Section B - Great Britain Basketball

Section B - Great Britain Basketball
Supported by:
For leaders of
the basketball
These guidelines are paramount for the teaching of basketball in Britain
Supported by:
Overview Of The Nine
Areas Of Emphasis:
• Athletic Development
• Footwork and Movement for Basketball
• ON-Ball Defence, Movement and
• Shooting
• Passing and Receiving
• Use of the Dribble
• Offence
• OFF-Ball Defence
• Point Guard Play
The Eight Basic
Fundamentals That
Underpin Our Areas of
While there is an overview of the Areas of
Emphasis (AoE) for the Physical, Technical
and the Tactical there are also eight
“Basic” Fundamentals that all coaches
whatever their level of qualification and
involvement should address.
These “Basic Fundamentals” underpin
these Areas of Emphasis: Guidelines for
Coaches. They are both physical and skill
FUNDAMENTALS which underpin the AoE
and Club Skills Guide (CSG).
1. Vision: Players Need Better
Vision, At All times When Playing
• Vision when playing or performing a
skill is critically important for decision
• Having “eyes for the ball” will always
help good defence. In transition
defence players should keep their eyes
on the ball. When running back on
offence we react to both the ball and
the defence. This peripheral vision
(splitting vision) is an important skill or
attribute which should be highlighted
by coaches.
• Good vision is required equally on
Section Guidelines
• Being in a defensive stance, whether
open or closed, requires good vision by
the player. The extension is then
“splitting vision” when playing defence,
with back to the basket, watching the
ball and your man.
• Passing and decision making have been
identified as problem areas. Once again
it requires good vision, be it split or on
the defender. However from an early
age players must “watch the ball”.
3. Stance Is Our Key Skill
• Teach the “basketball stance” more
effectively. Make the ready position the
home base from which all controlled
movement comes. Demand that players
stay in stance longer (use a count). Stay
lower longer in all that we do, this will
result in better balance and ultimately
better controlled speed and reaction
within the game.
• Better vision will result in better
positional play. Vision when in the triple
threat stance makes the decision,
whether it is watching the defenders
feet or other cues.
4. Movement Includes Footwork
and Balance
• “Head up” means vision of the court
and all the players.
• Specifically more detail in teaching and
player understanding of
running/stopping (jump and stride
stops); pivoting (inside foot, forward &
reverse pivots); stepping (to
pass/jab/crossover to drive. All of
these to be performed out of the ready
stance. The result will be that players
will be able to move more efficiently
and maximise their natural athleticism,
which will lead to more controlled
decision making.
2. Physical Development Underpins
Skills Execution
• Understand that players need the
physical competences to perform the
technical skills in order to perform the
tactical. At junior and development
levels there needs to be an
understanding of the ability to move
and the execution of a skill.
• More coaching emphasis on, and
teaching of, movement, footwork
and balance.
• Skills can be improved by developing
physical competencies. The easiest
examples are:
– The ability to squat to a defensive
position or a shooting stance.
– The ability to stop quickly when
running into a two foot or balance
stride stop position in order to make
a second movement.
• The physical capability of each and all
players can be developed through
teaching and coaching.
Section Guidelines
5. Effective Movement Includes The
Use and Placement Of Player’s
• Better coaching of the use and position
of the hands (as well as feet) in all that
we do.
• Teach the use of hands in all that we do
in the basketball game, with
fundamentals and with skills. Teach
why hands are important. “Target
hands” in catching the ball when
running, leading or in the ready
position. “Hands as targets” always.
This will result in better passing and less
• Defensive hand position - “hands up on
defence”, ”hand close together trace
the ball”, “pistols positions” in off ball
defensive positioning. Hands up to
rebound, “elbows out” to take up space
and be ready for anticipation of a
rebound. “Hand in face” of shooter
when defending the shot. Inside “dig
hand” versus all crossovers back to the
middle. “Hand in the passing lane” on
ball vs dribble pass threat and in
denial. Emphasise the use of hands in
all we do. However make sure it is out
of stance or in stance. The result will be
better defensive players.
• Offensive hands - use “slash arm” or
“swim stroke” when cutting or going
body to body in a game. With an
“arm bar” we will get better offensive
players. “Open the window” when
posting. “Ball quick” with ball in
• Being “ball quick” when moving the
ball in triple threat stance combined
with stepping and pivoting against
pressure defence, rather than just
dribbling the ball into a bad situation.
Shooting or triple threat “pocket to
pocket”, “left to right then right to left”.
6. More Effective Dribble Technique
Will Underpin Tactical Use Of
• For dribbling, coach better posture and
form when speed dribbling and in the
control dribble. Coach the control
dribble, retreat and advance control
dribble, from the “ready” stance
• This will result in better ball protection
against pressure and better position to
counter and make “passes out of dead
ball” situations, with less poor decision
making caused by panic or timing after
a misuse of a dribble.
• Dribbling for penetration must take the
ball into a better situation to score, not
a worse one. Currently we are
frequently misusing the dribble in the
British game. Space and advantage
need to be created through offense.
The use of the dribble must create
• Better use of the dribble as an
alternative to passing but minimising the
misuse of the dribble in team offence.
Section Guidelines
7. Passing Is a Team Fundamental
Which Creates Space and
Nine Individual Areas Of
• The dribble to a receiver will seldom
equal the speed and time of a pass to
a receiver.
The following nine sections of the Areas of
Emphasis discuss the importance of the
AoE and provide some recommendations
relating to each area for coaches.
• Better vision of the ball and the
defence/offence is required at all times
by the players.
• Passing for advantage in fast break and
half court, passes to the post, ball
reversal (half court) and Man ahead
(full court) are fundamental team
offence concepts.
• Dribbling the ball from side to side as
part of team offence (to create an
offensive advantage) is very limited
compared to ball reversal through
better passing.
8. Shooting, Shooting, and More
Shooting Makes a Great Player
• Coaches should follow the principles of
shooting and coach good technique.
• Players should shoot the ball daily to
improve this key skill.
• Coaches should encourage and
provide for shooting practice for all
• The specialising ages from 14 to 17
years and the investment years from 18
to 22 years are about perfecting the art
of shooting the basketball.
Please read and implement the re-emphasis
of these areas.
Each section contains a discussion of “why
it is important” and “the technical
aspect” involved with each area.
“How we can make the biggest
improvements” is an important discussion
of where the strategic advantage and
focus exists.
“The coach quotes” alerts us to the area
of emphasis and themes that are important.
Finally these are followed by some
“Recommendations for consideration
and implementation”.
The recommendations provided should be
considered by all. They are broken into
recommendations for the club, schools,
coaches and the national system.
Good coaching from the best of British.
Warwick Cann
National Teams Director
British Basketball
• Coaches will help but the drive of the
player will determine where the player
will finish and what they will achieve.
Supported by:
Athletic Development
• Better coaching and understanding of
athletic development at the junior level
Why Emphasise Athletic
Development (Physical Fitness)
Or Conditioning?
• Plan for the physical components in
training sessions:
– Cardiovascular fitness
– Muscle memory (movement patterns)
– Strength
– Speed
– Power
– Endurance
• Test the physical components of
• Conduct better warm up and cool down
phases for training and playing
• Emphasise Nutrition and Physical
• Understand Recovery and Nutrition
• Use qualified professionals to assist with
the physical aspects
Basketball was invented in the late
eighteen hundreds as a sport involving the
combination of speed, skill and strength
and has changed very little in its raw
components. Basketball has now
developed into a sport which requires
excellent physical abilities with a high
degree of repetition. To obtain this ability
to repeat appropriate movements requires
two key factors: Athletic Development
and Skill.
While basketball attracts and develops
good athleticism one cannot assume that
natural ability will be sufficient to allow
players to compete at the various levels.
While young players thrive on activity, they
still are developing as children,
adolescents or senior level basketball
players. Participants in basketball need a
baseline level of conditioning to allow them
to maximise enjoyment, and to maximise
their performance and skill output. There
has perhaps been an assumption that
because players are athletic that they are
physically fit.
Athletic Development
Basketball is a high impact, explosive sport
which puts great stresses and strains on
athletes’ bodies. Due to the nature of
basketball leagues around the world, most
players will play more than one game a
week which requires the athletes to not
only be fit for the current game but also to
be able to recover and be back to their
best within three days.
Collectively coaches at all levels have
developed certain attitudes to training and
athletic development. Some Coaches are
of a mindset that we don’t have enough
time to improve fitness levels as we only
train twice a week and play once a week.
However fitness can be influenced in this
amount of time. We can introduce simple
processes and develop a good fitness and
conditioning system for each team .This can
be achieved by better warm-ups and better
session planning which should include
fitness. By prioritising injury prevention we
are in essence optimising performance. We
can also influence players in what they do
away from team training. However we
need to understand the training
components which we wish to introduce.
Individually players should recognise their
need for continued dedication to personal
physical improvement in order to elevate
their standards over the long-term.
Coaches of players who are choosing to
specialise in basketball have a greater
responsibility. The coach should ensure that
they consider their individual players
physical needs and set longer term
programs of physical development. They
should also recognise that each player is
individually different. It is debatable that
we have this approach at present in our
The standard of any physical performance
needs assessment and measurement.
Currently our national system is poor at
measuring and assessing physical
performance. It is imperative that players
are able to sustain their performance level
to optimise skill performance and prevent
injuries. At all levels, a solid conditioning
programme that develops the necessary
components of the game (i.e. inset the
consistent names for the training
components here strength, speed, etc) will
assist the players individual and team
performance. Coaches who start at junior
level but coach senior or youth players
should ensure that they appreciate the
differences in conditioning at the various
levels of participation.
A well skilled player out of shape will not
produce their best in a championship or
league competition, even if they want to.
Additionally just because a player looks
like an athlete, it does not follow that that
player can sprint, sprint again, change
direction at speed with good mechanics or
has the necessary aerobic capacity needed
to play basketball at the various levels.
Athletic Development
What Are The Major
Technical Points
Understanding The Physical
Components Of Basketball
Athletic development is very specific to
each sport and the demands within
basketball include: cardiovascular fitness,
strength, endurance, power and speed. All
of these must be performed with the
appropriate movement patterns for the
correct skill acquisition.
These physical components can be
described as:
• Cardiovascular fitness: offers the
capacity to work and the ability to
perform work for prolonged periods,
and to recover quickly either between
bouts of work or between training
• Muscle memory (movement
patterns): rarely does one muscle
move in isolation, rather groups of
muscles work together to achieve a
common goal e.g. defensive slide,
shooting a ball. Learning the
appropriate sequence at an early stage
ensures development of a stable base
to allow the basketball player to utilise
their strength or power, gained through
training, efficiently and appropriately
with least amount of effort.
• Strength: strength is the ability to exert
• Speed: swiftness of action
• Power: is a combination of speed and
strength which is the ability to exert
strength quickly.
• Endurance: ability to sustain one-self
through a period of stress
It is important to realise all these key
components are rarely combined in
training, rather they are usually trained as
individual components. As an athlete
develops each key area they should be
able to control each segment of their body
utilising their strength and power through
varying controlled ranges of motion. This
allows them to perform skills within the
quickest amount of time and at their highest
accuracy. You are only as strong as your
weakest link in this chain of key
Researching The Physical
Below are some facts obtained from
research completed on the fitness required
for basketball. They may help re-emphasise
fitness and offer food for thought when
planning a training session:
• On average an elite player covers
7558m in a game, 23% at high
• On average an elite player covers
distances of up to 114m per min
• Nearly a quarter (22%) of total
distance covered is in sideways (left or
right) movement
• Percentage Heart Rate - players spent
19% of game time at >95% maxHR
and 74% of game time at >85%
• It has been speculated that the
percentage time spent in high intensity
is correlated with performance
Athletic Development
• Work to rest ratio is 1:3.6 (e.g. 6
seconds high to moderate intensity =
22 sec relative rest – low intensity) This
relies on working a lot in the explosive
anaerobic system, a system that does
not use oxygen therefore only last for
up to 8 to 10 seconds
• Appropriate cardiovascular fitness can
reduce injury rates and specifically
knee injury and ankle sprains
• Simple 5 minute progressive balance
routine in warm up can lead to
reducing ankle injury rates by up to
half. Suggesting a possible increase in
players available to train.
Although anaerobic fitness is probably the
dominant energy system within basketball
performance, the other more important
aerobic system utilises oxygen to create
and replace energy lost during the
explosive work competed by players.
Therefore the more efficient and quicker
replacement of energy speeds recovery
and ensures appropriate levels are
available to repeat the next wave of
explosive power.
This means drills that allow the players to
put high intensity work in varying directions
in short bursts, must allow specific rest time,
as prolonging this phase could reduce the
benefit of their high intensity work.
When planning your sessions it is important
to be basketball specific and train quality
over quantity, e.g. 10 X 100m explosive
sprints at >95% heart rate is better than
running 1Km at 50% maximum heart rate.
The physical game description is a game
of short explosive bursts. The athlete’s
muscle memory of the appropriate pattern
and power output will remember the
feeling of running fast and therefore how to
run fast.
We must plan training sessions for
appropriate levels of intensity and duration.
It is important to include appropriate time
for warm up’s, cool down’s and stretching.
These can be used to assist recovery,
reduce injury and develop skills through
teaching movement patterns, lengthening
tight muscle that might be restricting
movement, and slowing the heart rate
correctly to optimise recovery.
What is physical performance? How do
we know if players physical output and
performance have improved?
These are questions that need to be asked,
tested and monitored to ensure
appropriate development of young
players. We should ensure we conduct
progressional programs for developing
players and optimise performance for all
players, but particularly with elite players.
Assessment and monitoring of a basketball
players athletic profile is necessary.
Assessment and monitoring of a basketball
players athletic profile is necessary. The
profile and assessment will be referenced
against cardiovascular fitness, ability to
control their body correctly(muscle
memory), skill, power and speed. This will
ensure we highlight areas for development
to strengthen the weakest link!
Athletic Development
Coaches and specialists can define and set
standards of players key stages in
development (e.g., start and end of preseason training). They can also re-test to
assess the impact of their athletic
development programme and set up
monitoring systems using subjective ratings
and objective measurement highlighted
from the profile assessment.
How Can We Make The
Biggest Improvements
produce power. This places undue
additional stress upon the joints next in the
chain (e.g. tightness at the hip can often
lead to additional movement at the knee
and excessive stress upon the tendon’s
which often equal pain).
We need to introduce a basic conditioning
program that includes strength and fitness
development. These ideas might seem
simple and often are very easy to
implement into normal training sessions by
drill adaptation and are extremely
Coaching Athletic Development
With junior players you are setting the
foundations, making sure they are able to
do the basics first. These include
performing appropriate movement patterns
relating to defensive or triple threat stance,
shooting form (driving from foot to fingers),
independent control of different body parts
(e.g. running while turning upper body to
catch a ball) and landing or stopping
We can improve players basic movement
patterns simply through better structured
warm up drills, thus not affecting coaching
time and players don’t even realise that
they are learning.
We should address flexibility: any
restrictions to movement caused by tight
muscles will reduce a basketball players
ability to move that joint and the muscle to
Basketball is a sport that utilises all
components of a players physical ability –
speed, strength lower and upper body,
power, agility, anaerobic fitness and
aerobic fitness. All of these should be
addressed in their training to provide a
well rounded player.
The first stage of planning and like any
sports training coaches must consider
periodisation. This means understanding
volume and intensity for the coming session
and relating to all sessions thereafter
focusing on your goals/aims. Every session
whether the focus be footwork and skill or
fitness, periodising will allow a coach to
determine that all components have or will
be developed over a 2-8 month plan.
Athletic Development
• Cardiovascular fitness: When training
fitness try to be specific to the game
e.g. 5-15 second bursts of high intensity
sprints with 10-30 seconds recovery
(recovery not being rest but lower
intensity work) will mimic the game.
Utilising drills such as the half court 3
man weave will provide a 6-8 second
sprint and the 10-30 second lower
intensity work while jogging back to the
start (consider a full court there and
back 3 man weave will produce 8-15
seconds sprint and a very low intensity
recovery while standing). Another
consideration is to remember 22% of
game movements are lateral so when
designing drills don’t forget to introduce
• Training intensity: The intensity of our
training sessions (especially at the
specialised stage) whether it is 60, 90
or 120 minutes can have an effect on
our conditioning. Intensity is dependent
on physical ability and activity
prescription. By tuning into training
intensity we can help shape the player’s
attitude to physical development and
conditioning by what we do in our
basketball sessions. We can monitor
intensity, a simple method is by using
ratings by players, coaches and
specialists such as “Rating Perceived
Exertion scaling” (RPE) which can act
as a monitoring tool.
• Neurological fitness (movement
pattern repetition): Coaches must be
aware of the effect of different types of
training on not only the cardiovascular
system but also the central nervous
system and be aware of each systems
limitations. High intensity running for
prolonged period will fatigue an
athlete’s cardiovascular system and
muscles therefore reduce the muscles
strength and power output for the
explosive or plyometric based drills that
involve the combination of muscle
strength and central nervous system. To
combat this, power based activities
could be performed at the start of the
training sessions.
• Strength: This has two aspects, firstly
an ability to produce strong movements
and secondly an ability to repeat,
which is called ‘endurance’. The range
between these two aspects is a sliding
scale, the more strength the less
endurance an athlete will have and
vice versa. It is key for any basketball
player to get this balance right as will
affect performance and importantly
regardless of age, ability and skill,
affect injury prevention and
performance gains.
• Flexibility: Not everything will be tight
so there is no need to stretch every
muscle, meaning it does not need to
take great chunks of time out of
practice. Key basketball specific
muscles groups should be identified by
the coach or physiotherapist or strength
and conditioner and targeted during
training sessions. Each individual
athlete should identify what their own
tightness’s are and what is their main
limiting factor, and then work on this in
their own time. This way adherence to
flexibility work should be higher.
Individuals should be assessed and
muscle length measured to ensure
progression, then re-assessed.
Athletic Development
Testing provides individual baselines and
team benchmarks for performance that if
used correctly can guide any program.
While physical testing for testing sake has
little purpose it should be highlighted that
there are tests which can help us determine
fitness and performance levels for our
players. It is important to realise these are
guidelines where we have selected specific
examples, all of which should not be used
as a complete screen, and if you wish to
gain assistance or further information
please consult a professional.
Screening Players
Player screening (testing for range of
movement) should not be compromised; we
cannot improve upon what we do not
know. In all sports, business and life we are
judged on performance and in basketball it
should be no different. A training program
cannot be judged as successful unless
certified outcome measures show that there
has been improvement.
• Player profiling is vital to form a base
line – it can identify if a player has
issues with flexibility and/or stability
that could put them at risk of injury.
Broadly speaking there are two types
of screening and therefore would
ideally be performed by a
physiotherapist or strength and
conditioning coach, but there are
courses coaches can go on to learn a
basic screening test (FMS – functional
movement screening).
• A screen is only worth the information it
offers. If players are going to be
screened the results need to be utilised
and lead to the information being
implemented into player focused
developmental program. Then the
players should be re-tested 6-8 weeks
post screen and areas of continued
weakness addressed and areas of
improvement progressed.
• Screening processes can highlight
common sites of injury such as:
– Knees: often due to poor landing
mechanics and muscle imbalances,
followed by high loading and impact
patterns within training. Females are
especially at risk from major limiting
injuries of the knee and special
considerations should be taken if a
coach as any concerns. In most
cases these can be addressed by an
appropriately prescribed program.
– Ankles sprains: appropriate
prevention strategies have been
shown to reduce their occurrence
and severity by up to two thirds
within one team. This can be simply
implemented through a 5 minute
routine performed within warm ups
or targeting athletes with prescribed
programs that were shown in their
screen to be at risk.
Athletic Development
– Shoulder injuries: often due to
muscle imbalances directly within the
shoulder joint and their co-ordination
with the other muscles and joints of
the body. This can be addressed
through appropriately prescribed
strength programs and neurological
programs to teach the body to
integrate all muscle groups from
around the body into one smooth
controlled movement. Both
components of this would be clear in
an quality screening process
In summary, screening allows athletes
weaknesses and strengths to be identified
early and therefore appropriate
interventions applied, resulting in training
being more specific to the needs of the
player and the requirements of basketball.
It also provides the athlete with tangible
focused approach taken from their data to
go away and work on in their own time,
taking autonomy of their own development.
Short, medium and long term goals can be
set with the athlete and this provides the
motivation for them as they are able to
measure improvements in an objective
rather than subjective manner.
Ensuring Better Warm-up and
Cool-down Phases For Training
and Playing
One immediate area for attention is the
warm up and cool down phase of each
training session.
In the warm up session we can also revisit
footwork and movement fundamentals. This
presents us with an opportunity to revise
preferred movement patterns that are
basketball specific. If performed correctly,
these patterns will lead to an optimisation of
performance and a reduction in injury rates.
By focusing on techniques and correct
movement and footwork during the warmup we are reinforcing the desired
movement patterns and muscle memory,
and simply allowing the players to become
more aware of their body and movement.
A recent 22 week progressive balance
program performed for 5 minutes in a
warm up, and another 12 week
neurological muscle memory training
system, both added to the huge amount of
scientific evidence to indicate this will
reduce injury rates.
Emphasising Nutrition and Physical
The part that nutrition plays with training
workload and the need for recovery must
be fully understood at all levels, but none
more important than at national squad
level in order for them to be at their best to
reach their goals.
Nutrition cannot be underestimated, our
energy systems and our mind will not
function adequately without appropriate
nutrition. However this information should
be passed down to athletes very carefully
and in the form of information rather than
rules. If athletes are not able to take
ownership over their diet then they are
unlikely to become successful athletes
anyway regardless of what they eat
or drink.
If professionals do feel adequately
educated / qualified to pass on
information regarding diet to athletes then
they should ensure it is based on sound
research and appropriate nutritional
guidelines. They should also ensure they
are in a position to support the athlete
through the process of modifying their diet
Athletic Development
and be able to monitor and address any
negative behaviours, thoughts or feelings
that occur as a result and then refer on to
other qualified parties for support.
Understanding Recovery and
• Recovery is key. Training is the stimulus
for adaptation, and how the player
adapts is dependent on their recovery
• Nutrition should also be considered
as a key part of the jigsaw, players
should be educated on the best forms
of nutrition.
• Key areas which will have an instant
impact are:
– Fluid intake: all players should enter
a game fully hydrated and can use
urine charts to assess in the 12 hours
prior to training or competition.
During games a 2% reduction in
hydration leads to a large loss in
performance and strength output. For
accurate analysis weighing before
exercise and post exercise will offer
a rough guide to fluid loss. Athletes
should be looking to directly
consume 1.5 litres of low sugar fluid
per 1kg body weight lost.
– Protein intake through milk based
products within 20 minutes post hard
training or high minute games should
also be address to aid in recovery.
– After hard training/game a player
needs to take in a protein and
carbohydrate drink to aid in muscle
recovery. The best form is through a
whey protein mix as this has a very
fast absorption rate.
– Carbohydrate is the instant fuel of
the body and without sufficient levels
our brain, neurological system and
muscles reactions to respond to the
demands of basketball are
compromised. Therefore sufficient
intake of carbohydrate based foods
will ensure our body is ready to play
– When choosing a carbohydrate it
should be complex (e.g. brown rice,
whole-wheat pasta). This means it
has a slow absorption rate and will
give energy for longer periods,
rather than a simple carbohydrate
such as sugary drinks/chocolate that
will give energy very quickly.
– A good guide to use when choosing
which carbohydrate to have and
when is the G.I. index.
• Recovery should not just be in the form
of a day off. Alternatives to consider
are: soft tissue work through foam
rolling or stretching, longer term
nutrition, ice baths and massage.
• Monitoring of athlete responses to
training and competition through
methods such as ‘RPE’, performance
output such as free throws or common
shooting drills to highlight both the
physical, mental and psychological
• If available, establish regular
communication between the coaching
staff and medical team. Capture, flag
and communicate to key staff members
quickly, and track and trend key events
that occur in athlete’s life.
Athletic Development
• Streamlined and integrated injury
management programmes and return to
play strategies as an intervention
process will speed recovery and
involvement of an athlete within
the team.
Using Qualified Professionals
Coaching is not an easy task and your
knowledge levels are not expected to
include everything. By engaging external
experts in the field of performance,
biomechanics, injury prevention and sports
medicine, and by inviting them into our
programs we are making a statement that
the physical monitoring and development
is important.
Coaches need to understand the benefit of
inviting professionals into their basketball
programs and should work in conjunction
with them to ensure assessment,
interpretation of information, prescription,
integration into training or personal player
plans, and delivery are firstly, specific to
basketball and secondly, each component
works together for the ultimate benefit of
the athlete and the team!
There are a number of skilled professionals
throughout the UK who will be positioned
to assist all levels of basketball players.
Given basketballs specific movement
patterns and nuances to the sport it is
recommended that, where possible, to
source and use people with basketball
experience or interest.
Here’s What Coaches and
Specialists Are Saying:
“Introduction of simple injury prevention
strategies over a season will make a
difference and ensure key players are
available for major games throughout the
whole season.”
Dr Mark Gillett, Head of Athletic
Performance British Basketball
“You need the physical ability to perform
the technical aspects of basketball, and
you need the technical skills to perform the
tactical requirements.”
Warwick Cann,
National Teams Director
“We need to develop player behaviours
and an attitude that is conducive to
maximising the potential of every player,
through commitment to develop physically
as well as through playing, no matter what
part of the year they find themselves.”
Fraser McKinney British Basketball
Lead Men’s Physiotherapist 2012
“Failing to plan is planning to fail, and
failing to plan for the physical means your
team will fail physically.”
Chris Spice, Olympic gold medal coach
Athletic Development
Recommendations For The
National System
• Establish a national information system
to include Information regarding
athletic development and assessment
for coaches, performance specialists
and medical staff. It must be accessible,
updated and taught.
• Conducting research to:
– Determine the appropriate levels of
training for different ages and
abilities, rather than relying on the
traditional views.
– Determine appropriate fitness testing
procedures for basketball.
– Highlight key injury patterns and
possible prevention strategies.
– Highlight key performance factors
and developmental programs to
improve any common or individual
areas for development.
• Develop a physical testing strategy with
nationally accepted protocols for club,
regional and national squads. Accept a
long term view to utilise this information
to establish some standard of “British
Basketball” norms which will help
players and coaches focus training and
be aware of required levels to progress
through player pathways.
• Develop a system of player profiling:
this will underpin all guidelines and
develop players performance
Recommendation To Clubs
• Club and national team coaches must
endeavour to work together for the
good of the athletes and provide
consistent teaching.
• Clubs at the various levels should
review their practices and programs
with regard to the athletic development,
preparation and education of their
• Annual plans should focus on the
physical workload that will underpin the
program. Periodisation and phasing
become critical elements of seasonal
and annual planning, especially if you
want to be peaking at the end of the
• All national league clubs should
periodise their program and plan for
the physical conditioning needs for their
player to perform. The older age
programs will need a more
• Education sessions on nutrition, exercise
and recovery are a must for the long
term operation of all our clubs. Giving
all players the tools for health and
maximum performance is the least we
can provide for club level players.
• Clubs should also seek voluntary help
from schools and universities from
qualified professionals to assist and
• Clubs who conduct yearly programs
should periodise their plans and
prepare a meaningful phasing of
preseason, in season, and off season
work. The monitoring of recovery time is
also needed.
Athletic Development
• Clubs should also consider using
practical field based physical tests (the
national protocols) for their club players
at U16’s, U18’s and senior levels.
• Establishing links with local universities
that have sport science courses to work
together for the good of the athletes,
and provide consistent teaching.
• Periodising of programmes should
include consideration of national team
breaks from club competition schedules
to reduce the conflict and over training
and playing.
• There are options to engage varying
levels of professionals to gain from their
expertise at appropriate to all budgets.
• Player screening should be compulsory
and conducted by qualified
professionals to ensure the results are
reliable and the tests conducted should
follow the national basketball strategy.
• Junior clubs should be assessed on the
development of the children, not the
results of the season for the team.
Through better monitoring and
measurement this factor could be
highlighted through evidence gathered
from screening and performance testing
of players.
Recommendations To
• Coaches should have expectations for
physical standards and accordingly let
a player know how they can improve in
those areas.
• Review the intensity and demands of
your training sessions. Is this
progressing over the season and
phased appropriately for your team?
Do you train at game speed?
• Know and understand the physical
demands of the game at your level and
what is needed to prepare athletes
physically for your level.
• Use specialists to assist you learn.
• Constantly assess your players’ physical
status by using the performance
measures either from medical screening
or through shooting drills, fitness drills
or whole body output drills (i.e. push
up etc)
• Plan a good pre-season phase as it is
often the key to a good season.
• Provide education to your players.
Increased knowledge will help with that
the physical preparation and training
• Understanding the skill is one thing; skill
at speed is another skill level which is
underpinned by physical training. The
continued use of full court drilling and
scrimmaging will demand athletic
development, and the activities and
rules you set with drills will help
conditioning and movement.
Athletic Development
• A coach needs measurement tools or
tests as well as subjective assessment.
Seek out professionals or volunteers
who can assist you in this area. They
will help you improve your coaching
attributes and your team’s performance.
Recommendation To
• Schools and teachers have the ability to
also help clubs in both knowledge and
application of better physical training
and education of our athletes.
• Identify clubs and community basketball
programs that may be able to assist or
from partnerships to develop players.
• Review the club recommendations for
fitness in developing school players,
and include basic movement principles
in their sessions.
• Teach children how to run, jump and
other skills effectively and efficiently.
This would reduce the workload of club
Supported by:
• Recognise the need to coach
efficient movement
• Better planning, teaching and
rehearsing of good footwork
and balance
• Confirm the value and advantage of the
triple threat position
• Recognise that pivoting is the basis for
offensive footwork techniques
Why Emphasise Footwork
and Movement?
As stated in the previous section (Athletic
Development) we need to teach and drill
better footwork, running changing
direction, stopping and basketball stance
(balance and posture).
As part of this review, British Basketball has
been inundated with descriptions of the
”inabilities” and “lack of” for our players in
the UK. “Decision making” was one area
that became most intriguing aspect for
Why are there so many turnovers, “poor
reads on offense” and why do our players
fall over or have to jump to pass? All these
questions have been under analysis by the
curriculum driver group. Further statements
like “we can’t shoot the basketball”,”our
passing is terrible” (and catching), further
beg the question “where do we start?”
Furthermore, how is it that physically some
of our best athletes can jump but not able
to repeat sprint to an acceptable level?
The answer and the common solution to
develop consistency for these skill
deficiencies is through a better focus to
footwork, body positioning, posture
and balance.
Answering the question, are the players in
control of their movement? Where are their
feet placed for advantage /
disadvantage? Where is their head
position when these problems occur? In
posing these questions we are searching
for answers in terms of techniques and
There is in fact a technical and physical
solution to what first appears to be tactical
and technical questions of inability. What
physical position do our players place
themselves into to make the pass or the
shot? How can we beat pressure defence
with our footwork? The answer is body to
body positioning with the use of hands and
arms as well as feet.
The coaching focus must be more on the
movement fundamentals as well as an
earlier recognition and development of the
movement fundamentals in all young
players. Correct footwork and better
balance and stance at the skill acquisition
and development stages are needed.
Assuming all movement is a natural
movement is a limited perspective when
coaching basketball because of the rules
and nature of the game. But what is
movement and can we coach it? The
answer is that we can coach to improve
movement and especially improve
Footwork and Movement
When considering national team junior
players’ performances at European
championships, turnovers are an issue for
team and individual performance. While
they come in various categories they are
not solely about “poor decision making”.
Turnovers are also about their playing
fundamentals and skills.
“Travelling” is simply poor footwork.
“Bad passing” is a lot to do with footwork,
stance and technique as well as reading
the play (vision). If one is looking for
evidence of poor footwork we simply have
to look at our national squads to see the
inadequacies, but also the solutions
through coaching footwork and movement.
The need to move more efficiently is
highlighted in current British players. Not
only in the locally developed player’s
defensive stance, but post stance, running
and stopping, and holding to set a screen
are all weaknesses in our junior game.
Effective cutting, through stepping, sealing
and slashing arms to get a better body on
body position, are also weaknesses of
current British developed players at youth
and senior levels.
What Are The Major
Technical Points In
Movement Footwork?
Generally speaking the ability to move is
enhanced or restricted by ones physical
makeup. Flexibility and strength, among
other aspects, affect running ability. The
ability to move, run and stop correctly is
specific to a basketball game experience.
Footwork and movement is improved
through repetition and must be coached.
Running in basketball involves
deceleration, agility in changing direction
as well as stopping quickly before moving
again. Undoubtedly training will improve
movement. While running is often
perceived as a leg stride action, the use of
the arms and upper body play a role in
how efficiently somebody runs. There is
much to appreciate, learn and understand
about movements that will enhance
basketball performance.
• Running technique: Sometimes we
assume that all players can run and
often don’t teach our young
adolescents how to run. We do not
have a provision or consideration for
them to learn running efficiency.
Running and more specifically sprinting
must be assessed and developed in all
our players. While running is important,
equally coaching the players “how to
stop quickly” through a “jump stop” or
a “stride or running stop” is also
equally important. These stops become
part of the running continuum. They
become the next most important
footwork fundamental.
Footwork and Movement
• Stopping equals Stance: Jump stops,
Stride [or running] stops can be
stationary, momentary waiting
positions. Improving posture and stance
will involve core strength. All our
players must be able to get into a
defensive stance and also a triple threat
stance on offence. This position is
closely related to the stance of a stop;
therefore a common “basketball
stance” needs to be taught effectively.
