(English) Coach’s should make sure that each of their players knows:

  • Whether their opponent is right or left handed;
  • Whether their opponent is a “post” or “perimeter” player;
  • Whether their opponent is a “driver” or a “shooter”;
  • Whether their opponent prefers to move to their left or right (which is different to whether they are right or left handed);
  • Whether or not they have help responsibilities (when defending a good perimeter shooter they may stay closer to their opponent and not play to the “help line”);
  • What role their opponent plays within the opponent’s offence (e.g. screener, shooter) and any specific plays that the team uses involving them (e.g. they may cut off staggered screens or set ball screen and “pop”).

Many of these attributes are tendencies only and in any given possession the opponent may act contrary to the coach’s expectation. Based upon these tendencies they coach may instruct their defender to take specific action.

For example:

  • Close-out “short” on a “driver” and deny their preferred side to dribble;
  • Go “over” ball screens if a player is an excellent perimeter shooter but go “under” if they tend to drive;
  • “Hedge” off their opponent but do not move to the “help” line if they are a strong perimeter shooter.

Whatever tactic is determined for the individual player must also fit within the overall defensive scheme. For example, if the individual player is instructed to “fully front” their opponent in the low post, this will be most efficient if both help defence behind (to intercept a lob pass) and also high pressure on the perimeter passer.

The coach must judge how much information to provide to each of their players as too much information may be confusing. With less experienced players the coach may re-inforce what they want their defender to do (e.g. deny the ball, go over screens) and not provide too much information about the opponent’s tendencies. With more experienced players the coach may provide information about the opponent’s tendencies but leave it to the player as to how they wish to defend. The amount of information to be provided will very much depend upon the individual player.

Obviously, the tactics a coach employs with individual defenders depends upon their skill level and knowledge. It is important that the coach teach all players offensive and defensive skills on the perimeter and in the post. However, the coach can also set a challenge for their player, based upon an outcome.

For example, the coach may instruct their player to force the dribbler to their left, without giving specific teaching points, leaving it to the player as to how they will force that result. This can particularly be employed during a game in response to what an opponent is doing in that game.