The Press

Not the media, ‘the press’, but the press in basketball. I really need to get better at writing the titles for my blog entries.

Last week I wrote a purposely harsh write-up about one of the teams in the B2 5v5 South.

So my wife started coaching 7th and 8th grade girls this season. They’re not very good. They know they’re not, but they try really hard. They play some teams that are pretty good, and other teams that aren’t. They REALLY struggle when they play other bad teams that happen to press. The only reason these teams press is because they know other teams are as bad as them and will throw the ball away. They routinely destroy my wife’s team, not because they’re better shooters or players, but because they get some wide open layups each game after mauling overwhelmed ball handlers who don’t know how to break a press. That’s why you don’t press against teams with good ball handlers, it’s easy to break then your D is out of position. But when they’re not good, it’s successful more often than not.

So there it is, Ball So Hard is a bad 7th grade girls team that presses to make themselves feel better.

I did it because I like the team, I thought they could handle a little prodding, and really, the comparison was apt. In my mind the dots connected and teams that press are usually hiding their own deficiencies and exploiting that of the opposition.

First thing this morning, STAT sends me a link to a 2009 Malcolm Gladwell article title “How David beats Goliath

It is a long, laborious read (shocker for Gladwell, I know) that only partly deals with basketball Davids beating basketball Goliaths, but still, it made my blood boil as I read it.

Pressing helps Division 1 underdogs with “players [that are] short and almost entirely devoid of talent” beat better teams. Ignore the fallacy that no player on a D1 roster is ‘almost entirely devoid of talent’ and we have a valid point. Impeding your opponent from bringing the ball up and setting up a standard offense, where bigger more skilled players will beat, you is a good strategy.

However Gladwell completely misses the point when he ties that to teaching pre-teen girls to press. This does not make them better at tangible basketball skills that will help them play beyond their town league, like dribbling, shooting and staying with your opponent on defense. These are vital skills that girls, “just beginning to grasp the rudiments of the game” should be practicing, not a press that is both demoralizing to the other team and stunts their development as well-rounded basketball players.

I’m well-rounded, because I’m fat and lazy, not because I’m a good basketball player.

For anyone playing at the high school varsity level and above, pressing is a completely legit strategy. You don’t need me to tell you that.

Even in a men’s league, technically not ‘above’ varsity level (have you guys watched each other play?!) it’s fine. Of course I’m assuming you aren’t already up 20 and its not the playoffs, then I don’t have much gripe with it.

My issue is when it’s prevalent in the town leagues when kids (i.e. unskilled ‘little blond girls’) should be learning the skills necessary to make their junior varsity and varsity school programs.

Being up 25-0 before the other team has crossed half court isn’t a good thing, it’s counterproductive.

The finale is the most absurd part of this article”They played basketball the way basketball is supposed to be played, and they lost—but not before making Goliath wonder whether he was a giant, after all.

Perhaps spending practice time on the basketball skills necessary to play at a level beyond National Junior Basketball would have prevented a loss. “Touch fouls” as the coach complains about getting called for, are still fouls as interpreted by the official paid to referee the game. I applaud the attempted conspiracy theory set-up, however it just doesn’t fly with me. Kids that press DO hack, they foul because they usually don’t know better and can usually get away with it. Anyone who has watched, scored, coached or officiated at that level can tell you nothing but the most egregious violations get called. When forced to adjust to the game the way it’s supposed to be played, this coach’s team couldn’t adjust because they weren’t taught to rely on shooting, dribbling, teamwork and passing.

Winning is fun, but sportsmanship is an important life lesson too. Teach kids the basics that will help them become better players and people. Getting ahead in life and on the court isn’t always about taking advantage of someone else’s weakness.

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