- By Jeff Haefner
Whether you're a half or full court defensive team -- it's essential for those FIRST THREE TRANSITION STEPS to be a sprint!
If you can get players sprinting and your defense SET on every possession, you have a chance to be a good defensive team. If your team is slow to react or jogs to spots, you're probably in for a long season.
The first three steps in transition defense are critical -- they must be a sprint.
Now getting ALL your players to sprint on every possession is extremely difficult.
If you allow them, players will walk, jog, or even stand when they are supposed to be sprinting. As a coach, this can be maddening. We've all been there!
To help solve this problem, here's a very simple and effective method to get your players sprinting in transition defense on almost every possession:
Step 1 - Show Them What It Means to Sprint
This is an important step. Most players don't have a clue what it means to sprint back on defense. They think a "fast jog" is good enough. The urgency just isn't there. So you NEED to show them what you really want...
Step 2 - Incorporate Rules Into Scrimmages
Next, you can simply incorporate rules into your scrimmages.
There are dozens of transition defense drills you can run to get your players sprinting. There's nothing wrong with those drills.
However, when it comes to sprinting, I skip those drills to save time. Instead I utilize, "rules" and teach in the context of scrimmages.
Some coaches will scream "sprint" almost every time down the court. This isn't a good long-term solution in my opinion. It might be fine at first. But I'm not a fan of "joy stick coaching" during games -- you know one of those coaches that is hollering what to do every 5 seconds. I think players need to learn good habits and how to make decisions on their own.
To get your players to remember, simply add a rule during your scrimmages. The rule is...
"When the ball transitions to the other team, your first three steps must be a sprint. If not, your team loses 1 point."
This is of course a judgment call by the head or assistant coach. You need to use a little discretion to determine when to deduct points and when not to.
If you see a player standing there for three seconds, that is clearly a point deduction. If there's a split second where they are thinking, and then they remember to sprint, I don't deduct points. I'm mostly looking for "effort" and "awareness".
You also need to be sure to let players know when they lose points. This immediate feedback is important.
This rule is effective at all age levels -- I utilize this rule with both youth (5th graders) and high school teams.
When it comes to solving problems like this, my preference is to utilize competitive games with “modified rules” to get the results that we want. That is generally my favorite way to solve problems.
In any case, try this process and see how it works for you. In my experience, players will consistently start sprinting back on defense. A very simple and efficient way to get the results you're looking for.