This basketball "ready position” stance
for each player is crucial for skill
development. While they are only
momentarily in the position as senior
players, as juniors they will need to
adopt it more regularly and for longer
periods as they acquire their movement
skills. The “basketball stance” is the first
body posture or stance we will teach, it
is the beginner’s common position to
play defence or offense. Once
established it will be refined later into a
more specific modified defensive stance
and also the triple threat position. It
involves feet should width apart, knees
and feet facing same direction, head
still, eyes looking ahead, shoulders
back (shoulder blades pulled together)
straight back, good bend at hips and
knees, and hands ready for defence or
offence whichever is required.
• Balance: In stance and stops is
determined by the players head
position (and vision). Whether the head
is up or down affects balance. While
balance can be natural for some it may
not be for others, so experience in
balance and basketball specific type
movements must be coached, planned
and experienced.
• Combining stance with defensive
slides: Progressing the starting stance
to a defensive stance, combined with
slides and then running (slide
/run/slide) is the basis of all defensive
movement. These are somewhat
unnatural movement patterns so they
need to be learned for “muscle
• Changing direction when running:
There is a need to recognise agility in
basketball, which involves a capability
for deceleration. This is to do with
physical competency. It may not come
naturally to young players, so once
again there is the need to coach it
and practice it.
• Coaching hand positioning in all
movement: The hands (and arms)
have a role in balance, stance and
when running. Hand positioning is
especially important to balance and for
overall movement efficiency when a
ball is involved. For example the target
hands when coming off screens to
catch and shoot are important aspects
for the coaches’ attention. The
positioning of hands and feet when
shooting and catching, the arm bar
when defending or dribbling, the dig
hand on defence against the dribbler,
the target hand in the post, hands up
ready to rebound, hands up on defence
are all reminders that the hands have
important movements for basketball.
These positioning and movement
responsibilities should be coached.
Footwork and Movement
• More attention to the use of arms in
all movement: British players can use
arms (and hands) for better outcomes.
These are important in shooting,
rebounding and defence. The effective
use of arms and shoulder position is
also very important in close body to
body contests (i.e. 1 v 1 situations).
• Triple threat movements: Once the
basketball stance or ready position is
taught, it is then refined through
teaching the triple threat position. From
the triple threat position we need a
correct shooting technique and an
ability to raise and lower the ball
through a range of motion that allows
fakes for the shot, dribble or pass as
well as the completion of the skill.
Therefore the faking motion must be the
same as the actual motion and as such
must go through the same range of
motion and then adapted by the player
in decision making. The overhead pass
should be easily converted to the
shooting position as fakes are made to
move the defence from the passing or
driving lane. Correct position and
where to start the dribble drive will
include the use of a jab step and a
crossover step to beat the defence.
Once again these need to be broken
down and coached. Additionally, the
ability to be “ball quick” while in a
stance is created by moving the ball
from one hip to another or swinging the
ball below the knees to crossover and
get defender off balance. These are all
movements to be coached.
• ON-Ball defence: Footwork and
movement including closing out is
covered separately in the ON-Ball
defence section hereafter.
• Active Stance: Being in stance in an
offensive or defensive position but with
hands and feet moving quickly while in
the basic stance and ready to move
from the stance in a certain direction or
to catch the ball.
In conclusion, the major point is to reemphasise movement and footwork. All
basketball coaches need to understand
and be able to coach movement, footwork,
balance and stance (posture) to best
perform the skills of basketball at all levels.
Footwork and Movement
How Can We Gain The
Biggest Improvements?
• Recognise the need to coach to
efficient movement. The need to
coach footwork and movement is
highlighted in current British play. Not
only defensive stance but post stance,
running and stopping, and holding to
set a screen. These are weaknesses in
our junior game. Movement is
everywhere in the game and it
underpins individual skills of the game.
Effective cutting, through stepping,
sealing and slashing arms to get a
better body on body position are
weaknesses of British play.
While stance in isolation maybe non
dynamic and possibly seen as distant
from the actual quick moving game, the
reality is that players find it hard to stay
in a stance on defence, pivot and step
correctly against pressure defence and
lack range in their shooting.
We should ensure that a quick change
of direction is encouraged in every drill
or game situation. Being hard to guard
without the ball or being able to dribble
with a quick crossover are key skills
involving a change of direction.
Specifically better teaching of jump
stop, stride stop, holding the position,
pivoting, stepping out of stance to pass
or dribble, with and without defence,
will transfer to post footwork and a
strong triple threat stance.
We need to understand that running
stopping and stance techniques are
required in setting screens. By coaching
the detail of screening stance and
posture (balance) we will prepare our
British players to set more effective
• Plan for the teaching and
rehearsing of good footwork and
balance. We can make the biggest
improvements by improving practice
through better planning, teaching and
rehearsing good footwork.
A better understanding of movement
and footwork is the key to improving
basketball efficiency. With better
coaching and teaching of running and
sprinting, combined with correct
stopping and pivoting in stance, will
underpin the improvement in British
player’s individual skills.
Coaches should coach “detail” of
movement though drills to effect
mastery or create an effective
environment for a player to learn the
required basketball movements.
Currently footwork and movement are
in danger of being the forgotten
fundamentals. There is no reason why
we cannot use the warm-up and cool
down periods to reinforce muscle
memory of good footwork and
movement patterns.
Footwork and Movement
• Confirm the value and advantage
of the triple threat position. Reaffirm
the “basketball position” or “ready (to
play) position” for our U12’s U14’s and
U16’s and modify this into defensive
stance and triple threat. This will require
core stability. Confirm the value and
advantage of the triple threat position
in U18’s and youth and senior
programs for individual and team
offence execution.
Ensure players can make a pass under
pressure in a “dead ball” (no dribble
option) starting position i.e. no dribble
to get an effective pass through a
defender in all defended breakdown
drills. This will encourage using pivots
and steps to protect ball through using
changing angle of stance and
continued moving for better body to
body position.
Stepping with the non pivot foot (i.e. the
jab step on onside step to the side, the
crossover step to lock a defender vision
(head / eyes) will lead to better
passing against pressure.
• Recognise that pivoting is the basis
for offensive techniques. To enhance
one on one moves we should teach the
pivot effectively. The pivot is also
important when combined with leading
and catching against a moving
defence. The pivot and the step (jab)
are key movements for individual
offense. The pivot progresses from the
basketball stance of feet shoulder
width, knees bent and bending at
the hips.
Stepping and pivoting within a stance is
required in posting. These post
footwork movements are an extension
of general footwork and should be
established at U12’s U14’s and U16’s
levels. The post development and skills
at U14’s U16’s U18’s are specific
adaptations of the general footwork
and basic movement. Understanding
that squaring up to the basket is a
pivoting technique, and must be
coached in detail for execution at the
junior level.
The importance of understanding
basketball movement patterns can be
highlighted by a simple analysis of the
screen and roll. The screen and roll
movement is a running, stopping and
pivoting movement needing efficient detail
in movement to be effective.
Footwork and Movement
Recommendations For The
National System
• The mastery of the triple threat or ready
position is crucial to the success of our
British teams at domestic and
international level. It is the gateway
from individual to team offense through
better vision and decision-making
and the key for improved shooting by
British players.
• Our players have speed and are quick,
but need a better platform to play from
in order to see the game and improve
decision making between options. The
triple threat will be emphasised at
U13’s, U15’s and U17’s regional as
well as at national team level.
• Generally we must emphasise and
develop more efficient movement with
footwork, balance and use of hands.
This will come about through more
attention to detail and reinforcement of
the movement fundamentals in warmups and in all training.
• Coaches are required to plan / teach /
and allow the player to rehearse.
Knowing good basic movement details
will create better drills to enhance
mastery of footwork.
• As players progress from basics at
U12’s and U14’s to combination moves
at U16’s and U18’s there are detail
and efficiencies to be reinforced in all
team and individual training. As we
develop the process of motion offense
(which is basically movement without
the ball) we will be called upon to
continually look at techniques in the
junior ranks of running, stopping,
changing direction, screening, cutting
and posting (slash arm).
• National squad camps and
development programs such as
England’s regional development
program, Regional Performance
Centres and Scotland’s Talent
Development Programme will
emphasise footwork, stance, stops
and hand positioning. These will always
be emphasised in every drill and
• The breakdown points and teaching
cues may well lead to some
remediation work for players and
late specialisation athletes.
Footwork stance running and sliding
will be practised multiple times which
gives ample opportunity to reinforce
and develop irrespective of stage
of development.
• Attention to screening stance and
running and stopping to set effective
screens will be coached at U15’s,
U16’s and U18’s National Team levels
as well a U15’s and U17’s Regional
Development Programme level.
• There should also be better teaching of
the detail of body height when
dribbling, posting, or defending.
• Better coaching of the ‘Active Stance’
and the triple threat position will
enhance our shooting ability by
providing better balance and leg
power when ultimately shooting from
mid to longer range.
Footwork and Movement
Recommendations For Clubs
• Review the Basic Skills Checklist for
footwork and stance and understand
that it underpins all subsequent skill
• Note the national system
recommendations and use the Club
Skills Guide Checklists
Recommendations For
• Coaches should “scrutinise” footwork
execution and drilling particularly in
the “warm up” phase of individual
and team training. Correct execution
should be encouraged always, even
in warm-ups.
• All the points made above in both the
national system and the club
recommendations are appropriate for
coaches at all levels.
• In coaching junior or youth teams,
coaches will be required to continually
reinforce the ready position or triple
threat position in all drills, be it for pass,
dribble or shot.
• Increase the emphasis on a correct
starting position for all drills from the
ready / triple threat; will reinforce and
provide repetition in the importance of
triple threat and all the players’
decision making processes.
• Review players’ hand positioning in
catching a ball (hand movement) and
in shooting – to be consistently
reviewed. This is a most important
fundamental for U12’s U14’s and even
U16’s. Ensure that players catch the
ball correctly and can quickly adapt
the hand position into a shooting
• Coaches need to continue to develop
the movement base for all players
throughout their coaching career.
Neglecting these areas only passes on
faults to the next coach and ultimately
leads to player frustration with inability
to correctly execute the fundamentals.
• Ensure the triple threat positioning with
pivot and step from a dead ball
situation is mastered by club players,
especially in the pass drive options
against a defender.
• Encourage motion offense as a
means to improving player movement
on the court.
• Coach players how to cut and lead to
receive the ball. Ensure cutters have the
necessary footwork to attack an
opponent through body to body
contact. This will include the “slash
arm/swim stroke” arm movements when
denied position. These hand and arm
movements become equally important
under the “fundamentals of movement”.
This can be introduced at the U14’s
level but is most important at U16’s,
U18’s and youth levels.
• Ensure that all players catch the
basketball with their hands in the
correct position and that this can easily
be rotated to the correct hand
positioning for shooting.
Footwork and Movement
Recommendations For
• School basketball programs at the
primary school level should ensure that
footwork is taught and that players
work on their footwork as a means of
improving their individual skills.
Teaching stance will assist a player
practise and develop a shooting
technique. The alternative is not to give
them a platform to work from. This
would be negligent.
• High school players simply want to
play, but the importance of footwork,
balance and the efficiency of certain
movement patterns to execute all the
associated skills still must be taught and
learned in school years Y8 to Y10.
• Schools must discover fun drills and
activities that encourage good
basketball footwork and specific
movement to basketball. The repetition
of the basics in practice and the thrill of
playing a game (modified or
constrained) are important for student
players who are sampling basketball at
school. Schools with specialised
programs should follow the club and
national guidelines and
• Schools should invite community based
and experienced coaches into the
primary schools to help teach the
fundamental skills.
• Footwork and movement underpins skill
development. Basketball maybe a
foreign game to some school teachers
or coaches but coaching the individual
skills as well as movement and footwork
are important responsibilities for any
school program that not only plays the
game but more importantly endeavours
to coach the game to its students.
Supported by:
• Develop a defensive mindset of ball
containment through effective ON-Ball
• Understand the difference and
interrelatedness of both “containment”
and “pressing” defence.
• Coach and develop a full court
defensive mindset and capability.
• Routinely provide more one-on-one drill
situations in training sessions.
• Teach the lateral movement technique.
• Create effective hand pressure within an
active defensive stance.
Why Emphasise On-ball
Defence (Stance Positioning
and Movement)?
If defence is 50% of the game, and there is
only one basketball then all five (ten)
players must guard it and gain it. The
ability to get in a position in front of the
moving ball and maintain an active stance
for defence, then slide, step or run and
then again get into a stance occurs in only
a few sports. ON-Ball defence is the first
defensive responsibility individually
(technically) and collectively (tactically). It
is unique to basketball because of the one
on one marking nature of the game which
is consistently repeated over the whole
court. Defence starts with containment and
then creating pressure on the basketball.
ON-Ball defence is the skill and tactic that
determines containment and the amount of
pressure against the ball. Therefore it is
fundamentally important that it is
emphasised and coached well at all levels
of British basketball. It is the first
responsibility for defence which all players
irrespective of their level must learn and
experience though repeated practice.
Because it is a unique movement sequence
it deserves special attention in order to
improve it across all levels. Without
effective and sustained ON-Ball defence
there is no foundation for team defence.
Active stance is an area of emphasis within
footwork and movement and is vitally
ON-Ball defence is a skill that all players
will be required to master as a fundamental
or basic skill. With practice it is a skill and
responsibility that can be performed well
by all players once the unique physical
movement is learned and an attitude to
persist in playing defence is established.
ON-Ball defence must have a higher
priority in the movement and tactical
pecking order.
The game has evolved and the sports
sciences like biomechanical analysis and
strength and conditioning have had more
influence on the coach’s teaching and
practice of movement and specific
techniques in recent time. The Defensive
Stance is one area that has always been
emphasised but the actual coaching of the
technique of the stance has not always
been consistent. Similarly the “slide”
motion and defensive footwork have been
unique to basketball and have been
ON-Ball Defence
developed over time without the continued
assistance of the science of movement.
Consequently, there are frequent examples
of poor stance which do not aid ON-Ball
defence and the associated specific
movement. Currently there is no consistent
methodology for coaching technique.
Agreement on ON-Ball positioning remains
fairly consistent .However the need to
generate more ON-Ball pressure while
containing the ball within our national
system is needed. This is especially needed
by our teams at international level.
There are two main issues that a coach
always needs to identify whatever the
level of play; deciding whether it is better
to press to create pressure against the
clock and how to effectively contain the
ball handler. Pressing defence individual
and collectively MUST STILL CONTAIN
Time as an indicator of containment is often
overlooked at training and sometimes
within coaching. It is important to note that
the importance of ON-Ball defence and
defence generally is because offence is
time bound and therefore subject to
pressure to perform in a given time. Five
seconds for an individual, eight seconds in
the backcourt and 24 seconds for a shot.
These are opportunities for defence to get
the ball. They also highlight that it doesn’t
have to be a steal or a missed shot on
defence for a team or individual to gain
the ball. Violations allow the defence to get
the ball if they create the right pressure on
the offence. Forcing turnovers is evidence
of pressure relative to the offensive
competency of the opposition. Taking the
charge is also another way to obtain the
ball. It is doubtful particularly at the higher
levels of junior national league
competition, that the standard of defence
continually challenges these time
limitations, obtains the optimum violations
through proactive defence and ultimately
give us an indication of the amount of
pressure that can be created by our ONBall defence.
Often we do not use these measures to
evaluate our defence and specifically the
effectiveness of the ON-Ball defender.
Therefore we as British coaches do not
have a collective and a committed cultural
evaluation midst for judging our ON-Ball
and team effectiveness. This is especially
true for the emerging national player
development system. Often the final score
and winning become the qualifiers of team
success rather than developing the
individual player specifically with these
aspects and measurements for ON-Ball
Few British teams develop a full court man
to man mindset and play it for the majority
of a game. Subsequently we do not
develop a full court pressure man to man
defence capability. This is evident in most
leagues and certainly at the national team
level. Tactically because of “time and
score” situations all teams will be required
to play full court man to man defence
featuring good ON-Ball defence and
pressure techniques. An inability to play full
court man to man with effective pressure is
tactically limiting our approach to playing
the game.
While our players are in essence
“engaged” with ON-Ball defence the
quality particularly at national team level
across all players is questionable.
ON-Ball Defence
Re-emphasising position, stance, slide, step
and run as part of the ON-Ball
responsibility is imperative in creating
better defence which in turn will drive an
improvement in individual and team
offence. This will improve the quality of
basketball played in the home countries.
Our players at all levels also deserve to be
coached well in understanding how to play
on ball defence.
Tactically and mentally; ON-Ball defensive
movement includes judging spacing
between the offensive player and the ONBall defender while moving. Players are
required to learn to judge the distance that
best creates pressure and containment. As
such, a player on defence must “think” and
anticipate movement in order to stop their
opponent. Spacing and positioning is also
critical for success and is not a natural
instinct or technique.
What Are The Major
Technical Points For
On-ball Defence?
Tactically; ON-Ball defence often is a fit for
purpose and the spacing between the
defender and the player with the ball can
be situational based on the opponent’s
ability, the offensive team’s intent combined
with the philosophy of the defensive team
coach relative to time and score.
There are technical, tactical, physical and
mental elements to ON-Ball defence which
should be understood by all British
Technically and physically speaking;
effective, deliberate and efficient physical
movement is required in defending the
dribble in both the full and half court.
Technically and tactically defending the
triple threat close to the basket is also
challenging at all levels and the use of the
feet and hands in movement are often
overlooked for detail when coaching this
situation and skill.
Physically ON-Ball defensive movement
has special requirements which are specific
to basketball. These should be broken
down into their component parts and
analysed for technical detail. Stance, slide
or stepping, running and regaining a
stance against the threat of the player with
the ball is the essence of the technical
detail involved in coaching effective
ON-Ball defence movement.
Physically and mentally; defence is a
deliberate, learned physical
movement with a positive attitude. It
demands application, commitment,
discipline and development of
character in our players.
The physical capability, underpins both the
technical and tactical elements while the
desire and discipline mentally to
persistently play defence will ultimately
determine the victor in any competition.
British coaches should understand the
technical, physical, tactical and mental
aspects of ON-Ball defence and then
develop their ability to coach the detail of
each element.
ON-Ball Defence
• Staying low in a defensive stance.
The defensive stance is not an easy
position or a comfortable movement for
some. It is not natural and must be
developed and conditioned. It involves
balance posture and core stability as
discussed in the Physical section of
these Areas of Emphasis. The defensive
stance is low and wider than the
offensive player’s foot position. The
placement of the defenders feet is
wider than the defender’s shoulder
width and the low stance needs to be a
comfortable position with the arms and
hands active and in line with the width
of the stance. The defenders toes are
pointing to the offensive player and
hips and shoulders are square to the
chest or shoulder of the offensive player
depending on whether they are front on
or side on. While the hands are active
in applying pressure and assisting
lateral movement their placement
position varies. They must be able to
apply pressure to the dribble, the pass
the shot or the ball while it is being
held. The hands are part of a disruptive
mindset. “Feet (offence) outside feet
(defence)”. The stance remains the
same if the offence player turns side on
to go in a direction towards a sideline
and not directly to the basket. The
ability to bend or squat and get low in
a defensive stance which is wider than
the offensive triple threat is the first
ON-Ball technique to be coached.
• Balanced footwork movement is
with the feet and hands. It is
important for technique and ON-Ball
defence skill development that the feet
and knees of the defender are pointing
in the same direction at the offensive
player. The shoulders and hips of the
defender are “square” to the ball. As
the dribbler moves so must the ON-Ball
defender. They must move and maintain
a low stance and the basic ON-Ball
defensive position. The defender is
normally encouraged to slide to cover
the movement of the ball through the
dribble or for any triple threat footwork
such as a jab step or any movement of
the attack foot. As the feet move so do
the hands in trying to get the ball and
also as an aid to moving the feet but
never beyond their own cylinder of
balance to cause overbalancing. The
head position and eye level is also
important in ensuring best balance and
movement. Overbalancing out of
stance can occur through poor
footwork or moving the head and/or
hands too far out of the stance and the
body’s cylinder.
ON-Ball Defence
• Position between the ball and the
basket. The square stance is always
established between the ball and the
basket. Consequently it is important to
contain the dribble as it moves. The use
and technique of the ON-Ball defence
footwork in containing and maintaining
position relative to the offence and
specifically the use of a dribble is basic
to coaching basketball. All offensive
players will attempt to go around or to
the side of the defender. This lateral
movement is critical in stopping the
dribble and heading off the forward
threat of the offensive player.
Historically this has been referred to as
a slide and there have been a couple of
techniques associated with coaching
sliding. The national system prefers a
“power step” rather than the step-slide
action of pointing a toe in one direction
and then sliding or shuffling the trail foot.
• Lateral movement, stepping and
positioning. Whether facing the chest
of the offensive player square on in
defensive stance or facing the players
side (shoulder) when dribbling the ball
towards a sideline or away from the
direct line to the basket. The lower
defensive stance and footwork remains
the same as does the position between
ball and basket. As the ball moves the
ON-Ball defender will be required to
step or slide to maintain their stance.
For the national system the low
defensive stance remains consistent as
does the ball and basket positioning. As
the offensive player turns side on or
part thereof to dribble the defender
must maintain the same low stance and
check their positioning as either nose to
chest (for front on) or nose to shoulder
for side on positioning by the offence.
• ON-Ball defence is repetition of
stance, slide or step and running
into stance. Technically and tactically
ON-Ball defence is containing and
pressuring the offence into slower
execution or stopping it directly or
indirectly through this effective
containment pressure of footwork and
positioning. It involves positioning,
stance, sliding or stepping and hand
pressure with effective talk from help
defenders. Maintaining position is also
important so if and when a defender is
beaten they will have to sprint recover
to the line of the ball. The ability to
perform this task requires specific and
deliberate conditioning through drills
like “zig zag” conditioned defensive
drills which are meant to replicate the
movement action of stance and
repositioning of stance.
• ON-Ball defenders will be beaten
so they must SPRINT recover and
persist. Knowing that once beaten the
ON-Ball defender has a great
responsibility to recover and go again
or “rebuild the defence”, is a key value
and requirement for the defender.
Therefore once beaten, the ON-Ball
defender must SPRINT (shoulder to
shoulder) and recover to another ONBall position in front of the offence, or
alternatively drop to the line of the ball
to an OFF-BALL defensive position
should the offence pass off once they
beat the defence. As players progress
through the age groups this ON-Ball
assignment becomes a specialising
position in the full court, but no
defensive players can hide from their
position responsibility and the need to
repeat efforts consistently in defending
on the ball.
ON-Ball Defence
• Players should be able to play full
court man to man defence. British
players must be able to play full court
man to man defence. There will be
varying time and score situations that
arise in a game or during a season or
championship event which will demand
full court pressure man to man defence.
• Defence is also “mental” as attitude,
discipline and application by players
will determine ON-Ball effectiveness.
While defence movement looks for
efficiency, the movement sequence is
dictated by desire and persistence to get
to a position ahead of the offence. It is
sprinting repeatedly. Attitude, discipline
and application by players are also
requirements that will need consideration
and scrutiny at the club levels. Club level
players should be able to get in a
stance; slide and sprint recover to a new
stance. This is needed at all age levels
and should be practiced through the
age groups.
• Channelling a dribbler is a tactical
aspect of ON-Ball defence. Heading
or influencing an offensive player in one
direction is considered an aspect of
containment defence. Our British style of
play demands that we channel the ball
towards the sidelines and baselines as
our basic team strategy for defence.
Funnelling is sometimes used as an
interchangeable term. Some defences
may base a strategy on funnelling the
ball down the middle or towards help
defender. However our British priority is
to push the dribbler towards sideline and
baseline rather than toward the middle
of the court when the offence normally
will have more options and be closer to
the basket. This is a tactical element of
ON-Ball defence.
• Defending the dribble/drive or shot.
All players must have the ability and the
competency to be able to defend the
dribble and the drive to the basket. This
is option number one for offence which
therefore is option number one for
defence practice and performance in a
game. Defending the dribble/drive or
shot (i.e. the triple threat) and always
contesting the shot is a vitally important
capability for ON-Ball defence and are
technical and tactical considerations for
coaches especially when drilling and
• Closing out is part of ON-Ball
defence; and should be coached well.
ON-Ball defence often adjusts from an
OFF-BALL position or a scramble
situation, meaning that positioning in
transition and closing out become a
precursor for ON-Ball defence. This is a
critical test of containment ability.
Closing out short (to contain the triple
threat) and long (the 3pt shot) and
positioning are covered in the OFF-BALL
section of the Area of Emphasis.
ON-Ball Defence
• Active Stance: Creating effective
“hand pressure” and placement of
“active hands” is part of the
responsibility for an ON-Ball
defender. ON-Ball defenders should
be competent at defending the shot,
dribble / drive to the basket and the
pass. Defending the shot and or the
pass is the next sequence of
progression for ON-Ball defence
movement. Arms must be bent and
relaxed ready to react to any
movement. The arms being too straight
slows down reaction and limits whole
body movement as motion requires a
generation of power including arms
and hands. The use of hands on
balance with a “dig hand” versus
dribble, or the “outside hand” in
passing lane and “inside hand up” or
The key objective of “active hands” is to
“attack the ball ’ with our hands in
order to pressure the offence. The arm
bar is also a technique which should be
understood and used by the defender.
It is not solely a bent arm and forearm
in the so called arm bar but a use of a
straight hard arm to hold the offenders
arm as in stopping the use of a
crossover hand with the crossover
dribble. In using the arms and hands
the coach needs to understand that
they help balance and movement.
Overreaching will affect balance
and stance.
• Contesting the shot. Often ON-Ball
defenders are late to get to a player or
misjudge space against a shooter after
a close out. Defending the shooter is a
tactical consideration for on ball
defender. Simply defending the player
for the drive or dribble will limit players
as they progress through the pathway.
Contesting a shot is often a part of the
close out and involves active hands to
pressure the shot. For ON-Ball defence
“Carrying a hand” against shooters,
becomes an additional key to
individual defence success. The degree
and intent for disrupting a shooter is
open to discussion but against a very
good shooter a hand up will not always
be effective. Trying to worry the shooter
by putting a hand in their face is one
technique. Committing to get a piece of
the ball as in a deflection is ultimately
required to become effective. A
blocked shot would be perfect!
ON-Ball Defence
• Dealing with the ON-Ball screen.
ON-Ball defender will eventually have
to deal with being screened. This will
occur in a full (front) court and half
(back) court situation. The ability and
technique to “go over” or “under” a
screen as well as being able to go
“through” between the screener and
your teammate’s position, in the case of
the ON-Ball screen, is important. Our
defenders must persevere and “go
over” as the main option. Consequently
they should be coached and
encouraged to develop the necessary
techniques, attitude and tenacity for
going over. Anticipation, preparation,
leg over and elbow pull through, as
well as forcing the dribbler up and
away from being close to the screener,
are techniques which must be explored.
Avoiding contact with the screener
through being hard to screen by
presenting as little a target as possible
is also a good technique. Being thin
square and in the same plane presents
less of a target for the screener.
Alternatively if late and trailing if the
defender follows close on the furthest
hip of the player using the screen once
again presents a less target for the
screener. Ultimately we want our British
player on the ball to be most familiar
with the fight to get over individually
without having to rely upon help or
going under and using these types of
• Alternative ON-Ball screen options
are circumstantial and should be
adopted only as a tactical adjustment.
There are several collective ways to
defend the ON-Ball screen listed in the
Defence master checklist. However the
fundamental requirement is for the ONBall defender to get over the screen.
This is achieved by being aware of the
position of the screen and the direction
taken by the dribbler. However if the
dribbler does use the screen the ONBall defender must make every effort in
preparation to get over the top of the
screen and can be helped by the
screen defender using different
techniques and principles discussed in
the OFF-BALL defence Areas of
Emphasis section.
– The ON-Ball defender can also go
through between the screener and
the screen defender.
– Alternatively the ON-Ball defender
can go under the screen defender.
The preference and success of each
principle is situational. The British
philosophy is for the ON-Ball defender
to always prepare to go over the
screen with help from both the screen
defender and the help line defender.
The complete ON-Ball screen system of
defence including help is discussed in
the OFF-BALL defence section.
ON-Ball Defence
How Can We Make The
Biggest Improvements With
On-ball Defence?
Change our Attitude to Defence
Particularly On-ball Defence
The discipline to coach and improve
ON-Ball defence techniques, movement
and tactics is a priority in the physical
preparation and coaching of all our
players. Every player can master defence
and develop a pride of performance to be
able to contribute to any team. So the first
area for big improvement is a better
attitude to defence with a discipline to
persist in both effort and technique.
Talented players and teams are normally
considered talented by being judged on
their offensive skill ability. However judging
a player’s offensive ability against any
defence that does not understand their role
and/or the importance of defensive
techniques, can give a false impression of
one’s talent or ability. This is misleading the
offensive players ability as any player on
offence should dominate when there is this
comparative advantage.
We in the United Kingdom get a bit carried
away with this comparative success. If the
focus of spectators, parents and some
coaches is on offence, then these same
talented players develop an attitude that
defence is a secondary and relatively
unimportant perspective. Additionally
because the focus is firstly on winning
(through offence) the standard of the
defence seldom attracts all the spectator and
parental attention. This then again reinforces
offence as more important than defence.
This perspective needs challenging,
defence is half the game. More players will
be required to defend than score. We need
an ON-Ball defensive mindset to raise the
value of defence and the real comparative
worth of offence at the club level.
Applauding and cheering the defensive
player who takes a charge should become
common place to a defensively orientated
team. Is there a greater defensive play that
a defender can make?
Finally, with the improved skills of players
in Europe, and also the preference to play
a dribble drive kick style of play in the half
court, it requires our defenders to be better
and more rehearsed with ON-Ball defence.
The ON-Ball aspect of the ON-Ball screen
and roll offence also becomes crucial to
your teams’ defence. Containment but
more importantly pressure, at the
international and higher club levels, require
this aspect of ON-Ball movement and
pressure to be re-emphasised.
Defence by definition must be containing
or restricting, but real defence is disruptive.
It is pressure team defence that restricts or
stops the opposition at crucial times and
scoring situations. This is a value worth
more consideration and education for
players, parents and spectators. It all starts
with the coach.
ON-Ball Defence
Understanding The Differences and
Interrelatedness Of “Containment”
and “Pressing” Defence
Any lessened requirement for defence or
expectation to play defence will send the
wrong message about the importance of
ON-Ball defence. A poor attitude by
player and or coach to defence will result
in an inability to play good ON-Ball
defence. Consequently developing team
defence is even harder with the absence of
ON-Ball pressure and position. Often ONBall defence is interpreted as containing
through a passive and sagging ON-Ball
position. So called containment (passive)
defence aims to capitalise on the offences
inabilities and disorganisation. As a result
“containment defence” is often defined
and interpreted in this context i.e. the
ineffectiveness of the offence; rather than
the degree of effort and commitment of the
Conversely a “pressing defender” is one
who crowds and harasses the offence but
still manages containment as well as
pressure. Such defence or defender does
not over commit or overplay to the extent
that the offence penetrates and gets an
advantage. There are degrees of pressure
which can be created basically through
position but also with effective technique
and mindset. Any ON-Ball defender can
simply contain their player by being in the
right position and by using a good
The best ON-Ball defence is one that both
contains yet disrupts the offence with
pressure through position, and active hands
and feet. In the national system this is
referred to as “UP” i.e. as up on the ball.
Being close in order to limit and pressure
the player.
A player can create more pressure through
closing the space and position by being
closer referred in the national system as
“IN”. Being “IN” close to the offence
forces the offence into one option or
pressures towards a turnover.
Finally a defender can sag OFF the ball
principally because the offence is no
threat. As competition levels increase this is
more and less likely but there are times
when this position and tactic is helpful.
Through not applying pressure with
the OFF position the priority is to help
other players.
Containment as well as pressure must be
generated out of good defensive stance by
the ON-Ball defender. It will involve “quick
feet” and “hand pressure”. During training
a coach must be concerned with
progressions by increasing the levels of
pressure both on the defender and on the
offence. ON-Ball defence is critical in
establishing defensive supremacy by a
team. The ball should be firstly contained
and secondly pressured or vice versa
depending on your philosophy.
ON-Ball Defence
Coach and Develop a Full Court
Defensive Mindset and Capability
A passive approach to defence, principally
due to a lack of ON-Ball defensive
pressure at the lower club levels, has arisen
because of a passive defence mindset. We
must challenge our players in training and
games with better ON-Ball defence, and in
turn test the individual offensive abilities of
our players particularly the use of the
dribble and pass against pressure.
Better ON-Ball defence will improve our
offence and our skills. By better coaching
defence, particularly extending the pickup
point from half to full or three quarter court,
we create a more challenging environment
to coach, learn and master.
ON-Ball defensive movement includes
judging spacing between the offensive
player and the ON-Ball defender while
moving. Players are required to learn to
judge the distance that best creates
pressure and containment. As such, a
player on defence must “think” and
anticipate movement in order to stop their
opponent. Spacing and positioning is also
critical for success and is not a natural
instinct or technique. The full court scenario
and mindset helps develop this.
Practicing defence with a shot clock will
encourage more effort and become more
realistic regarding the level of containment
and pressure. As well as using the shot
clock, if we take practice or game stats
through charting deflections and taking the
charge, we can monitor individual defensive
effort. Working breakdown drills in the full
court will also increase pressure for the
ON-Ball defender and increase effort and
pressure to perform at the junior level.
Physically and mentally, defence is a
deliberate, learned physical movement with
a positive attitude. It demands application,
commitment, discipline and development of
character in our players and full court
training will definitely challenge the
physical and mental aspects that are
needed for each and every player at
all levels.
