Here are some very effective defensive basketball drills to include in your youth basketball training program.
Playing defense is hard work, but these basketball fundamental drills are both challenging and fun.
No doubt offensive skills are important and most players think shooting, dribbling, and passing the ball is a whole lot more fun than playing defense...
...but I can't stress enough the importance of developing good defensive skills as well.
When you break the game of basketball down into all of the skills it requires, you'll realize it's a pretty complex game.
That's what makes it so fun and exciting, but that's what also makes it so challenging.
One of the challenges of learning how to play basketball is making sure you develop each of the individual, isolated skills.
A complete basketball player has the tools to make big plays at both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.
So, the goal here is to master some of the basic fundamentals of basketball defense.
Before you start, it might be helpful to check out the list of defensive basketball terms to become familiar with the words and phrases you may come across in the drills below and that your coach may use during practice.
Then you can put your knowledge into action with some good basketball fundamental drills:
Clink on the links below for more drills...
1-on-1 Half Speed
An offensive player starts out on the baseline with a ball, and the defense is guarding her. The offense dribbles the ball about half speed working her way down the court in a zig-zag pattern.
The point is not to beat the defender but to allow the defender to work on staying low and sliding while keeping her head on the ball and maintaining about an arm's length away from the ball.
The defense should try to turn the ball as many times as possible.
Once the players reach the baseline, they switch positions and come back.
1-on-1 Live at Half Court
Repeat the first drill with the offense going about half speed until he reaches 1/2 court. Once the dribbler crosses the mid-court line, it becomes a live 1-on-1 full-speed game.
The offense drives hard to the basket, and the defense tries to cut him off. Play until the offense scores or the defense gets the ball.
Players rotate positions and come back the other way.
This is a good drill for working on a defensive slide and turning to sprint when you get beat.
A defensive player starts on the baseline, and 4-5 cones are set up in a zig-zag pattern down the court. The defender makes 2 defensive slides at a 45-degree angle in the direction of the first cone, and then turns and sprints to the first cone.
When he reaches the cone, he does a drop step to change direction, slides twice in the direction of the second cone and then sprints to it.
Continue this pattern until he reaches the other end.
Slide-Slide-Sprint vs. Offense
Repeat the drill above, but use a partner with a ball.
The player dribbles in a zig-zag pattern while the defense makes a couple defensive slides, sprints to get in front of her, and forces her to change directions.
Repeat all the way up the court and change positions. Remove the cones if they are in the way.
This drill helps players learn how to move quickly from help-side defense back to their man by closing out when their player receives a pass.
The offensive player stands out on the wing, and the defender starts in the key holding the ball. If a third person is available, he can be the passer on the opposite wing and start the action by passing the ball to the offensive player. (If you only have 2 people, the defender can pass out to the offensive player.)
Once the pass is made, the defender closes out on his player by running at him full speed for about 2/3 of the distance and then lowering his body to approach with a stutter step. The knees should be bent and the hands up to prevent the drive and guard against the shot.
The players go live 1-on-1. Emphasize blocking out and rebounding on every shot.
This is a fun drill for the whole team to do in unison, but it also works just fine by yourself. If the whole team is doing it, line up about 5 feet apart with 4 players across and 3 players deep.
Get down in a good defensive stance with your right foot slightly forward. On a signal, here is the progression:
Advance --> Retreat --> Swing --> Slide --> Slide
Take an advance step forward and yell, "Hey!"
Then take a retreat step backward, followed by a swing step (drop step), and then finish with 2 defensive slides.
At this point, your left foot should be forward. Repeat the steps again with the left foot in the lead. Work your way down the court in a zig-zag pattern, turn around, and come back.
This is a great drill for improving agility and quickness. This can be done with as few as 2 players or a whole team.
Start in a good defensive stance. A player or coach stands out front to give the following hand signals for the defender to respond to:
Down– Slap the floor and "foot fire."
Up – Dead ball.
Right– Defensive slide to the right.
Left – Defensive slide to the left.
Offensive player lines up at half-court while the defender starts out at the top of the key.
The offense dribbles down, and the defender picks up the ball handler at the top of the key.
It's live 1-on-1, but the ball handler must stay within the free throw lane lines. Play until the offense scores or the defense gets the ball, and rotate positions.
You'll notice once you get started that basketball defense is HARD WORK. It requires good physical conditioning, speed, agility, and strength.
And remember that basketball is a team game. It takes all 5 players with good individual defensive skills working together to run the many different types of basketball defenses.
The good thing about these basketball fundamental drills is that you can do them on your own or with a buddy.