Short Circuit the Opposition
Here’s where you can take what you’ve learnt about decision making under pressure and use it against the opposition. Picture an offensive player with the ball with a defensive player in front of them. Both players are going through this OODA cycle in their heads, over and over again. Both players are going through the OODA cycle trying to beat the other. The offensive player will be both aware of the defender in front of them, perhaps ready to exploit any poor movements they might make, while paying attention to their team mates who are running the offense. If no pressure is applied, the offensive player can comfortably go through their decision making process, perhaps picking off a team mate with a pass as they run off a planned screen. If no pressure is applied then the defense is reactive to the offense, since the offense has the ball. The offensive player has the advantage, since they have the ball and the defender must react to anything they might do. A reactive moment occurs much faster and doesn’t allow as much time to be spent in the orientation phase before a decision has to be reached, as such these moments are more prone to error. So a passive defender who is simply standing between their player and the basket isn’t interfering at all with their opponents OODA and is often allowing them to run through the offensive set they have practiced over and over again, or perhaps plan their individual attacking move. However, if the defender were to jab in and out at the ball, really to do anything which bothers or distracts the offensive player, they will disrupt the offensive players OODA cycle, creating a change, and forcing the offensive player to analyse the change and return to the start of the decision making process. They have short-circuited the OODA loop. This becomes particularly advantageous when you think about how much time each week teams spend refining their offensive sets, all designed to set up, and catch out the defense. The best way to reduce their advantage is to take them out of their offense. They might run the offense perfectly, getting a player wide open under the basket, but if in that brief moment that the cutter is open the ball carrier is bothered by the on ball defense jabbing in and out then it doesn’t matter how good the offensive set was – the ball didn’t get to the open player.
So how does the offense prevent the defense from short circuiting their decision making process? Retake the advantage. The offense has the ball and can dictate the terms. If on the very first catch, the offensive player throws an aggressive pass fake or perhaps a rip and jab fake, the defender must react. Straight away the defender is on the back-foot, their OODA has been short circuited and they are reacting to the offense, rather than sitting there planning the offensive players demise. This also provides the offensive player valuable information about how the defender will react, are they overly reactive to fakes or are they heavy footed and slow to react? A player better at maximising the orientation phase will be able to pick up more of this useful information while still engaging in the offense. This information might lead to a catch and rip through on the next set down the court. The offensive player can build this catch and rip/fake habit to be automatic and not distract them from seeing the rest of the floor. It becomes automatic and doesn’t consume concentration of the offensive player, but the defender has to respect it and react to it, consuming their concentration. This also gives them more time and space to make a good decision, they don’t feel as pressured by the defender, for one because they know that the defender is reacting to them – they are in control, and two because they actually have increased their separation from the defender (since the defender has jumped back or to the side slightly in response to the fake). By building this one habit, every offensive catch is now better value, providing information and reducing pressure. This also allows the offensive player to learn and get more out of each play, without needing to put the ball on the floor or shoot. They’re building and refining mental maps learning in which moments the defense was vulnerable and what it was in reaction to. Players that pick up this information throughout a game will learn more from each game and will develop faster than other players in their decision making and reaction time.
When you consider these two players, one offensive and the other defensive, and their OODA cycles, you’ll notice it’s almost a race or tug of war, to see who can influence and pressure the other to ‘take them out of their game’. You might hear of certain players getting in the heads of their opposition. For whatever reason, they’ve managed to consistently short circuit their oppositions OODA cycle. When you consider this, it becomes obvious that the best defense, is to attack. The best way to protect yourself from the opposition ramping up the pressure and bothering your OODA cycle, is to first do that to them. To do nothing, is not just to avoid pressuring them, but intrinsically leaves you vulnerable to them short circuiting your OODA cycle.