The game of basketball is evolving in many ways. It has become
faster-paced, position less and offense-oriented, so much so that
defense has taken a backseat for some players. In response to this
trend, high school basketball coach Jennifer Sepielli has come up
with a revolutionary solution to flip the script and encourage
activity on the other end: Defense on a String.
Defense on a String is a brand-new product that launched on
Wednesday, constructed to help coaches and players put a real focus
on team defense. The brainchild of Sepielli, a former standout
guard at Hillsborough Community College and the University of South
Florida, the product’s design allows for individuals to be linked
together as they move in unison. In addition to coaches
communicating what spots players need to be in defensively, now
they’ll have a physical representation of it.
Here’s how it works: Defense on a String has five belts that are
connected by one bungee cord in between each belt to simulate the
concept of a team playing on a string offensively. The adjustable
belts wrap comfortably around the waist of each player. As one
player rotates to close out on the ball, every other player will
feel a tug as a reminder to get to help position or in a passing
lane. The product can be used to teach players both man-to-man or
zone defense. It fosters the muscle memory needed for good
defensive execution by reinforcing the need for every player to
move when the ball is in flight. Designed for all levels, it helps
improve not just all movement and spacing, but also helps reaction
time and foot speed defensively.
“I just hope I can help the game improve on the defensive end,”
Sepielli told BasketballNews.com in a phone interview. “Our sport
is oversaturated with offensive tools – you need those things – but
I feel like as coaches, we tell our players, 'Defense wins
“Defense wins championships.' So I thought, what is there to
help us reiterate that? Other than vocally speaking it, what's on
the market that can help us reinforce what we say has such an
important part of the game?”
While coaches may primarily use it in a five-player setting,
Defense on a String can also be broken down for any scheme, 3-on-3,
2-on-2, the shell drill, etc. The bungee cords have been tested at
the highest resistance, too, allowing for over 150,000 pulls to
ensure the reliance and safety of users.
The product has gotten rave reviews from coaches including
former NBA center Daniel Santiago, former WNBA and college coach
Shell Dailey as well as Dunbar High School (Fort Myers, Fla.) head
coach and longtime college coach Tim Maloney (a former assistant of
Billy Donovan’s at Florida) and Bob Walsh, the Associate Director
of Player Development, Scouting, and Recruiting Coordination for
the Providence University men’s basketball team.
Taking it a step further, Defense On A String has gained the
approval and respect of both University of Georgia head women’s
basketball coach Joni Taylor and Alvin Brooks III, an assistant
coach for the 2021 NCAA Division I men’s basketball national
champion Baylor University.
"Defense on a String is an amazing invention,” Taylor said on
Sepielli’s product website. “It is something that we will be using
to enhance our defensive drills.
“The ability to connect all 5 players together and have them
moving in unison defensively is a huge benefit. There are so many
ways we can utilize it and I'm looking forward to using it in
Brooks III added on the website, “Championship teams are always
connected defensively on the court. Defense on a String keeps each
defender connected literally!”
Sepielli has been pleased and humbled by the positive feedback
she has received from numerous coaches about her invention.
Of course, the opinions of the players matter just as much, and
Sepielli insists that they “love it.”
“I think it helps make defense fun,” Sepielli said. “I think it
helps them understand, Okay, this is what coach means when the
ball's in-flight because if we don't move when the ball's
in-flight, we're going to get pulled to a position.
“Some people are visual learners, and this is something I felt I
could implement so that when I say, 'You've got to get to help,'
they would understand what getting to help or midline was by
feeling the tug and being forced to move because they’re all
connected to each other.
“(With this product), you're forced to get the concept. Maybe
you still don't get to the 'right' position, but you know you have
to move, and, at that point, you could re-emphasize, 'Hey, this is
the passing lane, this is help defense, this is where at the
midline; we need you.'”
