The Mindset of Pressure: An EDS Guest Post*

*Cross-posted, by request of EDS, from Dancing Puppets:
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Did anyone else read “The Blind Side” in Sports Illustrated this week?

This has to be one of the more fascinating pieces I’ve read in SI in a long time. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. I will be making the high school varsity basketball team that I coach read the article. I am a big advocate of preaching the crossover between football and basketball. I think on many levels, there exists the opportunity to use the sport of football to teach important principles of basketball. For example, the whole idea of angles on defense in basketball (specifically in a pressure defense) is predicated on the concept of angles used to make tackles in football. The Quarterback in football and Point Guard in basketball share many similarities in responsibility and philosophy (i.e. scoring point guard and running quarterback, or a pass-first point guard and a passing quarterback). The concept of spacing the court with picks and cuts, is similar to a running game in football. The run sets up the pass, just like the drive sets up the shot. You get the point.

One of the similarities of these two sports that I had not before thought much about is intimidation, pressure, and fear. The effect these three things can have on a football or basketball game is tremendous, and often in the same kind of way. It is amazing what effect intimidation, pressure and fear can have on a game, even in professional sports. The fact that Lawrence Taylor could affect the economic and strategic future of his sport (the toughest sport) by sheer pressure and intimidation is unfathomable. The fact that offensive linemen and Quarterbacks would go sleepless the night before they had to face LT, and the fact that opposing coaches would design entire offensive game plans around him, shows the effect not only of one player, but the effect that player can have on the mindset of an entire team. He wasn’t just a great player, he was a scary idea.

The crack of Theisman’s leg, the concussion to Montana and other hits from the blind side forced Quarterbacks to be thinking about more than the play at hand every time they stepped back into the pocket against the Giants. It is truly amazing where football went from there. Read the article to understand more about this evolution of the left tackle.

The reason I will make my basketball team read this is to try and help them understand that with a pressure defense, it’s not just the pressure itself that affects the game, but the fear of the pressure on the opposing team that affects it even more. If teams spend a week preparing for pressure, that team’s kids come out on the court intimidated automatically… that’s more than half the battle. They are expecting pressure, and are immediately scared and tight. They are playing with fear. Fear means they are thinking. When Joe Montana was thinking about anything other than the pass or run about to happen, he was no longer Joe Montana, instead he was just an average Quarterback. What made Montana, and other Quarterbacks great was the fact that there offensive lines were able to alleviate pressure and remove fear as a factor in the game. Only then could the true talent shine through.

As a basketball team, if you can bring pressure on an opposing team like they have never seen before, you will intimidate them and cause them to play with fear. Especially at the high school level, a Point Guard comes up court with a given play or set from the coach to run. He has one, occasionally two options to work with. He does not have to think, he just has to act. Now all of a sudden he comes up court and is pressured by the opposing team’s guard. Then he is forced to dribble a certain direction. The trap has not yet been applied, but the point guard has already forgotten about option one and two. He is now concentrating on how he is going to get past the defender who is applying pressure. He quickly speeds up his dribble towards the sideline and before he can even react or pull back, he finds himself in a stopped dribble and trapped with the ball by two defenders. Turnover. Basket the other way. The mindset of the Point Guard, the confidence of his team, and the momentum of the game have all just shifted in the favor of the team applying pressure.

The next time those teams meet, pressure is not only going to effect the game in steals and turnovers, but it effects the game before it begins. The opposing team comes in already in fear of the pressure. Already expecting it. They have spent all week at practice trying to deal with pressure. They have fear. They are already at a disadvantage. In football, where a Quarterback gets decked numerous times in a game, he beings to think. The next game against that team, the Quarterback will be looking around and throwing fast. He will loft the ball off his back foot in a hurry, he will throw errant passes and lobs over the middle. He will turn himself over. Similarly, the Point Guard in basketball will be trying to make quick decisions, dribbling in traffic, lobbing the ball and throwing errant passes. He will turn himself over.

The parallel between these two sports is very usable from a coaching standpoint. It is fascinating to think what a ‘pressure the Quarterback’ football mentality can do to a Point Guard in a basketball game.

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4 responses to “The Mindset of Pressure: An EDS Guest Post*

  1. thanks… reason i cross-posted is im curious to hear people’s view on these non-important issues. both the similarities in sport, perhaps other sports that cross, and the factor of fear in sports in general. figured some people actually read Noam’s blog as opposed to mine, so would test the waters here for a response.

  2. With all due respect, you’re talking about yeshiva high school basketball. I doubt anyone is reviewing game tapes, scouting individual players on other teams, etc. In yeshiva basketball, you don’t even know all of the opposing players. So how can you really be afraid of something you don’t know? No point guard is going to be waking up in a cold sweat because he’s playing RAMBAM next week. I’m willing to bet there’s no Lawrence Taylor in yeshiva high school basketball.

    Having said that, the actual half court press is a good play – not revolutionary – but still pretty good. Our elementary coach had something like that, where we would set up in a 2-1-2 zone (no full court press), and then he would yell out “NOW!” and we would suddenly switch into a man-to-man defense which confused the crap out of the other team and their coach. Usually, this would send one of our zone guys running straight at the PG and the PG would inevitably do something stupid.

  3. I should point out that your players are fortunate to have a coach like you who actually gives a crap about them and the team. Kol Hakavod.

  4. you are so wrong i cant even tell you. yeshiva league has changed a ton the past 10 years. now with basketball and hockey camps in the summers, and tournaments across the country, everyone knows each other. coaches actually scout and prepare for teams based on strength and weakness. I cant tell you how many calls ive gotten over the last couple of years from coaches asking for info about opposing players and teams.
    League has definitely stepped up a notch in terms of seriousness and bottomline is teams are still afraid of the big name schools and players. ids are still afraid to face the Ramaz, Frisch and MTAs out there… always will be. The question is, can another school build a reputation based on pressure to a level where they are feared like the bigger schools?
    I think yes… remains to be seen.

    Additionally, keep in mind, yeshiva league basketball is the highest level of ball that 99% of the kids involved in it will ever play. that within itself makes it important and special. not so much from a basketball sense as from a life sense. these kids deserve to have the opportunity to be the best they can and to learn a ton about life and basketball during those years. most of them wont pick up a ball competitively again after high school.

    So, while nobody is reviewing tapes… people are scouting individual players and teams more and more, and the kids all know who the top players are. visit any forum whether local or national on the website that cover yeshiva sports and you’ll be shocked to find how much talk there is about individual kids and teams. They can name players, coaches and talk about talent and ability. the game has changed and the mentality has changed. more and more people have embraced it. if you want actual proof, email me and I can share it with you.

    Finally, of course there is no Lawrence Taylor in yeshiva high school bball, though with a 6’8 Israeli kid playing for a NJ school this year, it’s closer than ever to that, that’s still not the point. the point is what the football mentality could accomplish on a basketball level. And i think it’s a lot. I could be wrong, but we’ll find out… I’ll let you know after the season my thoughts on how it worked out.

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