Defensive Footwork Drills
By Hal Wissel

Defensive Footwork. Moving your feet on defense is hard work. Success depends on desire, discipline, concentration,anticipation, and superior physical conditioning. Moving quickly with balance is the key to reacting to your opponent’s moves and changing direction instantly.To move on defense, use short, quick steps with your weight evenly distributed
on the balls of your feet. Push off the foot farther from where you are going and step with the closer foot. Do not cross your feet. Make an exception only when your opponent
moves near your lead foot. If that happens, execute a drop step to recover your defensive position. Your feet should not move closer than shoulder-width apart. Keep them as close to the floor as possible. Flex your knees and keep your body low, your upper body erect, and your chest out. Keep your head steady. Avoid up-and-down body movements.
Hopping or jumping movements are slow and put you in the air; you should be on the floor reacting to an opponent. Pressure the ball with quick flicks of whichever hand is closer to the direction your opponent is going, but do not reach or lean. Keeping your head over your waist, your arms close to your body, and your elbows flexed will help you maintain balance. You should master these basic defensive steps or movements: the side step or slide, the attack step and retreat step, and the reverse or drop step. Each step starts from a
defensive stance. 

Lane Defensive Slide

Start in the lane, facing the foul line, with your right foot on the lane line to your right. Use a balanced defensive stance with your feet parallel and your hands up. Using short, quick defensive side steps, move quickly to the lane line on your left, change direction, and move back to the lane line on your right. Continue as quickly as you can between the left and right lane lines. Your goal is to touch 15 lines or more in 30 seconds. 

Lane Defensive Slide


Lane Defensive Attack and Retreat

Attacking, or moving up on your opponent, is often referred to as closing out. This is not an easy skill. It requires good judgment and balance. You cannot close on your opponent so fast that you lose your balance and are unable to change direction backward. In this drill start by facing the foul line, with your right foot on the defensive right box and your left foot forward and in the lane. Use a staggered defensive stance with your left foot forward at a 45-degree angle from your right foot and with your hands up. Take short, quick attack steps with your left foot (the lead foot) forward until it touches the middle of the foul line. Quickly drop-step with your left foot. Change to retreat steps, backing up until your left foot touches the defensive left box. Immediately change direction, switching to attack steps until your right foot touches the line. Step back to the box as quickly as you can. Your goal is to touch a total of 15 or more lines and boxes in 30 seconds. 

Lane Defensive Attack and Retreat

Lane Defensive Zig-Zag 

In the basic defensive stance, the feet are staggered one foot in front of the other. The weakness of this stance is in the lead foot: It is more difficult to move back in the
direction of the lead foot than in the direction of the back foot. If an opponent dribbles toward the basket past your lead foot, quickly drop-step in the direction of your opponent’s move with your lead foot while making a reverse pivot with your back foot. Keep your head up and over your waist, and keep your eyes focused on your opponent. As you perform the reverse pivot, vigorously push off your back foot in the direction of the drop step. The drop step should be straight back. The foot should move low to the floor. Do not circle or
lift the lead foot high. For added momentum in the drop step, forcefully move the elbow on the side of your lead foot back close to your body. 

In this drill start in the lane, facing the foul line, with your right foot on the defensive right elbow (the intersection of the lane and foul lines). Stand in a staggered defensive stance with your left foot back at a 45-degree angle. Use short, quick retreat steps to move back diagonally until your left foot touches the lane line on your left, just above the box. Quickly drop-step with your right foot and use retreat steps until your right foot touches the intersection of the baseline and lane line to your right. Quickly change to an offensive stance and sprint diagonally to the defensive left elbow where you will change to a defensive stance with your left foot on the elbow. Use retreat steps until your left foot touches the lane line on your right. Drop-step with your left foot and retreat until it touches the intersection of the baseline and lane line on your left. Change to an offensive stance and sprint to the defensive right elbow. Continue a defensive zigzag from elbow to lane to the intersection of baseline and lane line, then sprint to the opposite elbow as quickly as you can. Your goal is to touch 15 lines or more in 30 seconds. 

Lane Defensive Zig-Zag 

Defensive Footwork Drill. Defense Rebound Loose Ball Fast Break 

Start in the middle of the half-court. A coach or teammate stands 20 feet  in front of you, randomly giving verbal commands and hand signals. On the “Defense!” command, quickly assume a defensive stance. On the “Side!” command, move quickly to the side signaled by your coach or teammate’s hand. On the “Up! Command, move quickly up. On the “Back!” command,move quickly back. Your coach or teammate should also signal you to move up and back and to the other side with hand signals. Use defensive side steps for moving to the side, and use attack and retreat steps for moving up and back. Maintain a balanced defensive stance and execute good footwork with quick changes of direction. When your coach or teammate randomly shouts the command “Rebound!” Quickly execute a two-foot jump and simulate grabbing a rebound with two hands. When your coach or teammate randomly shouts the command “Loose ball!” Quickly assume a position with hands and feet on the floor, simulating going for a loose ball, and then get back up just as fast. When your coach or teammate randomly shouts the command “Fast break!” you should sprint forward as you would on a fast break. Your goal is to do the drill in one minute sets without a mistake. Do at least five sets with a 30 second rest between each set.

Defense Rebound Loose Ball Fast Break Drill