Almost everyone has heard the old saying “defense wins championships.”
On the hardwood, that is often proven to be true.
If you’re going for gold this basketball season, it can be crucial to work on your defensive fundamentals. This can start with your defensive stance and the ability to slide and keep the offensive player in front of you.
Your main goal as a defender is preventing the offensive player from passing you to reach the center of the floor or the rim. A solid defensive stance can help keep the ball handler in front of you.
- Start in an athletic stance. Your knees need to be bent and positioned slightly between your ankles. Your hips should be low while your chest is up with your eyes forward on the offensive player. Your weight should also be on the balls of your feet, not your heels.
- Extend one hand to discourage the ball handler from performing a crossover. If the ball is on the player’s right side, use your right hand. If it’s on their left, use your left hand. Your other hand, known as the off-hand, will be used to mirror the direction of the basketball. You’ll switch these hands as the offensive players move the ball from side to side.
- Once the offensive player commits to moving in a certain direction, open your hips and point your foot in that direction. Slide your body while staying low to the ground and work to beat the offensive player to the spot where they’re trying to go on the floor.
- As the offensive player changes direction, so will you. Stay in your athletic position while shifting your feet and hands/arms.
THE ZIG-ZAG DRILL
To work on your defensive stance, add the zig-zag basketball drill to practice. To run this drill:
- Set up cones in a zig-zag shape as if creating a W and then turning it on its side.
- Start at the top cone in the proper defensive stance.
- On command or when ready, slide to the next cone.
- When you reach that cone, adjust your body and slide in the opposite direction to the next cone. Continue this motion until you reach the last cone.
- Start slow to work on the proper mechanics and then speed up.
Ultimately, you can add in an offensive player to make the drill more game-like. This is also a good drill for the offensive player to work on their crossover dribble and ball control. This drill can help you become a good on-ball defender and improve your conditioning.
A team’s defensive success doesn’t come down to just one player. It needs to use defensive communication between all teammates on the court to shut down an opponent’s offense.