Basketball Defensive Drills for Coaches

Basketball Defensive Drills

We have all heard the phrase, “defense wins championships.” If that is the case, it makes sense to spend a good portion of time working on defense. This means spending time working on team defensive strategy and teaching players the correct way to play defense in basketball. As a coach, you can’t expect players to correctly execute your defensive scheme if you haven’t already taught them how to guard. And that is exactly where these basketball defensive drills come into play.

Basketball HQ basketball defensive drills are perfect for coaches to use with their teams. They teach all of the basics of basketball defense and allow for mastery of the different defensive movements. Each of our basketball training videos breaks down a type of defensive action, which will allow coaches to learn better how to teach these movements to their players, allowing players to learn better on their own.

In this basketball coaching article, we will highlight several different defensive principles and several different basketball defensive drills. However, we highly recommend that you check out our full database of basketball drills (850+ drills) and all of the defensive drills that we have.


The Importance of Basketball Defensive Drills

Great defensive teams are first built with a strong foundation. This means taking the time to develop your player’s individual defensive skills. The more a player can feel confident in their own defense, the easier it will be to execute the different team defensive schemes. If a player is not confident in their defense, they will only be thinking about that, not being in the gap, helping, rotating, etc.

So, when using defensive basketball drills with your players, really lock in on each movement’s correct mechanics. Don’t allow your players to cross their feet when sliding or take big steps when chopping their feet on a closeout. The more you can emphasize each defensive basketball movement’s details, the better your team will be.

And, before you know it, your team will be proud of their defense. From here, it is all exponential growth as you have created a defensive culture for your program. It all starts with you putting the time in, though, at the beginning.


Basketball Defensive Drills Teaching Points

Defense in basketball is an interesting skill. It is because as much as it is technique and skill, it is just as much heart and effort. As a basketball coach, you will be responsible for developing both of those areas with your players. So, as you are doing these different basketball defensive drills, it will be up to you to really teach your players the right way to do things and also encourage their fight on the defensive end of the floor. These teaching points will help you out with some of the areas you should be focusing on.


Technique and Efficiency

It all starts with technique. A player can’t expect to be a high-level defender if they cannot first master the basics. This means spending the needed time working on defensive slides, run steps, closeouts, etc. And it may mean working on them at half-speed to start with. Don’t allow bad habits into a player’s defensive movements. Also, the correct technique will make players quicker because they are more efficient with their movements. So the better a player can master efficient movements, the more it will help them guard quicker offensive players.


Anticipate Instead of React

Once a defender masters the basics, they can free their mind up to read the offense. At this point, they should be anticipating rather than reacting. A good defensive player in basketball can anticipate what the offense is doing and then prepare themselves to guard. A poor defensive player is always reacting and is a step slow to every offensive action. Basketball players who want to be good at defense must learn how to anticipate what the offense will do.



Not every defensive possession is going to go through 100% as planned. That means that sometimes there are going to be breakdowns. However, that doesn’t mean the offense should get a wide-open shot or finish at the basket. As a basketball player or team, if you are always competing your hardest when these situations happen, you will be able to fight through and cover many of them.

This only happens, though, if players are fighting and competing on every play. So, along with learning the different movements in these basketball defensive drills, it will be essential for players to learn to compete at a high level. You can help your players learn how to compete with basketball competition drills that allow your players to compete against each other in a controlled environment. Whether it is a shell drill, one-on-one, etc., teach your players how to compete and battle against each other.


Team Defense

As a basketball coach, you are going to have your own defensive scheme. It may be a gambling defense, a zone defense, or whatever. This means that you are going to have different defensive principles for your players. So, along with working on these different defensive drills with them, make sure that they know what is expected in each style of team defense you run. You don’t want players gambling when they shouldn’t be or a players not in a passing lane when they should be.


