Saturday , Dec , 08 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

For the Love of the Game: Betrayed with a Kiss

The offensive end of basketball makes it easy to understand and enjoy. With immediate rewards available during solo practice, the game is addictive. Defense, on the other hand suffers because it does not have the same qualities.

Playing sports, my motto has always been, “We’re here to have fun, but winning is much more fun than losing.” When you have fun, you play more and, hopefully, get better. Then, you are playing better and having more fun and playing more and getting better. Psychologists might call this a positive feedback loop. “Positive” in this sense does not connote desirable, but means that the loop quickens. You tend to like things you are better at and then do them more often. Your gains become exponential instead of linear. I kept with soccer because I got it quicker than other kids and I was better at it. I’ve earned several black belts because I enjoy finding new ways to punch, kick and hit persons with things. This is also why engineers work so hard at their profession (or any other profession) – because they’re good at it.

Dribbling in your driveway (or at the park) and sinking shots provides immediate gratification – and you can do it alone. In solo practice, you are refining your offensive skills in a positive feedback loop. I’ve been telling the parents of the kids on my basketball team to make sure their kids practice dribbling the ball at home. There is really no other sport where one can practice two of the primary functions alone. This is what draws most players (casual, professional or otherwise) and viewers to the game.

This is also the reason why everyone bemoans a lack of defense. First of all, it’s not a much fun and it is not what you dreamed of while dribbling in your driveway. It takes a substantial commitment in pre-practice preparation. It also requires a good deal of attention during practice. Then, you really cannot practice it alone. How do you practice denying someone low post position?

To some degree, “working on it” takes mental exercise during downtime. “What would I do if?” Imagining it in your mind also helps because, to your subconscious, you have “been there before.” Then, at practice, you need to drill it. It is something ingrained, not learned. It is more like knowing how to drive a car than working through an algebra equation. You are required to make many important split-second decisions – and the rest of your team needs to be on the same page. Like Maverick would say, “You don’t have time to think. If you think, you’re dead.”

The next time a player on your favorite team stands still with a confused look on his face as a cutter to the hoop is wide open, remember that he is not confused as much as he his frozen by a lack of preparation and a lack of confidence in where he and his teammates should be.

Defense gets tossed by the wayside because of the manner in which the player is drawn to the game – dribbling and shooting in the driveway. In this sense, offense saps energy from the defense. Ironic, isn’t it? The thing that drew the pros to the game is also the thing distracting them from focusing on that element necessary for the championship.