The Skillset of Turning Against Defenders

Learning to properly turn against a defender in a high pressure game situation is a valuable and necessary skill for a young player to develop.

When receiving the ball from a teammate with a defender in fast pursuit, the act of going around the defender with the ball is called a first-time-turn. There are three basic rules when setting up for, and executing, the first-time turn. The most obvious, as in any area of receiving is to get to the ball first because there is no way a player can produce a turn if he’s not in command of the situation. The player should move towards the ball rather than “wait” for it, just as though he is going to control the ball and shield it. He should put himself on the defender’s line to the ball to prevent the chance, however slight, of the defender getting a touch.

The second rule is to try anything that can disguise intention and fool a close marker. A quick-thinking, fast-moving forward can make space by threatening to get behind his marker before the pass is made. As the defender checks to cover his move, the front man moves back towards the ball, gaining a small amount of time and space to make it his and execute the turn. Teammates in supply positions can anticipate the types of movement associated with a particular player, and adjust the timing, weight and direction of their pass according to his particular skills.

If the defender follows the movement too closely, the turn itself can beat him. If he can be lured into thinking he can reach the ball and then the offensive player turns with it, he will have come “too tight” and the offensive player can run away with the ball.

An offensive player can always dummy as he actually goes for the ball, too, pretending to go one way before “recovering” and going the other. Sometimes a sidestep motion with the legs or a sway of the body will prove enough. Any hesitation on the part of the defender, however slight, will gain the offensive player precious time. Remember, though, that there is little point in trying such tactics at the cost of losing control of the situation. These techniques should be developed during the training routines for turning.

The third basic rule is to keep options open. Remain alert and balanced, the offensive player should be ready to move either way or change his mind completely. As in shielding, the offenseman is in the driving seat and decides the course of action. Various factors may lead to choosing a certain way at the last moment, including the exact nature of the pass and movement of the marker. The offenseman may sense he has drifted a little to one side in anticipation of a turn that way, so you adjust to go the other. Or, turn may be abandoned altogether and the best option is passing off to a teammate who is making a run.

As a coach, it’s best to let the players know they have a lot of options. If they feel boxed in to memorizing what should be done in a given situation the results can be disastrous. Encourage thinking and good decision making amongst your players.

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