Defensive Communication

Regardless of what type of defense you play, you will need all five players working together to get stops. This means that players should communicate at a high level. A great way to work on communication is during basketball drills. Whether it is one of the one-person basketball defensive drills or one of the multi-person drills, players should communicate. They also need to use relevant communication. Have them use your team’s terminology when communicating in the help, on the ball, etc.


Must-Use Basketball Defensive Drills

Use these basketball defensive drills with your team and start to see your players drastically improve on the defensive end of the floor. And when you are done with these basketball drills, checkout our members-only area to access a ton more defensive basketball drills as well as hundreds of other expert basketball training videos.


Drill #1: Resistance Band Zig Zag Defensive Basketball Drill


Resistance Band Zig Zag Defensive Basketball Drill


Learning to be explosive laterally is an important part of guarding the basketball on defense. When the offensive player makes a dribble move in either direction, the defender must be able to slide laterally at a slight backward angle to cut them off with their chest. If the player cannot contain the dribble, the offense will have free reign to the paint, and it will be a long night.

This resistance basketball drill focuses on moving laterally and doing it with resistance. By using the resistance band to train, you will force your muscles to work harder than they normally would. The zigzag drill is a common defensive basketball drill, but the resistance band takes it to a new level. This basketball workout doesn’t need to be done every day, but it is good to work on it once or twice a week.



Basketball Drill Overview

Drill Name: Resistance Band Zig Zag Defensive Basketball Drill

Equipment Needed: Resistance band, 5-10 cones, and a partner.


Goals of the Drill

  • Work on defensive slides, explosiveness, and lateral quickness


Coaching Points

  • Stay low in a stance the entire time; don’t raise up.
  • Push yourself to go as fast as you can, but make sure that you maintain good form.
  • Don’t bring your feet together or cross them over.
  • Keep your weight centered and get a good push-off at each cone.


Basketball Drill Instructions

  • Starting on the baseline, set up 5 to 10 cones in a staggered position in the outside third of the court (cones should be about 6-8 feet apart).
  • Hook the resistance band around the player’s waist and have the partner grab the other side of it.
  • The player will start at the first cone in the corner with his/her back facing the court; the partner will be in front of them, providing resistance.
  • When the drill starts, the player will drop into a defensive stance and defensive slide out to the first cone.
  • When they reach the first cone, they will plant their outside foot and then slide in the opposite direction to the next cone.
  • This will continue all the way down the line of staggered cones.
  • You can make the line as long as you would like.
  • When you reach the end of the cones, you can have the player turn around and come back or switch out players.


Drill #2: Medicine Ball Defensive Slides Basketball Drill


Medicine Ball Defensive Slides Basketball Drill


Playing on the ball defense is all about staying low in a wide defensive stance and being able to quickly slide laterally in either direction to cut off the ball handler when they go to drive the ball. The medicine ball defensive slides basketball drill will work on the player staying low in a defensive stance as well as conditioning.

This defensive basketball drill aims to teach the player to stay low in a stance the entire time they are on defense and then also give them the strength and conditioning in their legs to do so. For this basketball drill, you don’t have to go very long, either. It only needs to go for 15-30 seconds before you rotate in the next player. This makes it great for basketball practices or small group workouts where you have a set amount of time on the floor.



Basketball Drill Overview

Drill Name: Medicine Ball Defensive Slides Basketball Drill

Equipment Needed: Medicine ball (Use a regular basketball for younger players or don’t have a weighted ball).


Goals of the Drill

  • Work on defensive slide principles, leg strength, and conditioning.


Coaching Points

  • Stay in a defensive stance the entire time, and keep your back straight.
  • Don’t let your feet come together.
  • You can go to two players at a time if you want.
  • Just start them on opposite sides of the center circle.


Basketball Drill Instructions

  • The player will stand on the center circle line with one foot on the half-court line as well.
  • They will lift the ball up over their head and then get into a defensive stance.
  • They will slide around the center circle in a defensive stance until their foot touches the half-court line on the other side.
  • As soon as they touch the line, they are going to slide back in the other direction.
  • This will continue for the desired amount of time.
  • Usually, 15-30 seconds is a good time to aim for if the player is going their hardest.


