In order to get players to concentrate on the defensive principles that you believe in and to develop the proper habits, try the following drill. We ask the players to play three perfect defensive possessions. The length of the possession is determined by our playing style. If for example, the opposition’s average possession is 17 seconds against our defense, we ask the players to play perfect defense for three times that length or 51 seconds.

We demand that they execute three perfect 51 second defensive possessions. During each possession every coach is watching for a defensive mistake. Be picky. Stress the principles that you believe are important whether that be jumping to the ball on a pass, keeping the ball out of the lane, trapping the post, helping the helper or anything else that you believe in. If a coach sees a mistake, that possession must start over again at 51 seconds. If the defense causes a turnover you can reward the defense by running 5 seconds off of the clock, restart the possession and run the clock from that point. If the offense takes a bad or contested shot and the defense gets the rebound, we just stop the clock and then resume the possession and run the clock from that point. If the offense scores, takes an uncontested shot, or gets a rebound, then the clock is reset at 51 seconds. We continue until we have played three perfect 51 second possessions.

In this way we are stressing, without any doubt, what we believe is important defensively to our success. We have found this to be very helpful. Players will focus on what you think is important. They will communicate better in order to avoid confusion. This drill will also show you who your leaders are. The leaders will step up and make players accountable for their mistakes. While players may understand that defense is important, they aren’t particularly fond of playing defense for long periods of time. The players will be motivated to complete this drill in as little time as possible.

This is one of the ideas in our 130 Great Ideas Practice e-book.

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