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Maximizing Defensive Assets

by Kris Kelly

Know your foe.
There are lots of ways you can get the most out of your defensive matchups and it starts with not only knowing your own players but also knowing your opponents. The more familiar you are with the opposing team's offensive weapons ahead of time, the better you can prepare to counter them quickly and effectively. Furthermore, as important as it is to recognize primary play makers, it's just as important to know how the rest of your roster compares overall to the other team's personnel. 

When deciding what kind of matchup to assign your "best" defender, a defender's physical strengths, which offensive position(s) s/he is most adept at defending, and the D-line's competencies versus the opposition are all factors. Ask yourself: 

A. Does it make sense to put your best defender on a go-to player of similar skill and stature in hopes of containing him/her, throwing off the offensive flow, and then relying mainly on your other defenders to generate the D, or 

B. Is it better in the situation at hand to give your best defender a mismatch and have him/her bait and get a D while relying on the rest of your defenders to challenge the other primary play maker(s)? 

Making these distinctions is difficult without at least an idea of what your competition brings to the field and how your whole team matches up to them. Otherwise it's likely that you will waste time with trial and error and guesswork, which could make the difference between a win and a loss. 

To sub or not to sub?
Who you consider your "best" defender to be might be someone different from game to game depending on who the other team's offensive weapons are and what they do. However, there are some basic principles that can be applied regardless of specifics. 

1. If it's not broken don't fix it. 

Sometimes it'll take a few points for a defender to get a feel for what an opponent's go-to moves are and how to respond to them. Once that happens, if the defender continues to be effective and take away those looks, it would make sense to let that defender keep doing what s/he's doing. A switch would mean that someone new might also need a few points to figure out what someone else already has and that might turn out to be a few points too many. With that being said... 

2. If you're worried about wear and tear or predictability, don't be afraid to rotate. 

The two big problems with having the same matchup for a whole game are the risks of burning out your best defender and allowing the offense too much time to read the defense and adjust. To avoid these situations, having 1-2 acceptable backups to switch off can be a good strategy. This way, you give your primary defender an occasional rest, which will help him/her make it through the tournament intact, and you keep the offense on their toes since no two people defend exactly the same way. In order to help the learning curve when putting in a new defender, the primary defender should also take a few seconds to brief the backups on what s/he has already figured out so that it hopefully takes less time to fill the role than it would have otherwise. 

3. If it's broken, fix it promptly. 

A defense cannot afford to allow easy scores. Even if the defense gets scored on eventually in a given point, one of their jobs is to make the other team's offense grind it out and get them tired. A tired offense gets sloppy and makes mistakes, which leads to that break opportunity. Also, in situations where your offense is working hard for their scores, it's really important for the defense to stay on the field to give them the time to recover so they can be productive on the next offensive point. 

If within 2 points, the opposition's offense has scored without so much as a contested throw, something has to change. It doesn't have to be drastic since those kinds of changes might take longer than a point or two formulate and implement, but even something as slight as a few matchup switches or a force change or throwing a zone could shake things up a little bit and make your defense more effective. 

Don't forget about the big picture.
How you decide to use your "best" defender(s) from game to game requires taking a big picture look at overall strategy for the tournament. What are your goals for the tournament? Which are the games you have to win? Which games (if any) can you afford to lose? Which are the games you would like to win but don't have to win? At what point do you consider a game to be a lost cause (and is this even an acceptable thing to consider)? Answers to these kinds of questions can help lead you in the right direction when thinking about when and how much to use your defensive studs. 

huddle Issue 17 Using Defensive Matchups

Tuesday, April 27th, 2009

May The Best Man Win
by Tully Beatty

Three-Legged Stool
by Lou Burruss

The Right Adjustments
by Adam Goff

To Rotate Or Not To Rotate?
by Lindsey Hack

Limitations To Matchup Theory
by Greg Husak

Maximizing Defensive Assets
by Kris Kelly

Maximizing Impact
by Brett Matzuka

Who Should Guard Their Best Player?
by Ted Munter

Matching Up With Defensive Characteristics
by Kama Siegel

Give Your Defenders A Chance
by Shane Steward

A Theoretically Helpful Exercise
by Seth Wiggins





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