Coach Doaty on Player Proximity


Randal S. Doaty
Focus & Attitude Coach

The actual physical distance between a player and their opponent in basketball is what I call proximity. The strategic use of proximity is one of the most powerful tools in the sport. Proximity can alter the mental state of your opponent and mentally disempower a player without them understanding what is actually happening to them. As a Focus & Attitude Coach, I believe player proximity strategy is one of the most important skills to master in the game of basketball.

Every player has an invisible comfort zone. When an opponent violates this comfort zone, the violated player begins to experience mental stress. As the mental stress increases, the mental and muscles memory skills quickly begin to deteriorate. When you violate someone’s comfort zone you are actually stealing the basketball skills they have worked to develop. Proximity allows you to gain an athletic advantage over your opponent. The longer and better you are able to maintain this close proximity, the more effective this strategy becomes.

Proximity is actually a subconscious response to your perception of your opponent’s athletic ability. The greater the distance between you and your opponent, the greater the respect you consciously or subconsciously have for their abilities. We all have a natural tendency to maintain a safe distance between ourselves and that which we fear. When you keep a safe distance between you and your opponent in basketball, you are acknowledging  their dominance over you and thereby increasing their confidence.

When you play extra tight defense you are taking a risk. It is easier for your opponent to get around you. However, the risks can be well worth the effort if you are just patient with the proximity strategy. Even the best players will succumb to a violation of their comfort zone. Many of the best players are so accustomed to the honorary distance between them and their opponent that they can quickly fall into the mental trap of a proximity strategy. Get too close for comfort and see what happens!

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