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Valuable Tips For Coaching Basketball Defense

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying – “Basketball defense wins championships”. Well if that’s true, which I believe it is, then Coaching Basketball Defense should be a main priority for all basketball coaches!

Regardless of the level of competition or the experience of the players, coaches should always incorporate the fundamentals of defense into their practices.

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They should emphasize to their players the importance of individual and team defense. Once the players realize that playing good defense helps their team succeed, they will begin to take pride in this important aspect of their game.

These tips for coaching basketball defense will help all coaches, regardless of their experience, gain a better understanding of the principles and techniques needed to be successful on defense.

There are many defensive concepts that are used in basketball. The three main team defenses used are: Man-to-man Defense, Zone Defense, and Combination Defense.

Each of these defensive concepts has many variations, principles and philosophies. For example, there is the 1-3-1 zone, 1-2-2 zone, 2-1-2 zone, and 2-3 zone. There are also many variations to the man-to-man defense and combination defenses.

The team defense that is played depends on the coaching strategy and the talent of the players. Some basketball coaches prefer man-to-man defense, while others prefer zone or combination defense.

I am a firm believer that all youth basketball players should play man-to-man defense. I think this allows them to improve their individual defensive skills while being an important part of the overall team defense.

The defensive player’s responsibility is to contain their opponent while helping out their teammates – with the ultimate goal being to prevent the other team from scoring. I’ve always loved man-to-man defense! Playing it, coaching it, and watching it.

The following tips for coaching basketball defense should serve as guidelines for coaches as they are building their team defense. These tips will help build a solid foundation for each player’s defensive skills and techniques.

This foundation will help each player become an important part of their team’s success on defense. Please note, these tips can be used and applied to any type of team defense.

Coaching Basketball Defense – General Tips

These tips for basketball defense should be taught to all players.

  • Players should be in a good defensive stance.
  • Players must constantly think when playing defense. They should always follow the action on the court.
  • Players should keep their body in the proper position on the floor so that they can see the ball.
  • Players should move their feet to stay in the proper position.
  • Players should help prevent any easy scores by their opponent. This means helping their teammates out when needed.
  • Players should always put pressure on the player with the ball. This makes it more difficult for them to dribble, pass or shoot.
  • Players should prevent any penetration toward the basket. They need to keep the ball from being passed or dribbled inside.
  • Players should be alert and move on every pass.
  • Players should always try to take away their opponent’s strength. For example, if they like to dribble to the right – force them to dribble to their left.
  • Players should avoid bad fouls. They should play hard, but try not to foul.

Coaching Basketball Defense – On The Ball

These tips for basketball defense will help teach your players how to defend an opponent with the basketball.

  • Players should always stay between the ball handler and the basket. They should maintain the position of “ball-defender-basket.”
  • Players should always keep their hands and feet active. They should keep pressure on the dribbler.
  • Players should stay within an arm’s length from the dribbler. This will allow them to keep constant pressure on their opponent.
  • Players should jab at the basketball with their lead hand. They should slap up at the ball, trying to knock it away from the dribbler. They should avoid slapping down at the ball, as this often results in a foul.
  • Players should always sprint to recover if they are ever beaten by the dribbler. They should pick a spot on the court in front of the dribbler and try to run there before the dribbler. This will put them back in a good defensive position.
  • Players should swarm over the ball handler after they pick up their dribble. This makes it difficult for them to make a pass or shot.
  • Players can also sag off of the ball handler after they pick up their dribble. The defender can now help out their teammates by denying a pass to the other offensive players.
  • Players should move toward the ball after their opponent makes a pass. This is known as “jumping to the ball.” This puts the defender in a better position to defend against a cut to the basket, screen, or return pass.

Coaching Basketball Defense – Off The Ball

These tips for basketball defense will help teach your players how to defend an opponent without the basketball.

  • Players should always stay between their opponent and the basket. They maintain the position of “man-defender-basket.” An exception to this would be if they were fronting their opponent in the post position.
  • Players who are one pass away from the basketball should be in a denial position. They should keep their hand in the passing lane and deny their opponent the basketball.
  • Players who are two or more passes away from the basketball will be in a help position. Their stance will be open so that they can see both their opponent and the ball handler. They are now ready to help out on any drives to the basket.
  • Players must always be ready to help out when one of their teammates is beaten on a drive or when the ball is passed down into the post.
  • Players should communicate on screens. They should either fight over them, go under them, or switch on them. This will depend on the coach’s strategy regarding defending the screen.
  • Players should close out quickly on the ball and get into a good defensive stance when it is passed to their opponent. This will help prevent their opponent from driving to the basket.
  • Players will either front the post, drape the post on the ball-side, or play behind the post. Again, this will depend on the coach’s strategy on post defense.
  • Players should be ready to box out and rebound on any shots.
  • Players must always remember that team defense consists of five defenders guarding the basketball. All five defenders are responsible for preventing the other team from scoring. They are all responsible for defending the basketball.


I hope you found these Tips For Coaching Basketball Defense to be helpful and informative. Team defense wins championships! That has been said and proven many times.

Great team defense starts with solid individual defense. The players and teams that are willing to work hard to improve their defensive skills, will be the teams that play great team defense and win championships!

If you need more great information on coaching youth basketball or other basketball topics, I would suggest you purchase some good basketball books and videos. These will provide you with a wealth of knowledge about the game of basketball.