Handling Pressure

Pressure Youth Page

There are two components to developing your player’s ability to handle pressure. 

  1. Individual Skill and Confidence
  2. Team Concepts

Game-like practice, more than specific drills, develops your players skill and confidence in handling pressure. As much as possible we try and create conditions where a player will experience defensive pressure in practice. So let’s start with a game-like drill to develop concepts with and against pressure.

The best drill I have ever used with youth players is a fast break progression in reverse. The advantage is give to the defense instead of the offense. This forces the offense to constantly handle pressure situations including moving the ball quickly before a trap can form, and using retreat and attack dribbles to get to space.

COBA Drill in Reverse

Another drill that creates a messy learning experience for players to learn how to handle and apply pressure is the chase drill.

5-on-5 Chase Drill

Although this drill is demonstrated 5-on-5, it can easily be changed to a 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 drill to create more space and touch opportunities.

This drill gives you an opportunity to teach concepts without structure. Here are the handling pressure concepts I would emphasize:

  • One defender is not pressure. Attack the single defender in straight lines. Please read this blog and include the video examples of how we play full-court one-on-one in your teachings. Do not use the Zig Zag Drill as it develops bad offense: Warning: I Don’t Like the Zig Zag Drill.
  • Two defenders is pressure. The dribbler should invite the double team by creating space (usually using a pull-back dribble). They should then look to re-attack in space or pass out of the double team to a numbers advantage.
  • Never stand three in a row. Three in a row is when the receiver stands in a line between their defender and the passer. A receiver should move so they are visible to the passer.

Why I Don’t Teach a Formal Press Break

I feel it is a mistake to teach press break structure prior to teaching press break concepts. I don’t teach the press break until well after we have spent time practicing vs. pressure. If you teach press break early it can become a spot to spot pattern, instead of a structure from which to make decisions. I also want our press defense to have success, or the opportunity to have success.

Pressing vs. random structure creates more opportunities for our press defense to develop. Our press defense working vs. different formations applies the concepts of random practice. Since our press break has no structure, our defense is forced to figure things out because players can’t memorize rotations and reads based on a predictable press break.

We do coach offense and defense at the same time. So while we don’t focus on a press break structure, we do focus on press break principles. This means we spend a lot of time on offensive decision making vs pressure. Here are the principles we coach every day in our press break.

Individual Drills to Development Confidence and Ball Skills Required to Handle Pressure

When it comes to handling pressure we feel that “hard first instruction” is necessary for players to develop game applicable skills. A combination of any of these drills and challenges can be used in any phase of basketball training. Player development requires players to be put in game-like situations so that they can apply their skills.

To handle one-on-one pressure in small spaces: Steal the Ball

To learn to create space and not panic when a ball handler draws two defenders: 1 vs. 2

To handle physical contact and to be able to create space when cut off (after moving forward in a straight line): Line Battle

To mix skills together that will be required to handle pressure: Kill the Grass with BDT and Steal the Ball with BDT

For youth players I would do these five drills or some combination of the five drills every single practice. After initial learning they could all be done in less than 5 minutes in short repetitions to encourage concept and skill development.

Team Concept Drills

Use this drill to combine individual skills and team concepts together in handling traps: Circle Trap Drill

I also encourage you to spend time on breaking down your press entry. This blog discusses key concepts of getting the pass inbound vs. pressure Basketball Press Break: How to Inbound vs. Full-Court Pressure Defense and here is an example of how to play 3-on-3 out of your press entry Attack Press Entry