnovers and lead our conference in steals, we allow teams to make more shots than they miss. That’s a problem and as we address it, we’re finding that we have to go back to the basics of individual defense – of each defender taking personal responsibility for stopping his man. And while I also believe in the team concept of helping each other to stop the ball, it still begins with each defender stopping the ball. It’s the same kind of accountability we each need in life, but it doesn’t just happen by flipping a switch. The Bible also tells us that God expects us to be accountable as well. I hope that’s a message that our players will hear in the coming weeks, but also internalize in their lives off the court.
BASKETBALL – Defending the ball.
It doesn’t matter which philosophy you subscribe to – Pack-line, Ball Defense, Zones, Trapping, Multiple – teams win when they stop the other team from scoring and the more players you have that can stop their man, the better your chances. Having coached against Geno Auriemma’s Connecticut women’s teams and having observed his practices and clinics over the years, I know one of the factors in his unprecedented success is his relentless expectation that his players be able to stop their man. Everything else like help principles, trapping, and zones stem from that core essential skill. His DVD, 8 Essential Defensive Drills, includes a clinic demonstration he did with a college men’s team that clearly explains his expectations. Watch the clip or find a copy of the DVD. It’s worth your time! Or, thanks to mensbasketballhoopscoop.com, here are Mark Champion’s Geno Auriemma Nike Clinic Notes that provide a glimpse of Geno’s ideas.
One simple drill Auriemma uses will expose weak ball defenders and helps prioritize elements of stopping the ball. It’s helpful to correct each area and progress to mastering all of them. When a player can do that, you have a defender you can rely on. Geno puts one defender in the paint, with two offensive lines on each wing. The player stays on defense for a set amount of stops or until Geno is happy. As the ball is passed to the wing, the priority of focus is:
1. No 3’s – close-out under control, but don’t give up an open 3-point shot.
2. No Middle – chop your feet and with your position prevent the offense from penetrating to the middle.
3. No Lay-Up – once you stop the middle drive, recover to take away a baseline lay-up.
4. No Foul – do it all without fouling!
There’s priority in each of these steps. Defenders should learn to master each point in progression. When they do, you have a reliable, accountable defender who can be part of a successful defensive unit. This idea is comparable to a recent 3PW article on The Compound Effect. Mastering each step at a time will pay off in the long run.
LIFE – Making it personal.
I find myself repeatedly needing to return to the basics and prioritize my life. This world is so demanding and if you left it, it can sweep you up. Being accountable in any area of life gets compromised by the pressure of this world. We get caught up in the demands of jobs, the desire to be significant in the eyes of others, and the materialism that our society promotes. Before you know it, you find accountability gets thrown out the window. It happens when we gossip, when we stretch the truth, and when we make entertainment choices. That’s why it’s important to put yourself on the spot. Make yourself accountable just like a defender in basketball is put on the spot in Geno’s drill. Focus on the priorities and check them off one by one. As our staff ponders how to help our players improve, I checked in with an all-conference player who played his last year of eligibility with us. Mark Pace had all the offensive skills you could want, but his playing time was limited until he bought into our defensive system in one short season. His response to my question was “They have to take it personally.” Don’t we all? The only one accountable for my life is me!
FAITH – God’s call.
Jesus called us all out when He says:
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
It really is that simple. Do what He says. We each need to be accountable for our actions. In every decision, every choice throughout each day of our lives, we have the opportunity to please God or disappoint God. You can’t complain or make excuses. You can’t be arrogant and prideful. You can’t plead ignorance and you can’t be worried about other people rejecting you or exposing you. Each one of us is like the defender in the lane. We either get the job done or we don’t, but throughout scripture we hear this directive from Paul and others:
“So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” (Romans 14:12)
I’m trying to remember that every day. I can’t wait for other people to help me out (although having accountability partners is great advice for all Christians), and I can’t blame others or my circumstances. It’s about me and Jesus. That’s accountability!