Routinely Provide More One-on-one
Drill Situations In Training Sessions
Once dribble proficiency has been
established we need to create more oneon-one scrimmage or constrained drill
situation for our young players’
development. This means U12’s, U14’s and
U16’s should have one-on-one situations in
every training session in an effort to not
only improve ON-Ball defence, but to help
improve offence capability and creativity
once the defence is able to contain the
offence. Player at this level would be given
opportunity to practice and develop the
Basic skills and key offensive and defensive
skills and techniques. One on One play,
small number scrimmages and scrimmages
generally allow players to develop
through play.
In one-on-one the stance, the lateral power
step, positioning, stepping (with small
steps) backwards to an off line position the
use of the drop step if beaten, hand
positioning effort, persistence, contesting
the shot and rebounding are all required.
These can all be assessed and feedback
offered to develop best effort including
technique by the defensive player. The
degree of ball pressure, disruption, spacing
and positioning can also be coached well
in this situation.
Coaches and players can find the best fit
spacing for each ON-Ball defender.
ON-Ball Defence
Whether it’s an “UP” on ball (two steps off
the attacker or Up and “IN” one step (i.e.
IN the offensive players space ) or OFF (
more than two steps ) spacing and
positioning for the on ball defender. Full
court ON Ball spacing is different to half
court spacing because of the emerging
individual and team tactics.
Lateral Movement Technique
The “power step” is the national system’s
preferred technique instead of a sliding
action. The power step goes from big low
defence stance to a bigger (but not an
ineffective over stride movement) back into
a low big defensive stance. It is a lateral
step not a slide. It involves a push pull
action with a push off the weight on the
pads of the ball of the foot while the toes
of the feet are facing the opponent. The
pull action comes simultaneously with the
push action and is essentially the upper
body movement of arms and hands in aid
of a quick movement much like a sprinter
uses the upper body to help propulsion.
Lateral defensive movement is relative to
position but the back of the defender will
always be to the basket as the ball and
basket position is maintained.
Therefore the key lateral movement for the
ON-Ball defender is defensive stance,
power step (not slide), and defensive
stance with this push pull action.
In the national system the drop step is to be
avoided as we seek to optimise ON-Ball
pressure. Often the drop step is used
because ON BALL spacing and positioning
are poor through being too close to the
ball and/or not anticipating the situation
and the offensive players options.
The alternative to a drop step is to ‘step off’
then ’up’ with small steps.
While it is likely that players will be beaten
off the dribble the defenders intent should
be to always try and cut the dribbler off by
stepping across rather than drop stepping
and opening up the driving lane by
presenting one foot higher than the other.
The drop step or giving up a square
position to the offence presents an
opportunity for the offence to attack the
high foot on the defenders backside giving
the dribbler the advantage. So staying
square and adjusting the defensive position
relative to the offence being front on or
side on is what will determine effectiveness
on ball.
Spacing and proximity to the offensive
player should be considered in determining
the lateral slide or power step to cut off
rather than the drop step. Being too close
(within one step) gives the advantage to
the dribbler to turn the corner and hook the
defender. If the defender is in good
position but pressuring (approx 1.5 to 2
steps) then the drop step can be avoided
and the power step can be used.
When sagging off (greater than 2 steps / s
arm lengths away) the defender will
probably be sliding or stepping and
consistently drop stepping to shadow the
player as they change direction. When the
defender is “OFF”, ball pressure is not
preferred as containment would be the
priority. Normally the drop step means you
have given up contesting by being square
and as such are most like to begin running
to re-establish position for your next stance.
ON-Ball Defence
For the national system the defensive
stance and the power step remains
consistent as does the ball and basket
positioning. As the offensive player turns
side on or partly side on to dribble the
defender must maintain the same low
stance and check their positioning as either
nose to chest (for front on) or nose to
shoulder for side on positioning by the
offence and with the correct spacing
(normally 1.5 to 2 steps) that allows the
defender to create pressure.
Creating Effective “Hand Pressure”
ON-Ball defenders should be competent at
defending the shot, dribble / drive to the
basket and the pass. Defending the shot
and or the pass is the next sequence of
progression for ON-Ball defence
movement. When the defensive stance is
the hands should be carried as an aid for
movement and also to get to the ball. The
hand placement on balance is with a “dig
hand” versus dribble, or the “outside hand”
in passing lane and “inside hand up”. The
key objective is to “attack the ball’ with our
hands in order to pressure the offence. The
arm bar is also a technique which should
be understood and used by the defender in
certain situations.
The National system will carry the inside
hand (to the split line).The inside hand will
alternate between being the dig hand for
crossover dribbles to the middle and also
to raise and pressure the shot, The outside
hand will apply pressure and contest the
passing lane. The defenders Left hand
covers the offensive players right hand and
vice versa. As the offensive player moves
the ball when being ball quick from hip to
hip the defenders hands will trace and
indeed follow the path of the ball. There is
a secondary or opportunistic use of the
hands which are specific to what the
offensive player presents. This is the
essence of hand pressure.
On dead ball situations the hands are
gathered together so the outside hand
quickly joins the inside carried hand and
together they will trace the ball. Body
position and space changes as the gap
between the defender and the offensive
player will close from UP to IN but the
stance must be retained to cover the
offences attack foot.
Contesting a shot is often a part of the
close out and involves active hands to
pressure the shot. The close out is covered
in the OFF-BALL section of the Areas of
Emphasis. Trying to worry the shooter by
putting a hand in their face is one
technique. Depending on the close out and
speed for balance (long or short) a hand
should be carried and once the shooter is
in their action the defender should be
committing to get a piece of the ball as in a
deflection but block out as part of there on
ball responsibility.
ON-Ball Defence
What The Coaches Are
“Defence is physical movement with a
positive attitude. It demands discipline and
the development of character through
perseverance in our British players.”
Chris Finch, 2012 GB Men’s Coach
“Defence by its nature must be containing,
but real defence is a disruptive, pressure
team defence that restricts or stops the
opposition in both the time to perform and
to score.”
Tom Maher, 2012 GB Women’s Coach
“Perfect defence is defence that doesn’t
require help. Each player has stopped their
man, meaning the ON-Ball defender was
dominant through containment and getting
the stop.”
Warwick Cann, British Basketball
National Teams Director
Recommendations For The
National System
• From a co-ordinated team defensive
system standpoint, we will use the
overall defensive philosophy of forcing
the ball away from the danger zone i.e.
the key or basket. This means we are
influencing the ball away from the
basket towards the sideline and
baseline. We are trying to deny
penetration into this area by means of
good ON-Ball defensive stance and
quick lateral abilities.
• The principle of “channelling” or
“funnelling” the dribbler towards a
sideline will be a key tactic for
containment provided that pressure is
ultimately applied correctly.
• Good active stance and slide – run –
slide needs to be emphasised and
drilled for footwork and movement
mastery in all RDP and NT players.
• National teams and representative
regional teams will practice and play
full court man to man defence,
extending into run and jump rotations
once the concepts are understood.
• ON-Ball defence will be coached in
how to recover (i.e. shoulder to
shoulder) until offence can be
contained for the second time, once the
defender has dropped to the line of the
ball (ON-Ball transition defence).
• All development programs will
concentrate on coaching closing out
footwork and positioning as part of
ON-Ball defence (from an OFF-BALL
help closeout position).
• Closing out is directed with the
principle “nose to high shoulder” to
cover the immediate middle
• Defending the three point shot not only
demands hand pressure to “worry the
shooter” but also involves a rethink on
positioning with closer proximity to the
perimeter shooter giving less help,
more hedge and recover and only
giving help when the ON-Ball
defender is beaten.
• We must eliminate “over help” or
“premature anticipation” which will
leave the three point shooter open.
There will also be a need to “close out
long” against the three point shooter
once the shooter commits to the shot.
ON-Ball Defence
• Contesting a shot is often a part of the
close out and involves active hands to
pressure the shot. For ON-Ball defence
“Carrying a hand” against shooters
becomes an additional key to
individual defence success. Committing
to get a piece of the ball as in a
deflection is ultimately required to
become effective.
• When defending the pick and roll the
general rule is for the ON-Ball defender
to firstly disrupt and push dribbler
higher and then go OVER the screen,
with the screen defender being active
and disruptive against the screener and
the dribbler.
• Ultimately we want our British players
ON-Ball to be most familiar with the
fight to get over individually without
having to rely upon help or going
• Emphasising a low defensive stance
and slide with a “big bigger” step or
“push off the inside of the foot”. The
cue for a low stance and feet
positioning is “feet between feet’.
• Our ON-Ball positioning is two steps
(or two arms length) off the offensive
player when defending the initial drive
threat. After establishing this position
the defender will then close the gap to
one step off (an arm and half away)
from the offensive player or vice versa
to achieve containment.
• When defending the baseline dribble
drive (along the baseline) closing out
should end in a ‘square’ stance (but
with one high foot staggered slightly),
limiting the ability for easy baseline
penetration. This is done through
shading the player to the baseline but
being ready to cut the baseline drive off
once the offence commits, rather than
allowing middle penetration.
• In defending the “side penetration”
drive (through the side of the keyway)
establish stance with high foot
staggered up (or foot closest the middle
of the court) but square shoulders or
chest facing the ball (i.e. parallel to
sideline) and tactically influencing the
ball towards sideline and baseline.
• In defending the middle penetration
(through the free throw line) adopt the
normal defensive stance and use lateral
movement to angle and influence
penetration towards sideline, away
from the free throw area, resulting in
forcing the dribbler wider and less
directly to the middle. Playing middle
foot higher to influence; cutting the
dribbler off and sending back to their
originating side.
• Playing or scrimmaging from three
quarter court rather than quarter court
to specifically place the ON-Ball
defender in a position where they can
apply more pressure on the guards
dribble, and repeated more regularly.
• More full court drilling 1 versus 1, full
court, three quarter court, half court
and quarter court to emphasise
positioning and movement when drilling
ON-Ball defence.
ON-Ball Defence
• The principle of overplaying or shading
the offensive player by adopting an
overplay position or “nose to shoulder”
position must be understood by all
British junior players. Alternatively,
complete denial of the dribble to one
side is achieved through being in a
position with “head over the ball” as a
further overplay position.
• Playing a player “straight up”
recognises a player has the ability to
go left and right, so by playing “nose to
chest” the good dribbler can be
matched or neutralised by a good
defender. Our British players must
understand the tactic and associate
positioning on the ball for
“overplaying” and playing
“straight up”.
• Pressure defence is defence using the
time restrictions (clock) and other
violations to the defence’s advantage.
Use a clock when training and
particularly when drilling defence.
Success in stopping a team is through
shot clock violations or 8 second
backcourt or 5 second held ball.
• Anticipation, preparation, leg over and
elbow pull through, as well as forcing
the dribbler up and away from being
close to the screener, are techniques
which must be explored as ON-Ball
defence technique against the
ON-Ball screen.
Recommendations For Clubs
• Ensure players are taught defensive
footwork and how to defend the
dribbler with correct positioning of feet,
body and hands, to pressure but
• Refer to the Basic Skills Checklists for
the basic ON-Ball defence footwork
and movement.
• Drill more in the full court to give ONBall defenders more practice and to
highlight the competencies needed by
both offence and defence.
• Rather than start half or quarter court
drills around the three point line, start
offences and drills over the half way or
in three quarter court.
• Commit to all teams being able to play
effective full court and half court man to
man as their primary defence as a
challenge to develop our British players
ON-Ball defence capability. However
pressing full court in junior levels when
the margin in the game is wide is
usually counterproductive. This is
particularly at the U12 and U14 levels.
As a general rule for when to stop with
a dominant full court man to man
defence which the opposition is
incapable of outplaying is 20 points.
Hopefully our British coaches will know
when too much is too much. Full court
man to man is best tested against the
best teams not the worst.
• Drill and scrimmage full court man to
man defence with our U14 and U16s
whilst having U18 and U20 players
extending into run and jump rotations.
ON-Ball Defence
• Playing full court man to man defence is
good for team and individual
pressuring but not conceding hands
fouls is crucial to ultimate team
defensive pressure.
• ON-Ball defence is critical in
establishing defensive supremacy by a
team. The ball should be firstly
contained and secondly pressured or
vice versa depending on your
• Create a training environment where
defence is important and where the first
step in developing good team defence
is through good coaching of ON-Ball
defence movement footwork and
• Attitude, discipline and application by
players are also requirements that will
need consideration and scrutiny at the
club levels.
• Drill in the extended court (three
quarter and full court) when working
on defence.
• Club level players should be able to get
in a stance; slide and sprint recover to a
new stance. This is needed at all age
levels and should be practiced through
the age groups.
Recommendations For
• Re-introduce ‘zig zag” type drills
(defending the change of direction
effectively in restricted corridors of the
court). Using combinations of active
stance and slide – run – slide etc.
Extend this to more competitive full
court 1 on 1 drilling.
• Play and drill more one on one
particularly at the U12, U14 and U16
• Coach and drill ON-Ball containment
of the dribbler and build ON-Ball
pressure through better positioning and
use of the hands to create pressure. The
objective is not to foul in the act of
defending with our hands, so the
balance between attacking and
• Start all scrimmages with a good triple
threat offensive position and drive
threat. Then correct ON-Ball defence
stance and positioning. This will
establish a more solid platform for team
defence, as hedge and help and the
necessary rotations and recovery can
also then be explored and developed.
• Closer focus on individual spacing (i.e.
distance between the offence and the
defence) whilst being able to defend
the first step in order to contain the ball.
For example: one arms length, one and
a half or two lengths off the live
offensive player who wants to dribble
the ball.
• Coach footwork and hand positioning
for the ON-Ball defender.
• Promote ON-Ball defence as the
initiation of a team’s man to man
• Ensure your team plays man to man
defence as its primary defence and that
your team has the knowledge and
capability and confidence to play full
court man to man.
ON-Ball Defence
• Anticipation, preparation, leg over and
elbow pull through, as well as forcing
the dribbler up and away from being
close to the screener, are techniques
which must be explored as ON-Ball
defence technique against the
ON-Ball screen.
Recommendations For
• Attitude, discipline and application by
players are also requirements that will
need consideration and scrutiny at the
club levels. Club level players should
be able to get in a stance, then slide or
power step and sprint recover to a new
stance. This is needed at all age levels
and should be practiced through the
age groups.
• Understand that full court man to man
defence can be an extended defence
for containment through use of the shot
clock, or alternatively a pressing full
court man to man defence for stops.
• Play man to man defence building
towards the club guidelines. Do not
play zone defence as your team’s
primary defence.
• Coach and encourage correct ON-Ball
position and stance (refer to coaches
and club recommendations.
• Encourage man to man defence rather
than zone defence.
Supported by:
• Plan more time during training for
dedicated shooting practice and regular
• Practice and drill shooting within game
like situations at game speed
• Practice under pressure once techniques
is sound
• Use the Free throw to teach and
develop shooting form
• Develop a variety of finishing moves and
layups close to the basket
Why Emphasise Shooting?
Shooting is the key basic skill and it is an
individual skill which all players of all ages
and standards should master over time.
Any player who is dedicated and enjoys
the game craves the ability to shoot well.
They deserve to be shown how to shoot the
ball correctly and to be successful in
practicing the skill. It is also a skill where
players will have some aspect of technique
acquired but which often needs
remediation or continued development.
Combined these driving perspectives mean
that how to best teach shooting as a skill
should be understood.
Shooting as a skill requires coaches to be
knowledgeable but competent in helping
every player of all standards to shoot the
ball with an effective technique. Coaches
of the younger age groups are critically
important. Any coach who specialises in
the younger age groups should become a
master of teaching and coaching good
shooting technique and have the ability to
progress the development over a two or
three year period.
The more the game grows and new clubs
or teams are formed regularly in the
National leagues competitions the more
the demands will continue to be on
coaching. Unfortunately this growth via
new teams is often independent of an
established club and consequently without
support of experienced coaching
knowledge who can assist the new entry
level coach.
The lack of coaching expertise
accompanying the expansion of these
teams further complicates the coaching of
shooting; as more players enter the
pathway; more will have poor technique
and understanding. Coaches from various
levels within a club maybe able to assist or
help mentor the novice / inexperienced
coach in teaching shooting correctly.
However the existing club structure or
national league team structure often
negates the opportunity for guest coaches
or coaches active in the same club or from
another club to help out with coaching.
Poor Coaching and learning ultimately
develops into poor shooting technique.
Players also have little understanding of the
basic principles that are necessary to
improve and develop shooting when
inevitably practicing by themselves.
Unfortunately clubs often appoint less
experienced coaches to the youngest ages
and as a consequence the relatively
inexperienced coach doesn’t have the
necessary competency level to coach
shooting to the level that a beginner or
young player deserves. Consequently the
younger player (U10, U12 or U14) does
not receive the best coaching that they
need at the crucial beginning stage when
the acquisition of skill is most important.
Consequently coaches at the U16 and
U18 level often have players joining the
sport late or progressing with a poor basic
skill base or a very limited training age.
This then requires older junior age group
coaches to also be effective coaches of
shooting at a time when they may want to
concentrate on preparing a team or be
overly focused on winning games rather
those skilling players.
All coaches should become proficient
in the coaching of shooting to
beginners and developing players.
It is the key basic skill for the lifetime of
enjoyment of the game. However coaches
have different challenges and
consideration at each of the age levels in
terms of learning style readiness and
communication which means that coaches
need to vary their teaching and coaching
approach when teaching shooting.
Often as coaches we look at the player’s
inability as being the main reason for lack
of success. We attribute failure to learn
with the individual rather than being
reflective and analytical of our own
teaching and coaching competency in
aiding learning. This perspective is
apparent in the current coaching of
shooting in the UK.
Currently we do not have any age
benchmarks for shooting to know if we are
improving. The shooting percentages of our
national junior teams are lower than our
competitors. For example in junior women’s
basketball the winning teams at European
B in 2008 and 2009 shot at a 2 point
shooting average of 47.3% compared to
the substantially lower 38.6 % for our
home nations teams.
The top average team 2 point shooting
percentage at the 2008 and 2009
Championships stood at 54.6% and
46.8% respectively with 21 teams
averaging above 40% during the two
tournaments. The top average team 3 point
shooting percentage at the same
Championships stood at 36.8 and 33.9 %
compared to a significantly lower 30.9 by
the home nations.
In the junior men comparison the difference
is again 9% with two point shots in favour
of the European champions Let's not forget,
these targets are not static. All countries
will be reflecting on their performances
and challenging their players to raise their
standards further. The bar will continue to
If we are to consider ourselves a potential
Division A nation then we must pay
attention to the technique, methods of
practice and results of the way shooting is
taught within the GB framework. Shooting
and accuracy must improve.
In the modern game shooting has become
critical to team success. With big, athletic
players blocking the path to the hoop and
clogging the key, it is imperative that teams
are able to stretch the defence, forcing
them to cover more territory. As the three
points line moves further away from the
basket from 6.25 metres to 6.75 metres,
the impending FIBA rule changes will place
greater value of three point shooting
accuracy. Additionally the Curriculum
Driver Group has also identified that
“finishing” or “close in” shooting in the key
against pressure is a weakness.
The reality is some players will be more
driven to develop their shooting skill at an
earlier age and some coaches will be
better at teaching coaching and
developing a players shooting at different
levels. This presents us with challenges in
addressing the coaching of shooting to the
next generation of players. Simply very
good teaching of shooting at each level
is required.
Strategically for a specialising player
progressing through the pathway it is most
likely that coaching shooting will involve
different coaches interacting with the same
player as they progress through the
pathway. Making sure that the club, school
national pathway coaches are all on the
same page using the same progressions
and key points of emphasis is important so
we have not wasted the little time in
coaching that we have. Minimising
duplication, removing conflicting advice
and improving communication all take time
so in teaching shooting to our emerging
talent we need to get on the same page.
Coaches should study how to teach
shooting to each age level.
It effectively is about a longer term
approach to skills acquisition in developing
shooting over time and prioritising a review
of how we coach and develop shooting
and how given our environment we
encourage and establish an attitude and
discipline to improve shooting with all level
of players.
What Are The Major
Technical Points?
The scope of shooting for these Areas of
Emphasis could be too wide as there is so
much more to technically improving
shooting than just the elements that form
the technique of each players shooting.
While it is the technical skill of
shooting that is a focus, it is actually
the teaching and coaching of shooting
that is our major area of emphasis.
Knowing the “how” of coaching layups,
free throws, set shots and then jump shots
from close to mid range to three point
territory is what must improve in order for
shooting to become better for our players,
and being creative yet disciplined in our
planning and training for shooting. This,
rather than the science and knowledge
associated with shooting, is the reason we
have emphasised shooting as an Area of
Emphasis. However we must confirm the
technique as part of that process.
Technique: (i.e. The Procedure,
Skill, Or Art Used In a Specific Task
Or Skill)
and stance (posture) are most important for
power and are the key principle for
generating power and trajectory.
Shooting is a skill which should be
coached fundamentally well for correct
technique at U10, U12 and U14 levels.
It is a skill which requires underpinning
physical movements and principles which
will require dedicated hours of extra
practice. The national system needs to
seek those who have the ability to coach
shooting well so that other coaches can
learn to expedite an improvement
with shooting.
Secondly understanding that shooting is
basically a one handed shot but we use
two hands to hold it will help the technical
understanding of the function and action of
the shot. If it’s basically a one handed
action then that action is best to occur to
the preferred shooting hand side.
The advanced technical skills for shooting
are covered under the Offense section of
these Areas of Emphasis guidelines and
within the Individual Tactic Offence
checklists. A further reference to the Areas
of Emphasis physical and the footwork and
movement sections are also related to this
shooting section with regard to the
technical aspects of shooting.
For our purposes in this technical discussion
it is a skill which requires technique in
stance and then in combination with
movement and footwork as a running
layup and then a catch, pivot and shot.
Technically the basic technique and the
rhythm for shooting skill starts from the
basis of a set shot and progresses into a
jump shot. Initially this is as a stationary
set shot preferably as a free throw then
over time progresses to a jump shot
technique, hopefully successfully from the
three point range for all our players at
whatever level of competition. Women and
men have different physiology resulting in
variations of techniques and some body
mechanics. Whether it’s a set shot or a
jump shot technically the legs, the bend
Finally an up and above the ring trajectory
is required, not an out or at the basket
action as so often occurs because of
poor mechanics.
Best trajectory comes from a good
stance, bent wrist and elbow, lift and
lock followed with a wrist snap with
one finger going through the ball as
the last touch.
An efficient shot will require
• Balance, through a good triple threat
stance to start the one action movement
• Vision of the target with head and chin
up in preparation of the right elevation
of the shot into the ring.
• Holding the ball with hands in the
correct position. The holding hand to
the side of the ball and the shooting
hand with a cocked wrist under the
• Ensuring the ball is held to the line of
the shoulder of the preferred shooting
side through establishing the shooters
• Elbow positioning is under the ball and
also under the wrist and culminating in
a lift of the ball to above the eye line
(locked elbow). This is an important lift
principle when combined with a knee
bend through an effective squat. This is
the combined movement for power.
• A good single hand follow-through
technique (as high as possible),
culminating in a high hand and wrist
snap with index and or middle fingers
moving through the middle of the ball to
create backspin and a soft release.
• The wrist snap with the elbow lock and
the line of the ball to the shoulder will
determine the accuracy of the line of
the shot to the ring.
The shooting action is premised on correct
stance and hand positioning to ensure the
efficiency of the overall shooting movement
as it generates from the position of feet to
the last touch of the shooting hands fingers.
Whilst it is initially a sequence of movement
by parts of the body, the goal is to have a
seamless continuous movement or action
from feet to follow through. It will require
correct hand positioning on the ball so that
it can be held with two hands but
effectively shot with one hand and on one
side of the body.
Ultimately the whole action must be a
single smooth movement with power
generated through the legs and with a high
wrist release of the ball to guarantee
elevation and best chance for success.
While it is a single skill it involves the kinetic
chain of the body starting from the feet,
through the legs and hips, and ultimately
the elbow and shoulder joints culminating
with a snap of the shooting hand wrist with
one main finger flicking through the ball.
This means that every joint is involved with
the movement pattern of the shot. This
highlights the need for understanding to
establish the sequence and chain of
movement that combine to determine the
final technique. Understanding that this
chain of shooting movement is
interdependent and that each stage can be
broken down for coaching or for focus for
any analysis is also very important.
How To Train
Coaches on the performance pathway
should be regularly testing and recording
shooting results and their coaching.
Shooting requires a ’50-week’ mentality;
any short cuts are proved to be
unsustainable and lead to lower
percentages with low level performance
ceilings. Coaches must encourage the
involvement of every player during the
process of development – allowing all
players to play on the inside and the
perimeter from a young age and
encouraging later specialisation in
positions/roles at a late stage. We must be
encouraging players to shoot the ball!
Particularly from the perimeter, and have a
patient approach towards the relevance of
success at different age groups and stages
of improvement.
Time and Pressure
Shooting must be performed relatively
quickly as a combined single movement
from feet to follow-through and in varying
circumstances which can affect judgement
and timing by the shooter. So building the
execution from technique without
conditions to a condition of timing is an
important technical and learning aspect. In
coaching shooting for form a player can in
effect; shoot the ball too slowly in the
attempt at establishing a method. They can
become too slow through the shot and lose
any generation of power, in effect losing
the rhythm of the shot. Players need to get
a feel for the shot; this is to do with timing.
As players progress and develop their
shooting technique they need to be able to
shoot under pressure or in game like
situations as discussed in the previous
section. Once again the main technical
point is that the gather on the catch of the
ball needs to get the ball into the shooting
pocket quickly, after good foot
preparation, and then get the shot finished
efficiently but effectively. We should start
with a three count to establish and get a
shot away at the higher levels. In the NBA
reported by ESPN Ray Allen’s 3pt jumps
shot takes about .73 of a second. There is
no doubt that there is a certain amount of
time that it should take to get ready and to
complete a shot and that this should
become progressively quicker eliminating
wasted preparation movement will improve
the time taken to get a shot away but we
should also recognise that the actual shot
needs to be relatively quick. This can be a
speed verses accuracy conflict, but all
shooters continuing on the pathway should
be aware and able to get a shot off quickly
with good technique.
How Can We Make the
Biggest Improvements?
Obviously the amount of time allocated to
shooting and the drive and ability of each
player in the pathway will determine
success. Knowing all our coaches can
coach shooting as a skill to all levels
becomes a key driver in the rationale
behind making shooting one of our Areas
of Emphasis.
Turning a weakness into strength is not
easy. The national system will have to be
the leaders on this front but essentially club
coaches face the greatest responsibility
because they at least in theory of the most
time throughout a year with the player.
Shooting is a skill that will take time and
dedication. It is a skill where confidence
must be instilled to create a positive attitude
to being successful through failure. The
coach will also need a positive attitude to
acknowledge that they may have to retrain
themselves in the coaching of shooting.
Just as we suggest all players should
practice shooting in their own time, we as
coaches must ensure that we are well
planned not wasting training time, and
always creating an environment where
shooting is coached well and encouraged.
Quantifying the shots to be attempted
and made is an important aspect of
coaches planning.
While access to courts and extra individual
training, player modelling and basketball
culture are all considerations in the
development of shooting ability, it’s the
inconsistency and failure to establish the
basics of good shooting form or a
consistent approach to help coaches that is
most alarming. While these reasons maybe
contributing to our possible collective
failure, it does give us an opportunity to
reflect on the current practices of shooting
across the country, and through these
areas of emphasis correct and possibly
standardise a more consistent approach to
coaching our youngest club level players
as they set out on the pathway. It is also
about recognising a coaching weakness
and where we need to go back and learn
or modify our coaching approach.
Understanding that shooting is more about
the sum of the parts is one way to
approach our coaching of shooting.
Identifying key limiting factors to do with
the one shot movement will lead to greatest
improvement in the shortest amount of time.
Improving the coach education and
development system at multiple levels will
also then improve coach shooting
development. Personal development plans
are important for coaches to develop.
Shooting is probably the one skill that is
constantly in the plan. Like all coaching the
skills, principles and understanding also
takes time for coaches to develop this
competency. It commences with education
at courses and then a period of self
development activities. The challenge in
coaching shooting is that there are
numerous but effective techniques and
often there is some reluctance to modify or
change the bad habits that a player may
have. We should become experienced as
skill coaches to know when this line should
be crossed.
We must ensure that all coaches,
particularly at the youngest age levels,
become well versed in “how” to teach and
coach shooting to beginners, to younger
players aged 10 to 15 years, or late
beginners and how much time to spend in
a team training session on shooting.
Finally, sometimes less is more. Shooting is
one skill which can result in “paralysis by
analysis” through trying to pass on too
much information to the player or breaking
down into parts only to never be able to
put them back together successfully.
All Level Of Coaches Become More
Proficient and Competent In
Coaching Shooting
Our tutors of our various education courses
must ensure that layups and free throw
technique coaching methods are well
covered in the level 1 and level 2 coaching
courses. While it is a theoretical exercise, if
there was one of the basic skills that you
would coach solely in training what would
it be?
Our coaching must go from knowledge
based about shooting, to establishing best
practice for teaching and developing
shooting technique. If our coaching course
approach to educating coaches has been
limited then should be reviewed to ensure
that the coaching of shooting to beginners
and “sampling” players is appropriate so
that “continuing” and “specialising”
players don’t start with bad habits.
Coaches should also seek out successful
coaches of shooting and learn from the
better practitioners as practice effective
coaching methods for the elements of
shooting. There are many possibilities on
the internet for learning how to best coach
Clubs with multiple age groups should
organise their clubs so that the teaching of
shooting is not left to novice coaches but is
systematically addressed across age
groups by allowing experienced or good
teachers of shooting to lead and share
their knowledge to all coaches in the club.
Skills sessions rather than team preparation
sessions should be established at a time
when the senior shooting coach can attend
and help the youngest. Special days for
extra shooting are also another possibility
for consideration. Shooting is that
important that we must look at additional
options and strategies to not only learn but
to practice. This is very important at the
U12, U14 and U16 levels.
Our Regional Performance Centres
(RPC’s) and Talent Development
Programmes (TDP’s) are our quality
control mechanisms for ensuring that the
how to coach shooting is available to all
club level coaches should they seek it.
Our National development programmes
must become the home of best practice
shooting. Clubs and development
programmes at the U12, U13, U14 and
U15 levels must become the hot bed for
coaching shooting. Each of these
programmes should coach shooting
well, provide regular progressive drills
and individual time where each and all
players can shoot from the most
appropriate distance is that can best
develop their technique. Coaches should
always be providing encouragement and
feedback and where possible use video to
help the individual progress.
Encouraging players to practice the most
appropriate shooting component, shot or
distance is also important in that practice
will be required once technique is
acquired. So home shooting programmes,
between programme sessions is equally
important. Parents should be encouraged
to put a backboard and ring on a wall or
in a space at the family home if it is
possible. Schools should be encouraged to
allow players to shoot the basketball
before after or during school time on
available rings. Improved teaching of
shooting technique including better
technical coaching points and improved
methods will result in better shooting.
Plan For Individual Shooting Time
At Team Training Sessions
Understanding how to plan for shooting
practice should not be underestimated in
importance. Often shooting becomes a
drill that the team participates in rather
than and individual session where the
player can progress from stage to stage in
search of competency. Determine the best
organisation to get maximum shots up for
all players are the challenge.
How shooting is coached and taught as a
skill is a different aspect to how it is trained
as an individual skill or as part of a team
training session. How shooting is scheduled
through the season also becomes
important ensuring that there is time for
individual appropriate practice before
during and after training become important
if the coach is important to the player’s
Often there is an early arrival time before
training commences. Convincing your
players that they will be better served
through practicing the shots they are most
likely to get in a game is one way of
maximising the players time with shooting.
Having disciplined routines as an early
arrival or first part of any training session
can be a way of finding an extra 10
minutes for appropriate individual
shooting practice.
Encouragement of all players, regardless of
height or position, to develop their shooting
from mid to long range is also an important
in planning and providing for shooting.
Once a shooting technique is acquired the
need to practice becomes self evident.
Determine how much practice is need is
also important. Can a player take and or
make 200 shots a day? Is that enough?
Some would say for a specialising player
1000 shots a day is the norm. Making
shots is also the key. So a player in extra
time or in team training needs to consider
making between 100 and 500 shots from
a designated range a day. Knowing how
many shots are taken and made at training
over a season will help players to become
better shooters.
Use Visual Demonstrations and
Video For Visual Feedback
The use of players who have good
technique at the same age level should be
used as demonstrators rather than the
coach. Players will learn shooting
technique through all the mediums.
Hearing, but more importantly seeing, is
very important. So demonstrations,
taking video of the player and showing
the techniques are good methods for
coaching shooting. Too often we talk about
the science underpinning shooting rather
than show it. Players have different
learning styles and a reliance on the
verbal is limiting.
Players Will Need To Practice
Individually To Get Better At Shooting
The discipline of shooting is essentially
practice. If a player is limited in the time for
shooting within the team training session
then they must seek other alternatives in
order to get better. This needs to be
reinforced for all our junior age players.
Parents must also be made aware that this
individual skill will not simply evolve and
develop naturally without added deliberate
extra practice. Players overseas have back
boards in the backyards. They have
playgrounds they seek out in the summer
time which doubles as the off season and a
great opportunity to improve shooting. We
need to consider having a backboard and
ring at home if possible. Access to courts
for practice is important and recognising
that if a young player wants to be
successful they will have to seek out venues
to practice.
Too often the player comes to training
early, gets a ball, then heaves it from as far
out as they can in the hope that luck
favours them, rather than have the
discipline to go in close and master the
close range shot. It takes discipline to
starting inside the key way with layups and
basic low post moves.
