Defending at a Disadvantage

It’s all gone wrong. The opposition has put you into a very unfavourable position. You must defend against a player who is faster than you, or more nimble, or who is in a better position. What do you do?

Situations like this happen all the time in wheelchair basketball. Often, teams will set out to engineer them from the get-go. Therefore, it is important that you know how best to defend when at a disadvantage. With what follows, I hope to point you in the right direction.

First, an analogy. A game of basketball can be likened to a tug of war. Each team tries to heave the game in a direction that is advantageous to them. Individual defence is much the same. Your first job is to figure out where the attacker is trying to take you, literally and figuratively. Perhaps they’re fast and want to engage you in a sprint, or they like to spin and beat you with a quick turn. As you play, you should try to read players’ habits and capabilities. Ask yourself what they’re trying to achieve on a moment-by-moment basis. Defence is an exercise in telepathy.

Once you know what an attacker is trying to do, the question becomes ‘what are you going to do about it?’. To answer this, you have to know not just the opposition, but also yourself. If you can’t beat them at their own game, make them play yours. To continue the tug of war analogy, heft the rope in the direction that best suits you. What this looks like is both personal and situational. However, here are a few ideas to get you thinking:

– If a player is most dangerous when they have a head of speed, look to slow them sooner rather than later. Go out to meet them, ensuring you aren’t leaving dangerous gaps in the defence. Even if you don’t stop them, scrubbing some speed off will make them easier to manage. This tactic should be used carefully, especially if your opponent has good acceleration. Never approach head-on, and always be prepared to turn.

– Angle your chair down-court so that you have a head start when shadowing. Angle your chair more if you still feel uneasy. This can also make it easier to defend quick turns because you can go both left and right.

– Pre-empt the attacker’s movements. For example, if they can make no further progress going one way because of the sideline, they are likely to turn.

– Be efficient in your movement. Move no more than you have to and don’t overcommit.

– Making (legal!) contact can be a good way to stop players and keep them from dictating the game.

Again, these are suggestions. The only way to truly understand this is to try, to fail and to reflect. It can be frustrating to be faced with a more able player, but take pleasure in small victories. If you keep reflecting and adapting, you will improve. Ultimately, I hope that you will see that your game can be enhanced by a few seconds of careful thought.

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