Backing up from the scoring zones in all sports requires possession of the ball to get there. Possession of a golf ball is usually uncontested unless count yourself as an obstacle. With other sports, most acquisitions of a ball, puck, or another object of the game, involve an opponent. The challenge becomes obtainable, when no one has control of it, thereby making it loose. Most coaches call a loose ball a “50-50” ball with both teams having a fair chance to field it. In order to set the tone, some coaches take no chance in getting there first. “If the ball is loose we don’t want to just reach down and pick it up, we dive on the floor for it, said Harold Baber, Head Boys’ basketball coach for St. John’s.
“50/50 ground balls can make or break a game. The team that understands the importance of ground ball possession will most likely be the team that walks off the field with a win, said Angie Kensinger, Head Maverick Girls’ Lacrosse Coach. “More importantly, the effort in these situations sets the tone for the game,” said Sam Chambers, the Boys’ lacrosse coach. This loose item is about desire, and even if you can’t shoot, you can fight for possession, and find somebody who can. Win these and now you can get to the scoring zone.
Let’s back up further. How are 50-50 opportunities created? The answer is defense. Make your opponent uncomfortable, or “dictate on defense to create a loose ball chance,” said Pat Krieger, Head Girls’ Basketball coach for the Mavericks.
This is true in football. According to Stobie Whitmore, defensive coordinator for the Mavericks, “we establish an ‘in charge’ mentality no matter if we have the ball or not. Why wait until you have possession to be in charge?” said Whitmore. This is evident in softball when the person with the ball is not necessarily in command.
“In softball the object of the hitter is to make the pitcher uncomfortable,” said Dan Muschalik, Head Varsity Softball coach for St. John’s. Once again in order to gain possession or a scoring chance one team is trying to make the other team uncomfortable.
Defense in soccer, basketball, and lacrosse use the same principles. Force your opponent to their weak side, and to the sideline which acts as another defender, to create a higher percentage for turnovers. “We never want the ball in the middle of the court. There are too many scoring options in the middle. We want to dictate what the offense does by forcing them to the side and corners,” said Baber.
By analyzing these sports from the target out, we can break down strategies into more than just scoring. By defining what is important, coaches can mesh the team into meaningful roles that ultimately create scoring chances. Players have unique talents and gifts, and when defense, desire, and finishing are all part of the system, more roles can be valued in a team concept. The target gets bigger and the surface becomes shorter. “All you have to do now is take pride in getting possession, and the scoring becomes routine when you get the ball to the ‘zone’, said Krieger.”
Win the ground ball in lacrosse, the rebound in basketball, the header in soccer, or the fumble in football and you now have a chance to get to the scoring zone, and maybe celebrate afterwards at The Zone or the 19th hole if you did not let yourself get in the way.