The full court press is a defensive basketball tactic. Three out of the five defenders will go back to defend the basket, while the two guards swarm the ball handler to prevent him/her from advancing the ball or passing the ball. This is an aggressive tactic and is usually applied only at the end of a game when the defending team dearly wants a turnover. However, there are a few college basketball teams, as well as high school teams, who employ the full court press more regularly. Their players have to be in pretty good shape!

In everyday usage the phrase full court press means "your unrelenting best." Your father might tell you to "give it the full court press" as you study for final exams. Or your date might tell you after you bring flowers/candy for the sixth time, "You can stop giving me the full court press. I like you already."

Where I went to high school -- Hobbs, New Mexico -- everyone knew the basics of the full court press. The basketball head coach, Ralph Tasker, was a certified coaching legend -- at the time, he had the winningest record of any active coach, and the third winningest of all time. The players and the fans were all unswervingly loyal to him because, in over 50 years of coaching, he'd always been unswervingly loyal to them. He even had the respect and love of the other coaches and hoops players in New Mexico and West Texas -- playing the Hobbs Eagles was an Event, and if you could pull off a win, you knew you'd played a damn fine game of basketball that night.

And Tasker insisted on the Press -- not in the closing minutes, not when the game was close, but from the opening tip-off to the final buzzer. The Eagles pressed for the whole game.

I never played on the basketball team and was never a particularly athletic kid, but Hobbs was a basketball town, and every kid in school, from the star player to the head cheerleader to the least-athletic geek, knew how to run the Press.

Here's what the Press means: It means you work. You don't back up to half-court after you score a goal. You stay right there when the other team inbounds the ball. You don't give them any personal space; you're right in their face the whole time, looking for any opportunity to take possession of the ball. You don't allow them to walk the ball to half-court; you keep the pressure on and make them fight for that first 47 feet, then for the 47 feet after that. You wear them out before they get a chance to shoot the basket. If they make a single mistake, you take the ball away, take it back down the court, put the ball back in the hoop, then do the whole thing over again. Running the Press means you work, but more importantly, it means the other team works, too. And they are not used to working as hard as you are...

Since leaving Hobbs, it's been strange to visit other cities and see schools expend all their enthusiasm on football. It's been a little sad to find no one attending the high school basketball games. It's been disappointing to see the few basketball fans lounging in the stands instead of bellowing "PRESS! PRESS! PRESS! PRESS!" at the team. But it's also been fun to play pickup games and watch the alarm in your opponent's eyes when he realizes he's going to have to work just to get to the half-court line...

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