Drill #3: Lane Line 1 on 1 Basketball Defensive Drill


Lane Line 1 on 1 Defensive Basketball Drill


Being able to put great defensive pressure on a ball handler can completely change the tone of a game. If the defender can frustrate the ball handler and keep them from getting into a set basketball play, the other team is going to struggle to score points. This will also speed the game up and cause turnovers, which will lead to easy transition baskets.

This defensive basketball drill will work on being able to really harass the ball handler and crowd their space. On the flip side, though, it is really going to help the ball handler learn to handle the ball when being pressured in tight spaces.

It is a great basketball drill to use with your point guards and the primary ball handlers on your team. And as much as this drill will work on different skills, it will also teach players to compete and battle. Basketball competition drills like this are key when it comes to developing your players and teaching them to compete on both sides of the ball.




Basketball Drill Overview

Drill Name: Lane Line 1 on 1 Basketball Defensive Drill

Equipment Needed: 1 basketball and 1 partner.


Goals of the Drill

  • Work on pressuring the ball full court, and also work on handling the ball under pressure.


Coaching Points

  • The defender needs to make sure that they are low in an athletic stance and are ready to slide in either direction quickly.
  • The defender needs to try and force the offensive player where they want them to go; don’t let the offensive player dictate.
  • The offensive player needs to use their body to shield off the defender and then use a great change of pace.
  • Really look to change up speeds and keep the defender off balance.


Basketball Drill Instructions

  • Both basketball players are going to start under the basket.
  • The offensive player will be on the baseline, and the defensive player will be right under the basket with the ball.
  • When the drill starts, the defensive player will hand the ball to the offensive player, and the drill becomes live.
  • The offensive player must stay within the width of the lane line, or they lose.
  • The offensive player must also get past the free-throw line in under 4 seconds and past the half-court line in under 6 seconds.
  • Obviously, the defensive player is trying to prevent this or force the offensive player out of the lane line.
  • Every stop is worth one point for the defender.
  • You can do this basketball drill with multiple players or just one-on-one and keep rotating.



Why Basketball Defensive Drills

Basketball defensive drills are an essential aspect of training for basketball coaches. The emphasis on defense in basketball cannot be overstated; it is a foundation upon which games are won, or potentially lost.

Defensive basketball drills do more than just fine-tune a player’s ability to guard an opponent; they instill a sense of teamwork and discipline, which is vital for the success of the team. Mastery of defense through varied basketball defensive drills can completely alter the tempo of a game, forcing turnovers and effectively shutting down the opposing team’s offensive strategies.

For players, these defensive basketball drills enhance agility, awareness, and reaction times, fundamentally elevating the overall caliber of the game. Defense isn’t just one element of the game; it is the framework that supports every offensive play and every triumphant victory.

Implementing consistent and challenging basketball defensive drills is non-negotiable for teams aiming at the highest echelons of competition in the sport of Basketball.


Basketball Defensive Drill Tips

There are a variety of basketball defensive drills that can be incorporated into team practices to improve overall defensive skills and technique. Here are some tips to make the most out of these drills: 

