"I need some good ways teach help defense- primarily with "help the helper" and defensive rotation. You guys have any drills and/or thoughts you can send my way? If so, much appreciated."
I thought this was a really interesting question and something that comes up a lot within the coaching circles. I will preface this post by saying that everyone teaches the basic principles of help defense a little different. Some coaches have players help with 2 feet in the paint (typically at the youth level), while other coaches may only want a foot in the paint for quicker recovery on shooters. I would say that almost every youth and high school coach teaches defense with the imaginary "help line" on the floor. In some cases I have seen coaches put tape on the floor to make a "help line" for players to see. In certain game plans a coach may decide to not help off of an opposing player at all. Again, that is a coaches preference. Those are just a few examples of different ways coaches teach and utilize help defense. However, the following drill seems to be popular with a number of coaches. It teaches players to rotate properly, help the helper, and communicate on defense. As we know, communication is the key to any successful defense.
The drill is simply called "5 on 4 Drill". How popular is this drill? Tom Izzo says that he drills 5 on 4 everyday in practice. Considering he is a National Championship coach I would say that means something. I can tell you that several other high school coaches also have this drill on their practice plans. I try to play 5 on 4 every day in practice, but do it in a variety of ways. In this blog I'll give you the basic 5 on 4 set up and the idea behind using this drill in practice.
Thanks to Bill Myers for asking a great question. I hope this helps.
Basic Set Up
Also, notice that at least one and sometimes two of the offensive players are going to remain uncovered. The uncovered player is what makes this drill so difficult. Players must communicate with one another to account for the extra offensive players. They must also rotate properly to get to the open man. Finally, players have to be in proper help position and always "help the helper" to complete this drill. You have to leave your man in this drill. Often times, especially at the youth level, players are glued to their man and do not want to leave them. They typically fear that allowing their player to score will make them look bad. This drill will help them to understand that they do have a man, but they also must work as a team to prevent the opponent from scoring. Every player has to be willing to help their teammate for a successful TEAM defense.
Keys to the drill:
- Communicate with on another
- Rotate to the open man (have to make sure the correct player rotates)
- Always be in proper help position
- Help the helper (you must leave your man in this drill just like in help defense)
- Players have to understand that man to man defense is also a TEAM defense. Allowing your player to score is unacceptable, but not helping your teammates to prevent a basket is even worse. 5 players working together as 1!
- Walk through the drill the first few times. Show players proper rotations and explain to them the importance of communicating, helping, and contesting every shot.
- Players should understand one pass away, 2 passes away, and even 3 passes away before participating in this drill. They should also perfect basic help defense using the shell drill. I can post about shell drill in another blog if necessary.
- Players have to COMMUNICATE. It is essential that they are saying "I have ball" or "I got ball", "I got help, I got help", etc.....They will not rotate properly if they don't talk to each other
- Typically, I do not let the offense shoot the first time we do this drill. We walk through it the first few times. Then they move the ball quickly, but cannot shoot. Once we get more advanced I make the defense rotate the ball for 5-7 passes (I count them out loud) and then on the 5th-7th pass the offense can try to shoot. As we get more advanced I allow them to headfake, drive to the basket or headfake and kick for a shot. That really brings in the help the helper principles. Once your team gets good at rotating it will be tough to score.
- We do not allow the offense to move in this drill. It goes a lot smoother when you have them stay on the 5 spots in the floor. However, I have added in other drills where I let the 5 players rotate to certain spots. Those are much more advanced and I would not recommend these for teams learning proper "help the helper" rotations.
- You have to understand the basic rotations and also know the player that should rotate to the open person. I would recommend drawing out different scenarios before teaching it to your players.
- We press a lot so we use this drill to help us rotate properly once the other team gets the ball over half court. If you press, then this drill is a must! To be honest, I think it is a must if you want to be a good defensive team.
First pass and rotation
X3 has now slid into help position and has responsibility for the other two offensive players on the weak side. X3 should be saying "I got help, I got help" to let his/her teammates know they are in position. If the ball is passed to 3 or 4, then X3 will have to rotate properly. We will talk about skip passes later in the blog. For now, just recognize the fact that X3 is now the help defender responsible for 3 and 4. Also, note that COMMUNICATION is essential.
Second pass and rotation
Multiple passes and rotation
Last pass to swing all the way around perimeter and rotation
Skip Passes and rotations
The digram on the left (1.6) shows a "what if" scenario where there is a skip pass across the court from the baseline. Does it happen? Very rarely, but players are going to ask so you will need an answer. Typically, player 4 would probably drive the baseline and then kick the ball out to player 5, which is essentially the same scenario. At any rate, I drew up the rotations for you to see.
X2 who was the helper in the last diagram now has to defend player 5. X2 should be saying "I got ball, I got ball" to let the other players know they are responsible for that person. X4 moves direclty into help position and is responsible for the two uncovered players. X1 will now slide over a man and X3 will slide over a man as well. X1 ends up on player 2 and X3 ends up on player 1. I have also seen scenarios where X4 jumps to one of these players, but that is a long way to run. It is more efficient to have X1 and X3 jump to new a man. Skip passes can cause chaos at times so you have to practice them in the 5 on 4 drill. If you can cover a skip pass in a 5 on 4 situation, then you should do a great job helping the helper in a 5 on 5 situation. Trust me, it works great for us in games.
Diagram 1.7 (right)
Diagram 1.7 presents another skip pass scenario. Player 5 now skips the ball cross court to player 3. X4 is responsible for this player and has to sprint, breakdown, and close out on player 3. As always, X4 should say "I got ball, I got ball" to let teammates know they are covering the open player. X2 leaves players 5 and slides into the middle of the paint in help position. X2 has to be ready to sprint cross court on the skip pass and defend player 4 in the opposite corner. X3 is now denying on pass away and X1 can slide into help position since he/she is two passes away. Again, skip passes can cause chaos to a defense so you have to work on them in this drill. It is important to make sure the right players are rotating.
Example of difficult rotation
In this case (diagram 1.7), you would not want X3 to rotate off player 1 to the left to cover player 3. If this happens, then player 3 will just quickly move the ball over to player 1 who will have an open lane to drive. I know what you are thinking. What if X1 rotates back over to player 1 to take away the drive? Well....player 1 will just quickly swing the ball over to player 2 and now we are in trouble. Player 2 has an open lane to drive and if X2 steps up on defense, then player2 can kick the ball out to player 5 who will have an open 3-pointer in the corner. You may have to read through this a few times, but will make sense I hope.
Rule of thumb....You never want the player that will be one pass away on a skip pass to rotate to the next player unless it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, it will probably set good teams up for an open shot. I have seen it happen first hand.
Final pass back to the top and rotations
Live game footage
In this game, both teams started a little bit slow, but you will be able to see our defensive rotations in just about every possession. We actually rotated really well in this game overall with the exception of a few possessions. Several coaches commented specifically on our rotations during this game. If it didn't take me hours to upload this stuff I'd show the whole game. However, I think you will get the point from this clip.
If you were wondering....In the end, we lost by 3-points and had a great opportunity to win at the end. We also played one of our best defensive games of the season.
Please feel free to comment with any follow up questions. I will be happy to answer them for you. Thanks again to Bill Myers for asking a great questions.
I hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July weekend!
And always remember.....Hard work beats talent, if talent fails to work hard!