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

SOS on ball Set Position

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

SOS "On" Position

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

SOS "Smother" Position

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.



SOS "Off-Ball" Pressure

As in the on-ball actions, the letters S-O-S have significance in reminding both coach and player of the three words designated to trigger specific off-ball actions relative to stance, positioning, and movements. SNUGGLE, OFF and STRIKE are the key words to initiate individual off-ball actions and ensure maximum SOS pressure defensive success.

"Snuggle" Action (Pass Denial)

SOS "Snuggle" Position

When the off-ball defender is one pass away from the ballhandler, the defender ACTS first to deny any pass to his/hers offensive assignment. The SNUGGLE actions requires the defender to follow these steps:

  1. Defender assumes a low bent knee stance, feet wide apart with rear foot approximately twelve inches behind offensive player, ear even with opponent's chest, head and eyes focused straight ahead to insure vision of both the ballhandler and the opponent.

  2. One of defender's arms should be extended at shoulder level, hand faced out ready to deflect any attempted pass. Defender's other arm is positioned at right angle to body, with back of hand brushing opponent's hip.

  3. Defender uses quick short slides to "shadow" the movement of opponent maintaining the Snuggle position.

CAUTION: When/if defender is beaten on a back cut to the basket, the defender should head snap and reverse the Snuggle position by extending the opposite hand looking to deflect any attempted backdoor pass.

Post Front

SOS Post Front

In defending the low post area, if the passer is located on the wing, the Snuggle position moves into a full Post Front position utilizing "slip front" technique.

  1. In a full Front position, the defender assumes a low, semiflexed position between passer and the post with the outside hand raised and rotating to disrupt passing vision and the lower hand extended down in contact with the post's lower body.

  2. The defender's rear foot should be locked around the opponent's rear foot.

"Off" Position

SOS "Off" Position

OFF action is designed to vigorously deny the passing lane to an opponent attempting to cut to the basket. The commonly used "Give & Go" offensive maneuver is all too consistent in its success and all too traumatic in its effect. Its sting, however, can be minimized with by the decisive and clear cut SOS OFF action. It is important that the OFF slide strategy is executed from any of the three on-ball SOS (Set, On or Smother) actions. The specifics of the OFF action are as follows:

  1. Defender moves one stride OFF and away from opponent, assuming a position between their opponent and the ballhandler. Some coaches refer to this OFF action as "Jumping to the ball."

  2. Once the ballside position is established, the defender assumes a Snuggle stance and movement "sticking like glue" to deny any return pass all the way to the basket.

Strike Position

SOS "Strike" Position

While the Snuggle and Off tactics effectively close off first passing lanes, the SOS weakside strategy is termed STRIKE. The term Strike fits it action and refers to a swift snakelike movement initiated by the weakside defender to aggressively impede the opponent's path into the three second area.

  1. Defender assumes a position approximately halfway between their opponent and the passer, one arm's distance below an imaginary line running between the opponent and ballhander.

  2. Defender assumes an arms extended "pointing" stance, with one hand pointing to the ball and the other to the weakside opponent. The defender's eyes are focus straight ahead insuring that both the passer and opponent are within vision at all times.

In the Strike position, the defender assumes a variety of weakside help responsibilities:

Closing Out

When the weakside offensive player receives a crosscourt pass, the defender executes a closeout maneuver, moving from a Strike position to a Set position. This requires a sprint toward the ballhandler two-thirds of the distance and a series of mini-slides with arms raise high ending in a Set position at an arm's distance from the opponent. In the Set position, the defender must influence the ballhander to the nearest corner or baseline checkpoint.





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