In 'Learning from the Pros: How to Improve Your Defense Part 1' you learned that we interviewed Chico Spikes, Cisek_Showalter, and Anchored LI. We asked them how they conceptualize defense and some basic tips to improve. For this blog post we'll reveal their answers to our final two questions... 3. ‘Pro tips'? and 4. 'Anything else you want to add about defensive positioning/awareness?'
Let's jump right into it!
3. ‘Pro tips’?
Skyler- Go harder than you think. To play the best defense when trying your hardest means that you are probably hitting the ground almost every play. That is not easy to do.
Shaun- Watch your opponents feet and hands. Don’t be afraid to “guess” where they are hitting it. A majority of the hand-of-god saves are from someone making an educated (and lucky) prediction of where their opponent was going to place the ball. When it works, it’s glorious.
PJ- Practice hand speed. Look up drills used by catchers or wide recievers. Hand quickness and reflexes are crucial. You can position yourself perfectly to make a play, but if your hands aren't fast enough to get the ball up it really doesn't matter how well you anticipate.
Tyler- I would say the one pro tip I could give would be just be spontaneous and do not do something too many times. My biggest trick on defense is to almost trick the hitter into hitting exactly where I am. This could be by the way I position my body when I am close to the net or by running behind them and coming in for the short/push at the last second when they think that I am not there. It is all a big game of strategy and using small tricks that can give your team a break.
Ryan- Talk to other players about certain players tendencies. Any information can help. Tip offs like "He likes to fake then drop" can help so that you can wait a player to drop it as your teammate comes through to get the up. Baiting players into shots is huge. Fake continue your route like you are going to cover the pull and then cut back for the push. Another pro tip is to always support your partner. If he goes deep, make sure you cover short for him.
Anthony- Always have a plan - know exactly where your partner is gong to be or go every play and vice versa. This will help you decide if you will try and get a ball or not. Try and bait your opponent (my personal favorite) - many times when I play short I act like i'm going for a body and try and get them to hit into me and at the last second I'll jump back and it will give me time to use my hands. Or bait them to hit one way and jump into that spot for a body when they are about to hit.
4. Anything else you want to add about defensive positioning/awareness?
Skyler- When your partner is playing up close defense, you have to choose whether to wait for the deflection back at you or run behind them and chase the ball high. This is a tough decision. The best way to make the decision is by looking at how high the offender is striking the ball off the net. Sometimes you have no time to make a choice and have to guess. Practice makes perfect!
Shaun- If you know you’re playing a team that likes to hit a certain way (pulling it into their body or pushing it out open hand) then make them change their rhythm. For example, if I kept getting beat by my opponent pulling the ball into their body then I would start going there before they even got passed to. That way they will see me in their peripherals before they hit it and will have to 1. think harder about hitting it my way 2. change the direction of their hit or 3. botch it. All of those options are better than continuously getting beat. Roundnet, like many other sports, is a constant battle of mental warfare. It’s intricacies are changing with every point so don’t be afraid adapt in real time.
PJ- Defense wins games. There is nothing more depressing than feeling like you've put away a hit, only to have it brought back and put away against you. One defensive touch can change the entire momentum of a game. It can cause the hitter to second guess himself on the next hits and make unforced errors. Run to your spot, anticipate the hit, and then rely on your hands or body to get the ball up.
Tyler- Defensive positioning is tough, that is not a secret, but being in the “right” spot is not tough. Just going on odds of where people will hit it you can be in the right spot. Being beat on a drop shot to a spot where you or your teammate should be is not being in the right spot. Being consistent in your rotation and being committed to having your partners back when they make a move is huge. Laziness is where teams are going to lose most of their points, or at least me lol... hitters will beat you by doing ‘better’ shots than your defense. You cannot cover all of the net, no matter how much I want to be able to in my head. You need to be okay with getting beat on shots that are just straight up better than your defense. Using small angles or deceptive hand/body fakes will most likely beat you but if you are in the “right” spot to where you and your partner have the most covered than that is fine. Being able to be okay with that and realize when a good shot is a good shot is key to a lot.
Ryan- As much as I love playing cheeky and deceptive offense, defense is the addicting part. You will definitely fail more than you succeed, but when you convert a break from a great read, touch and finish, it makes it worth it! I love sharing my defensive schemes when playing with top players and watching them make plays that they typically wouldn't because they weren't thinking intentionally on defense. Not going to share too many of my secrets, so you will have to play with me to learn more haha!
Anthony- I think I pretty much hit everything but the only thing I'll add is the only ball that isn't playable is a ball you give up on! Get to diving!!!!!!!
So there you have it! Some awesome tips and insight from some of the best roundnet players on the planet! Special thank you to Skyler, Shaun, PJ, Tyler, Ryan, and Anthony for their willingness to be interviewed and their comprehensive responses! Notice the commonalities and patterns in their responses... there were several patterns that emerged in 'Learning from the Pros: How to Improve Your Defense Part 1' as well. Now it's up to you! Use this information to inform your training as you strive to improve! Thanks again to all of you who gave us feedback after we published Part 1, we'd love to hear your feedback regarding Part 2 as well as future topic recommendations!