Defensive Change-up: Advanced Tactics in Defence

A very effective tactic for teams to utilise in disrupting their opponents is employing a Defensive Change-up. Many teams have a number of defensive sets that they call upon to for a variety of scenarios. However, most teams only employ these tactics in specific situations such as following time-outs or breaks in play. Nevertheless, there are other alternatives to these options under which changes in tactics can be engaged.


One of the most effective ways to utilise a defensive change-up is to implement a different defence for when teams score to when they miss. For example when a team scores a basket, they might utilise full court man-to-man defence. While if the team misses a shot they might employ a zone defence. For some team offenses this type of defensive change-up creates problems, as the offensive players must be able to slide seamlessly from one style of play to another (man-to-man opposed to zone defence).


When looking to employ this tactic think about where the timing and set-up required by the defence to be most effective. For example on a missed shot trying to implement a Full Court 1-2-2 Press would be close to impossible and futile exercise. However, employing a variation in the half or quarter court could be workable. This cuts both ways though and a full court defence could be implemented easily following a scoring situation. The added time and positioning of the ball following a score means the full court defence can be implemented in its intended form.

A good defensive change-up can result in positive situations (Source: aaronisnotcool)
A good defensive change-up can result in positive situations (Source: aaronisnotcool)

Another option for applying a defensive change-up is to incorporate defences into the special situations of the game. An example of this that many coaches look to exploit is utilising a press or trapping defence following foul shooting situation. This sort of scenario is very common, but there are plenty of similar situations in a game. Other special situations might include sideline, baseline inbounds, start of the quarter possessions, jump ball, or possession arrow situations. This will disrupt a teams planned or expected course of action, which often leads to mistakes, and miss-management of the shot clock.


An under estimated defensive change-up can be setting up can be as simple as changing the formation of the defence from man-to-man to zone or vice versa. Offensive teams usually start their preparations as to what offense will be employed as they move down the court. Efficient Point Guards will even start play calling in the backcourt. To offset and create problems with play calling a defensive team can simply have their defensive alignment change as the ball crosses halfway or on the first pass into the half-court offense. Once drilled and practiced this type of defensive change-up can become quite easily employed and have very profound effects on the opposition.


Situations that should also be thought about include following time-outs or breaks in play. These is justified as often during these stoppages in play coaches’ focus on what has been happening and make adjustments based on this. By utilising a defensive change-up at this time teams will again force the players on the court into situations where they must identify, adjust and then execute with reduced time and flow into their offense.


By implementing a defensive change-up strategy, it is worth noting that you may stumble across an Achilles heel for your opposition. If a particularly effective defence is discovered then this might be able to be implemented on a more regular basis to assist with the overall game objectives.


To be effective in implementing a defensive change-up over a number of situations then a good playbook must be put together initially that allows of a variety of defensive plays and selections. Only when a number of different formations and tactics are available will a team be able to apply a constantly changing defensive situation to increase the demands of the opposition’s offense.

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Coach Riches has been working within the sport, business and education industries for many years. During this time he has built an extensive number of formal and informal qualifications. A firm believer in training and development designed to help people reach their full potential, relevant o their needs and functional to their industry environment.

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