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SOS Player Fundamentals

On Ball Defense

"On-Ball" Pressure

| Set | On | Smother | Off-Ball |

Building Attitude as Well as Aptitude

Mastering man-to-man pressure does require "over and above" time, energy and all out commitment to tough, hard-nosed defense. However, the rewards are real and immediate and a worthy sacrifice for all the sweat and effort invested. The need for drill, practice and more drill and practice, is not new to the athlete and mentor. Skillful execution of skills and second nature response to any given game situation cannot be achieved in any other way.

There is no minimizing the fact that drills are methodical, repetitive and often demanding. The key to softening this fact of life and building player acceptance and support is the attitude of the teacher-coach. Initially, the player must be made aware of the potential power of the end result. Once the season begins, however, the defender experiences success in the live game situation, and it's all downhill from there. Fired up by these positive results, the player's enthusiasm builds in momentum and a true believer is born.

If drills are approached with enthusiasm and intensity and are reinforced by consistent, positive and encouraging feedback, tedium gives way to tenacity! Pride in holding the individual opponent below their average scoring level can become as important a individual scoring stats. Such a defensive climate is no accident but is the result of conscious and concentrated effort to communicate the importance of defensive dimension of the game. If you thrive on such a challenge, then SOS pressure defense will not be work. If will actually be fun!

S-O-S "On-ball" Pressure (Set, On, Smother)

For a pressure defense system to be effective and influential to game outcome, the defender must act first rather than react to the actions of the ballhandler. Set, On and Smother are the basic individual on-ball actions that defenders are taught for maximum SOS pressure success. In fact, no matter what system of defense is employed, these SOS basics can enhance and strengthen any defensive program employed.

SET action by the on-ball defender refers to the specific body stance and movement required to force the ballhandler to put the ball on the floor rather than to shoot or pass. ON position refers to a body position in which the defender assumes when guarding and forcefully guiding a dribbler to the appropriate checkpoint. SMOTHER action is a body stance and movement to put maximum pressure on the ballhandler attempting to shoot or pass.


Set Action

When the opponent has the ball, the assignment is obvious: "Take the ball to the hoop!" The offensive player has but a few seconds to decide the most expedient action. Whether to pass, to shoot or to dribble. In SOS defense, the defender acts first, and forces the opponent into dribbling, rather than passing or shooting. SET Action requires the defender to follow these steps:

  1. Assume semiflexed, bent knee "nose on chest" stance. Position feet in a wide stance, with one foot closer to the , slightly in front of the other, in a toe-to-heel alignment influencing ballhandler to appropriate sideline or baseline checkpoint.
  2. Position one hand just inches from the ball, tracing its every move; position other hand behind and slightly below the on-ball hand at opponent eye level, moving it from left to right to agitate and cut off the passing lane.
  3. Move feet in a constant patter-step cadence to facilitate a quick transition from a SET to ON position.


On Action

When the SET action is successful, forcing the opponent into dribbling rather than shooting or passing, it triggers the second or "ON" stage of action. Like the Set action, the defender assumes the initiative and incessantly "dogs" the dribbler toward a sideline or baseline checkpoint well way from a high percentage shooting range. ON action requires the defender to follow these steps:

  1. Take a full one full backward slide and assuming a "nose on chest" position which allows defender to keep body weight low to expedite quickness and agility.
  2. Maintain an arm's distance from the dribbler of average speed and quickness. Increase the distance against a quick, agile ballhandler and decrease accordingly.
  3. Push dribbler to nearest court checkpoint by moving feet in a series of quick mini slides, maintaining toe-to-heel alignment, until ballhandler stops dribble.
  4. If the ballhandler beats the defender on the dribble, the defender sprints until they are one full stride ahead of the dribbler and then reassumes a "nose on chest" position, forcing dribbler to the next nearest checkpoint. This action is know as "Sprint and Recover."


Smother Action

SMOTHER is the final action of the S-O-S "On-ball" pressure and is designed to put maximum pressure on the ballhandler attempting to shoot or pass. It requires the following steps:

  1. Assume a crowding position with feet parallel and slightly outside offensive player's feet as soon as the ballhandler picks up the dribble. Extend both arms full length above head at a hand's distance from the ballhandler.
  2. Exert extreme pressure on any attempted pass by moving hands from side to side in lateral motion, disrupting and minimizing passer's vision.

It is important for a quick transition from the ON action to the SMOTHER phase, so as not to negate the positive results achieved by effective execution of the Set and On action. It is possible to successfully execute the ON action only to sacrifice the effort because of poor SMOTHER action. On the other hand, SMOTHER action can salvage a breakdown due to poor SET or ON action.



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