Use The Free Throw Area To Teach
Shooting Form
Practice of the free throw is all important.
Coaches need to take advantage of free
throw practice for teaching shooting form.
It is a great spot to watch players shoot,
observe video and provide feedback.
Solid form and repeatable technique are
available to every player in the pathway
from APCs, TDPs to regional development
programmes. Unfortunately as coaches we
often look to gimmick or part techniques to
teach shooting. The trouble with shooting
for the wall or onto a line or lying on a
back and shooting the ball into the air are
examples of breakdown drills meant to
help develop shooting. While some of
these have merit for beginners the reality is
that shooting is an actual skill with a
specific outcome which remains the best
way to actually practice to improve.
The first shooting situation requiring more
consistent technique is the free throw. This is
a form shot with little complication. For our
youngest players we should start in front of
the rim and gradually work our way back
towards the free throw line. Progression
backwards to the free throw line must be
based on success.
Once the set shot is established as a free
throw or set shot, the catch to shoot is then
introduced from the same ranges as
success has been achieved. If the shot goes
in at a good percentage then distance can
be increased. As the shot is established
and developed for consistency it is then
combined with the dribble as part of the
players individual skills tool kit. This is best
recognised as triple threat start stance to
dribble to jump stop into a second triple
threat stance ready to shoot the ball from
the successful distance. The stride stop into
triple threat for balance can also be
exchanged for the jump stop as
development progresses.
The Swish Is The Outcome
When we achieve a swish a number of
things have been done well. The rhythm of
the shot will be good if there is a consistent
swish as an outcome. The kinetic chain and
all the technical elements can be
considered to be in sequence if the swish
occurs. If we don’t get the swish we can
analyse why. Short, to the left, right, back
left. All these outcomes help us pinpoint
probable causes and possible corrections
or solutions. It also demands the best
quality effort in all shots from our players.
Benchmarking of the swish as more
important than the ball simply going in
after bouncing off the rim, it gives a better
clarity and focus on quality of the outcome
of the shot.
Often at the earliest stage some short
range shots are considered too easy for
the player. By demanding that we achieve
three consecutive swishes we are
demanding concentration for even the
perceived easiest of shots. This principle of
the swish being an indicator of success in
shooting is very important in raising the
bar. It will become our new benchmark for
the national system with shooting.
Hopefully it will encourage players to
concentrate more with their shooting and to
seek higher standards than at present.
Measure and Test Shooting
Accuracy To Improve Percentages
The National shooting tests have been
developed to help us measure our players
shooting ability. Coaches can become
preoccupied with just shooting rather than
the success level. Shooting demands
accuracy and accuracy demands practice
and accountability with discipline from the
shooter. While the aim is to develop each
player’s shooting skill, through acquiring
good technique the motivation to practice
more shots is a key strategy for longer term
improvement. Children want to compete or
test themselves so the national shooting
tests become a key stagey for judging
improvement and hopefully encouraging
more deliberate practice of shooting.
Often the requirement for accuracy
becomes lost in our desire to get shots up
or to coach shooting form. Focusing on
process leads to better outcomes.
However shooting is one skill where a
player can judge for themselves on their
success. It is not coach dependent in
determining success. Often the young
player can become too focused on what
the coach is saying and in trying to please
the coach that the ultimate outcome can be
forgotten. Coaches must let players
discover for themselves but guide this
discovery for finding a suitable shooting
technique. It is no good if a shot looks
good but never drops. There is food for
thought for the coach in terms of feedback
and analysis, but the goal is to make the
basket regularly as judged by percentages
and game like pressures. We must
remember this.
The national shooting test has tests for
layups, free throws, mid range shooting,
one dribble jump shots from medium range
and some there point shooting tests.
Knowing which one is appropriate to the
stage of development of your players is
important; not only to get accurate
measurement of progress, but to also instil
confidence, not destroy it through requiring
an inappropriate testing at level.
Here’s What The Coaches
Are Saying:
Recommendations For
Teaching Shooting
“I believe that anyone can be taught to
shoot the basketball. Shooting with good
form and rhythm close to the basket, and
utilising the ”whole - part – whole”
teaching process, are critical to helping a
player develop confidence in their shot.
Eventually all shots must be executed at
”game speed”, on balance and with
correct mechanics. At the GB level, we
want players who can ”catch and shoot”
as well as ”pull up” at high speed off the
dribble, and these shots must come from
both long range and mid range.”
Shooting is also a skill that requires a
combination of skills. Firstly it must be
taught as single individual skill before it is
then combined with catching and
Ken Shields, 2012 GB Senior Women’s
Assistant Coach
“Perimeter shooting is an exact science. It
operates on straight lines and precise
trajectory. Because of the accuracy
required every mechanical movement
within the shot must have a particular
timing, be fundamentally sound, quick to
the shot and quick to the release. Each
error in the design of the shot will increase
the inaccuracy as the distance increases.
The worse the technique, the more practice
is required to correct it.”
Jimmy Guymon, 2011 GB U20 Men’s
Assistant Coach
Shooting Technique and Form
(Including Footwork, Balance
and stance)
• Technique (form) – Time must be
spent teaching and reinforcing
technique at every practice. We must
be utilising best practice coaching
processes such as progressions from
learning speed to game speed; the
whole-part-whole method; peer-to-peer
feedback; and the use of questioning.
Using good demonstrators as guides
for replication as well as filming any
action and provide the player with
visual feedback.
• Footwork and early preparation –
using the stride (one-two) stop and the
jump (two foot) stop (teaching the
appropriate time to use each of these
techniques with an emphasis on
executing the skill quickly); catch and
shoot – body low and providing a
target hand early; off the dribble –
body low and finishing a drive with one
hard dribble before pulling up for the
shot. Players must have the ability to
take short and long steps into the shot
and be quick to make adjustments of
their feet so they are able to shoot from
a steady platform with accuracy and
• Footwork For Shooting Checklist
– Correct footwork / stance (including
balance and posture) coupled with
the early preparation for a shot are
required to be coached before
actually shooting the ball.
– Stepping into a shot is important for
balance mechanics rhythm and
power (i.e. plant left foot for right
hand shooter).
– Pivoting (forward) into a shot going
both directions and using inside foot
is a key focus for catching and
– Pivoting (reverse) using the outside
foot to create an individual offense
move that will require a jump shot or
drive and layup or pull up off a
– Leading (moving) with good target
hands into catch to shoot with correct
footwork detail (i.e. inside and
outside foot going both directions.
– Once shooting technique has been
acquired to a suitable refinement
stage then the (triple threat) shot
fake, one dribble jump shot with
correct footwork (i.e. stepping and
pivoting into shot) is important for
individual offense.
Form Shooting Can Be a Form Of
“Paralysis By Analysis”
While teaching shooting technique or
“form shooting” is most important,
particularly at the introduction stages or
within the refinement and development
process, there is a need to avoid “paralysis
by analysis”.
Shooting and the coaching of shooting can
become too technical and counterproductive.
The shooting technique is one movement
action from feet to follow-through. Over
working elements of the shot doesn’t
always transfer to an improved overall
action, so be aware that coaching form as
opposed to key principles can be
counterproductive for the player.
“Perfect form is not as important as
perfecting your shot (by practice)”.
Chris Mullin, a shooter on the original
USA Olympic Dream Team
Our next generation of coaches will find a
way to convert knowledge into principles
that allow a framework to coach shooting
without overcomplicating the development
of a very refined skill.
– All individual players in the nation
system should understand how to
train, including training intensities,
monitoring and recording.
Shooting From Short To Mid Range
Shooting From Mid To Long Range
• We lack distance in our shooting not
solely because of the “lift, lock and
snap” action but also because of the
lack of a ready (squat) stance and use
of legs (core). All these aspects are
important to our shooting success.
There needs to be emphasis on stance
on the catch, knee bend (squat), ball to
shooting side in line with the shoulder
(for a better one handed action) and
“high” snap , these are key to teaching
players to better success with shooting.
• The technique of the upper body
should remain constant throughout the
shot technique, although the
importance of a lower body push,
shooting side of the body (lead foot,
knee, hip, shoulder and fingers) in line
with the basket and used to keep good
balance are key requirements for
shooting from greater distances.
• Getting the ball to the shooting pocket
should be quick and from various
angles. Players should be able to take
the ball from different catch areas and
get it quickly into the shot pocket, (line
of the shoulder) ready to shoot.
• Coach Mike McKay from the Canadian
Performance Centre for Basketball
expressed the importance of modern
players being physically and
technically able to take the ball across
their body and from different directions
to the shot pocket and suggested that
this was one of the factors separating
good players from the great!
• Greater distance shooting requires
greater accuracy and therefore also
requires a technique that remains linear
and precise even when performed with
extra speed through the shooting
action. Players and Coaches should be
developing one technique of shooting
and have the ability to speed up the
rhythm for greater distance or slow it
down for free throws.
• Coaches must stress that the most
effective technique is a predominantly
one handed shot with balance and
hand positioning from the support/nondominant hand. One handed shooting
practices will help to identify problems
of balance, positioning, alignment and
Applied Shooting
As the purpose of each coach and each
player is to improve the individuals
performance in games at the highest level,
it is imperative that we are training the skill
within the correct game context.
From an early age players must learn that
technique is based on principles of hand
and arm positioning alignment, stance,
balance, arc and rhythm. Once shooting
technique has been acquired in must be
further developed in order to shoot within
the various game situations:
• Shooting after a sprint. Stopping with
stride and jump stops.
• Shooting after a dribble (one or two
• Shooting after various cuts (“L” cut, “V”
cut, banana cut, curl cut, flare cut etc).
• Shooting after using various screens
(down screen, back screen, cross
screen, staggered screens).
After establishing the basic shooting skills
and then the individual offence skills the
athletes should be performing skills with
intensity, precision and high volume.
(Please refer to the individual offence
master checklist.
Raising intensity during performance is
paramount in the building of shooting skills
as it allows the athletes to develop
technical skill whilst improving mental
techniques and focus. Once again this
requires discipline from the player. As
coaches we must continue to develop
discipline to train appropriately without
any short cuts.
For Coaches to introduce factors affecting
pressure into training they can use many
different challenges:
• Time: Players must learn to shoot with a
sense of urgency against the clock and
pick up a sense of how long the shot
mechanics take to perform at full speed.
Shooting for certain periods of time in
drills (for instance 3 minute shooting
drills) allows the athlete to gauge their
current level and set targets to improve
upon very quickly. Time and score
situational drills mentioned in the
Offence section would also highlight
the need for what shot and when.
• Competition: All competitive athletes
want to win. Coaches must always try
to harness this feeling from their athletes
and allow it to help them become
successful in their own field.
Competitive games are at the very
heart of building pressure within
shooting practices and should be used
regularly. Individual shooting games,
small sided games, and team games
are all valuable tools for the coach and
will help develop basketball players
that are aware that “however
impressive the process, we must
sometimes look at the result.” (Winston
• Target Drills: Shooting by its very nature
is a result based process where the
teams that shoot with the greatest
accuracy often have the most
opportunities to win games. By building
targets into training coaches are able to
tend to the growth of team building,
and also work on the cognitive
behaviour and reactions associated
with winning and losing. Target drills
are excellent for pushing players and
teams beyond their perceived limits.
• Defence: For shooting to be a truly
ingrained skill it needs to be performed
against aggressive defence, at game
speed with as many repetitions as
possible. By adding defenders into
shooting practices players are able to
work on the fine line judgements of
having enough time and space to
shoot. Conditioning the defenders at
certain times (not allowed to raise their
hands above shoulder level etc.) will
still allow the coach to control the
practice and ensure the correct
repetition of the desired skill
Start In Close Then Work Your Way
Out For Increased Distance
• Mastery of shooting starts with making
the easy close in shot regularly at high
percentage. Ironically post moves and
shooting are often left till the older
junior ages when in fact turning and
facing inside or close to the ring is a
fundamental for the youngest age
groups of U12’s and U14’s.
• The catch off a rebound with a jump
stop or from a pass are key
fundamental shooting situations for our
youngest. Too often it is dependent on
the dribble to shoot.
• Layup practices with a differentiated
layup finish (e.g. reverse layup, twisting
opposite hand layup etc) need to be
taught given the number of layups
practiced and taken in junior
basketball. These are important
shooting skills to improve finishing.
• The Mikan drill series is a vital tool to
encourage progression of close in
shooting as a skill.
• Progression in shooting is not
necessarily about moving out, away
from the basket, towards the three point
line but also coaching a variety of
layups or in close shots under pressure.
General Adjustments
In every level of performance basketball
the ability to finish shots around the basket
with good technique and variety is a
Whilst the following are generalisations
they are offered as considerations after
observing British junior player’s in the
national system.
The minimum requirement for any
player should be straight and angled
lay-ups on either hand, baby hooks and
jump hooks from stationary and on the
move, reverse lay-ups and power lay-ups
with either hand.
• The ball and consequently the shooting
arm should come more to one side than
it currently does. At present we are
shooting from in front of our body/face.
If we can move the ball more to the
shooting shoulder side, we will free up
the lift for the arc of our shooting.
• Coaches must encourage a wide
repertoire of differentiated layups and
inside the key finishing. Teaching and
encouraging multiple delivery styles of
the layup (overhand, underhand
(youth), hooks and running hooks,
power, reverse/ crossover moves) are
imperative to improving the physical
literacy and skill levels of each player in
the performance pathway. Coaches
should teach the different hand
positions required to create ”finishing
dexterity”. Players must be competent in
the understanding of the effect of their
hand on the ball when finishing close to
the basket. Competency can only be
achieved when players are able to
efficiently use their hands under the
ball, behind the ball and to the side of
the ball.
• The Club Skills Guide clearly shows
the age for introduction, refinement and
mastery of individual skills close to
the basket.
• Consideration should be made to
placing the ball in the shooting pocket
on the hip (as a reminder) in a triple
threat position for a freer elbow “lift”
and elbow “lock” action. Our
finger/hand placement on the ball is
currently poor and not only do we lack
arc we lack backspin on the ball.
Fingers are spread with index and or
middle finger through the middle of the
• We also need to pay more attention to
the arc of the shot in our analysis.
Although It’s not all about form, it’s also
about function and result. Potentially the
ball needs to reach a maximum height
in the arc of the top of the backboard.
• There should ideally be a one finger
release from the ball, preferably the
index finger or the middle finger
rotating through the ball and pointing
in the direct line to the basket. This
needs to be in line with the shoulder.
• One of the most important aspects of
the shot is the wrist ”snap”, keeping the
fingers spread and strong to the finish.
Finally an emphasis on “leaving the
shooting hand high” and releasing the ball
from a ”tall” body position will help get
better arc on our current shooting styles. To
lift the ball the elbow must go ‘upwards’
close to the shoulder rather than ‘outwards’
from the chest. Power generation still
requires an accurately aligned ‘lift’ of the
elbow till it ‘locks’. Analysis of the height of
the hand at the end of the shot will indicate
the amount of lift generated as well as
indicating the balance and generation of
power through the legs in the bend stage.
Summary Checklists For
Teaching Shooting
The Shooting Parts Checklist
Hand positioning and release: Hands
and finger spread
1. Wrist and fingers (wrist snap should be
first thing learned - first thing taught)
learning through starting with the end in
mind. The ball is not in the palm of the
hand but held and balanced by the
finger spread.
2. One finger final release point (as the
middle and index finger rotate though
the middle of the ball).
3. Holding the ball with hands in the
correct position. The holding hand
to the side of the ball and the
shooting hand with a cocked wrist
under the ball.
4. The shooting hand’s fingers are spread
across the middle of the ball with the
middle and index fingers in the middle
of the ball.
The lift and line of the shot: Elbow and
the line of the shoulder
5. Assume the triple threat position for
shooting - ball away from the face –
and towards the line of the shoulder).
6. The Starting point is with
– the ball to side, preferably not in
front of the body, but more from the
hip and in line of the shoulder.
– in the line of the shooting side foot
which is pointing to the basket. This is
the actual line of the shot.
7. Ensuring the ball is held, lifted and
released in the line of the shoulder (but
with wrist cocked)on the preferred
shooting side (away from the face and
based on the shooting side foot
pointing to the basket).
8. Elbow positioning is under the ball and
wrist and culminates in a lift of the ball
to above the eye line (locked elbow) in
the line of the shoulder and shooting
foot. This is an important lift principle
when combined with a knee bend
through a correct squat movement.
9. A good hand follow-through (as high as
possible) culminates in a high hand and
wrist snap with index and middle
fingers moving through the ball to
create backspin and a soft release.
10.The wrist snap with the elbow lock and
the line of the ball to the shoulder will
determine the accuracy of the line of
the shot to the ring.
The base for power; Stance hips, feet
and legs
11. Balance, through a good triple threat
stance to start.
a wrist snap and final finger touch
• This is the whole shooting action
which generates the power and the
arc of the shot needed for shooting
from a distance.
12.Feet should be facing 11 o’clock and
10 o’clock for a right-handed shooter
(1 o’clock and 2 o’clock for the left
• The time taken to get through the
shooting action is a factor for
power generation
13.Shooting side shoulder pointing to the
middle of the rim.
• The rhythm and timing of the action is
equally important to the form
14.Bend with a squat by lowering
the tailbone to the floor but ensure
the knees and feet point in the
same direction.
The Final Check Phase
15.Vision of the target with head and chin
up in preparation of the right elevation
of the shot into the ring (head up with
straight back).
The (Whole) Shooting Action and
Phase Checklist
The Base to start Phase
Phase 1 Establishing the base of a good
shooting stance including hand, feet, elbow
and line of the shot position
• Ensuring that the shooting parts
checklist is the outcome.
• The best shooting stance facing the
basket to make the shot from the
The Power Phase
Phase 2 The generation and sequence for
power is determined by the use of Legs
from a squat out of stance then phased into
the elbow lift with elbow lock finishing
above the line of the eyes culminating with
Phase 3 The final follow-through position
and final body alignment is an indicator of
the efficiency of the action.
• The hand is left high and the final
elbow lift being above the eye line is a
key indicator
• The final finger spread width of the
hand on or slightly after release.
• The line of the shooting hand ,elbow
and feet all pointing to the basket
• Assessment of the final result :Did it
swish or land short, long and left or
• A snapshot of final body position.
Checklist For Players With
Established Techniques Shooting
From The Perimeter (Adapted From
Coach Hubie Brown)
• Step into the shot (from a catch: left
foot for right hand shooters)
• Catch in a T (triple threat) position
• Reach (high hand) into the basket
Recommendations For The
National System:
• Display on Home Country websites a
list of shooting tests to be done by
players at various levels on the
GB pathway.
• Use a current GB player (e.g. Luol
Deng, Jo Leedham), a current GB
U20 player, a current international from
U18 Scotland/Wales/England as
bench marks.
• Conduct regular testing of shooting to
monitor performance at all levels of the
• Conduct a National Shooting
Competition that can be easily
replicated across playgrounds and
indoor centres throughout the UK.
• Create testing days across the country
in age group brackets where anyone
can turn up at a local park or leisure
centre and have the results of their tests
verified by their local coach. E.g. 10th
August with a list of places where
players can go to be tested.
• Publish a series of ‘pro’ workouts on the
GB and home country websites where
any player can print off a number of
simple shooting and finishing
programmes (AIS 2 minute drills) and
record their results next to the
professional players’ targets/results.
• Implement the National Shooting
Competition protocols to all levels
of development and national teams
• Use the Technical and Individual
Tactic Checklists for coaching shooting
including the individual offence master
checklist to help plan and shooting.
• Encourage home shooting programmes
for all players on the national pathway.
• Establish a national program for the
further education and professional
development for national system
coaches regarding the teaching and
coaching of shooting.
• Tutors of our various education courses
must ensure that layups and free throw
technique and coaching shooting
methods are well covered in the level 1
and level 2 courses.
Recommendations For
• Use the Club Skills Guide and
Technical and Individual Tactic
Checklists to dedicate more time to
practicing shooting at team training
• Careful planning and assessment of
practice plans by the Head Coaches.
• Action these Areas of Emphasis
guidelines and consider the national
system recommendations.
• Support the attendance of club players
to the National development
programmes like RPC’s and TDPs. These
programmes make time for the
development of skills.
• Test players regularly and keep relevant
statistics of game and practice shooting.
But encourage everyone to shoot.
• Develop league tables/ladders and
competitions within training to
emphasise shooting as an important
individual skill.
• The teaching of footwork and the basic
technique of both a preferred and non
preferred layup hand must be a solid
well rehearsed and performed skill at
club level. Apart from the basic layup
technique the footwork associated with
a power layup is also not being
coached with our juniors.
• All players at the U12 and U14 levels
should be comfortable with shooting
from close range and with a degree of
pressure created through time or
• The nature of the youngest ages means
that the majority of shoots will in fact be
in close at the end of a fast break or
after a turnover. So starting shooting
inside the keyway with various close in
shooting pivots and footwork is a good
approach to practicing shooting for the
younger players at U12’s and U14’s.
• Encourage parents to support all
players extra practice away from team
sessions. Consider the purchase of a
home backboard to encourage extra
practice convenient to home.
• Establish open court training sessions
where players can come and shoot or
get extra practice and instruction
possibly for coaches other than their
team coach.
Recommendations For
• Learn how to teach shooting effectively
to all age levels using these key points
of emphasis.
• Ensure that all players are taught and
given the opportunity to practice from
range. Encourage players to take the
right shots in games for their
development to contextualise their
practices more clearly.
• Encourage taller bigger players to
develop range and shooting ability
from the perimeter.
• Focus on your teaching of shooting so
that all players can develop sound
shooting mechanics.
• Search out successful Coaches in the
GB framework and make contact to
observe best practice situations.
• Create a culture that encourages
players to shoot the ”right” shot in
games and then practice making them
at training. Taking shots that you
regularly practice.
• Teaching the underhand and overhand
layup actions is the first stage of
differentiated layups. The reverse layup
where we cross under the basket and
shoot with the baseline hand, together
with the power layup, are also
important. Coaches should be looking
to extend the variety of layup
techniques for players at U12's, U14’s
and U16’s. Both male and female.
• Overall two point shooting percentage
depends on the accuracy of finishing
and layups. Much more attention is
needed in this aspect. Teaching the
back cut and passing the ball inside the
keyway will also encourage better
finishing at U12, U14 and U16 levels.
• Teach Mikan drill to U12, U14 and
U16 players
Recommendations For
• Note the need to be able to teach
shooting including correct form and
• Adopt the Clubs Skills Guide to
ensure that all shooting skills are
initiated and rehearsed at the school
• Create availability of facility time to
dedicate to shooting (open shooting
sessions, fun competitions, and early
bird sessions).
• Have an appropriate style of school
play that encourages players to shoot
the ball from various distances and
move away from the ”lay-up at all
costs” culture.
• Consider the placement of additional
backboards on walls to maximise
shooting practice within a restricted
• Encourage players to access
development programmes.
Supported by:
• Ensure players pass out of stance
• Teach players how to move the defence
with fakes to create passing angles
• Coach the detail of footwork for the
lead to catch
• Coach passing and receiving under
game like pressures
• When coaching Passing and Receiving
recognise that it is a skill involving a
technique which involves a movement
sequence from the footwork to the
hands for both the pass and the
catch.(i.e. coach all the detail of
footwork in passing and receiving)
• Commit to coaching a game style which
requires better player movement without
the ball
Why Emphasise Passing?
Passing and receiving brings players
together to play as a team. Combined they
are the heart of team offence and moving
the ball to challenge the defence. Passing,
ball movement and better player movement
will be at the heart of a new and improved
British style of play.
Generally, our national teams are turning
the ball over more frequently than other
teams at European Championships. This is
in part due to the players’ lack of
understanding about how to effectively
pass the ball, but also how to receive a
pass, when pressure defence is involved.
The majority of turnovers come from the
desire to pass but with ineffective execution.
Some observers are calling this poor
“decision making”. There is little doubt that,
irrespective of the reasons, our commitment
to the execution of passing is not of
international junior level standard.
Many passing turnovers are due to passive
offensive behaviour in not knowing what to
do. However, some turnovers are caused by
poor leads against pressure defence. No
doubt improvements in the skills of passing
and receiving are crucial to winning the
“possession game” i.e. minimising turnovers.
At present because passing and receiving
are ineffective there is pressure to dribble
The dribble, drive, kick game is gaining a lot
of attention as discussed in the Use of the
Dribble and Offence sections of the Areas of
Emphasis. While it is effective in purpose, it
has lead to an over reliance and created an
opportunity cost, in that we are now
struggling with any passing orientated
offence, including the fast break and passing
out of the backcourt. By practicing and
prioritising dribbling we are not improving
passing and receiving under pressure.
The misuse of the dribble comes at
the expense of the pass.
The pass creates advantage for the
The dribble creates advantage for
the individual.
Passing and Receiving
We cannot neglect team offence through
passing particularly at the junior level, even
if there is only 16 seconds of offence.
In our development system, young players
will not be locked into specific positions
and everyone will be taught how to pass
and receive (catch) under pressure and at
high speed. All players will develop a
commitment to passing the ball with the
intent that their teammates are able to
attack the basket on the catch (i.e. catching
and squaring up to front foot), after been
given an advantage through timing and
It is the poor timing of the lead and
reacting against good defence that helps
cause turnovers through poor passing.
While 80% of bad passes maybe the fault
of the passer we cannot ignore the
responsibility of the receiver to time a lead,
beat the defence and catch the ball. This is
why “passing and receiving” have been
highlighted rather than simply passing.
Successful passing is a two person
exchange and contract between players of
equal value. Both the passer and the
receiver have responsibilities which should
be taught.
Additionally, point guard play in Britain is
a significant area of concern. Once players
have been specialised into position, the
importance and role of passing by our
point guards should be given greater
emphasis with our players. The point guard
is the expert in both passing and dribbling.
At this stage our point guards are a
concern. They are very dependent on
dribbling and speed as their primary
strength, which in turn means the passing
by the most skilled player on the court is
still a concern or weakness.
Another area in which Great Britain lags
behind European competition is the ability
to use the penetrating pass against zones
or in the fastbreak transition phase. As
mentioned previously, our players must
establish a proactive mindset when passing
the ball in order to value the good
penetrating pass. Vision of the defence and
the receiver in passing and receiving is
important. Coaches should make passing
and receiving a dynamic game like
situation for drilling. Having the passer
under pressure or the receiver moving to
receive, as well as applying defence to
contest the pass and catch, will bring our
passing and receiving skills up to standard.
The absence of strong post play in our
national leagues also leads to avoidance
in making the penetrating pass to the post
player. A five out offensive philosophy
which for some has become too dribble
orientated, has also taken us away from
passing to moving targets such as the pass
and cut or the back cut.
While the main area of concern is mainly
in the tactical use of passing with more of a
focus on receiving, there is also a concern
with the power or strength and speed of
our passes at a junior level.
We must make passing and receiving more
dynamic rather than the normal static
standing and passing, with subsequent
increased attention to the catch, stance and
hand position.
Consequently it is difficult to identify junior
players at school, club or national level
who have very good passing technique
even with the basic passes.
Passing and Receiving
What Are The Major
Technical Points?
The basic techniques and principles of
passing must be revisited by all coaches.
Passing as a principle is situational within a
game that is also constantly evolving.
Irrespective of the situational nature,
passing technique starts with the “hand
position” for the catch and pass. Where do
our players place their hands when
catching the ball? How does that hand
position of the catch relate or transfer to the
hand position for the pass? There is detail in
an answer. Our preference is for the hands
to be even spaced but behind and to the
side of the ball. Alternatively trapped by
one target hand and gathered by the
second hand which classically is on the side
of the ball (like the shooting hands
position). The reality is there is either a two
handed catch simultaneously or a “one
two” motion with the catch gathered into
the triple threat position.
Power and accuracy in passing comes from
the players combined technical execution of
stance, hand positioning and the
stepping/pivoting to pass, culminating with
a wrist rotation and snap. This collectively
becomes the players “passing technique”.
Similarly a lead to catch the ball includes
the stop with balance, hand position and
the gather to a triple threat position for
preparation to shoot, dribble or pass. This
sequence is collectively the new definition
of better “receiving principle”.
Over dribbling and the inability to both
sprint ahead as a receiver and the passer’s
inability to make a longer pass ahead are
products of poor fast break at young ages.
They are both important aspects of passing
and receiving. Coaches need to emphasise
full court passing and receiving not just
close or half court passing and receiving.
Players Should Understand The
“Advantage” Of Passing
Creating time and space through passing
and “timing a lead” is becoming somewhat
of a lost art (e.g. the simple man ahead
principle of making a long pass to a man
ahead for an easy fast break). At junior
level our players must play advantage
scrimmages or breakdown drills (i.e. 2v1,
3v2). At junior level in British basketball the
principle of the “reversal pass” in the half
court to force the defence to rotate and
create an advantage is also undervalued
in the dribble drive kick mentality.
Finding the “free player” requires both a
responsibility of the passer and the
movement of the receiver to lead. These
simple advantage principles should be
appreciated and understood beginning
with U12’s, U14’s and U16’s. When
combined with pass fakes (to add value),
penetrating passes will become more
prevalent. Knowing where and when to
throw a pass past a defender should also
become more apparent and understood by
our players (i.e. passing through the
defensive line and specifically past
defenders’ ears or to team-mates back cut).
This will significantly improve the British
passing game. If we persist it will also
clearly highlight the advantage of passing
at the earliest junior ages at a time when
all players, particularly those with good
Passing and Receiving
dribble skills, want to go one on one at the
expense of their teammate’s involvement.
Establish an athletic threatening triple
threat stance (ready position) – all
players must get in a proper stance in
order to pass effectively. The stance sends
a message to the defence that the offensive
player could attack with the dribble, pass
or shot - the key being that the defence
cannot over commit and will get punished if
they do. This will improve passing lanes.
Getting on the “front foot” after a lead and
a catch is part of what we are calling
receiving. Pass with the outside hand (push
pass) – using the outside hand, allows
players to get a proper angle to feed the
post or pass to an open perimeter player.
Fake one, make one (or “fake it to
make it” mentality for passing) –
passing lanes against active defence are
created by the use of pass fakes. Create a
passing lane by faking to an active
receiver in one position will create another
position. Making the defence back off also
limits anticipation by the defence.
The passer should read the defenders
and trust their teammates – the passer
needs to focus on the location of all
defenders and have faith that their
teammates will cut and use proper
technique to secure the pass (including
target hand with better body position). The
passer should be comfortable passing the
ball from outside of their body cylinder,
particularly in the half court. In this
generation where basketball is getting
faster and defenders are getting longer
and quicker there is demand for all players
to be able to pass the ball from their sides
(hip or side push pass) and from above
their heads (often seen from post to
perimeter delivery). Passing from within the
body cylinder is now most often used in the
transition phase and when passing
uncontested or to a completely open
player on the court. Combining good
footwork technique with pass preparation
and the ability to pass from either hand
outside of the body will improve the
repertoire of passes. Against active
defence this will create an advantage for
the offensive player and reduce turnovers
in the front court.
Timing a lead (receiving) with proper
techniques is fundamental to successful
passing - “Moving without the ball” is
covered in the Offence section of the Areas
of Emphasis. However, a principle like the
“man ahead” position for lane runners to
receive the ball within the fastbreak phase
is a key example of a simple lead for the
basketball. With a dribble first mentality
this opportunity and encouragement of
movement without the ball is ignored and
opportunities lost. This is discouraging for
The back cut as a key lead to receive the
ball, and to challenge the defenders vision
of the ball and the man, is also an
important part of leading for the ball. The
back cut forms the first part of the V cut to
get open in the half court. The back cut
lead should be considered the first part of
the V- lead with our U12s and U14’s
automatically back cutting. At U16’s and
U18’s we add sealing – use of the body to
hold the defender out of the leading and
passing lane. We then combine this with
good use of target hands. Combined they
are the important elements of “leading”.
Passing and Receiving
How Can We Make The
Biggest Improvements?
The following components have been
identified as providing the biggest
opportunity for improvement of passing
and receiving.
Passing As a Skill and Technique Is a
Movement Sequence From Feet To
We must ensure we coach the techniques
of passing as well as the principles of
passing. Once the hand position for the
catch is reviewed we must then look at the
hand position for the pass. The hand
position may change from catch to pass
with appropriate wrist rotation.
The basic two handed catch with “two
target hands” and the chest pass with
fingers in the “W” is one method for
teaching the basics. This hand position for
beginners is one technique which is at least
a basis for the beginners catch and chest
pass. As players become more
experienced the progression to the bounce
pass and the overhead pass are all two
handed type pass techniques.
However we should recognise that the
chest pass is most suitable in an
uncontested passing position where the
passer has time and or space from the
defence. It is more likely that the one
handed pass (but gathered and controlled
with two hands) is advantageous when
defence is in front of the passer.
The baseball pass is under taught and
utilised at junior level particularly in
recognition as an aid to the fast break
opportunities. As a stand and pass position
for distance the baseball pass is hard to
beat. We should coach the baseball pass
technique and use it more often.
Using the baseball pass regularly allows
player to progresses on to one-handed half
court situational passing. The lack of the
“pass ahead” and “sprinting to receive
from a man-a-head position” is also limiting
our passing and receiving skills and style of
Catching the ball at a fast running pace
depends on an ability to throw and catch
the baseball pass. The baseball pass is a
long pass option for the fast break and
requires different passing techniques to the
conventional chest pass. The baseball pass
can be thrown for longer distance. Young
players should be encouraged to throw
and catch the baseball pass.
The one-handed push pass is convenient
when picking up after a dribble, as it
doesn’t require repositioning of the hands.
