Along with skills, teamwork, and organization, basketball motivation is exceptionally important for any team wanting to win consistently. The question for coaches is: how do we motivate in our basketball training?
Coaching basketball means more than teaching how to shoot, how to pass, and how to dribble. It also means getting players to give their best, all the time, every time. And on defense, that’s not always so easy.
Scoring and assisting brings the spotlight, but playing solid defense usually doesn’t. So how do we motivate our players to play great defense?
The Importance of Defense
The offense wins games, defense wins championships. It’s a well-used quote, but I believe it is true. Good defense will keep you in the game when your offense won’t.
It will make up for a poor shooting night or help you recover from an offensive violation. Getting players focused on defense will make them more aggressive, which will translate to the offense as well, and will gain the respect of their opposition.
Getting your Players to Love Defense
You need to sell it. Scorers get the highlight reels, passers, and ballhandlers get the crowd reaction – what does the good defense get? You’ve got to show its importance in how you run your practices and how you recognize your players’ efforts.
- Start pre-season practices with a focus on individual defensive skills – At the beginning, you can even spend more time on defense than on offense. As you move into pre-season and in-season practices, continue to include some defensive focus in every practice
- Teach communication and teamwork as part of defense – Even playing man-to-man, defense isn’t played alone. Players need to talk to each other, to tell each other what is happening around them. Is there a pick coming? Do they fight through the pick or do they switch? Do they need help? They need to communicate and act as a team on defense.
- Recognize good defensive play – Have “Defensive Player of the Game” awards and “Defensive Player of the Season” awards. Have local media and the school newspaper spotlight good defensive play. If you tape your games and then review them with the team the day after for good points and places to improve (can be time-consuming but very effective) be sure to replay a particularly good defensive play and highlight what the player did well. Make your defenders stars.
- Promote defense – Around the gym and locker room, display signs and posters with quotes on defense from famous players and coaches. Write articles for the team website or school newspaper on the importance of defense and tricks to playing it. Assign a defensive captain to lead and motivate players on defense during games and even practices. And use your cheerleaders to get the crowd into the game by chanting “Defense! Defense! Defense!”
Remind your players that you will need to play more players if everyone is playing tough defense (it is exhausting), which means more players see floor time.
Also remind them that there is room on every team for a good defensive player, whether in high school or college.
There are plenty of reasons for players to improve their defensive abilities, but in the end, it’s really about shutting down your opponent and the feeling of personal accomplishment that comes with doing that.
When coaching basketball motivation is key to building a good defense. Get your players excited about playing good defense, teach them well, and then recognize their efforts. That’s how you take one more step closer to that championship.