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11 Common Characteristics of Great Defenders
by Heather Ouellette

Everyone, no matter their playing ability can learn to play good defense. If we look at great defenders, there are certain characteristics that they all have in common. A team's defense cannot be better than the individuals who play it. Therefore, if a player wants to be a GREAT defender and contribute to their team, there are certain requirements they will need to practice, learn, and do.

Defense starts in your head. That's why I believe all players can become great defenders because if they have the mental side of defense, the physical requirements will follow.

The four mental characteristics are as follows:

1. Desire

A player needs to be determined to become a great defender. Playing defense is hard work, and doing the hard work starts with desire.

2. Aggressiveness and confidence

These aspects go hand in hand. Players need to be aggressive on defense. Don't let the offense dictate what and how you play on defense. Confidence will grow as a player continues to practice.

3. Concentration

Do not be distracted on defense. Stay focused on the task.

4. Knowledge

Knowing your opponent, your own ability, where you are on the floor, proper technique, and other conditions of the game are important to successfully defend.

The seven physical characteristics are as follows:

1. Quickness and footwork

These are probably the first characteristics that come to anyone's mind when thinking defense. Having quick feet to get and stay in proper position are key to great defense. Both of these can be improved with various drills.

2. Balance

This is key to great defense. Your feet should be apart wider than your shoulders with one foot slightly ahead of the other. Keep the knees bent, back straight, hips and butt low, and head in the middle of body with your chin up.

3. Proper positioning of the hands & arms

One hand should be pointing up toward the man and the other toward the ball. If your man does not have the ball, the hand should be denying the passing lane.

4. Vision

Focus on the mid-section when your man has the ball. If your man does not have the ball, you should be able to see both him and the ball. If you have to lose sight of one for a moment, stick with your man.

5. Talk

Great defenders talk to their teammates. Call for help when needed. Let your teammates know where the ball is. Talk helps with the concentration aspect for the whole team.

6. Size and speed

Size is relative, although it is a nice benefit. A smaller player can play taller than they are, and the reverse is also possible. Technique and desire contribute to this characteristic. With speed, remember the popular saying, "be quick, but don't hurry." Speed is great when under control.

7. Hustle

Never give up and keep trying. Sometimes when things are not going great, your effort can turn the corner in the right direction. There is no excuse for lack of hustle. Everyone can do this no matter your level of ability.

These are the characteristics that all great defensive players have. The most important are the first and last characteristics listed. They are also the ones that we have the most control over. The other characteristics won't do you much good if you don't have the desire to be a good defender or if you refuse to hustle.

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