We need to explore the hand position
when passing and catching as it is more
likely that the catch and pass hand position
is closer to the shooting or triple threat
hand position. Teaching the technique of
the push pass or the one hand pass doesn’t
always guarantee timing and power. It
should be recognised that power is
generated from correct stance, vision and
the actual passing technique. This
understanding of technique means passing
is a sequence of movements (stepping or
pivoting to pass) with applied strength in
game-like execution.
Power and accuracy in passing comes from
the player’s stance, the hand positioning
and the stepping/pivoting to pass,
culminating with a wrist rotation and snap.
This collectively becomes the players
“passing technique” and can undoubtedly
improve through better coaching.
Passing and Receiving
Similarly moving to catch the ball includes
the stop, balance, hand position and the
gather to a triple threat position for
preparation to shoot, dribble or pass. This
sequence is collectively the new definition
of better “receiving technique”.
Coach Passing and Receiving Under
Game Like Pressures
To improve all the basic skills we need to
replicate the toughest of games as a simple
overload principle for our training. How to
increase defensive pressure is often
problematic, especially if the normal
standard of defence is poor. Passing and
receiving are such combination skills that
simply by taking the dribble option out of
the triple threat will allow passing and
movement to improve naturally. Adding
odd man advantage, such as restricted
area (constrained) 2v1, 3v2 passing drills
with the advantage given to the offence,
are great tools to develop dynamic passing
at the junior level. Progressing to evenly
matched defence situations in breakdowns
also improves the receiving aspect.
For extra intensity, and “overloading” of
the passing and receiving aspect, allow 2
players to defend the ball at every
opportunity i.e. 4v6, 5v7 etc. By taking
away the dribble and doubling the
pressure on the passer, players will learn
the value of good footwork through the use
of the pivot or attack foot to reduce
defensive pressure on the ball.
Another way to practice in whole team and
breakdown drills, is by starting a drill /
offense with a “dead ball” (i.e. no dribble)
versus the ON-BALL defence, rather than
dribbling and penetrating to start the drill.
In doing so we will force players to
practice passing to pivoting, stepping,
faking and passing against pressure.
Through scrimmaging in either 2v2, 3v3,
4v4 breakdowns or 5v5 games with no
dribble rules (i.e. netball type game) we
will improve passing and receiving or at
least set up and environment in which to
teach the when, where and how. This is an
example of a “constrained” (i.e. no
dribble) drill and scrimmage breakdown.
Encourage accuracy in every pass to hit
the exact target. Passing that is “on the
money”. Passing and receiving is also a
situational circumstance which requires
innovation and timing. Understanding that
the pass is judged on how well it creates
advantage and how it gets to the target
will help player and coach to make
assessments. Sometimes the passer leads
the receiver to catch in a better situation,
this needs practice. Observe and
encourage improvement to passing
technique in all combinations or drilling
There is no doubt that where the receiving
player can best use the pass against the
position of the defence is a refined skill.
Putting a receiver into an advantage
situation demands vision and timing as well
as the will of two players.
More attention by coaches, and feedback
to players on the quality of the pass in
hitting the best target in a situation, is what
we are aspiring to coach to improve this
Area of Emphasis.
Passing and Receiving
Ensure Players Pass Out Of a Good
Triple Threat Stance
The ability to pivot, step and pass while
protecting the ball is a key aspect of
passing. Once the technique has been
acquired and developed it needs to be
extended into game like situations.
Therefore passing against a defender
(constrained or otherwise) is key to
progressing the skill. Emphasise the detail
of stepping to pass or pivoting to pass.
Passing the ball when the passer gets
physically past a defender (body to body)
through use of the active foot (to the pivot
foot) requires practice and understanding
from a young age. Teaching players to use
the push pass with either hand from an
early stage of development, then the onehanded pass off the dribble at a later
stage are extensions from passing out of a
set stance. Passing out of stance (with head
and eyes up) will encourage better vision
to enhance decision making.
At the U16 and U18 stages a lead catch
and pivot is vital to play team and
individual offence. All passers have to
learn how to “weight a pass” e.g. a
bounce pass or a lob pass.
Commit To Coaching a Game Style
With Better Player Movement
Without The Ball
In doing so this will occupy the defenders,
provided the receiver is active and knows
how to lead successfully. By playing this
style at junior age level we also make it
easier to seal and cut or lead when an
opportunity presents itself. Multiple
receivers moving well without the
basketball, in order to receive the ball, will
create opportunity. However coaches need
to commit to a style, not simply based on
what will work, so that the team wins. The
real consideration is coaching our players
to pass and receive very well. The team
lasts a season while the player plays for a
Take a motion offence approach to
coaching team offence at U14 and U16
club level. Creating a culture of a “pass to
move the defence” At all levels create
more spacing mentality amongst players in
which to play individual and team offense.
Establish a "four out one in" offensive team
balance to allow for post passing, and to
change the angles of our game from a 5
out offense, dribble, drive mentality. (Better
spacing angles for passing effectively).
Passing and Receiving
Coach The Detail Of Footwork For
The Lead
The running and stopping footwork,
particularly the stride stop, combined with
the forward or reverse pivot after catch
and into the triple threat position is the key
footwork sequence to be mastered by
players who start to specialise in
basketball. Coaches generally want
outcomes. Getting open is a concept that
requires breakdown skills and solution from
the coach. Please refer to the “Individual
Offence master checklist”.
Teach Players How To Move The
Defence with Fakes
As discussed earlier in the technical
components the fake is an important
technique, which because of defensive
pressure, must be developed. There are
many techniques, but fundamentally eye
contact between passer and receiver is
needed, and the ability to “fake a pass to
make a pass” is the tactic to move the
defence and free up a passing lane.
Here’s What Coaches Are
“At Eurobasket the best players in Europe
still made passing errors under pressure.
Games often came down to players
executing fundamental skills at crucial
Chris Finch, 2012 GB Men’s coach
“Passing is the heart of team basketball.
Passing needs to be quick not rushed.”
Tom Maher, 2012 GB Women’s Coach
“The point guard is arguably the leader of
the team and the most skilful position on the
court. However the art of passing and
making the players around the point guard
better highlights the reliance of passing as a
skill for all players.”
Warwick Cann, British Basketball
National Teams Director
Passing and Receiving
Recommendations For The
National Systems
• Encourage accuracy of every pass, to
hit the exact target - “on time, on target”.
This is where the receiving player can
best use the pass against the position of
the defence. More attention to the
quality of the pass in hitting an exact
target. Ensure players pass out of
stance. The ability to pivot, step and
pass while protecting the ball is a key
aspect of passing. Once technique has
been acquired and developed it needs
to be extended into the game like
situations. Therefore passing against a
defender (constrained or otherwise) is
very important to progress the skill.
Emphasise the detail of stepping to
pass or pivoting to pass. Understand
that full court fast break offense is
dependent on vision (head up) and the
ability to make the “man ahead” pass
rather than dribble the ball by a quick
player full court.
• Build the player’s individual offensive
base from an established “ready
position” or “triple threat position”.
• Coach the value of passing principles
and the techniques in game like
• Power and accuracy in passing come
from the player’s stance, the hand
positioning and the stepping/ pivoting
to pass, culminating with a wrist rotation
and snap. This collectively becomes the
players “passing technique”.
• Similarly, moving to catch the ball
includes the stop, balance, hand
position and the gather to a triple threat
position for preparation to shoot,
dribble or pass. This sequence is
collectively the new definition of better
“receiving technique”.
• Re-emphasise running, stopping and
pivoting to catch; making this a focus for
coaching detail. This catching area
needs to come under much closer
scrutiny when coaching our youth
• Coach the detail of footwork for the
lead. The running stopping footwork,
particularly the stride stop, combined
with the forward or reverse pivot after
catch and into the triple threat position is
the key footwork sequence to be
mastered by players who start to
specialise in basketball.
• In this regard re-emphasise the use of
and the player’s ability to throw the
baseball pass for distance in full court
• Teach players how to move the defence
with fakes. The fake is an important
principle against defensive pressure; the
techniques must be developed to move
the defence.
• Establish a "four out one in" offensive
team balance to allow for post passing,
and to change the angles of our game
from a five out offense dribble drive
mentality. Better spacing for passing
back cutting or leading effectively.
• Observe and encourage improvement
to passing technique in all combinations
or drilling situations.
• Check and correct the hand position as
a key part of passing and catching
Passing and Receiving
Recommendations For Clubs
• Establish a “four out one in” team
offense balance at U16 and U18 level.
This will include the post irrespective of
team personal. I.e. all players must be
able to post up and pass the ball to the
post player.
• Re-emphasise the back cut to receive the
ball away from the defence.
• Re-introduce the pass and cut offense
options at U12, U14 and U16 levels.
• Encourage a passing fast break game
at U12’s and U14’s based on a good
team defensive platform.
• Passing, catching and movement form
the basis of team offense and should be
allocated significant amounts of training
time at U12, U14 and U16 levels.
• Passing and movement (in leading) is
team offense.
• Use motion offense in training as a team
process to improve passing and
Recommendations For
• Create pressure situations in practice
that overload the offense with more
• Limit the number of dribbling options of
the offense when drilling team offense.
• More time and details dedicated to
teaching receiving – getting open
through leading and sealing, showing
targets hands and timing of cuts.
• Use the “four out one in” team offence
as primary team offence in order to
improve passing angles and decisions
as well passing effectiveness.
• Focus on leading and receiving to catch
the ball when teaching and drilling
• Post passing and catching need
continued development particularly at
U16 and U18 level.
• Reinforce quality in passing and
receiving ‘On Time On Target’
• Observe and encourage improvement
to passing technique in all combinations
or drilling situations.
• Teach correct passing technique,
including hand position, for both the
catch and the pass.
• Refer to the recommendations for the
National system and work towards
• Establish passing with all team players
as the key team skill from an early age.
• More drilling of passing commencing
from a dead ball situation versus active
defence, with passing to a moving teammate who is also being actively
defended. This to be common practice
in drilling and emphasising passing.
• The use of modified drills and games
that limit the use of the dribble, will help
improve passing execution and decision
making by both the passer and receiver.
Getting open through better cutting
(back cut) and leading.
Passing and Receiving
Recommendations For
• Ensure the full court passing game,
including man ahead, is understood by
players at U12, U14 and U16 levels.
• Embrace the full court passing game
rather than one player dribble drive.
Commit to sharing the ball through
passing and not over dribbling.
• Consider all the club recommendations
for your school circumstance.
• Understand that passing is at the heart
of the game and that any individual
game played should not be dominated
by dribbling.
• Find rewards for good passers at school
level. Too often it is only the high scorers
that are noticed. The team player who
shares the ball with good passing
should be praised.
• Teach correct passing technique,
including hand position, for both the
catch and the pass.
Supported by:
• Plan for deliberate and situational
dribbling practice at all junior training
• Encourage players to commit to
additional individual dribbling practice
• Master the speed dribble technique in
the full court –moving at full speed sprint
with dribble
• Master the control dribble phase and
dribbling techniques in the half courtprotecting but beating your defender
• Coach the dribble use in situations
using the different techniques and types
of dribbling
Why Emphasise The Use Of
The Dribble?
Dribbling is one of the key individual
fundamentals. It is a key basic skill. As an
offensive concept it is important to move the
ball and dribbling as a principle contributes
effectively to playing of the game. While
the dribble is effective in advancing or
shifting the defence, there is an alternative
for the individual which is to pass.
Dribbling or passing are situational in
determining which is the best method to
move the ball. Knowing whether to pass or
dribble, along with the why, when and how,
is most important for an individual player to
determine. Knowing whether the use of the
dribble is best, is an important choice in
determining our style of game. The primary
point is to understand that the use of dribble
is not the first or only ball advancement
option for offence.
Often the individual player thinks to score
they will have to dribble, rather than catch
and shoot. Often even in the dribble-drivekick game we have situations where players
are declining the catch and shoot, and
going back into a dribble rather than take
the open jump shot. This is ineffective
Players and teams at all levels can over
dribble and create problems for their own
offence. This results in poor spacing and the
receivers’ anticipation. It also presents
additional opportunities for the defence to
trap or steal the ball. Poor dribblers will
always be pressured. Using the dribble in
wrong situations and with poor technique
leads to turnovers, this is why the use of the
dribble is an important area of emphasis for
British basketball.
Should a team or individual set up an
effective fast break by dribbling the ball full
court or through passing the ball to the
player ahead? Universally passing is seen
as the best team skill to advance and move
the basketball. The balance between
passing as a principle for teamwork and
dribbling as an individual skill is a concern
at present and in need of additional focus
from our coaches.
The dribble is the best option individually.
Especially when combined with good
footwork to beat a man one on one.
Undoubtedly the dribble technique and
footwork for the “one on one” scenario
Use of the Dribble
execution is also important. Dribbling is a
key individual offensive skill; however it is
not the primary method of moving the ball
by the team.
Presently there is a trend to tactically play
“dribble drive kick” basketball as a
principle for team offence in the half court.
This is leading to an over reliance on the
dribble as the teams half court offense and
is actually limiting the movement of all five
players. This dribble focus is also creeping
into the fast break game to the point of over
dribbling at the junior level.
We must examine both the principle of
dribbling and the associated techniques to
ensure that they are both effective.
What Are The Major
Technical Points About The
Use Of The Dribble?
Vision When Dribbling is a Basic
Vision is a fundamental skill. The key is
being able to “see the target; see the court;
feel the ball”. This is an important
fundamental within dribbling for both
principle and technique.
In the team game the dribble principle is
used to get the fast break going and to
beat a man with a change of direction.
From this full court situation the dribbler
goes into a controlling tempo technique,
culminating with a one on one move to
beat the defence for a shot or for pass as
As such the dribble is an important
individual skill for all players but must be
used correctly in game situations. The
choice between dribble and pass in the
team game has been further complicated
by “over dribbling” in the pursuit or guise
of the “dribble, drive, kick” game. Over
dribbling gives the advantage to the
defence and tends to stop the other
offensive team players from moving while
they wait for the dribblers pass, if indeed it
does come.
Our British players have not currently
established the necessary controlled
dribbling ability that is needed to play this
style of game to best effect. As a result we
have developed poor dribbling habits in
pursuit of the dribble, drive kick game in
the half court. Additionally in the full court
situation we have continued the same trend
of too much dribble. We are using the
dribble rather than passing as the better
option to move the defence. Lack of
passing the ball (speed of ball movement)
out of the back court is an issue because of
this over dribbling. The opportunity cost is
that lane runners are not receiving the ball
early enough in the open court since the
dribbler is on a mission to get to the ring
themselves. Consequently the lane runners
are hesitant and the fast break and open
court play is being missed.
Dribbling with poor technique will also
lead to turnovers. Dribbling without good
“heads up vision” will lead to poor
decision making and poor spacing, which
will impact on how other players will play
and react.
Strategically it’s not about coaching or
emphasising the dribble, it is really about
minimising the misuse of the dribble by
emphasising the phases and the correct
Use of the Dribble
The Dribble Has Many Situational
Uses (Phases)
In the team game the player should push
the ball with a speed dribble (of between
4 or 5 dribbles maximum). Also within the
team game any player should be able to
control the dribble and consequently the
defensive tempo. The control dribbler
should recognise and be able to use the
“dribble entry” principle to team offense
patterns when the ball cannot be passed.
Similarly a “dribble exit” away from the
baseline is often used against a zone to
create space. Our players should
understand and be competent with all
situational uses of the dribble. This will
require effective coaching of the different
techniques and better understanding of the
purposes of the dribble beyond going fast
with the speed dribble or going one on
one with little technique.
The “control dribble” is a technique and
also a phase where contact against a
defender is likely and where technique
should maintain the dribble in position
against the most aggressive defence. The
control dribble should be developed in all
our British players. The arm bar, head up,
body to body positioning contact and the
use of the attack foot become key
techniques and are very important in
this phase.
The “one on one dribble” phase can
occur in both half court and the full court.
In these situations the dribbler must be
strong with both hands and work
effectively on each side of the body with
either hand or combinations.
A quick effective crossover is a well
executed dribble from one side of the body
to the other with an attack foot movement
to gain an advantage of head and
shoulders past the defender. In this phase
the dribbling technique also includes
footwork and use of the non dribbling arm
and hand.
Therefore these different phases of
dribbling requiring various dribble
techniques of crossover dribbles at speed
on the move and from a control dribble
position. The various dribbling skills should
be understood, developed and used
effectively, but not replace the use of a
pass to move the defence.
Dribbling progression:
• a general “ball handling” phase
• progressing to controlling the ball in
stationary positions with a controlling
• then to dribbling and moving with the
ball (walk/jog/change of direction with
• then finally the speed dribble phase.
• (See Ball Handling and Basic Skills
The “speed dribble” phase challenges
the dribbler to move quickly but with
control. The speed dribble technique uses
a different hand position (towards the top
half of the ball but behind rather than on
top of the ball) than the control dribble.
When we are speed dribbling and are
required to make a one on one move we
will refer to this as “moves on the move”.
Examples of this are the “onside dribble”
or the various crossover moves at speed in
the full court when running.
Use of the Dribble
The dribble height in a speed dribble is
higher than the control phase. Normally
this control of the dribble through speed
work is then transferred into lower
controlled dribble with the one on one
phase in the half court.
Ensuring The Use Of The Non
Dominate Hand
Finally the use of the non-dominant hand
must be encouraged more by coaches
when players are dribbling in both a game
(at junior levels) and definitely in training.
Once the weak or non dominant hand is
stronger or near the dominant hands
standard, players can then freely decide to
react to go in all directions and protect the
ball without any limitation of skill. This will
open up individual and team play
opportunities and put the defence at a
How Can We Make The
Greatest Improvements?
The use of the dribble is important both as
an individual skill and also as a tactical
element or principle of ball movement in
determining team offence. As dribbling is a
skill that may well take 10 years (or 10
000 hours) to become proficient or expert,
players should develop dribbling skills not
just as juniors but throughout their career.
As a consideration, dribbling practice is not
something that should be absent from
practice at any level. This should also be
part of every player’s deliberate individual
training throughout their career and will
demand extra individual or home practice.
Deliberate and Situational Dribbling
Practice At All Junior Training
Dribbling and shooting are key individual
basic skills which must be acquired,
developed, refined and rehearsed.
Depending on the level of the player
appropriate time must be set aside for
players’ skill development. At the
beginning stage all players will need
introduction to the correct control and
speed dribble techniques and players must
develop the use of their non dominant
hand for dribbling.
Therefore training sessions at the junior age
level should always involve dribble
practice and extension of the skill from
“ball handling” at beginner level, through
the situational phases of speed dribbling
,”moves on the move”, control dribble and
one on one phases and techniques. Players
should be proficient and try and become
an expert in dribbling. This will require
daily dribbling practice and extension drills
for the dribble techniques.
U12’s, U14’s and U16’s should be
encouraged to do extra additional
individual training. Once again by playing
more “one on one” with constrained drills
as well as game like situations will develop
the dribble skills - provided coaches
provide feedback on technique.
Use of the Dribble
Players Have To Commit To
Additional Individual Dribbling
Players will have to commit to deliberate
practice in their own time to develop their
dribbling skill towards mastery. Coaches
will need to coach and, effectively
demonstrate and explain the technique so
that it can be rehearsed correctly without
supervision. When drilling at practice as an
individual skill we need repetition and to
challenge dribbling control at speed.
Our objective is to be effective with the
appropriate dribble technique both
individually and collectively. Therefore
more attention at practice time and with
session planning to the dribble skill and
development of the techniques are
Master The Speed Dribble
Technique In The Full Court
The speed dribble is a basic dribble
technique for going into a fastbreak phase.
The change of pace or hesitation dribble to
delay or beat a defender is also part of the
speed dribble phase. At speed the player
must be able to change direction with a
speed dribble with “moves on the move”
or slow down to a control phase of
“crossover dribble”.
Once basic dribble technique and control
are attained all dribblers should be moved
into this full court speed dribble phase to
improve their dribbling and control. That is
at speed, but with control and with
purpose. All junior players must practice
this regularly.
Master The Control Dribble
Techniques In The Half Court
In the control phase the player must
develop in order
• a “control dribble”
• crossover protection dribbles
• a “retreat dribble” or “drag dribble” to
create space by moving in a backwards
direction to create space for individual
and team offence.
The control phase is where ball handling or
controlled dribble is the major function.
Head up and good vision; with an effective
arm bar, become additional coaching
points within the control dribble technique.
Individually players can be too dependent
on the dribble to create their one on one
opportunity. The use of the dribble in the
one on one situation isn’t necessarily about
the number of dribbles nor singularly just
speed to beat an opponent. It is about
technique and confidence.
The Dribble Has Varying Situational
Uses Which Require Different
One on one moves need effective direct
penetration principles against the defender.
One on one dribbling moves should also
come off the catch meaning that it should
be able to be initiated from the triple threat
position. The dribble crossover and
effective body to body penetration will
result in the dribblers head and shoulders
getting past the defenders shoulder. This is
the outcome we seek. Too often the player
needs a dribble to set up a dribble (moves
on the move). This is not always possible
because of the shot clock, proactive
Use of the Dribble
defence and game situation. However,
the dribble is the key aspect of one on
one play.
What The Coaches Are
The use of the dribble is also important in
the half court. Apart from the one on one
use to attack the defender, the screen and
roll is next most common use. Therefore the
correct technique, detail and use of the
dribble with the screen and roll play is
most important. To affect this play the
dribble must be controlled and be effective
in timing and in turning the corner or
splitting the screen defenders. This is
very important with the U16, U18, youth
and senior levels. The dribble drive
and kick game is premised upon great
dribble technique.
“All players must be able to dribble the
ball to point guard standards. The dribble
is a huge part of the modern game.”
In our new British game style, national
team level players should minimise the
misuse of the dribble (over dribbling).
Highlighting the situation (by stopping and
highlighting or vision analysis) where the
dribble is unnecessarily killed, premature or
misused is a key to learning at the younger
age group levels. This should be diligently
monitored by coaches at training.
Tom Maher, 2012 GB Women’s coach
“All players must use the dribble effectively.
A good dribble/pass skill set for each
player will minimise unforced turnovers.”
Ken Shields 2012 GB Women’s
assistant coach
“Too much dribble will kill most team’s
Chris Finch, 2012 GB Men’s coach and
NBA D league coach of the year
“Our challenge is to develop dribbling
skills and competence individually in our
players but not misuse the dribble in our
team game.”
Warwick Cann, British Basketball
National Teams Director
Dribbling As Both a Skill and a
Tactic Is a Case Where “Less Is
• Less dribbling will make us more
effective at all levels.
• Less error in dribbling will mean more
possessions for the team.
• Less dribble ability means more
deliberate dribble practice.
• The less dribbles taken to beat a
defender the more effective the dribbler
Use of the Dribble
Recommendations For The
National System
• Players in development programmes
should be encouraged and directed to
regularly practice dribbling technique
away from team practice. This is a most
important area for U12’s, U14’s and
U16’s player development.
• All development level coaches in the
national system should familiarise
themselves with the various techniques
and how to coach and teach them for
the first time (acquisition and refinement
stages) at the various levels.
• For team offense development and
reading the play, “motion offence”
including the use of the dribble drive
situation will be taught. The dribble use
will be coached in context and in line
with the spirit of the Areas of Emphasis.
• The use of the dribble and point guard
play will be a focus at all representative
development levels.
• National team players will be taught
the dribble but more importantly the
phases and situations where dribbling is
used and is most important.
• The speed dribble, change of pace
combined with the onside (or in and
away move), should be developed in
all players. This should be extended to
“moves on the move” at speed in the
full court situations where the ball is
also crossed over at speed.
• Defining the dribble height when
coaching needs to be consistent. As
such the general teaching cues for
dribble height are; rib height for the
speed dribble, hip height in the control
phase and below the knee for the
crossover height. Players must dribble
the ball hard and quick into the floor
(not bounce it), become proficient at
controlling the dribble at these various
heights and get used to moving quickly,
stopping, and varying the heights of the
dribble depending on the situation and
phase they are in.
• All players at all levels should be
proficient to competent with the control
dribble in the half court or front court
offensive situation(crossover to protect
the ball), combined with the retreat
dribble and the ability to pass out off a
dribble or to use the hand-off with the
control dribble at their age level.
• The bust out speed dribble (in the fast
break/defensive stop phase) with a
quick pass ahead will be encouraged
in all players in the development
• The dribble drive kick offense will not
come at the expense of effective
passing out of the back court for the
fast break.
Use of the Dribble
Recommendations For Clubs
• The various dribble techniques and
phases on the Technical and
Individual Tactic Checklists should be
used as a point of reference for all
coaches. All coaches at all levels must
be able to teach the dribble to
beginners and also advanced players.
• Clubs should note that the preferred
British style is one which is more
orientated to passing than dribbling
but relies on the effective use of the
dribble individually.
• Encourage players to practice dribbling
technique in out of team sessions at the
U12, U14 and U16 levels.
• Ensure that effective situational
techniques are encouraged at the U16,
U18 and youth levels.
• Fun games like “dribble tag” and “cops
and robbers” at U12’s and U14’s are
used regularly in team practice.
• Provide a common training time where
players from various age groups can
come onto a court and practice their
dribbling and shooting in addition to
their team sessions. This additional
training time to team practice is crucial
for skill development at the junior
age levels.
Recommendations For
• The Area of Emphasis “technical points”
and “where we can make the biggest
improvements” should be considered in
determining your team or clubs game
style and in coaching the use of the
dribble during games.
• The key points identified in the national
system recommendations are
appropriate for all coaches. The master
checklists are a guide and a reminder
to diversify and progress the coaching
of the dribble.
• Coaches should create an environment
and sessions where all players at the
junior level, and eventually where
point/lead guards (when specialisation
occurs) particularly, can master all the
dribble techniques; especially should
they seek a career or to specialise in
• These basics of “ball handling”
(handling the ball in a stationary non
game like situations) need to be
extended into situational dribbling that
is required within the game. Refer to the
Technical and Individual Tactic
• Coaches should familiarise themselves
with the drills and DVD’s of Pete
Maravich and Gannon Baker. These
are available commercially. They can
be used with players of all levels.
Use of the Dribble
• Dribbling should be progressive and
situational. Dribbling should be
scrutinised and coached progressively
from stationary to dynamic to overload
through constrained drills at speed. A
challenge needs to be consistently set
with dribbling to continually challenge
the player’s development. Coaches are
well placed to teach technique and
situational dribbling at training.
However the detail and the key points
for coaching the dribble in phases and
situations are required. Refer to
Individual and Team offence checklists.
Recommendations For
• Consider the other recommendations
and the desire to pass the ball more
than dribble the ball as a team at the
school competition level.
• Passing is the heart of team basketball
and dribbling combined with good
footwork and ability to shoot is the
heart of individual offence. This is the
foundation for team basketball.
• The use of the dribble in a game should
be monitored.
• Creating an environment where the
player has a “love affair with the
basketball” is what we seek. This will
be created by fun drills and repetition in
constrained drills which challenge but
encourage players to become
• Open school courts to individual or
small groups of players who may want
to practice their dribbling and shooting.
Supported by:
• Understand the British game style:
• Coach Spacing
• Coach Ball Movement
• Coach Movement without the ball
• Coach Vision and Timing
• Plan and prepare players to execute
under pressure
• Teach game context awareness
• Teach and emphasise the ”ready” and
”triple threat” positions
• Teach “sealing”, “leading” and
“receiving” as part of individual offence
Why Emphasise Individual
and Team Offence?
Individual Offence is skilled execution of
techniques, whilst Team Offence is decision
making based on concepts and principles
of play. The essence of the game of
basketball has an offensive orientation.
Team offence is situational in relation to the
individual and team defence at any given
time, but it is also about the team plan for
teamwork to out manoeuvre the opposition’s
defence. Whether this is prescribed or left
to the players to decide will be a key
consideration for all coaches. This is the
reason why we need to reconsider our
national approach to coaching offence and
indeed why we need to re-emphasise
Offence as an Area of Emphasis.
Many coaches consulted for this review
consistently remarked about ”poor decision
making” by our players on offence. In
earlier sections we discussed the
importance of physical preparation to
improve footwork and movement to help
under pin skill development, this is
reinforced here knowing that individual
skills underpin tactical execution.
The techniques and associated issues of
passing, receiving and shooting have also
been discussed prior to this section in order
to improve offence. If those Areas of
Emphasis have been addressed and are
developed in the future we will notice that
we will have different components and
issues to build our team offence. Previously
we also highlighted that there is a misuse
of the dribble in the guise of the “dribbledrive-kick” motion offence on the back of
poor dribbling technique. This misuse of
the dribble in team offence is coming at
the expense of the other skills of shooting
and passing as discussed previously. This
is creating a problem with our team
offence generally.
We want British players and teams to have
a level of skill and understanding that
allows them to take advantage of whatever
comes their way in a game at all levels of
competition. This will require good skill and
technique underpinning a good
understanding of offensive concepts and
principles. There are no shot cuts to this at
the junior level and coaches must resist the
temptation to focus on judging success
simply by their team winning or on the
athleticism of individuals.
At international junior level our teams
currently turn the ball over more frequently
than other teams , highlighting our current
skill deficiencies. This could in part be due
to the players’ inability to react and make
appropriate offensive decisions when faced
with pressure and changing defensive
systems or patterns. Unforced errors
represent missed opportunities and will lead
to defeat, but these turnovers are not all to
do with poor decision making. They are
firstly directly related to the player’s skill
level and secondly to the experience with
these skills against pressure.
The way we teach, coach and develop
offensive skills through training is an aspect
on which federations and coaches are
often judged. Offence is the first and
foremost aspect of the game that a coach
tries to develop in players and as such is
important in terms of priority. However,
finding the time to develop individual skill
over time is a greater challenge in the UK.
The general offensive skill level of British
players needs to improve and the absence
of skilled point guards at all levels as
highlighted in the following section. It is a
further reason for a review of how we
coach offence in the UK.
We need to become better at the quality of
our coaching of the individual and team
offensive skills in the available time. Our
priority, as with the others Areas of
Emphasis, is not only finding more time,
more training and more games, but actually
eliminating the waste of poor time
management and poor coaching.
In simple terms “If there is no skill
then there is no need for time
dedicated to tactics”. However
finding the balance in the available
time are issues for all our coaches
and the national system.
What Are The Major
Technical Points For
Individual Offence?
Individually and collectively at age level
national league and in senior competition,
particularly on the men’s side, we have a
tendency to play too quick, often without
seeing the opportunity on the floor. The
reality is that vision and timing in team
offence are poor because of the
combination of playing quick and playing
without the necessary skill set. Often
offences popular at senior level are
employed at the junior level but without the
same understanding and experience. At all
levels, through better vision, we must see
our moving players as receiving targets.
This is a fundamental skill as well as a
tactical concept.
Passing and receiving (moving without
the ball) with vision will lead to a greater
understanding of what opportunities are
developing even before they present
themselves. The passing and receiving
section discusses the techniques and
principles for this. More attention to passing
and receiving and the triple
threat position will improve our players’
abilities to make good decisions and
execute under pressure.
This will increase our offensive efficiency at
domestic levels and ultimately our
effectiveness at the International level.
However, good offence will not occur
unless there is a good individual skill base
including shooting the ball efficiently. While
there maybe a factor in our players access
to courts to practice individually with limited
training times, a focussed approach to
individual skill training of the basics and for
individual skills is still possible through
better organisation of our time. The national
shooting tests offer this opportunity.
In dealing with offence our junior coaches
often are hoping the collective athleticism
will carry the day against good skill.
However, only skill survives over time. Talent
can be wasted if it is not skilled, specifically
in offence. Using our time more effectively
to teach and coach offensive skill, rather
than preparing to just win games will better
serve the talented athlete if they are skilled.
At times we lack effective post play so we
need to re-emphasise the use of the post
triangle principles of play irrespective of the
size of the post. Tactically we need to
understand that the post triangle is a key
principle for understanding for our players.
The on ball screen and the dribble-drivekick game are also masking the fact that
our players, irrespective of size, are not
good at finishing and scoring inside the key.
Utilising the back cut to get inside is also
absent from our technique and principles of
play. Stagnant team offence without the
capability to pass the ball inside leads to
dominant defence.
All these reasons, in combination with poor
ability and skill to shoot the ball well from
the perimeter, means we must reconsider
what our key offence principles and
techniques are and how we will improve
the current situation. In re-emphasising
offence we should revisit the ”how” and
“when” of the “what” of individual and
team offence.
Coaches should reference the
Basic Skills Master Checklist, both the
Individual Tactic Offence and Individual
Tactic Defence Checklists and the Team
Tactics Checklist to identify the specific
skills. All skills and principles will be
repeated over time but not in the same
basic form, as the skills are combined for
game like execution.
The chain of learning from acquisition, to
development, to refinement, to rehearsal in
game like conditions, identifies the process
of development for theses skills and
principles. The skills in isolation are just
training activities. The skills and principles
are developed over time and developed
from the acquisition stage of a beginner, to
be further developed for competency until
they are continually refined and rehearsed
to expert status or mastery. The test of
mastery is the execution of the skill or
principle in a game. Acquiring at a slow
pace, developing at own pace, into refining
at increased pace, until the rehearsal at
game speed means a skill is always in
The technical key to individual offence (for
the player with the ball) is both the triple
threat position and vision of the defence.
We need to re-establish the teaching of
stance on offence and highlight vision as a
basic technique and concept in order to
better facilitate individual offensive skill.
• The ability to sprint and work at
speed are fundamental to playing the
game offensively. Better fundamental
movement with running, stopping and
the use of the slash arm technique by
cutters and posts must be included in our
teaching of individual offensive skills.
