Everyone has the potential to play good defense, regardless of talent or age level. Defense is about heart, hustle, and attitude. Every player has the opportunity to make a significant contribution to the team by playing good defense.
Defense Teaching Points:
- A proper defensive stance includes the following.
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Knees bent, with waist slightly bent forward.
- Good balance: ready to move and slide.
- Place weight on the inside front of the feet, but not on the toes.
- Extend arms to the side, slightly bent.
- Open hands, so palms face the offensive player.
- Eyes on the offensive player’s chest or “head on the ball”.
- If the offensive player is dribbling, then have one hand down, ready to intercept a crossover dribble, and the other hand extended to the side, ready to disrupt a pass.
- Ball/You/Basket principle: A defensive player should stay between the assigned offensive player and the basket.
- If the defensive player is guarding a player with the ball, they should be in a good defensive stance as described above.
- If the defensive player is guarding a player one pass away from the player with the ball, then the defensive player should be between the ball and the person being guarded, while 'denying' the ball. In order to deny the ball, the hand between the defensive player and the ball should be turned outward and thumb down.
- If the defensive player is guarding a player more than one pass away from the player with the ball, then the defensive player should be between the ball and the person being guarded, close enough to intercept a pass, but far enough so that they can help another player if need be. This is sometimes referred to as Ball/You/Offensive-Player.
- The defensive player should see the ball at all times. At no time should a defensive player every turn their back to the ball.
- Sprint down the floor on a change of possession, stopping any fast breaks.
Defensive Slides Drill
A coach should focus on players’ feet sliding (rather than hopping or skipping) and players maintaining a proper defensive stance. Have fun with this drill! Allow players to express enthusiasm and desire by slapping the playing floor and yelling “DEFENSE” on command. Drill should last 20-30 seconds. Allow short rest and repeat as desired.
- Allow players to spread out in practice area, at least four to five feet apart.
- On command, players yell “DEFENSE” and freeze in the defensive stance.
- On command (either verbal or hand signals), players will slide left, right, up, and back.
Encourage defensive players to keep their “head on the ball” and remind them of ball/you/basket principle. Do not allow defensive players to steal the ball. Offensive players should use their arm bars as they dribble. Drill should last 20-30 seconds. Players should rotate offensive/defensive positions and repeat as desired.
- Pair up players, designating one player on offense and one player on defense.
- Using the longest part of the practice area, space each pair about five feet apart.
- The offensive player should dribble the basketball left and right in a steady, yet random pattern, staying on the same imaginary line.
- The defensive player should assume the proper defensive stance and slide with the offensive player.
Variation: The defensive player can perform this drill with hands clasped behind their backs.
Zig Zag Drill
Focus on players making a drop step each time they turn (rather than crossing their feet) and on players sliding correctly while maintaining a proper defensive stance.
- Form a line of players at one end of your practice area.
- Set-up cones or chairs in a zigzag pattern, spaced 10-12 feet apart (minimum 3 spots).
- On command, the first player in line will assume the correct defensive stance and will slide in a zigzag pattern as dictated by the cones or chairs .
- The next player in line starts as the preceding player leaves first spot.
- As each player reaches the final spot, they should sprint back to the end of the line.
Variations (pair up players):
Partner Zigzag (no ball) - Offense dribbles imaginary basketball from spot to spot and goes half-speed. Next pair in line starts as preceding pair leaves first spot.
Partner Zigzag (with ball) – Offense dribbles from spot to spot and goes half-speed. Do not allow players to steal the ball. Next pair in line starts as preceding pair leaves first spot.
Encourage defensive players to keep their “head on the ball.” They must force the offensive players to turn at each spot. Players should rotate offensive/defensive positions after each repetition.