  • Emphasize fundamentals: It’s important for players to understand the basic fundamentals of defense, such as proper stance, footwork, and hand positioning. Make sure to reinforce these concepts during drills and provide feedback to players as needed. 
  • Focus on one skill at a time: Each defensive drill should have a specific focus, whether it’s improving lateral quickness, closing out on shooters, or defending screens. By isolating different skills, players can better understand and improve upon their weaknesses. 
  • Incorporate game-like scenarios: While drills are great for building individual skills, they should also simulate real game scenarios. This means incorporating movements and situations that players would encounter during a game, such as one-on-one matchups or defending against a pick-and-roll. 
  • Encourage communication: Defense is all about communication and teamwork. Use drills as an opportunity to emphasize the importance of talking on defense, whether it’s calling out switches or helping a teammate on a screen. 
  • Make it competitive: Adding an element of competition to drills can make them more engaging and motivating for players. Consider keeping score or setting a time limit for completing the drill in order to increase intensity and focus. 
  • Rotate positions: In basketball, players must be able to defend multiple positions on the court. Make sure to rotate players through different positions during drills to improve their versatility and understanding of defensive concepts. 
  • End with a scrimmage: While drills are important, it’s also crucial for players to apply what they’ve learned in a game-like setting. Consider ending practice with a short scrimmage or scrimmaging during breaks between drills to give players the opportunity to use their new defensive skills and techniques. 

By incorporating these tips into your team’s defensive drills, you can help improve their overall defensive abilities and make them a stronger and more well-rounded team on the court. Keep in mind that consistency is key – regularly incorporating these drills into practices will yield the best results over time. So keep practicing, communicating, and challenging yourself! 



Basketball Defensive Drills Frequently Asked Questions


How do you train Defence in basketball?

By focusing on these strategies, players can significantly improve their perimeter defense, making it challenging for opponents to find scoring opportunities.

  1. Adopt a Low Stance: Ensure your stance is lower than the opponent’s to maintain agility and balance. This position allows for quicker reactions to their movements.
  2. Maintain Optimal Distance: Position yourself an arm’s length from the player you’re defending. This distance is crucial to react effectively without giving them too much space or crowding them.
  3. Prioritize Footwork: Emphasize short, quick steps. Proper footwork is the foundation of effective defense, allowing you to stay in front of the offensive player without overcommitting.
  4. Utilize Active Hand Movements: Keep your hands active and ready. This disrupts the offensive player’s vision and passing lanes, making it harder for them to make decisive plays.
  5. Practice Swiping Techniques: Learn to swipe upwards at the ball. This technique minimizes fouls compared to downward swipes and increases your chances of cleanly stealing the ball.
  6. Enhance Physical Conditioning: A high level of fitness is essential for sustained defensive performance. Being in top physical shape enables you to maintain intensity throughout the game.


How can I improve my ball defense in basketball?

In one-on-one defensive situations, it’s crucial to keep a low and wide stance. Avoid standing too upright or with your feet just shoulder-width apart, as this can lead to a loss of balance. Resist the temptation to fall for shot fakes or to lunge towards the player. Instead, hold your ground, maintain your stance, and keep your eyes on the ball. This approach will help you stay in control and effectively defend against the offense.


How do you teach basketball defensive stance?

  1. Start with the Feet: Emphasize the importance of foot positioning. The feet should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, ensuring a stable and balanced base. This width allows for quick lateral movements and agility.
  2. Bend the Knees: Instruct players to bend their knees, not their backs. A slight bend in the knees readies the body for swift movements and helps absorb impacts or changes in direction. This knee bend is crucial for maintaining balance and quickness on defense.
  3. Lower the Center of Gravity: Encourage players to lower their center of gravity by bending at the hips and keeping their chest up and head level. This posture increases stability and responsiveness, allowing them to react more effectively to the offensive player’s movements.
  4. Position the Arms: Teach players to extend their arms slightly, with elbows bent and hands up and active. This arm positioning makes it harder for opponents to pass or shoot and enables the defender to better contest shots and passes.
  5. Focus on Footwork: Drill into players the importance of quick, short steps. Long strides can slow down reaction times. Practice lateral movement drills to enhance their ability to stay in front of the offensive player without crossing their feet.
  6. Eyes on the Ball and Player: Instruct defenders to keep their eyes on their opponent’s waist or chest area, as this gives the best indication of where the player will move next. However, they should also be aware of the ball’s position to anticipate passes or shots.
  7. Practice, Practice, Practice: Like any skill, the defensive stance improves with repetition. Incorporate specific drills that focus on defensive movements, including sliding, backpedaling, and changing directions quickly. Use live scenarios to apply these techniques in game-like situations.
  8. Feedback and Adjustment: Offer constant feedback and allow players to adjust based on what they feel works best for their body type and defensive style. Personal adjustments can make the defensive stance more effective for each player.