• Playing from a good stance - we
progress to better footwork against
pressure through effective pivoting and
stepping with the attack foot against the
defender. This is crucial in coping with
on ball pressure.
• More effective use of the dribble is
essential. Dribble penetration should
directly attack the basket and not use
extra dribbles to go away from the
defender. If challenged on the way to
the basket players must have the skills
and techniques necessary to make better
decisions and execute against a moving
defence. Footwork on offence
is important, a two foot stop inside the
key, as well as an ability to shoot the
runner if not going deep to the basket
are skills needed by all players,
particularly guards.
• Use of pass and shot fakes - this
combined with playing from good stance
and the ability to use the dribble to beat
your man, will lay the foundations for
watching and out manoeuvring the
individual defender, and more
importantly the second line of defence
(i.e. the helpline)
• OFF-Ball offensive movement with
vision of the ball and the defender
should not be neglected. While all
individual offence and team offence is
principally concerned with the use of the
basketball, the nature of one ball, five
players and a short time means work
without the ball on offence is equally
What Are The Major
Technical Points For Team
Collectively a team that can not generate
scoring opportunities against pressure
defence will not produce results at a
competitive level. To coach good team
offence a coach has to teach and require
good defence for his squad in training.
Competition structures of our national
leagues are also masking our real team
offence ability as the frequency and
intensity of games often gives a coach a
false impression of where the team is at in
terms of development. Just looking at score
lines will not aid the assessment of team
offence. We must consider skill level in team
offence to help measure or improve our
level of offence. As measurements we must
consider attempts, percentages, turnovers
and opportunity as categories for
measurement of effective team offence.
These combined with fast break
opportunities and conversion, time used into
a shot clock, assists, passing and receiving
quality and game style are all indicators of
the effectiveness of team offence.
Team offence has key concepts from which
the principles of play for British basketball
will be important. Please refer to the British
basketball team offence master checklist for
the concepts and principles. To measure
and improve our team offence we need to
judge against the understanding and
performance of the offensive concepts and
principles, as well as the individual skills
techniques. These are referenced in the
master checklists for both Individual and
team offence.
The four key team offence concepts are:
• Spacing
• Ball Movement
• Movement Without the Ball
• Vision and Timing
From these concepts flow key principles of
team offence such as the fast break, moving
on offence without the basketball, motion
offence (no screens for young juniors to
motion with screens and dribble-drive-kick
principles), zone offence, early and late
offence, special situations, time and score
offence tactics.
• Team offence is built on individual
offensive skills and techniques.
Dribbling and shooting skills are skills
that require long hours of practice,
probably more than the scope of
current British club team training sessions.
However all club sessions must ensure
that the basic skills and the individual
offensive skills are taught at training so
that players understand the teaching
cues for the techniques to be practiced
correctly when training by themselves.
Passing to a degree must
be emphasised constantly in team
training sessions as it is unlikely that it will
be practiced individually as a skill unless
it is prioritised by the coach in
prescribing individual extra practice. The
Basic Skills Master Checklist and the
Individual Tactic Offence Checklist
summarise the skills, techniques and
• Team offence is based on concepts
and principles and is the priority for
putting the individual skill into the team
context. Team offence is more than the
sum of the parts. The key concepts are
spacing, movement of the basketball,
movement without the ball combined
with the timing and vision to use these
skills movement and principles. The Team
offence master checklist summarises the
concepts and principles for British
basketball coaches
• The modern game is played at a fast
tempo with fast break and transition
play being crucial to a team’s success.
The first team offence is the fast break
offence. It is based on principles of lane
runners, man ahead passing and driving
lane passing lane for dribble
penetration. It is priority for all British
teams but is dependent on effective team
defence for its existence. Individual
offence must extend to full court
situations. Early passing ahead to a lane
runner on offence or the “man ahead
principle” is a key principle of fast break
basketball. The ability to deliver long to
the wings with the chest or baseball pass
or over the top of the defence to a
middle lane runner is an important
individual offence skill.
• Half court offence philosophies will
vary but are common in terms of the
principles. There are many sets or
alignments designed to try and capitalise
on defensive position in and defensive
principles. The national system
recommends that coaches and junior
teams progress team offence by
continually developing the fast break
and then using motion principles as a
method or process for developing team
offence. This can stay with the player
wherever they may progress as a
senior player.
• Motion (movement) team offence
with and without the ball, is the best
method for coaching juniors team
offence concepts and principles. The
tactical use of passing builds on the
individual skill and will greatly define the
quality of team offence. The use of
receivers principles, together with tactical
principles of use of passing such as man
ahead principle, the use of the post
triangle, ball reversal or changing the
point of attack, and finally movement
using screens are all component
principles for team offence. These should
be understood by coaches and
specifically what is best at the junior level
for the individual player to develop.
Selection and deployment of these
aspects ultimately determines the type of
offence employed by a coach
or team.
• Keeping team offence simple. Often
coaches make the mistake of selecting
set offences observed at senior
professional level and then apply the
same offence to junior players who have
less understanding and less skill. This can
be very ineffective because of the
difference in the respective cumulative
training hours and experience.
• Coaches often feel that team offence
has to be coach controlled aspect of
the game rather than the design or
principles to which the players can utilise
their individual skills naturally in playing
as a team. Good team offence is not
plays designed on software packages or
drawn up. Observers can always see
good team offence when the concepts
are in evidence and principles deployed
efficiently by players who clearly have
good individual skills.
• There’s no doubt that we want our British
players to understand the how and why
we play as a team and how it can be
best to meet development objectives as
well as team success. At the junior level
the offence can sometimes be too
controlled by the coach in search of
• This coach controlled team offence
cannot come at the expense of
developing individual skill and allowing
players to play and enjoy, whilst still
understanding the requirements of good
team offence.
How Can We Make The
Biggest Improvements?
If the national system and development
programmes establish a preferred British
offensive game style, based on common
concepts and principles, we will improve
our ability to share best practice throughout
Great Britain by being able to discuss,
observe and learn how to improve.. This
will help provide greater consistency in our
coaching message at all junior levels and
improve our coaching of offence to our
In coaching offence we need to understand
how skills in sport are learned. There are
theories and best practices for skill
development which coaches should
acquaint themselves with so as to not waste
time in progressing learning and
understanding by our players.
Each age group differs in need and ability.
The acquisition and development stage of
individual offensive skill (irrespective of
age) is the most time demanding aspect of
training and coaching. The basic skills of
footwork and movement, shooting, passing,
dribbling and individual defence take a life
time to master, often 10 000 hrs or ten
The reality is that junior players, if they want
to be successful and skilled, will have to
commit to extra individual training of the
basic skills beyond the normal club level
and most likely this will happen once they
decide to specialise in basketball
(anywhere from ages 10 to 16). At this
stage they will need to be shown how to
train on their skills individually and what
drills or activities they can follow to develop
dribbling, ball handling and shooting.
Parents as well as players should also be
advised of this need. The U12, U14 and
U16 age levels are crucial for this purpose.
At U18 players will often commit to
specialised training and increase the
volume of skills training in various school
basketball programmes in addition to club
training. This should also be encouraged at
U16 level.
Shooting is the key skill which will make the
difference to an individual. Deliberate
training in addition to club practices will be
required for a player to become skilled in
this area. Every British player has the
opportunity, provided they have the support
of their parents. We must be consistent with
our message to parents and players at the
U14 and U16 level in order that this so
called extra practice is indeed a basic
requirement for all players wanting to play
well. The volume of shooting for members of
development programmes such as regional
programmes, Regional Performance
Centre’s, Talent Development Programmes,
AASE as well as schools, needs to increase
and to be monitored in order to drive the
offence agenda.
A player or programme working with
specialist basketball players needs to be
training and playing between 12 and 20
hours a week in season to become
proficient. This becomes more complicated
as schooling requires extra study as
examinations determine student’s grades.
The alternative is to use the off season for
U14’s, U16’s and U18’s to do extra work
on their individual offensive skills, then to
use the training hours to develop the
principles and refine and rehearse the
individual skills for those talented and
committed players. Clubs should consider
off season skills work without the worry of
playing and worrying about a game.
Motion Offence often provides a tool that
can be easily adapted to develop a range
of tactical approaches for both man to man
and zone defence. Motion Offence can be
a principled process and a concept
approach to learning team offence.
However, motion played with poor skill
level or understanding will not be effective.
Our misuse of the dribble in offence has
resulted in poor spacing and indirect
basketball, negating the strategic value of
five out motion or dribble-drive-kick offence.
Improved teaching, with greater attention to
detail in the following areas, combined with
constraints or conditions in drills and
scrimmages will help improve individual
and team offence.
• Highlight vision and spacing to increase
player’s awareness.
– Players watch their team-mates to help
them decide where to position
themselves on the court and therefore
create appropriate spacing.
– React to dribble penetration by
relocating to a new spot on the
perimeter where the player can attack
by shot, pass or dribble if the ball is
passed to them.
• Highlight Vision and Spacing to assist in
reading the defence.
– Players to know where their defender
is as they cut and receive the ball
(e.g. a step behind, guarding one
shoulder, or square). Awareness will
lead to better decisions.
– Player with the ball to focus on the
movements of OFF-BALL defenders to
determine their next move (pass,
dribble or shoot). Players must be
aware of the second line of defence
when making decisions.
• Re-establish the ‘ready position’.
– Re-emphasise the triple threat “ready
position” in every drill. Teaching
“ready position” or ”stance” as a
dynamic skill rather than a static body
position. Focus on squaring up,
pivoting in stance, being ball quick, as
well as using the attacking foot to
move the defence. This will reduce the
pressure imposed on the offensive
player and lead to better decision
making and execution.
– Offensive players have to get used to
being crowded pushed and bumped.
The effective use of body to body
positioning to break the defender
down and the ability to execute well,
despite physical pressure, is an
important offensive technique. This
also to needs to be progressed from
stance, pivot, and step to pass or
dribble. Offence must be able to
dictate terms to the defence.
– Players to stay ”active” off the ball,
watching their defender, looking to
create a scoring opportunity with a
flash cut or creating space for a team
mate by shifting the defender from the
help position.
• Teach Sealing, Leading and Receiving.
– V-Cuts and sealing the defender –
players must use change of pace and
direction as well as a seal when
needed, to create separation from
their defender and provide a lead to
receive the next pass.
– ”Slash arm/Swim Stroke” – players
must learn to gain front position and
avoid being pinned or bumped off
line. Players need to be capable of
executing this action as part of a v-cut
lead, on flash cuts and in both post
offence and defence.
– Back cut - This creates space for the
dribble drive as well as presenting
targets for the passer. Back cutting
puts pressure on help defence to
defend the basket thereby creating
perimeter space for the catch and
shoot. The back cut is a key off ball
offence movement. It acts as both a
pressure release and a counter attack
against overplaying defender.
• Make Better Use of Coaching Cues.
– Use “fake a pass to make a pass” as
an important coaching cue to
reinforce both vision and timing of
passing to a target and away from the
– Use “shot – no shot” for the dribble /
drive situation as a fundamental
technical point to be coached to help
the player execute appropriate
decisions with correct timing and
movement. Obviously fakes must be
realistic to be effective against good
defenders. Thus “shot - no shot” is a
better indicative cue for the player.
– Use “pass – no pass”- as a similar cue
for passing.
– “Fake to drive”, “if can’t pass dribble”
and “if can’t dribble pass” are all
cues which help with decision making
on individual offence.
• Consider Individual Player Development
– Empowering players to make
decisions on the court by teaching
them the what, why and when of skill
execution in terms of principles of
– Wait until a late development stage to
specialise players into a position, but
teaching all players to play the
perimeter and post and to see where
their growth and tendencies take
them. Develop complete, multi skilled
• Establish Principles of Play.
– Teaching ”principles of play” over
and above ”set plays”.
– Teaching motion principles as a guide
to effective half court play.
Encouraging more passing options
and off ball cutting, in particular the
back cut.
– Teaching effective team fast break
through better passing and lane
– Teaching effective advantage play
using 2v1, 3v2. Making the defence
commit to the ball and finding the
open man.
• Build Team Offence using break down
– Utilisation of coaching methodologies
such as build-up sequences
(progressions or loading), whole-partwhole and the use of questioning in
developing team offence and our
players’ understanding.
– Building offence from 1v0, 1v1, 2v0
etc. into 3v3 in the early years and
then into conditioned scrimmages to
focus on particular aspects of team
offence. This will lead to greater
awareness and composure though
skill and understanding.
• Prepare players to Perform under
– Emphasis must be placed on efficient
execution and ”effective” offence. Set
up team breakdown drills and
constrained (or conditioned)
scrimmages focusing on the
following values:
– Value possession. Include distinction
between forced and unforced errors
as in Tennis.
– Ball security and effective individual
offensive skills, including pivoting
and better body to body
positioning, which will involve
contact with the defender
• Coach Game Context Awareness
– Emphasis must be placed on efficient
execution and ”effective” offence.
Set up team breakdown drills and
constrained (or conditioned)
scrimmages focusing on the following
– Shot selection – teaching decision
making / choices, playing
percentages, awareness of the
game context. The definition of a
good shot choice changes with the
circumstances of the game.
– Time and Score awareness –
players’ decision making must take
into account the game clock, score,
foul count and recent sequence of
play or momentum.
– Utilise specific game situation
scrimmages to prepare players to
make the right decisions under
pressure. E.g. Two minutes left on
the clock, down by three, two team
fouls etc
– Utilise various scoring methods in
drills to highlight score board
consequences of ineffective play
E.g. use of tennis scoring system
where every play has
a point value and subsequent
change in score.
– Passing to moving targets, leading
to receive.
– Counter pressure defence. Use of
dribble drive / back cut / flash post
action against denying defences.
Here’s What Coaches Are
Recommendations For The
National System
“Team Success in competition depends
primarily on both the individual players skill
and team principles of play. How they play
together, their style based on the individual
quality of decision making and execution of
skill - for any coach this is the holly grail in
coaching a team. It simply starts with
individual offence skill and continues with a
clear understanding of ball and player
movement principles in a game. To achieve
this we need to spend hours with players
learning the individual skills through
repetition but also through being consistent
in our planning and reinforcement of our
key team concepts and principles.”
Individual Offence
Warwick Cann, British Basketball
National Teams Director
“Skilful players make the game easy and
team offence simple. We need both great
individual skills built over time and key
understandings of our principles of play.”
Chris Finch, 2012 GB Men’s coach
“On offence at senior women’s level; you
have about 14 seconds to make your play.
6 seconds is taken up in the backcourt and
you don’t want to wait till last 4 seconds to
force a shot .Which means you have about
14 seconds to get your principles of team
play functioning well.”
Tom Maher, 2012 GB Women’s coach
• The triple threat stance is the key to our
offensive game and should constantly
be reinforced. Emphasis on this being a
dynamic ready position is essential to
players having an attacking mentality
and coping with on-ball pressure.
• The catch to shoot with correct leading,
catching and pivoting technique into
the triple threat stance must be the key
fundamental individual skill.
• Re-emphasis on the pivot and step as a
key to individual offensive play. Players
must be taught to utilise the pivot to pass
or attack off the dribble and to create a
new ”line” to the basket or new release
point for a shot. The attack foot creates
the jab and shoot / drive options as well
as opening passing lines.
• All players to master the use of the
slash arm technique for better offence.
• Greater emphasis on breakdown drills
(3v3, 3v2, 4v4, 4v3 etc) to isolate and
teach specific aspects of both team and
individual offence. The whole-partwhole method of coaching team offence.
• Players should be exposed to more 1v1
drills and contests in training in full
court, from the perimeter and post
• Developing this further to 2v2 and 3v3
is the next stage, but there must be
attention to individual skills technique
for detail (coach individual offence
within the team) as well as vision at all
times. This will improve our
Team Offence
Recommendations For Clubs
• Coaching the fast break basketball
through advantage passing is the first
priority for team offence at all levels.
• Ensure your club coaches are teaching
and coaching the individual offensive
• Motion team offence is the key
principle of play for teaching players to
play team offence. This is defined in
terms of motion principles and they start
in the full court situation.
• The Basic Skills Master Checklist
should be used as a point of reference
for all clubs to assess.
• Motion concepts and principles should
be used against various zone defences.
• The four out one in motion game
is fundamental to movement and
spacing. It includes establishing the post
feed and post pass as more of
an option. This is the favoured set at
National level.
• The five out motion, passing, cutting or
dribble drive kick offence is a
secondary team offence principle
which our players must also be able
to play.
• Motion principles should be developed
refined and rehearsed both in training
through breakdown drills (up to 4 v 4)
and 5 v 5 scrimmages, as well as in
competitive games.
• Players should also become familiar
with popular common sets and entries
e.g. Horns, UCLA cut and Diamond
(baseline entry).
• Distribute ball handling and dribble
routines that can be practiced by young
players in their time away from club
practice. Establish home or extra
training practice for shooting and
dribbling as a requirement to develop
skill level.
• U12 and U14 - five out motion, no
screens, is the foundation team offence.
Fast break principles also to be
included in team offence.
• U16 - Four out one in Motion, with
screening on and off ball to be taught
and developed. Fast break principles
also to be included in team offence at
• U18 - Four out one in motion. Screens
are further developed with multiple
screening both on ball and off ball.
• Plan an off season of skills work for
U14’s, U16’s and U18’s. Provide an
opportunity for extra work on their
individual offensive skills,
• Use the in season training hours to
develop the principles, refine and
rehearse the individual skills for those
talented and committed players.
• Clubs should consider off season skills
work without the worry of playing
Recommendations For
• Focus on individual skill development.
• Club recommendations are appropriate
considerations depending on your
school situation.
• Assist players by providing facility
access to practice their individual skills.
Recommendations For
• The key points identified in the national
system recommendations are
appropriate for all coaches. The master
checklists are a guide.
• The Area of Emphasis “technical points”
and “where we can make the biggest
improvements” should be considered in
determining your team or clubs game
Individual Skill
• Encourage ball handling and individual
dribbling routines for home practice.
This is crucial at U12, U14 and U16
• Avoid the catch and go dribble at the
younger ages as this is leading to poor
vision and decision making although it
is perceived as a quick reaction
• Wait until a late development stage to
specialise players into particular
• Develop multi skilled players. All
players must be able to post up and
finish inside as well as play on the
perimeter. ”Littles” should be taught the
post and inside dynamics while “Talls”
and “Bigs” should be comfortable in
passing shooting and dribbling on the
• Empower players to make decisions on
the court by teaching them the what,
why and when of skill execution.
Team Offence
• Understand the level you are coaching
and the need for various methods of
teaching and development of team
offence. It is not about selecting a good
offence that will work, it is about
coaching offence for understanding
and skill competency.
• Use build-up sequences (progressions)
1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4, whole-part-whole,
5v0, 5v5 into 2v2, 3v3 and the use of
questioning in coaching team offence.
• Use slow motion replays and
walkthroughs of decision making by
players (leading to a poor decision or
turnover or problem) e.g. press breaker
offence versus a zone press.
• Ensure that all players can receive
inside or post up and have post
technique to finish inside. The post
triangle should be coached irrespective
of size for U16’s and U18’s
Supported by:
• Coach positioning with vision in stance
• Coach moving and repositioning as the
ball moves
• Coach helping teammates to defend the
• Coach rotating and recovering to a
different player
Why Emphasise Off-ball
Awareness of your opponent, the ball
and player movement
Defence is important as the best defensive
teams often win the League or
Championship. Most coaches throughout
the world recognise the importance and the
relationship between great defence and
winning teams.
OFF-Ball defence is the element of team
defence that separates great defensive
teams from good defensive teams. These
teams feature plenty of talk on defence to
solve problems and to help each other
when someone loses vision of their player.
These teams with proactive OFF-Ball
defence are normally successful since they
control the game through their collective
effort and organisation.
So why is OFF-Ball defence important?
80% of any team are always playing
defence off or away from the ball. Most
players play more time OFF-Ball defence
than ON-Ball. Another reason that OFF-Ball
defence needs to be emphasised is that
coaches often spend a disproportionate
amount of team preparation time on team
offence rather than team defence. This
means that time and priority for defence is
often lessened. Attendance numbers at
junior club level training can limit the
amount of time for 5 on 5 or full team type
practice; meaning team defence and
specifically OFF-Ball defence is again the
casualty. All this reinforces an attitude to
individual junior players that defence is less
important. Consequently they are reluctant
to commit and play defence. This will be the
norm unless the coach emphasises and
prioritises defence, especially the
importance of effective patience and
alertness for OFF-Ball defence. As a result
we currently have players who don’t
understand or who cannot apply
themselves to playing defence with any
urgency or quality.
Technically at junior level players constantly
lose their player through poor vision, stance
and positioning in relation to their player
and the ball. Our players are over relying
on help defence when it is actually their
own responsibility to contain their player
ON the ball. Finally as the player gets
older they often get caught up on screens
for the same reason.
OFF-ball Defence
Players are regularly late in giving help or
rotating as they do not know when and
how to help (if indeed they understand the
why). Defence will always be poor unless
its prioritised at all levels.
Competition and lack of consistent quality
of games, and hence this lack of challenge,
may partly be a contributing factor to poor
and ineffective OFF-Ball defence. Any
coach who is overly focused on winning at
junior levels may not see the defensive
deficiencies, especially if their team is easily
There is a perceived lack of importance for
defence from the player when it is not
taught or practiced regularly, let alone
coached for detail. This means
performance drops off and players do not
improve. If OFF-Ball defence is not taught
well, nor understood, then consequently it
will not be performed well. This
unfortunately is occurring at many levels in
the UK. Most spectators and coaches make
the mistake of focusing ON the ball to see
the action and miss good play off the ball.
OFF-Ball defence is a preventative strategy;
it is a highly skilled area of application that
is currently undervalued.
demands continued defensive practice and
consequently OFF-Ball defensive movement
requiring attention to detail and effort. If
junior players do not understand the basic
concepts and principles of OFF-Ball
defence (i.e. positioning, vision, talk, help,
effort , sprinting, bumping, disrupting) then
as a senior player the learning curve for the
talented player maybe too much for them to
If we do improve our team defence,
particularly the OFF-Ball element, combined
with improved ON-Ball effectiveness, we
will raise the standard of basketball in
Britain. Improved defence will force
standards of offence to improve as a result.
Better OFF-Ball defence means better
defence and better defence means better
offence. It is win-win!
As a player’s career develops through the
various age groups to senior levels the
standard of offences become more
technical and tactical, typically involving
more use of the various types of screens,
cuts and a greater speed of movement. This
OFF-ball Defence
What Are The Major
Technical and Tactical Points?
Team defence is a dynamic situation
requiring understanding of concepts,
principles and techniques as well as the
commitment and discipline by both player
and coach to prioritise and develop
defensive ability. OFF-Ball defence requires
a discipline of performance because effort
and good defensive play is not always
recognised. Discipline is an attitude and
behaviour, it is highlighted in the defensive
part of the game and off ball defence
requires a disciplined mindset to be most
Good team defence features good ONBall defence through containment and
pressure. Good team defence also features
good OFF-Ball defence through good
positioning, movement, help and rotation to
defend players. OFF-Ball defence is an
extension of desired containment and
Please note: for purposes of these Area of
Emphasis guidelines, ON-Ball defence is
covered separately in the physical section
of these areas of emphasis as part of
movement and conditioning sections. Detail
regarding stance, footwork and individual
player movement are also covered in that
OFF-Ball defence has four key
concepts. These are the key drivers to help
stop a score or minimise any offensive
advantage. Stopping the ball as it
continually moves is challenging to any
defence. It is particularly more challenging
the higher the skill level and higher level of
competition. Coaches find it difficult to
teach these concepts because they are so
dynamic. Mastery of the concepts and
understanding involves assessment of all
five players moving and playing at any one
time. Consequently it is a challenge for the
coach to observe four or five players at the
same time and correct and coach
individually. Each of the four players (or
five if we include ON-Ball defence) could
be having different challenges and
difficulties in performing each of the
Each concept has some underpinning
principles that give a starting point for
better coaching. These principles are often
expressed by some as “rules”. For our
purposes we will refer to them as
OFF-ball Defence
Positioning With Vision In Stance
Vision of the ball at all times is fundamental
to playing the game for the best
advantage. While vision is a basic
fundamental, the relationship to the
technique of stance needs far greater
attention from our coaches.
The balance of the stance is covered in the
footwork, movements and ON-Ball defence
found in the ’physical’ section of the Area
of Emphasis. However, the key fundamental
concept of vision from stance is the focus
for this OFF-Ball defence section.
This vision of OFF-Ball defenders requires a
split vision between watching the player
and the ball simultaneously. This is still the
best technique despite the popularity for
turning the head which can create poor
stance and positioning.
Vision in this instance is dependent on the
movement of the head, deflecting attention
away from other details. Coaches should
concern themselves with the stance,
balance and the head position of each
defender when coaching split vision and
stance for OFF-Ball defence.
• Losing vision and opening to the
ball. Players can and will lose sight of
the ball or the player. The decision on
how to deal with the situation varies,
however it is inevitable that it will occur
so a preferred principle and technique
should be considered.
If the defender loses vision of their
player they should maintain vision of
the ball. This may require changing
from an open stance, facing the line of
the pass in the flat triangle, to further
opening up by facing the ball (i.e.
moving from a ”chest to line of the
pass” position to a ”chest facing the
ball” until the player is sighted and split
vision is re-established). This is the
principle of opening to the ball. The
stance and footwork is either a reverse
or forward pivot, with a preference for
the reverse pivot. A defender can open
to the ball from a closed stance.
If a defender is in a closed stance
(denial) position and loses sight they
can open to the ball through a reverse
pivot or maintain the chest to the player
closed stance position and turn the
head quickly to the other shoulder. This
is possible because the player is
inevitably going in the opposite
direction and behind the line of sight
which requires quick turning of the
head by the defender against this back
cut scenario. This is sometimes referred
to as “snapping your head”.
The closed stance is normally a ball
side tactic while help line defence is
normally an open stance; whether its
chest to ball or chest to the line of the
pass. Players can also be required to
play in a closed stance on the help line
particularly if the preference is denial
rather than simple containment.
It is important to recognise that vision is
relative to stance. The player can adopt
either of the two stances. In the open
stance vision is straight ahead and in
closed stance it is normally a denial
position where the player looks over
their shoulder and splits their vision with
their chest facing the player being
This principle “play the ball not the
man” therefore becomes important in
OFF-ball Defence
coaching players to deal with the
dynamic situations of vision, stance,
player/ball movement and losing a
player on defence.
Open stance with good vision must be
coached and reinforced as a
fundamental concept at all times at all
levels. This is especially important for
coaches at the U10, U12, U14 and
U16 levels. Looking ahead in the
direction you are facing while in stance
should be coached for detail at this
Once taught, the open stance is then
applied to a position on the court. This
position is either facing “the line of the
pass” to the opponent being defended
(often referred to as the pistol position)
or “facing the ball”.
• Positioning and the flat triangle of
ball, you, man principle. The flat
triangle principle of the ball-you-man
relationship underpins the concept of
positioning, helping and subsequently
rotating to a different player in an
ordered and systematic way.
Currently offences are increasing in
ability and effectiveness in crunch
situations creating 3 point shot
opportunities resulting in player spacing
being stretched further to take
advantage of the three point line. This is
testing the defenders flat triangle
positioning, specifically how far up the
line of the pass they move.
Over helping or over compensating
from the flat triangle into a deeper
triangle creates a longer close out
option for the OFF-Ball defence; the
defender is deeper to help and further
from the player being defended.
Offences may also spread the floor in 5
out or 4 out 1 in; which will require
cover over longer distances on
subsequent cuts to the basket, posts and
the three point threat. The defender can
obtain better split vision by adjusting
the flat triangle by stepping further off
the line of the pass to deepen the
triangle. However, this is normally a
help consideration for the dribble which
releases pressure on the pass.
Adjustments for close outs become
paramount and somewhat specific to
the offence, but the understanding and
use of the flat triangle of ball you man
remains a key principle. To help with
positioning the side where the ball is
located is referred to as ball-side, and
the side away from the ball is referred
to as help-side.
In the flat triangle a defender can be
positioned above or below the line of
the ball i.e. towards the half way line
rather than the basket. So a player will
often be required to drop to the line of
the ball as a principle or step up to the
driving line of the ball; there by
deepening the triangle and taking the
player further from their defender, the
line of the pass and leaving a greater
close out distance.
The line of the ball is the imaginary line
that goes from the ball horizontally
across the court, when moving the
defender will often be required to drop
to the line of the ball or the line to the
basket sometimes referred to as the
driving line or lane.
OFF-ball Defence
Dividing the court for defensive
purposes into ball above or below the
free throw line will help determine who
helps when and from where.
• Denial and containment pressure.
Establishing OFF-Ball defensive position
in the ball-you-man situation allows for
a consideration to either deny the pass
or “allow the pass, but meet the catch”,
then control the dribble and one on one
through effective ON-Ball defence. This
is a fundamental choice out of the flat
triangle. In the line of the pass or off the
line of the pass? That in essence is
either denial or containment through
Denial, as an all out effort, may
ultimately create containment and there
are degrees of pressure to be applied.
So tactically a coach will determine
their style preference and philosophy
based on their personnel and
perceived ability. In denial defence
there are different techniques employed
by coaches depending on their beliefs.
Denial technique is either having a
head or a hand in the line of the pass,
with positioning one step off the line of
the pass. On ball-side defence it is
normally accepted that the closed
stance is the preferred technique. For
the help-side it is normally an open
stance. The further up the passing line
that a defender plays the further it will
increase the distance of the close out.
The national system preference is to
develop a more effective defensive
stance with good vision; the open
stance or “pistols position” when
playing OFF-Ball to players on the helpside. So the help-side defence is open
stance with an ability to reverse pivot
and open up against dribble
penetration when help and rotation is
required. We wish to play more
towards the line of the pass for both
pass denial and for closer close out
movement against the skip pass and
flare cut. Generally the defender will be
two steps (defensive slides) off the
offensive player, with an ability to
adjust to play closed denial one step
off the player.
• Defending the post. Post defence
follows the same concepts and
principles for all OFF-Ball defence.
However, there is closer positioning in
the ball-you-man stance. Predominantly
post defence is played one step off the
offensive player. Good footwork and
positioning is essential for effective post
defence due to the encouragement of
body contact to establish a position
and deny any pass. Over reliance of
length and strength as opposed to
position should be discouraged in post
defence particularly with juniors.
Ultimately strength and size will be
negated at higher levels so while they
are important to gain an advantage
positioning and outworking the post are
paramount to effective post denial. It is
important in remembering that the
“offense wants contact, but defence
wants space!”
OFF-ball Defence
With space being tighter, positioning is
generally one arms length, with greater
use of a denial stance. Positioning
moves through a half front (closed
stance) of the post to a momentary fully
front (open stance) the post. There are
techniques for defending the post that
all juniors irrespective of size should be
taught and experienced. Every team
has the ability and desire to look for
mismatches including those in the post.
Therefore it is not just about size but
more about position when coaching the
OFF-Ball defence of the post.
Moving and Repositioning As The
Ball Moves
Move as the ball moves. The concept of
maintaining vision in stance while
maintaining the principle of the flat
triangle, or ball-you-man situation, is the
key for positioning against continual
movement whilst also determining help
responsibility. The further the ball is from
the player being defended, the further the
defender can come up the line of the pass
of the flat triangle towards the ball in order
to help. The ability to slide in stance up and
back along the line of the pass with ability
to close out to the ball and run
for position are techniques which underpin
movement and repositioning as the
ball moves.
• Defending dribble penetration.
Baseline penetration is the most
common driving lane at junior level and
the one most coaches spend the
greatest amount of time in defending or
simulating in the ’shell drill’. Teaching
the basic rotations required from the
help line is one of the primary functions
of shell drill. However a redefinition of
the help line as opposed to the split line
is required. It is important to
simultaneously defend dribble
penetration and the 3 point shot within
the same play phase, so the flat triangle
remains a key principle in defending
dribble drive situations.
While our national system will force
baseline we must understand that all
dribble penetration does not always
occur along the baseline. There is also
the incidence of side penetration (side
of the keyway, i.e. mid block or higher)
which requires adjusted positioning,
and penetration down the middle which
occurs through the foul line area. Each
of these penetration areas offers
options which must be defended and
understood in terms of OFF-Ball
defence positioning and movement.
The flat triangle and help line are
adjusted for each type of penetration.
Rotation is necessary to ensure that
long close outs to an open shooter
(who receives the penetration and kick
pass) are avoided. Understanding who
rotates and from where is crucial in
limiting costly over helping situations.
Trusting the ON-Ball defender is also
important and is discussed in rotating to
a different player.
Ensuring positioning and timing to help
stop dribble penetration and
subsequently rotating to a new man on
the perimeter with a close out is the
tactical challenge for all team defence.
The better the perimeter shooting of the
offence the more demand will be
placed on the OFF-Ball position to
work well.
OFF-ball Defence
Ultimately minimising close out distance
from long to short needs to be mastered
through OFF-Ball defence positioning
against dribble and pass options.
The more effective the ON-Ball defence
the better the penetration containment
will be.
• Defending cutting movement. It is
obvious that players don’t stand still on
offence when they don’t have the ball.