Ever since her father, Sam, introduced the game to her at an
early age, Sepielli fell in love with basketball while growing up
in Fort Myers, Fla. (Sam passed away around 17 years ago and he was
the inspiration behind the two “S” strings in the product’s logo).
The youngest of three children, Jen would always get turned away by
her siblings (Melissa and Guytano) to play with them, so she went
over to the neighbor’s basket to hoop by herself.
“I think that drove me and motivated me to just work harder.”
Sepielli attended and played for Mariner High School in Cape
Coral, FL. She then moved on to Hillsborough Community College to
suit up as the school’s captain and starting point guard for two
years before finishing her playing career at the University of
Once her playing days were behind her, Sepielli soon discovered
that she had a passion for coaching. She spent four years as the
head coach of Hillsborough’s women's program prior to accepting her
current position as a girl’s basketball head coach at a high school
program in Florida. She truly enjoys coaching at this level because
of how pure the game is, and the opportunity to help set a
foundation for her players – on and off the floor – can be
“X's and O’s are great – and I feel like I'm good at that,” she
said. “But the biggest thing is really encouraging my players,
loving my players and helping pull out of them their max
“And I think when that relationship is built, you get the
maximum out of your players. That's what I really think has been my
emphasis when coaching. I think you can get the max potential out
of somebody when players know that you really care about them as a
human being, outside of [as] a basketball player. If they trust
you, they're going to go through a wall for you.”
Over the years that she played, Sepielli’s coaches instilled a
defensive mentality in her that never left, and it has carried over
into her own coaching principles.
“I didn't know anything different,” Sepielli said. “I was raised
up in those type of systems, so for me, it was an easy transition
going into coaching and knowing that I wanted defense to be a
priority. I wanted our offense based on our defense and, if we can
defend well, we can win some ball games.”
The concept of Defense on a String came organically, Sepielli
said. Around a decade ago, she pondered how she could improve the
game she loved. When she decided that a better method of
reinforcing defensive principles should take priority over anything
else, the idea was born.
“Currently, I just feel like you're coaching and explaining help
defense, explaining to move when the ball moves, but it's so hard
to reiterate that,” she said. “As a coach, all you've got to do is
practice, practice, practice, but I kept thinking, there's got to
be something and some way that we literally could move as a
Constructing the Product
The birth of Defense on a String’s started with a rope. Sepielli
took a super long piece of material and wrapped it around the waist
of each of her players to teach them how to move as a unit.
Gradually, through trial and error, she decided to use a long
bungee cord for more flexibility and movement, before realizing
that having an adjustable belt for each player that could be
connected with a bungee cord would create the best way to simulate
As time passed, there were admittedly moments when Sepielli
faced mental roadblocks and stopped the creative process, but she
followed her faith to get it done.
“God put that in my heart to keep working on it and stay with
it,” she said. “With anything in life, I think you have your times
that you hit these walls and you're wondering, ‘I don't know if
this can happen,’ or if I can really get it off the ground or get
my vision the way I want it to be and everything to move correctly.
But it was just trial and error.”
She remembers her mother, Virginia’s words of encouragement and
reminder “Make sure you see this through, finish what you started”.
Sepielli really started feeling confident about the concept coming
to life a few years ago. Once it was built, she entrusted some
people back home to test things out. Then, it was put to action in
“Seeing them, if they didn't move, getting tugged let [the
players] know, 'I don't have a choice anymore. I can't be
complacent. I have to be very aware; I have to stay active. I think
some coaches don't like zones because they think zones are lazy.
This is a product you can use not just for man-to-man, but for zone
defenses too, and no longer is defense lazy because everyone's
feeling tugged. Everyone has to move. Defense On A String will
allow you to still enforce man to man movement in your zone
Sepielli has been eager to share her invention with the world
but acknowledges that it’s been an arduous process. There have been
a lot of details and paperwork that has had to be completed over
the last couple of years, which is why she has been patient before
launching the sale of Defense on a String. With defense becoming a
lost art form in the game, Sepielli hopes her invention will help
bring it back.