By focusing on these key areas, coaches can effectively teach players the fundamentals of a solid basketball defensive stance, laying the groundwork for a strong defensive game.


How do you teach aggressive defense in basketball?

To cultivate a more aggressive defensive mindset in basketball, incorporating specific drills into practice sessions is essential. Coaches aiming to enhance their team’s defensive prowess should concentrate on three fundamental drills: the Closeout and Contesting Shots Drill, which sharpens players’ abilities to quickly approach shooters while effectively challenging their shots; the On-Ball Pressure Defense Drill, designed to improve defenders’ skills in applying relentless pressure on ball handlers; and the Help Side Defense Rotations Drill, which focuses on teaching players how to effectively communicate and rotate to provide support defense. These drills are instrumental in developing a more assertive and proactive defensive team strategy.


How can I improve my child’s basketball defense?

To enhance your child’s defensive skills in basketball, it’s crucial to teach them the importance of maintaining balance while guarding an opponent. Every offensive maneuver aims to disrupt the defender’s equilibrium, creating an opportunity for the attacker to surpass the defense. Therefore, when your child is in a defensive position, they should focus on staying grounded and avoid reacting to shot fakes. Falling for these fakes often results in the defender being outmaneuvered. By emphasizing the significance of balance and discipline in responding to offensive movements, your child can develop into a more effective and resilient defender on the basketball court.


More Basketball Defensive Drills

  1. 3-on-2 Continuous Drill: This drill emphasizes quick decision-making and communication while defending in transition. One defensive player must guard two offensive players as they attempt to score, while the other two defenders rotate to provide support.
  2. Deny and Recover Drill: In this drill, players work on denying passes to a designated offensive player and then recovering back to their primary defensive assignment.
  3. Defensive Shuffle Drill: This drill focuses on lateral movement and staying low while shuffling side to side, simulating on-ball defense.
  4. 1-on-1 Cutthroat Drill: This competitive drill pits two defenders against each other as they try to stop a designated offensive player from scoring. The defender who prevents the most baskets wins.
  5. Help and Recover Drill: This drill teaches players how to provide help defense when their teammate is beaten and then quickly recover to their own defensive assignment.
  6. Defensive Stance Slides Drill: Players practice maintaining a low, balanced stance while sliding side to side in response to offensive movement.
  7. 5-on-4 Press Breaker Drill: This drill focuses on quickly transitioning from defense to offense, with four defenders trying to stop five offensive players from scoring.
  8. Defending Screens Drill: Players learn how to navigate and defend against screens, a common offensive tactic used to free up shooters or cutters.

Incorporating these drills into practice sessions can help improve your child’s defensive abilities and make them a more well-rounded basketball player. Remember to also focus on the fundamentals of defensive stance and encourage proper footwork, positioning, and communication on the court. With consistent practice and dedication, your child can become a strong defender in basketball. So keep reinforcing these skills and emphasizing their importance in developing a solid defensive game. Keep practicing and don’t forget to have fun.



Basketball Defensive Drills Conclusion

Effective defense is essential in basketball, and it requires constant practice and refinement. By focusing on the fundamentals of a strong defensive stance, incorporating specific drills, and providing feedback to players, coaches can cultivate a more aggressive and effective defensive mindset in their team. Similarly, parents can help improve their child’s defensive skills by emphasizing balance and discipline while defending. With consistent practice and focus on defensive techniques, players can become well-rounded defenders and contribute to a strong team defense. Keep practicing and have fun! Remember, defense wins championships! So keep working hard and never give up on improving your skills on the court.



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