The two basic principles of moving
without the basketball are exemplified
in defending both the straight cut and
the back cut. These basic cuts should be
defended and coaches must coach the
detail of how to best neutralise or stop
the cutter when it occurs. When
defending cuts we need to anticipate
the cut; this begins with good
positioning between the basket and the
ball. When moving from ON the ball to
an OFF-Ball defensive position players
must jump to the ball arriving in the
desired defensive position during the
flight of the pass. Jumping to the ball
creates immediate separation which
enables the defender to successfully
anticipate the cut and defend
appropriately. Our footwork (either a
defensive stance or running) needs to
be able to “bump” a player away from
their cut route and to take away the
passing angle. Bumping not only
obscures the passers decision making
but also takes away the players
preferred route of cut and its timing.
This helps in the overall defensive
possession in terms of taking time off
the shot clock and the offences time
to operate.
From the youngest of ages U12 and
U14 players should be taught how to
defend the pass and cut correctly and
routinely. Coaches at this level should
also ensure that the offensive movement
is included in the team offence and
team session breakdown drills. This sets
the tone for the continued progression
of OFF-Ball defence in defending other
movements without the ball; including
defending the flash cut from the weak
side. Learning to defend these three
cuts at U12 and U14’s and mastering
them by U16’s will establish a good
platform for better systematic
OFF-Ball defence.
At U16 and U18 levels this then
progresses or is immersed into
defending teams who prefer continuity
or set offence. Often cuts come off
screens so teaching how to defend the
‘UCLA cut”, “flex cuts” or “shuffle cuts”
are then logical progressions for U16
and U18 club teams.
• Defending screens away from ball.
Another OFF-Ball principle involves the
defensive movement against screens
away from the ball. The player
defending the user of the screen must
have vision, and most importantly know
where the ball is. It is also important for
this player to anticipate the screen, and
then read how to defend it. If they lose
sight of the ball they will need the help
of their teammate. Defending the screen
is a multiple player assignment;
reflective on individual responsibility,
technique and the offensive teams
desired outcome.
OFF-ball Defence
Players should be taught multiple ways
to defend the player using the screen.
Learning how to screen and use a
screen correctly will actually help a
player learn how to defend the
screener and cutter correctly. These
should be coached equally well.
In its simplest form the screeners
defender has a key role to play in
aiding their defensive teammate to
successfully navigate the screen; whilst
denying the cutter the desired offensive
positioning or opportunity. The three
most common defensive strategies are:
This area of emphasis could almost
have its own chapter in terms of detail,
but it is important to build from the
basics not from the advanced or higher
standard tactical approaches
(especially when dealing with juniors).
Simple things done well will always be
effective. Understand the purpose of
the screener, the player using the
screen and the type of threat posed,
this should provide a baseline for our
thinking in the tactical execution or
preferred OFF-Ball defensive technique.
– They can show help, delay, and
recover to their man.
– They can step off the screener and
allow the cutters defender to come
through the gap created between
themselves and the screener.
– They can hug, push or squeeze the
screener creating space for the
cutters defender to come under the
screen to close out.
There are many different screens and
subsequently angles relative to both the
ball and the basket. We need to learn
to defend both the basic screen and the
more complex screen action. This is a
continuing refinement and progression
which remains hinged on good
defensive footwork balance
understanding and a team approach to
OFF-Ball defence.
British coaches must learn to
understand the basic screen actions
which require positioning and
communication by multiple defenders.
To be able to defend it you will need to
learn and execute it effectively with
your own team. The British Basketball
checklists for offence and defence are
a good reference for coaching OFFBall defence at all levels.
OFF-ball Defence
Helping To Defend The Ball
The concept of help is important as it is
inevitable that offense will outmanoeuvre
defence at some stage. The split line is a
good beginning teaching tool for help-side
positioning, however as offence develops
the help line will differ to the split line as
the standard of competition improves
particularly wite split line principle leaves
long close out distances on the
To understand the concept of help we have
to consider principles associated with
when, where and who. The question of
who is normally the ‘nearest man’
principle; although some situations are
deemed more dangerous than others when
defending and are prioritised accordingly.
The “when” is normally as the ON-Ball
defender is beaten, but there is a danger in
over helping or rotating and allowing an
open receiver.
The depth of the triangle determined by the
OFF-Ball defender affects the ability of the
defender to either deny a pass and/or to
close out. This occurs frequently if the
player who is second or deepest in help
”digs” in too deep to the split line and as a
result finds them self off the line of the pass.
This commonly leaves the defensive team
with a longer close out distance, often
creating a help dilemma in terms of timing
and distance when deciding to help on the
dribble and leave their player.
The initial positioning of our four OFF-Ball
defenders should be situated both in terms
of the split line and the quadrant of the
ball-side; with the ball either above or
below the free throw line. Developing this
position principle using the quadrant helps
to establish the principle of the help line for
help-side defenders. Sometimes this is
confused with the split line itself.
The help line principle is very important for
coaching when, where and which OFF-Ball
defender should rotate to help. The line
help is made up of defenders on the weakside of the court opposite the ball.
Normally there are two or three players
considered to be in the help line
depending on the offensive team alignment
and position of the ball. When the ball is
above the free throw line or in the middle
of the court the help line is adjusted.
The defensive close out is the single most
important technique for OFF-Ball defence
because defenders will always have to
rotate to a different player once the first
rotation or commitment to help is made. It is
effectively a switch on defence.
Usually the close out starts from an OFFBall position and translates into an ON-ball
responsibility and containment movement.
Therefore attention to the start of the close
out position (stance, vision, footwork etc.) is
another specific area of attention for
coaching the OFF-Ball defenders
technique. An example of this is the
rotation by an OFF-Ball defender closing
out from the baseline of the help line to the
help-side corner 3 point shooter on a skip
pass. This situation requires very good
initial positioning with good anticipation
and closeout technique. The longest close
outs are from the basket at the base of the
split line (“home” for the national system)
to the help-side baseline corner or
alternatively to foul line extended. Dribble
and kick style offense provides a different
set of obstacles for the defence. Often the
dribbler effects side penetration (from the
OFF-ball Defence
side of the key) getting past the ON-Ball
defender and forcing the help to commit
before making the pass to a help side
shooter; again forcing an effective help
and closeout technique. Effective
penetration to the baseline and the
subsequent rotations could lead to a longer
closeout from the second rotating defender
when they are on the split line and
required to close out to help-side corner
after the initial help defender rotates to
the dribbler.
As we extend the teaching of the help-side
rotations, the techniques for close outs
relative to position continues to be highly
important as an OFF-Ball teaching
The help line defence can consist of two or
three OFF-Ball defenders who have three
key principle responsibilities; being in
position to give help, rotate and defend
their player. The help line, because of the
relationship to the ball and the distance of
the offensive player will mean that each
flat triangle for each help-side receivers,
will in fact be different and as a result will
be a staggered line. The shape of the help
line continually adjusts depending on the
perceived amount of help required from the
lowest player and with the top helpline
defender anticipating their rotation to the
next open player. When help rotation
begins the second defensive player closest
the basket in the help line (normally Top)
must drop but also decrease the length of
the potential close out on any weak-side
pass. Techniques for good vision and
stance are required throughout all help
line rotations.
This creates one of the more difficult help
rotations as we are changing the help and
ball-side responsibilities. For example, in
continued side penetration the original
help line defenders must adjust from help to
denial positions or successfully defend
cutting action from their original offensive
player. Whilst at the same time the
defenders on the original ball-side must
rotate and establish a new help line.
Effective ON-Ball defence in this situation
combined with correct identification of
help requirements are essential in any
devised strategy.
The national system has two clear
communication responsibilities for the help
line players; we refer to these positions as
“home” and “top”. All penetration, passing
and cutting action is neutralised by the
effectiveness of the help line to
communicate and fill these positions. Home
is the defender of the lowest player on the
help-side and top being the second lowest
player on the help side.
With the inclusion of the charge circle by
FIBA it is even more important to establish
effective OFF-Ball positioning. The direction
of help and the reads of when to help
(especially from the baseline) will need
greater refinement and teaching detail to
prevent ”blocking” situations during
An effective strategy is required when any
penetration moves through the split line.
OFF-ball Defence
Rotating To a Different Player
Determining which of the four OFF-Ball
defenders should help through rotation to
the beaten ON-Ball defender, and
deciding when to help are further key
principles underpinning the help line
The closest player is often the best placed
to rotate and help. Dropping to the line of
the ball is a fundamental OFF-Ball
requirement. Some coaches prefer a type
of sagging defence to contain while others
recognise the importance of pressure on
the passing line and the receivers. Help is
given through rotating onto the ball
handler; as a consequence more than one
OFF-Ball defender is forced to find a new
player or position. From here successive
rotations to different players will occur
especially when long close outs follow the
initial help and the offense has maintained
good weak-side spacing. Help line
defenders in this instance may have to
temporarily ”zone” up the help-side
effectively covering two defenders until
recovering teammates identify a new
player or the skip pass has been made.
• Rotating from helpline with timing.
The key here is that you only come to
help if help is needed! Active defence
anticipates and decides early to help
and recognises when the help is
needed. Successful help is a
combination of positioning and an
effective decision of when to help. The
teaching detail is in the read to give
help and how to go. The cue of when
to help varies with different coaches
and team philosophies, but the rotation
must be committed. This becomes a
balance between being able to
anticipate whilst not over committing to
help. Equally where the help line
position is itself for coaching purposes
in relation to the line of help, keyway
markings and split line, varies with age
and standard. The key principles for
understanding are the line of the ball,
identifying the driving line/lane and
sliding along the line of the pass
towards the ball. Help defenders need
to anticipate the movement of the
offense, these principles for the help
line will aid both movement
(anticipation) and responsibility (who
and when)
As expressed in the previous section the
perimeter receiver is normally spaced
on the three point line for any ball
reversal either at the point guard, high
guard or wing position. There could be
any combination of point guard, high
guard, wing, high post, low post or
help-side corner being filled if there are
two offensive players on the ball side of
the defence. So the situation can be
challenging but can also be specific to
particular team’s offence.
Positioning and help versus baseline,
sideline and middle penetration vary
slightly for OFF-Ball defenders. These
positions are still based on the flat
triangle principle consisting of between
two, three and four steps (or slides)
from your defensive assignment while
looking to help. The principle of space
between the defender and their player
becomes greater as the help line or the
helper adjusts towards helping. This
could initially be toward the line of the
ball and ultimately could end in full
help to the driving line.
OFF-ball Defence
The help line will typically have
responsibility for two offensive players
(normally wing and corner positions)
when there are three players on the
ball side (normally a post situation).
However this depends on the spacing
and alignment of the offence.
In the pick and roll offense we normally
see a two man game on the ball side
and three on the help side, including a
well spaced shooter on the three point
line. This stretches the help line. Three
players can be considered to be on the
help line but proximity to the ball
(spacing) will determine who helps or
Tactically good offensive teams will
distort the line and isolate the baseline
help line defender to determine their
options. This ultimately means the help
line will become specific at senior and
youth levels with regards to rotations
and help.
• Defending the on ball screen
involves help and rotation. The
increased use of dribble penetration in
modern basketball necessitates
effective defence both on and off the
ball. It is becoming more of a tactic to
set an ON-Ball screen to help aid
dribble penetration.
The ON-Ball screen and its associated
dribble penetration and kick require
excellent defence standards; including
better OFF-Ball position and
understanding. Currently the use of the
ON-Ball screen penetration and pass
demand better defensive solutions
nationally. At the international level our
players need to adjust and understand
the OFF-Ball responsibilities and options
for help in team defence against the
ON-Ball screen offence.
There are several collective ways to
defend the ON-Ball screen listed in the
Team defence master checklist.
However the fundamental requirement
is for the ON-Ball defender to get over
the screen. This is achieved by being
aware of the position of the screen and
the direction taken by the dribbler;
early communication is imperative. The
preferred way to defend the ON-Ball is
to send the dribbler away from the
screen; however, if the dribbler does
use the screen the ON-Ball the
defender must make every effort in
preparation to get over the top of the
screen. They can be helped by the
screen defender with a variety different
(and player/situation specific)
techniques and principles. Please also
reference the ON- Ball section when
determining the best technique to
achieve this principle.
OFF-ball Defence
The ON-Ball defender can also go
through the gap created between the
screener and the screen defender.
Alternatively the on ball defender can
go under the screen defender
(squeeze). The preference and success
of each principle is situational. The
British philosophy is for the ON-Ball
defender to always prepare to go over
the screen with varying amounts of help
from the screen defender, along with
early recognition and positioning from
the help line.
– The screen defender plays an
important help role for the on ball
defender. Talk between team
defenders is crucial. The screen
defender has options which are
preferential and sometimes
– The screen defender can show hard
and recover to delay the dribbler
until the ON-Ball defender recovers.
– The screen defender can switch
particularly if there is not a mismatch
in speed and/or size.
– The screen defender can
double/trap the dribbler allowing
other help line defenders to rotate to
help on the player rolling or diving to
the basket.
– There are some other variations
covered in the defensive checklist
which would be considered tactically
The foundation to defending the screen
and roll is based on the key concepts
and principles explained earlier.
Techniques will continue to develop as
the success of the ON-Ball screen and
subsequent penetration continues.
British Basketball coaches should coach
the over the screen with a hard show
and recover.
The switch should be explored by
national teams once the over and show
is mastered. All national teams must
also have the ability to double/trap the
dribbler and rotate effectively from the
help line.
Successful defence of the ON-Ball
screen will not be affected unless the
initial ON-Ball defence technique is
good and there is a superior
understanding of the concepts and
principles of the ON-Ball screen and
roll or flare. Having an active and
confident help line ready to anticipate
any rotation will make defending the
ON-Ball screen a team defensive effort
rather than simply the ON-Ball
defenders responsibility to get over
the screen.
While defending the ON-Ball screen
attention is specifically required to any
subsequent dribble penetration. The
initial dribble penetration and kick off
the ON-Ball screen forces help and
rotation and inevitably leads to a
further dribble penetration option. This
cycle of successive dribble penetrations
is dependent on effective closeouts and
limiting the number of effective dribble
penetrations per possession. This must
be understood and practiced at team
training. Understanding of where the
penetration comes from will often
determine the help line responsibilities
and the likely offensive receivers. The
help line needs to be well positioned to
defend the 3pt shot as well as help on
the dribble penetration.
OFF-ball Defence
• Full court, half court and transition
team defence have the same basic
concepts. All OFF-Ball defensive
situations are based on same
fundamental OFF-Ball concepts and the
principles will stay consistent.
Fundamentally, whether its full court or
half court team man to man defence
this will be the case. The principles for
full court man to man defence and OFFBall positioning are the same but the
spacing is greater and more
challenging. Ultimately OFF-Ball
defence is superfluous if there is no
ON-Ball defence pressure and
containment. The various phases of
team defence in the full court will
require techniques such as run and
jump and trapping to be continually
Defending the fast break or fast break
defence is also often referred to as
transition defence. In the transition
defence, containing the ball, sprinting
to the line of the ball and to the basket
(home) defensive position are the key
drivers. Rotations are simply longer with
less set position and greater ball
movement options because of the
space available to the offense. The
ability of defence to hedge and recover
to put doubt into the ball handlers mind
is also more important in transition
Coaches of all levels are encouraged
to develop and implement an effective
transition defensive strategy. Defence
transition can be a controlled positional
situation or simply a scramble situation.
In the controlled fast break defence
from a missed shot the team
organisation is for players (normally
three) to rebound offensively, also
cover the outlet/dribble nearest player
and finally to protect the basket with the
first player to get back. This is normally
referred to as safety. These become
nominated responsibilities based on
positions and they are all OFF-Ball
Scramble transition defence is the
team defence off the ball when the fast
break defence cannot be established
(e.g. when there is a passing turnover).
Encouraging players to recognise the
importance of an immediate defensive
emphasis at the point of transition is a
key component for us to raise standards
of all OFF-Ball defensive ability
nationally. Improving this aspect will
remove the ease of scoring in the
open court typically seen at junior club
level; the results will be improved half
court offensive and subsequently OFFBall defence.
The national system for scramble
transition defence is concerned with
early ball pressure and containment
with the establishment of the first help
line position (home) or safety position.
Transition defence principles are a
crucial aspect for an effective strategy
in controlling game tempo. This strategy
requires junior players to come through
the levels of competition with an early
understanding of rotations and
responsibilities to the ball you man and
help line principles.
Using the full court in training can be
more challenging for juniors and will
require effort and technical execution of
the concepts and principles; including
basic adjustments for the ball you man
position. The challenge initially requires
OFF-ball Defence
better footwork, positioning and a
higher intensity of effort. If the flat
triangle and key principles of defence
relating to spacing and movement are
not understood and successfully
implemented in the half court there is
less likely hood that a full court man to
man team defence will be successful.
Ensuring that our youngest aged
players at U12 and U14 experience full
court defence in both man to man and
in zone pressing is also encouraged
rather than staying solely with a
sagging man to man defence. Full court
pressing is recommended as an aid to
player development but should only be
applied to help player development not
belittle opposition teams. Full court
zone pressing should not be used in an
unsportsmanlike manner to games
where there is a great disparity in
ability levels. Shell drill can be a good
training drill and can be extended into
three quarter and full court man to man
defensive teaching.
Creating pressure through good team
defence is an important capability for
any team and ON-Ball pressure is
paramount to creating effective
defence. However, the ability for OFFBall defence to maintain pressure is
ultimately where the effectiveness of
team defence is created. The first stage
is to contain the offence individually
and collectively. Pressure is then
increased either for specific
possessions, phases or throughout the
whole game. Ultimately there is a
choice of tactics to achieve a stop or
lower the oppositions shooting
opportunities and percentage.
Tactically presses or denial can be
applied and then taken off at various
stages of a game. Full court and half
court man to man, half court zone or
full court zone presses (or derivatives
thereof) are all tactical team defence
options which will require a lot of
planning, understanding and practice
by players with a good understanding
of off ball defence positioning, help
and rotations to a different player.
OFF-ball Defence
How Can We Make The
Biggest Improvements?
How do you control a somewhat
uncontrollable dynamic with unpredictable
movement associated with OFF-Ball
Understand The Basic Concepts,
Principles and Techniques
• Firstly we start with the basics of what
we know or have as established as key
basics or principles of defence.
Secondly the coach must look for
patterns and situations to defend and
recreate them in training and finally the
good coach will attempt to simplify the
complex aspects into meaningful units
that are understood by the player.
• We can use breakdown drills to coach
the four basic concepts and the
associated principles for OFF-Ball
defence. Using two player teams for
(2v2) then 3 man teams for (3v3) for
ball side defensive situations followed
by ball side and help-side will present
good learning opportunities for
coaching the basic OFF-Ball concepts
and key principles.
• After using two on two and three on
three we should extend to four on four
teams which will incorporate ball-side
and help-side positioning and involving
the four basic defensive concepts and
followed by the specifics of each
principle which will provide a good
learning environment for most aspects
of OFF-Ball defence and ON-Ball
pressure (4v4 shell drill).
• Shell drill becomes a key teaching tool
but it is the detail within the drill in terms
of principle and technique execution
that will determine the success of the
drill. Coaches should work consistently
to develop understanding in their
players. “The drill is not the drill. The
drill is how well you perform every
aspect of the drill.”
• Ultimately 5 man teams working in
“constrained”, “conditioned” or limited
drills will provide a controllable
framework to coach the dynamics of
OFF-Ball defence (e.g. a no dribble
scrimmage game concentrating on the
line of the pass, denial and close outs).
• Finally defending common yet specific
offensive sets through establishing
positioning, responsibility, help
responsibilities and confirming rotations.
This will ensure our British players
understand OFF-Ball and team defence.
• Coaches can refer to both the Offence
concepts master checklist and the
Defence master checklist for planning
and understanding defensive situations,
concepts principles and techniques.
• From this basic platform of concepts
and principles coaches can develop
their own philosophies or “must do
rules” on defence and determine
technique preferences. However
remember that any such rules beyond
the mastery of the principles are
advancement or extension rather than a
substitute for the concepts and
principles for learning OFF-Ball
defence. The national system will have
its preferences which may vary to clubs
because of the level of competition.
OFF-ball Defence
• All principles are designed to help the
OFF-Ball defender understand their role
and help their team, however there will
continue to be an evolution of these
principles and techniques specific to
what is occurring with specific offence.
• Team Talk – players off the ball will
constantly inform their teammates of
their position and ability to help with
penetration and screens. We will
always communicate more than the
• For British Basketball to be successful
we must be consistent in approach
through firstly understanding the basics
of these what’s and how’s and then
coach the when and why of OFF-Ball
defence. British Basketball coaches
should build from these key concepts,
principles and techniques as the
platform to improve OFF-Ball defence.
• Defensive teams are always working
and rebuilding collectively after any
forced rotation, the defence needs to
“rebuild” itself. This means that even
with cross match ups players must get
back into a strong team defensive
formation. A big player may be now
asked to guard a small player and has
to have the ability to contain the
penetration even if it is for a small
period of time. Likewise a smaller
player has to be able to fight a big man
both in the post and on a flash cut.
Build Teamwork and A Positive
Attitude Into Off-ball Defence
• Attitude by players must be positive to
defence. We must be proactive as
coaches and clubs. Use your team
defensive system (including OFF-Ball
pressure) to dictate terms to the offence,
force the ball towards the
sideline/baseline, pressure the ball and
the line of the pass and bump cutters &
screeners. Generally be disruptive off
the ball, stopping or disrupting the
offence from doing what it plans.
• Get the ball: defence finishes when we
have the ball. Defence finishes with
blocking out, securing the rebound and
advancing the ball in transition (if not
before). All training sessions should
ensure this is a competitive outcome.
All Junior Players Should
Understand Off-ball Defence
Key Concepts
• Vision: see the ball and your man –
when in help position, each defender
maintains split vision of both the ball
and their specific attacker. Prioritise
seeing the ball over seeing your man.
The ball is what matters most.
• Move when the ball moves - all players
must react to the ball by moving as the
ball moves. Jumping to the ball and
back to the player staying ball-side and
basket-side of their attacker.
• Help (rotation) is only given when
penetration has occurred (i.e. ON-Ball
defence has been beaten).
• Rotating to another player requires
communication, timing, and closing
out techniques.
OFF-ball Defence
The Re-establishment Of The Flat
Triangle Of Ball You Man Principle
• Effective OFF-Ball position principle is
the key. Understanding the line of the
pass and being able to deny through
being a hand or a head in the passing
lane will lead to proactive OFF-Ball
• This will include good split vision
between ball and man being marked.
• The defender should still be one step off
the line of the pass in order to best
close out to their player on any skip or
reversal pass.
• Off the ball defence should be more in
the line of the pass against passing
• We must still continue to teach defence
against both the pass and the dribble.
An OFF-Ball defender must know how
to defend both individually and
• The baseline help defender (now for
the National system called the home
defender) is often digging in too deep
and over committing to the split line;
well before penetration against the ball
defender is achieved.
• The proximity of the defender to the
offensive player has changed because
of the 3 point shot (from under U16's
onwards) but the flat triangle and help
rotations are still the critical elements of
OFF-Ball defence.
The Help Line Principle
• Position: enhanced understanding of
the application of the flat triangle
principles is necessary.
• The flat triangle is firstly the line of the
pass, secondly with the defender
normally two steps up the line of the
pass towards the ball and away from
the receiver, and finally one step off the
line of the line of the pass.
• The ability to deny the pass (through
being one step off the line) is something
that has not been well taught in our
players. We are normally sagging to
help and positioning deeper towards
the basket and off the line of the pass
as we consider helping on the dribble
penetration. Our defence is normally
not aggressive with a consistent
philosophy of being in the lanes for
denial of the pass. Combined with the
excessive amount of over dribbling
(refer to use of the dribble) the need to
defend the pass at junior level has
diminished. Therefore denial of the pass
with the ability still to help the dribble
needs to be re-emphasised. The flat
triangle position is a guide but often
defenders and coaches have become
lost in terms of OFF-Ball positioning in
order to help.
OFF-ball Defence
• Pressure OFF-Ball defence demands
positioning for both the denial of pass
and help on dribble penetration. While
some may argue that this is not possible
it should be remembered that the
positioning of the four OFF-Ball
defenders is relative to the ball and is
not the same for each. One or maybe
two of the OFF-Ball defenders are in the
better position to help on the dribble
and against the dribble drive-kick
concept we have to defend the pass
anyway because that is the intent of the
dribble drive kick tactic.
• The help line can have two or three
defenders with the highest defender in
a three man help line will normally
defend the ball above the foul line.
• Determining the position of the ball
determines the line of the help
defenders. If the ball is to one side and
there is one other player on the ballside there will be three help-side
• Normally a team is required to defend
a three or a two man situation on helpside defence creating a two or three
man help line.
Who, When and Where To Rotate
and Help On Dribble Penetration
• Understanding who the first line of help
is and who the second line of help is (in
a two player line of help) will depend
on where the ball is situated.
• The top of the help line is the player
normally at the top of the keyway as
effectively we are zoning in help.
• The home is the baseline help defender,
typically defending the lowest offensive
player on the help-side. These positions
should be differentiated and
• The top defender normally is matched
up on foul line extended or below and
has help rotation on baseline, side
penetration as well as middle
penetration. They will get help from the
high defender if there is one or from the
rotating beaten on ball defender.
• The home defender normally has a low
post or corner shooter coverage as well
as help on baseline and side
• Rotation is normally top to home and
high to top or recovering beaten ONBall defender to top.
• The beaten ON ball defender should
rotate to a new player unless a trap is
being applied. It is most likely that it will
be the top man’s original matchup on
the help side.
• Help and rotation on defence is only
given when penetration has occurred
(i.e. ON-Ball defence has been
• For the national system the two
descriptors for the positions that are the
two primary rotations in help are home
and top.
OFF-ball Defence
Coach and Teach The Physical
Movement Techniques Of Off-ball
• The ability to hold a defensive stance
while in help position and react quickly
is a physical competency.
• An increased emphasis on the
development of physical abilities so that
players are able to hold a defensive
stance and close out and contain well.
• Teaching appropriate balance footwork
and movement. This will involve
teaching and drilling stance and the
lateral push slide (for approx three
slides) continual movement from step or
run into stance.
• OFF-Ball defenders should stay in
stance and reposition through stepping
but preferably through sliding.
• Defenders should be coached to slide
in their defensive stance up and down
the line of the pass in the flat triangle
while the line of the pass remains
the same.
Correct and Master The Closeout
• Establish a short close out technique as
well as an adjustment for a long close
out. Defending a shooter is a
fundamental ON-Ball defence
• Defending a shooter coming off a
screen (normally at U16’s, U18’s and
seniors) is an OFF-Ball responsibility
and technique. Firstly a player can
follow the shooter and force the shooter
to curl. This will involve the defender of
the screener also to help. Secondly a
player can go under the screen and
force the shooter to flair away from the
screen. A player can switch with the
screener’s defender.
• The close out action once the screen is
navigated is basically the same as the
ON-Ball close out technique and ends
in a good stance on the close out to a
shooter the use of the hand position to
contest/disrupt the shot is also
• Stepping forward or backwards in a
stance from the line of the pass is also a
movement technique.
OFF-ball Defence
Defending Screens Principles
Navigating The Screen Principle
• Team defence and particularly OFF-Ball
defence in defending screens requires
team work as players look to help and
rotate on penetration and also navigate
and defend screens to defend cutters.
• The screen defender has a role to play
in helping the cutter defender; basically
they can show help, delay or bump the
cutter and recover to their man.
Alternatively they can step off the
screener and allow the cutter defender
to come through between themselves
and the screener.
• Players should be taught multiple ways
to defend the player using the screen.
Learning how to screen and use a
screen correctly will actually help a
player learn how to defend the
screener and cutter correctly. These
should be coached equally well.
Disrupt The Screener Principles
• The screen defender ”pushes” the
screener away and towards the sideline
so that the cutter defender can go
under the screen.
• Pushes screener away towards the
basket from the cutter so cutter
defender can go over the screen.
• Finally they can hug, push or squeeze
the screener creating space for the
cutter defender to come under him in
closing out to the cutter.
• Effective talk or communication is
essential in this form of team defence.
• Navigating the screen as a cutter
defender it is also important to
understand the defensive techniques for
defending a straight curl or flare cut.
The “Lock and trail” technique is used
for following in the footsteps of a cutter
who uses a screen to “turnout” to the
• These techniques are drilled for
straight cuts, curl cuts and flare cuts
with differing points of emphasis for
each situation.
Screen Defender Shows Help
• The screen defender must help the
cutter defender as they navigate the
screen. Generally this is through a hard
show where the screen defender acts
as a temporary ON-Ball defender
before rotating back to the screener.
This must be coached for good
execution of technique. All levels and
age groups where screens are used (e.
g U16’s upwards) should teach this
principle and technique well.
OFF-ball Defence
Screen Defender Switches Principle
• The screen defender has the option to
help and recover or switch onto the
cutter. The cutter defender switches to
the screener which could result in a
mismatch. The techniques for switching
need to be well coached to ensure
success but an aggressive switch with
good ON-Ball techniques may buy time
for the switch to occur effectively. All
coaches should coach and drill this
principle particularly at levels where
there is not a significant mismatch
advantage to the offence.
Defending The On Ball Screen
• There are several collective ways to
defend the ON-Ball screen listed in the
defensive master checklist.
• The fundamental requirement is for the
ON-Ball defender to get over the
screen. This is achieved by being aware
of the position of the screen and the
direction taken by the dribbler.
• Force away from the screen. Another
way to defend the ON-Ball is to send
the dribbler away from the screen.
However if the dribbler does use the
screen the on ball defender must make
every effort in preparation to get over
the top of the screen.
• Navigate the ON-Ball screen. The ONBall defender can also go through the
gap between the screener and the
screen defender. Alternatively the ONBall defender can go under the screen
defender. The preference and success
of each principle is situational.
• The British Philosophy is for the ON-Ball
defender to always prepare to go over
the screen with help from the screen
defender and also the help line.
• Disrupt and help from the screen
defender. The screen defender plays an
important help role for the ON-Ball
defender. Talk is crucial. The screen
defender has options which are
preferential and sometimes situational.
The screen defender can show hard
and recover to delay the dribbler until
the ON-Ball defender recovers. The
screen defender can switch particularly
if there is not a mismatch in speed and
or size. The screen defender can also
double/trap the dribbler allowing other
help line defenders to rotate to help the
player rolling or diving to the basket.
There are some other variations
covered in the defensive checklist which
would be considered tactically
• Successful defence of the effect of the
on ball will not be affected unless on
ball defence technique is good and
there is a good understanding of the
concepts and principles of the on ball
screen and roll or flare.
• The help line must help and rotate on
penetration. An active and confident
help line ready to anticipate any
rotation will make defending the ONBall a team defensive effort rather than
simply the ON-Ball defenders
responsibility to get over the screen.
OFF-ball Defence
• While defending the ON-Ball screen
and specifically any subsequent dribble
penetration must be understood,
experienced and improved. The
understanding of where the penetration
comes from will often determine the
help responsibilities. The help line
needs to be well positioned to defend
the 3pt shot as well as help on the
dribble penetration.
• British Basketball options:
– Over the screen with a hard show by
the screen defender. British
Basketball coaches should coach the
over the screen with a hard show
and recover. The switch should be
explored by national teams once the
over and show is mastered.
– Double/trap by the screen defender
onto the dribbler (with rotations). All
national teams must also have the
ability to double/trap the dribbler
and rotate effectively from the help
A Reduced Use Of Zone Defence
At Junior Level
• Learn effective man to man help
defence. Players can ‘hide’ or learn
bad habits in a zone defence.
• A commitment by coaches to full court
as well as half court man to man
defence. So that players are forced to
move anticipate and rotate with good
• If and when playing Zone understand
that it as a secondary team defence.
• As such we must ensure that the
mentality is that we “play man to man
out of zone” thereby ensuring we are
working to the same defensive team
principles of single on ball coverage,
effective footwork for close outs and
good split line vision and rotations.
OFF-ball Defence
Here’s What Coaches
Are Saying:
“The first step in order to build a good
team defence is for the player to learn the
correct positioning that he/she must have
in front of the player he/she is defending,
in relation to both the attacking players
position on the court and where the ball
“It is fundamental to establish the correct
defensive positioning whilst the ball is
moving through the air and not once it has
arrived in our opponents’ hands.”
Ettorie Messina
“In the UK for many years we have taught
help principles that have now, in the
modern game, become obsolete. It is time
to change our mindset and philosophy to
allow our players to learn revised and new
principles which will allow us to compete at
the highest level.”
Tony Garbelotto (BBL championship
winning coach)
“Defending 5 out or 4 out penetration
drive and particularly the on ball penetrate
and kick game is our key defensive
challenge at the international level. Getting
over the ON-Ball screen, our OFF-Ball
positioning, effective rotations and the
technique of the close out become the key
to success in defending the pick and roll.”
Warwick Cann, British Basketball
National Teams Director
“The pick and roll and penetrate and kick
game are very popular at all league and
championship levels. Defence must be
more capable in defending this tactic if you
want success.”
Tom Maher, 2012 GB Senior Women’s
“Defence wins championships.”
Multiple coaches!!
Recommendations For The
National System
• Change our mindset and equally focus
our defensive principles to allow our
players to learn and value team
defence. This will include OFF-Ball
positioning and rotation to help.
• Develop a coaching mindset that
restricts opposition teams particularly at
the international junior level. This will
become a priority for national teams.
Defence targets for each quarter will be
established. This will become a team
key performance indicator for success.
• Use your team defensive system
(including OFF-Ball pressure) to dictate
terms to the offence, force the ball
towards the sideline/baseline, pressure
the ball and the line of the pass and
bump cutters & screeners. Generally be
disruptive off the ball, stopping or
disrupting the offence from doing what
it plans.
OFF-ball Defence
• Be disruptive OFF the ball as well as
ON-Ball. Encourage active hands and
highlight deflections as an indicator of
intensity and good team defence.
