It’s an old athletic adage: “You win with defense.”
When I was coaching, the best defensive players at their positions were the starters and the first two subs were the next best defenders.
Defense is hard work, but it’s easier to improve defensively than offensively.
On my teams, the best defender of the centers, point guards, off guards and forwards were starters and the next best defenders at those positions were the first subs off the bench when needed.
Rick Torbett, the founder and lead basketball instructor for Better Basketball, visited Husson University in Bangor in October when he showed his “Read and React Offense” to the school’s women’s basketball team.
He has a national perspective on basketball and I asked him if the problem of parents influencing the hiring and firing of coaches was a national problem or unique to Maine.
“It’s a national societal problem,” Torbett said.
Over the years, one of the biggest problems some high school basketball coaches now face is the possibility that they may not be rehired because some parents of players make playing time a big issue with the bosses of the coaches — athletic directors, principals and superintendents.
As a former high school coach, Torbett is concerned parents upset with their children’s lack of playing time could put so much pressure on administrators that they could get a coach fired.
Torbett said if he was coaching today he would become “defensive minded” in attempting to stop parental influence.
At the first team meeting before tryouts he would tell all candidates trying out, “the starting lineup and first subs off the bench will be the best defensive players at their individual playing position.”
After tryouts, during the remaining time of the first three weeks of preseason, the players spend 75 percent of their practice time on defense to determine who the best defenders were at each position.
The players would then be told that during this time they will be rated a 4-3-2-1-0 with 4 being the highest and 0 the lowest and what it takes to get each rating.
During the last week of preseason, the players learn their individual defensive ranking and how the rankings determine the five starters and subs off the bench.
A meeting involving the parents, players and coaches would follow and the coach would explain how playing time will be determined by defensive ability.
Each player would then stand up and introduce themselves by name, height, position, team role and defensive ranking.
Players rated as a No. 4 will be starters at their position and those ranked No. 3 will be starters if there aren’t any No. 4s.
The players ranked 0 to 2 will be considered 20-20 players, meaning they will probably only play when their team is 20 points ahead or 20 points behind.
However, they can improve their rankings as the season progresses during practices while guarding the No. 3 and 4 players.
This system of giving information to parents about the rankings puts parents on the offensive with defense.
Parents, players and coaches will be on the same page as to how playing time is determined.
With high school basketball’s preseason tipping off next Monday, coaches should consider Torbett’s system for determining playing time.
If you want to play, you need to get better defensively.