• Defensive team concepts, principles
and techniques will be referenced in
the team defence master checklist.
These will be used for coaching for
understanding and situational OFF-Ball
• A common approach to teaching the
shell drill with established key principles
and teaching progressions will be
developed for all national development
• A consistent approach in teaching the
OFF-Ball defensive principles. This
includes stance, help positioning,
rotations, and defence against cuts and
screens as they occur at junior levels.
U16’s will feature some screening while
U18’s and seniors will involve multiple
screening situations to be defended.
Screen defence should feature as
needed at the U16 level but the basic
screen defence concepts must be
introduced at this level and refined and
rehearsed at U18 level and beyond.
• Our players need to be able to defend
multiple positions and situations. Talls
and Bigs need the challenge of closing
out, containing and then defending
OFF-Ball on the perimeter.
• All players should be able to defend
the post, the cutter and post up.
• Our players need to learn to anticipate
and break the timing and rhythm of
opponents’ offensive play through
individual and team disruptive
techniques. Bumping cutters, being
physical and using the slash arm motion
to defend both cutters and posts will be
• Trusting and highlighting that your team
mate contains their opponent especially
with dribble drive or 1v1 is a key
aspect of OFF-Ball decision to help.
• Stop players over helping by trying to
give help or rotate when help is not
needed or penetration has not yet been
• Adapting shell defensive principles
versus dribble drive and kick offense,
and defending the ON-Ball screen with
penetration kick to 3pt shooters.
• More attention to close out footwork
and starting position for the close out
(i.e. from help or hedge and recover to
the deep 3pt shooter).
• Coach closing out shorter vs dribble
drive kick game. Coach both a short
close out for containment and a long
close out for pressure.
• Help line not digging in to the keyway
to stop the dribbler when penetration
has not been effected, especially when
ball is above the foul line.
• Understanding there is baseline, side
and middle penetration. Each of these
situations need slight different
positioning and timing rotations.
OFF-ball Defence
• Our team defence finishes when we
have the ball. Defence finishes with
blocking out, securing the rebound and
advancing the ball in transition.
• The national system preference is to
develop a more effective defensive
stance with good vision; the open
stance or “pistols position” when
playing OFF-Ball to players on the helpside. So the help-side defence is open
stance with an ability to reverse pivot
and open up against dribble
penetration when help and rotation is
• We wish to play more towards the line
of the pass for both pass denial and for
closer close out movement against the
skip pass and flare cut. Generally the
defender will be two steps (defensive
slides) off the offensive player, with an
ability to adjust to play closed denial
one step off the player.
• National system coaches will be
required to coach effective team
offense specifically off ball movement in
order to then be able to coach effective
OFF-Ball defence. This also applies to
coaching the post concepts and
principles in order to be effective in
defending it as part of OFF-Ball
• While our national system will force
baseline we must understand that all
dribble penetration does not always
occur along the baseline and as a
consequence the help positioning
rotation and timing will require
additional attention. Side penetration
(side of the keyway, i.e. mid block or
higher) requires adjusted positioning
and judgement of the driving line and
the passing line to the weak side corner
shooter. Similarly when penetration
occurs down the middle (through the
foul line area) the home defender has
to judge and decide when to come off
the passing line and dropping to the
driving line and stopping the drive for
the layup. Each of these penetration
areas offers options which must be
defended and understood in terms of
OFF-Ball defence positioning and
• The national system has two clear
communication responsibilities for the
help line players; we refer to these
positions as “home” and “top”. All
penetration, passing and cutting action
is neutralised by the effectiveness of the
help line to communicate and fill these
positions. Home is the defender of the
lowest player on the weak-side and top
being the second lowest player.
• British Basketball coaches should coach
the over the screen with a hard show
and recover.
• The switch should be explored by
national teams once the over and show
is mastered. All national teams must
also have the ability to double/trap the
dribbler and rotate effectively from the
help line.
• Develop a coaching mindset that
restricts opposition teams particularly at
the international junior level. This will
become a priority for national teams;
defence targets for each quarter will be
established. This will become a team
key performance indicator for success.
OFF-ball Defence
Recommendations To Clubs
• An increased emphasis on the
development of physical abilities so that
players are able to hold a defensive
stance while in help position. Players
are physically capable of reacting
quickly and persistently in moving and
adjusting in OFF-Ball situations.
• Commit to man to man defence and
particularly developing full court man
to man defence for these same reasons.
• A reduced use of zone defence at
youth level so that players are forced to
learn effective man to man help
defence and cannot ”hide” or learn
bad habits in a zone defence.
• Utilise a variety of man to man
defensive systems (e.g. full court,
pressing run and jump, sagging man to
man as a tactical change up in games),
rather than resorting to a stand around
quarter court zone.
• If and when playing zone understand
that it as a secondary team defence. As
such we must ensure that the mentality
is that we “play man to man out of
zone”. This will ensure that we are
working to the same defensive team
principles of single ON-Ball coverage,
effective footwork for close outs and
good flat triangle and help line position
and rotations.
• Clubs should ensure that shell drill is
developed every season throughout the
progress through the age groups.
Additionally adapt the shell defensive
principles to practice defending dribble
drive and kick offense.
• Clubs should refer to the Team defence
master list to ensure your club has a
consistent approach to defence. Clubs
should also develop a consistent
language base with their players for
improved learning by using the British
Basketball glossary of terms.
• Place an emphasis on defensive targets
for competition. Encourage and
educate players to value defence and
the effect it has on performance
Recommendations For
• Be proactive as coaches. Use your
team defensive system (including OFFBall pressure) to dictate terms to the
offence, force the ball towards the
sideline/baseline, pressure the ball and
passing lane, bump cutters and
screeners. Stopping or disrupting the
offence from doing what it plans.
• Coaches at club, school and regional
level will be challenged improve our
teaching of all breakdown drills
associated to OFF-Ball defence.
• We need to re-define our help positions
in relation to the ball. The old
definitions of help when the ball is at a
certain spot on the court can no longer
exist. We need to re-define where a
player is in relation to the ball and their
man and we must learn to limit the early
commitment to help the higher the level
we are coaching.
• Talking! We must improve the ability of
our players to effectively communicate
the game whilst playing, especially
important for all OFF-Ball concepts.
OFF-ball Defence
• Working with young players in
defensive breakdown situations to
teach anticipation. Encourage ability to
break up the rhythm and timing of
offensive play. The ability to hedge and
recover by the OFF-Ball defender
without committing to rotate but putting
doubt into the mind of the offense s
• Establish defensive breakdown drills full
court and half court 2v2, 3v3, 4v4
situations including good on ball
containment and correct OFF-Ball
positioning progressing through the
various screening and cutting situations.
• Use shell drill and extended shell drill to
improve the process of our defence and
effective OFF-Ball positioning help
rotate and extend into run and jump
extended defensive concepts.
• Establish and rehearse team defence
principles to defend the ON-Ball screen
and pick and roll offense at U16 and
U18 and senior level.
• Basically we go over, through or under
the screens depending on the situation
and the coach’s preference or
philosophy. As a general rule over and
through are the most accepted
• U16 and U18 level coaches should
spend an appropriate amount of time
teaching in the post and how to defend
it in terms of the concepts, principles
and techniques listed in the Offence
and Defence Master checklists.
• From the youngest of ages of U12 and
U14 players should be taught how to
defend the pass and cut correctly and
routinely. Coaches at this level should
also ensure that the offensive movement
is included in the team offence and
team session breakdown drills. This sets
the tone for the continued progression
of OFF-Ball defence in defending other
movements without the ball; including
defending the flash cut from the weak
side. Learning to defend these three
cuts at U12 and U14 levels and
mastering them by U16’s will establish
a good platform for better systematic
OFF-Ball defence.
• At U16 and U18 levels this then
progresses or is immersed into
defending teams who prefer continuity
or set offence. Often cuts come off
screens so teaching how to defend the
”UCLA cut”, “flex cuts” or “shuffle cuts”
are then logical progressions for U16
and U18 club teams.
• British Basketball coaches should coach
and prioritise the over the screen with a
hard show and recover.
• Ensuring that our youngest aged
players at U12’s and U14’s experience
full court defence in both man to man
and in zone pressing is also
encouraged rather than staying solely
with a sagging man to man defence.
OFF-ball Defence
• Full court pressing is recommended as
an aid and challenge to player
development but should only be
applied to help player development not
belittle opposition teams. Full court
zone pressing should not be used in an
unsportsmanlike manner to games
where there is a great disparity in
ability levels.
• Club coaches should take the
challenge to coach full court man to
man pressing defence to achieve the
same results as full court zone presses.
This will develop read and react by our
off ball defenders.
Recommendations For
• Ensure team defence including OFF-Ball
positioning and responsibility is
understood by all school age players.
• Teach and preach man to man defence
in all school competitions. Limit the use
of keyway and half court zones.
• Consider the recommendations for
clubs and coaches particularly a
reduced use of zone defence at school
level so that players are forced to learn
effective man to man help defence and
cannot ”hide” or learn bad habits in a
zone defence.
Supported by:
• Define the attributes we seek in British
Point Guards
• Use these attributes as the basis for
identification and development of Point
• Coaches be prepared to develop the
Point Guards
• Have a clear understanding of offensive
• Have a clear understanding of
defensive capability
Why Emphasise Point
Guard Play?
There is a perceived absence of point
guards at various levels in British national
junior teams. Comparisons at the European
Championship level indicate our national
team point guards are not as skilled as
other nations. Great Britain teams are
considered to have limited choices between
players in the point guard position. The
attributes of ball security (minimising
turnovers) and decision making have also
been identified as issues and concerns for
British basketball. These concerns are
expressed in the footwork, passing, use of
the dribble and offence sections of these
Areas of Emphasis.
There is a common view that our
identification and development of point
guards needs to improve. As sometimes
coaches are judging and selecting point
guards exclusively by physical qualities
such as height and speed or simply the best
athlete rather than other attributes which
are essential to point guard play.
Leadership, technical skill levels tactical
understanding and mental skills like
temperament should all be considered. The
allocation of players to positions in a
basketball teams is always somewhat
subjective and this is especially true while
there is a desire for multi skilling of all
players. However we need a degree of
objectivity in allocating players to a position
like the point guard position.
The reality is that the point guard position
role exists especially at the higher levels
and is a key aspect of any team at any level
particularly at the senior competition level.
There is no doubt that British basketball
needs very good point guards of
international standard.
So there are two issues at hand regarding
point guards. Firstly they must be identified
and secondly the issue of turnovers, skill
level and decision making need to be
addressed. There is both a positional
deficiency for all national teams and an
aspect of technical skills and tactical
Point Guard Play
Coaches vary in their beliefs about the
development of point guards. These beliefs
vary between a philosophy of ‘nurture’ and
‘nature’, and even the belief that you
cannot really coach and develop a point
guard (as it is an art) or you can (as it is a
science). Some coaches’ default to a
position where they believe that point
guards are born not made, these coaches
could subsequently be guilty of not
directing or developing point guard. All
coaches should discuss .support or develop
the player in the point guard position. These
identification and development issues
should be debated at all levels. Any belief
cannot restrict our attempts to coach and
develop point guards however it is often
easier to say a player is not good enough
and then look for another to replace them
rather than develop what you have. Our
potential for growth and improvement in this
Area of Emphasis is immense.
A worst case scenario for British basketball
is if we have out of control point guards and
teams who are turnover prone and are not
creative in their playmaking skills. We must
identify and develop the next generation of
British players.
By not having skilled point guards all teams
performance will be limited at all levels. The
risk is significant to the standard and quality
of British basketball. Improving players’ skill
is paramount and none more so than the
point guard skills. The emergence of the
point guard is crucial for our international
While our British game style needs
improving undoubtedly the role and the skill
level of point guards must be at the
foundation level. If we want to develop a
world class development system to improve
our international competiveness then the
test of development will be the emergence
of point guards in the next six years.
What Are The Major
Technical Points?
A Point Guard is the one who makes
their teammates better.
For most high performance coaches the
point guard is a specialist position in a late
specialisation sport. For others it’s a role for
multiple players who have the necessary
skill level and temperament to share the
position. Irrespective of whether the role is a
specialist or shared there are certain
attributes which are needed in performing
the role.
So who is suited to become a point guard?
The point guard is normally an extrovert
who can smile even in the most pressured
situation. They are confident and very
competitive to an extent that they hate
losing. The true point guard understands
that successful teams are WE more than
ME. They as leaders often have a strong
belief in themselves and their vision or goals
are to be successful. They thrive under
pressure which again earns respect from
teammates and coaches.
There is no doubt that a true quality Point
guard is a player who makes their
teammates better through leadership and
Point Guard Play
Effective Communication As a
Leader Through Engagement Of
Their Team Mates
The role associated with a point guard
requires the respect from teammates.
This is normally earned through time and
trust in the leader. However the point
guard must first and foremost lead
themselves through their own confidence
before leading others.
The role also requires good communication
to solve issues on the court. To do this the
player must be able to successful engage
all their teammates and work with the
coach particularly in pressure situations.
Effective communication comes through
leadership. The point guard is a player
who must be followed. The point guard
must be a team player and ideally a great
teammate the point guard earns respect
from their teammates through a High work
ethic and work rate.
It is a leadership position in the team and
most coaches would identify with the idea
of the role being a leader or second coach
on the court. Players in this position must be
very coachable.
Ability To Drive To Basket To Score
The point guard is often operating off the
dribble in both a full court and a half court
situation so the player must have the ability
to drive to the basket and score against
bigger players and in pressure situations. A
point guard who is not a threat to drive will
have increased defensive pressure placed
on them affecting their vision and ability to
organise the team and deliver the entry
pass. This is core function and attribute of a
successful player in this position. Aligned
with this must be the ability to make free
throws because the drive to the basket will
attract pressure and fouls. The goal is an
ability to shoot no less than 75% from the
free throw line.
Ability To “Shoot The Runner”
Against Tall Defenders
As players progress through the junior then
their senior career there is an increasing
need to shoot ‘The runner’ as an additional
skill. This is because of more defensive
pressure created by taller players around
the basket and limits the route for the
player to drive to score. Therefore the
position needs both the techniques of
driving to score through and past the
defence and the ability to shot on the run
and over the rotating defence before they
get to the driver. The second alternative is
for the development of a consistent mid
range jump shot off a dribble.
Point Guard Play
Vision, Passing and Dribble
Penetration With Pass
The Point Guard Is a Knowledgeable
Student With Strong Mental Skills
While dribbling driving and scoring tend to
be the most easily identified skills, the real
art is a vision of the floor. The ability to
organise the team particularly on offence
and to collectively move the ball through
passing is an important attribute of a good
team. The point guard should be a leader
and benchmark for this passing skill for
the team.
The point guard position requires special
mental attributes which can be applied
when playing the game. They understand
the game; they understand their team and
the strategy of tempo control as well as
time and score situations. They are more
about WE than ME. However the player in
the role knows when the pressure is on that
an attitude of “if it’s to be it’s up to me” is
The point guard must choose how to pass.
This will ultimately lead to a choice
between jumping to pass and deciding to
land on two feet after penetration in order
to have options to pass. The preference is
to teach and encourage “TWO FEET IN
THE PAINT” (jump/stride stop) technique.
Passing and receiving are crucial in order
to initiate full court and half court game.
Passing and leading for the balls are key
skills to overcome denial defence. They are
skill prerequisites. Technically the player
should be adept at being able to push pass
with either hand, off the dribble.
Tactically if we improve this passing
emphasis, then the Point Guard’s passing
will become more of a focus so that any
team is not wholly dependent on the
dribble to create team offence. The point
guard needs both a good pass and good
dribble as options for decision making
against pressure. Better movement without
the ball will create more space for the
offence to move so the point guard must be
able to lead and get open against the best
pressing defences.
The position’s responsibilities include
knowing the offence (offence principles)
including the counters and knowing what
the best play to run is and when to run it.
They must understand and recognise
mismatches and be able to get the ball to
that player or to who’s got the hot hand.
Additionally recognising who hasn't been
involved in the offence or who's in foul
trouble for the opposition are tactical
aspects requiring thought. Finally
recognising how much time is on the clock
and knowing the time and score are
mandatory for the player filling the role.
They know their teammates and their
opponents’ weaknesses and strengths and
are able to improvise.
Young players often try to be scorers and
neglect the aspect of bringing other
players into the game, they neglect the art
of passing and the other attributes which
help define and discern the point guard
role from other positions. Disappointingly
many young players believe the only way
to get noticed is to score points and
develop both single vision and a degree of
selfishness. The true point guard displays
strong mental attributes through
preparedness not be motivated by scoring
first and foremost for them self.
Point Guard Play
Attitude. The point guard must have strong
team commitment and a strong will to
achieve through leadership and all round
team skills. They are very alert and thinking
Ability To Make The Three Point
Shot Consistently
At the junior level as a player progresses
from U12’s to U14’s and U16’s the
opportunity to drive and score starts to
lessen. From the U16’s to 18's into senior
levels the size of players and the amount of
space to play in limit the opportunities
experienced in earlier age groups. Team
and individual defence becomes more of a
priority which creates more pressure
especially on the point guard, as teams
base their game on defence as they start
matching up more effectively on individual
players. As a result the drive is taken away
and help is applied where and when it is
most needed often neutralising the drive as
a primary option.
The point guard role traditionally concerns
itself with spacing on the perimeter and
often above the three point line. So when
the pass is made from the ball side to back
on top or reversed as part of norm good
team offence the opportunity and the
ability of the point guard to take and
make the 3 point shot becomes critical for
team scoring.
Defence will play off a point guard and
play them for the drive and will play off the
point guard if they know the point guard
will not take or make the 3 point shot. The
point guard must be able to capitalise on
this strategy. Often this maybe simply a set
3 point shot at the junior level but more
pressured with less time at senior level.
Juniors at U14’s U16’s must be able to take
and make the open 3 point shot when it is
offered. Players at the U18’s youth and
senior levels who play the point guard
position must be proficient with the 3 point
shot. The point guard certainly can't be an
offensive liability and should be capable of
shooting 35% from the three point line.
A Very Good Defender and a
Defensive Rebounder
Firstly the point guard must be able to
contain the opposition dribbler and
increase the level of ON-Ball pressure
particularly the ability to deny the
opposition point guard in the last 10
seconds. Secondly they must be able to get
OVER the ON-Ball screen and they must
generally have the ability to be disruptive
on defence.
The player must have very good physical
fitness and the ability to repeated play
pressure full court man to man defence.
Finally they should be a defensive
rebounder because their point guard
matchup will be converting to defensive
transition and will not offensively rebound.
Therefore the opportunity exists to be a
free or roaming rebounder for our teams.
All point guards have opportunity to
become a good rebounder irrespective of
size. Our British teams will need all five
players playing team defence and on the
Point Guard Play
An Exceptional Ball Handler Who Is
The Master Of The Dribble
The consummate point guard should be a
master of the “speed dribble”, the “control
dribble” “retreat dribble”, the various
“crossover dribbles”, full court moves on
moves (at speed crossovers)and counter
moves in the one on one situation with
each hand. These are essential. A point
guard by the time they graduate the junior
levels of competition should master these
dribble techniques.
Using exceptional dribbling technique and
control the player should be the master of
the pick and roll particularly at the youth
and senior level. The point guard at U16’s
and U18’s level should be able to split the
defenders or turn the corner in the on ball
The player needs to be able to dribble the
ball effectively with each hand; this
requires an extra amount of deliberate
practice to strengthen the non dominant
hand when dribbling. Equally point guards
are required to make a series of
combination moves with each hand. They
must ensure they handle the ball without
error. As players progress through the age
groups they will make errors in the pursuit
of improvement, Coaches should support
the player in a positive manner at all times
to aid their development as a point guard.
They seek perfection but are not perfect.
The very good point guard will be able to
beat their man off the dribble. In modern
basketball a point guard cannot create
anything for others if they can’t create for
themselves. The dribble is a key tool for the
point guard.
How Can We Make The
Biggest Improvements?
Define The Attributes We Seek In Our
Point Guards
Strong mental characteristics; A point
guard will be more likely to be extrovert
than introvert. The best point guards have a
degree of extrovert about them.
Undoubtedly their character and mental
skills are very important. They need to
enjoy the challenge and understand that
basketball is a game of mistakes and
success. Our British point guard will never
be able to have success if they are scared
of making mistakes. So confidence,
resilience and determination are
characteristics that sit above technical
ability in our search for very good point
• Specific technical and tactical attributes
– Effective communicator through
engagement of teammates as a
– Ability to drive to basket to score
– Ability to shoot or develop the runner
against tall defenders
– Good Vision and passing including
dribble penetration with kick
– Will take and make (desire to
improve) the three consistently
(cannot be an offensive liability)
– A very good defender and a
defensive rebounder
– An exceptional ball handler (master
of the dribble)
Point Guard Play
Use These Attributes As The Basis For
Identification and Development Of
Point Guards
These previously listed attributes are the
work plan for skill development over time.
Mastery of the skills and attributes are
important for development. Through paying
closer attention to the role and attributes of
point guards we will more likely to identify
and developing world class players who
can compete with the best in the world.
Coaches Must Be Prepared To
Develop The Point Guards
The development of Point guards should be
debated and compared at all levels.
Whether it is closest to nature rather than
nurture debate, or science more than art
should not stop us from developing
strategies and programmes to better coach
and develop point guards.
The fact is that the skills are learned and
refined and developed over a long term
period. Confidence and technical ability
are the first stages but what we are
concerned with is the development of
effective point guards in the longer term.
This will take time and will take diligence
from coaches in identifying talent. Some
researches would say a ten year or ten
thousand hours of practice is the formula
for the development of an expert point
It takes time to master the skills required. It’s
at least a ten year quest (or 10000 hrs) for
competency. It is not one year or one
season that a player emerges or acquires
the ability and skills. Any potential point
guard will be required to have the ball in
the hands far more often than just at team
trainings and probably more than any
other player in the squad. Players wanting
to be the best at a young age will need to
have the ball in their hands often. This
should be encouraged through highlighting
the need and secondly prescribing
challenging ball handling, dribbling
activities and continual opportunities for
one on one play that all challenge young
players to improve their competency.
Our job as a coach is to make the point
guard better at each and every step along
the pathway. Helping them become the
“Master of 8 seconds of offence” that are
required to advance the ball out of the
backcourt against all pressure defences.
Clear Understanding Of
Offensive Capability
Technically the Point guard must be able to
beat their man off the dribble. They should
develop their passing skills and be able to
understand when and where to pass in a
game situation. Additionally they must give
up the ball through making the easy pass
to involve other players. At times they will
need the technical ability and mental
ability to hold the ball and control the
tempo for the team. They should be
capable of making the open shot so they
must be developed and practice as
perimeter shooters. They must develop their
range to the three point line and not just be
dribble dependent offensive players. The
coach plays a major role in creating this
training and learning environment. Good
communication, breakdown drills and
effective coaching is what is required to
develop very good point guards.
Tactically the point guard should know
what and how the coach is thinking or
Point Guard Play
planning to win the game. Identifying the
type of game style and type of offence
required specifically against this opposition
i.e. any plays that are of particular interest
to the coach and any mismatches that are
likely. They need to have a clear
understanding of this game plan. Coaches
need to nurture this knowledge and select
situations that will encourage this dialogue
between the player and coach e.g.
Pregame individual meetings and
numerous discussions at training during
preparation should occur.
The coach can also develop the player by
asking them questions after a game or at
the next training session debrief. Discussion
points like time remaining and knowing
HOW MANY TIMEOUTS are available in
tight situations are points for review and
understanding. Discussion through review
will help the Point Guard when they are
next on the court.
At training scrimmage scenarios should be
constantly assessed for decision making
and execution. The Point guard will
become a major focus for review with the
intention of developing the player. The use
of vision or performance analysis away
from the session will also aid development
especially when shared in a positive
manner with the coach.
Inclusiveness of the point guard regarding
tactical aspects through constant
consultation will also help develop the
point guard knowledge and
understanding. Conversely the point guard
should be engaging the coach in
conversation for the same reasons.
As a leader the point guard should be
gathering players into huddles to reinforce
what is needed and constantly interacting
with teammates. As coaches we may have
to highlight and encourage this imitative by
the point guard with the other players.
Clear Understanding Of Defensive
Technically the point guard cannot just be
a player who contributes mainly on
offence. As a minimum an average point
guard should be able to hold their own as
a defender. However a good point guard
must be a specialist in creating pressure on
the opponent and take away their
opponents’ penetration. This is the “natural
match up” for any game point guard,
playing another skilful and quick player.
The point guard should be expected to
scout the opposition point guards skill level,
their weaknesses and preferences.
Coaches should ensure the point guard
works diligently on defense at all times and
that they do not limit their impact through
not applying themselves on defense. Using
substitutions in a game will help maintain
quality rather than playing the best player
all the time and tolerating poor defence.
Tactically with offence, they should be
made aware of the game plan and
requirements defensively against each and
all opposition.
Good communication will help facilitate
the necessary understanding to be a key
decision maker during any game.
Point Guard Play
Here’s What Coaches Are
Recommendations For The
National System
“Great point guards are great passers of
the ball .They have great vision and see
what is happening on the floor.”
• Coaches and selectors should
understand the characteristics, attributes
and skills required for the position when
selecting national or development
Chris Finch, 2012 GB Men’s coach
“The point guard is the expert passer and
ball handler who can drive to the basket,
shoot the runner against bigger defenders
and can make the three when needed.
Defensively they can stop the other point
guard full court and will rebound as the free
player on the boards. Give me that
technical ability and I am a happy coach.
Give me that as well as a smart point guard
and I become a very good coach!”
Tom Maher, 2012 GB Women’s coach
“Every team if it wants to be successful must
have talented players .Every successful
team must have key roles or positions filled
including a solid bench who know their
role. However every championship winning
team relies on a great point guard.“
Warwick Cann, British Basketball
National Teams Director
“In modern basketball you cannot create
anything for others if you can´t create for
yourself. A point guard must be able to
create for themselves and others.”
Henrik Dettmann Finland Men’s Head
• Encourage all players in the
development and performance
pathway to do individual practice with
ball handling and dribbling specifically
so the set about becoming a master of
the dribble.
• Coach and teach the point guard craft
to all prospective lead guards in all
representative level teams starting with
the regional teams. Give feedback
about the point guard attributes and the
player’s performance.
• Ensure all prospective point guards do
not over dribble or over drive for
scoring options. Therefore we should
ensure they are encouraged to take the
open three point shot at all age levels
and in all point guard type situation.
• Ensure we coach and develop passing
with either hand, off the dribble with
either hand.
• Drill and coach good decision making
and skill in the full court particularly the
key the fast break principle of driving
lane / passing lane.
Point Guard Play
• Coach Understanding especially the
W’s in both half and full court
– Who to get the ball to
– When to get it to them
– Where do they need to receive it
• Educate our point guards and assist
their understanding tempo control and
how to close out a game. Highlight it I
scrimmages and breakdown games.
Use vision analysis at training.
• Educate them on when to push the ball.
Knowing when to not push the ball and
instead running your best set to your
best players.
• Use time and score scenarios or scoring
runs against us to coach the control
phase after always after two bad
possessions in a row, Use vision and
circumstances in games or training to
highlight the situation.
• Coach the pick and roll for
understanding so that the point guard’s
read the situation effectively.
Recommendations To Clubs
• Recognise talent and attributes in
players who may become that special
point guard at senior level. Develop
them systematically and don’t restrict
players who are small to playing the
• Use vision analysis to develop point
guards. Show all player but particularly
point guard game tape and vision on
playing, spacing and decision making
and use of various techniques to dribble
pass and shoot.
• Be prepared to invest more time into the
point guard as a student of the game.
The point guard will have a strong belief
in them self so they should be
understood and encouraged avoiding
clashes of will or dismantling of these
prime characteristics.
• Refer to the individual skills master
checklist to ensure all dribble techniques
and offensive and defensive skills are
• The evolution of a player in the point
guard position may be trialled at junior
level and, could be shared role between
players within a game. The potential
players will probably be emerging by
the U16’s level at latest.
Point Guard Play
Recommendations For
• Use breakdown drills and scrimmages
to coach players to see the court and
apply their skills.
• Extend and overload dribbling drills to
ensure progression of dribbling skills
and continually monitor the balance
between over dribbling and effective
ball movement for advantage. Consider
prescribing different dribbling drills for
the point guard. MAKE ALL their BALL
HANDLING DRILLS more challenging.
• Accept errors in techniques in the effort
towards eventual mastery. Encourage
don’t discourage effort. Monitor assist to
turnover ratios as a coaching and
teaching tool only.
• Consider the “use of the dribble”
recommendations. A point guard should
be an expert with the tools of the
dribble but don’t always have to use
them in team offence.
• Prepare our teams and specifically our
point guards to play 16 seconds of
good offence with good decisions not
quick decisions. Set game scenarios
and evaluate for effectiveness.
• Development program coaches should
review all players’ skills and attributes
with the intention of identifying the best
potential for this position. Understand
the desired attributes of the role.
• Players at the U14’s level should give
opportunity to multiple players in the
role or during the game. Players at the
U12’s level should just be developing
skills in all players not roles.
• Ensure decision-making practice in
fastbreak drills by having number
advantages (2v1, 3v2, 4v3, etc.) at the
younger ages U15’s, U16’s ensure that
dribbling and ball handling are
practiced at every session for junior
• Refer to the use passing and receiving
sections to compliment the point guard
area of emphasis.
• Encourage the player to STUDY TAPE of
the great point guards. Have it
• Allow the point guard to make decisions
and then evaluate the outcome of those
Recommendations For
• Give all and many players the
opportunity to play the role of a point
guard especially at the sampling and
early specialising years.
• Commit to a style that encourages team
passing with ball and player movement.
• Commit to a practice routine where
dribbling and passing is always
practised equally.
• Recognise when you have a point
guard who has potential for the next
level. Encourage them to practice daily
while at school.
• Open up courts for daily skills practice.
The emerging great player is in need of
extra training time.
Supported by:
dvantage play: Offensive situations
(individual or team) that benefit the
attacking team.
Back screen: See Screens
Advance step: A step in which the
defender's lead foot steps toward their
man, and her back foot slides forward.
Ball fake: A sudden movement by the
player with the ball intended to cause the
defender to move in one direction,
allowing the passer to pass in another
direction. Also called "pass fake."
Agility: ability to change direct quickly in a
basketball game or drill.
Ball handling (Familiarisation): Feel for
the ball stationary and on the move.
Ancillary Capacitates: The knowledge
and experience base of an athlete and
includes warm up and cool-down
procedures, stretching, nutrition, hydration
rest , recovery, restoration, regeneration,
mental preparation and taper and peak.
Ball quick: Moving the ball from one
position to another while in triple threat
Assist: A pass thrown to a player who
immediately scores.
aby-Hook: A hook shot taken from
close to the basket and shot over the
players own body
Backcourt: The half of the court a team is
defending. The opposite of the frontcourt.
Also used to describe parts of a team:
backcourt = all guards (front court= all
forwards and centres)
Back cut: See cuts, Backdoor cut
Backdoor cut: See cuts
Back on the Rise (Raise): When the
shooter rises on their shot and as the ball is
released, two opposite teammates are
sprinting back to half court in defensive
Backside: see Help side
Ball reversal: Passing the ball from one
side of the court to the other.
Ball screen: See Screens
Ball side: The half of the court (if the court
is split lengthwise) that the ball is on. Also
called the "strong side." The opposite of the
help side.
Ball side defence: Defence in the half
court on the side where the ball. This is
determined by the split line dissecting the
court vertically.
Banana cut: See cuts
Bank shot: A shot that hits the backboard
before going through the net.
Baseball pass: A one-handed pass thrown
over arm from the shoulder like a baseball.
Baseline: The line that marks the playing
boundary at each end of the court. Also
called the "end line."
Baseline drive - a drive (see below) made
close to the attacking end line of the court.
Backside Help: see Help side defence
Basketball Glossary
Baseline out-of-bounds play: The play
used to return the ball to the court from
outside the baseline along the opponent's
Block: (1) A violation in which a defender
steps in front of a dribbler but is still
moving when they collide. Also
called a "blocking foul."
Basket line: A direct imaginary line that
illustrates ball side and back side defence.
(2) To tip or deflect a shooter's shot,
altering its flight so the shot misses.
Basketball IQ: A term acknowledging a
person’s excellent knowledge or ‘feel’ for
the game.
(3) The small painted square on the
floor next to the basket just outside
the lane.
Basketball position: another name for a
general stance of feet shoulder width apart
and posture in a half squat ready to play
defence or the basis of the triple threat
Basket cut (Blast cut): See cuts. A hard
cut to the basket.
Beat to Point: When the dribbler gets his
head and shoulder by his defender, the
defender must pick an angle and sprint to
re-establish good defensive position to get
the dribbler under control.
BEEF (Balance Eyes Elbow Followthrough): an acronym used in teaching
BELIEF (Balance, Eyes, Legs, Index
Finger, Elbow, Follow-through): an
acronym used in teaching shooting.
Biological Age: Is a variable that
corresponds roughly to chronological age,
determined by measures of morphological,
skeletal, dental or sexual age.
Blast cut: See cuts.
Blindside screen: See Back screen.
Block out: To make contact with an
opposing player to establish rebounding
position between the player and the ball.
Also called "box out".
Bounce pass: A pass that is made via the
floor before reaching the receiver.
Box-and-one: A combination defence in
which four defenders play zone in a box
formation, and the fifth defender guards
one player man to- man.
Box out: See block out.
Box set: A formation in which four players
align themselves as the four corners of a
box. Often used for baseline out-of-bounds
Bump & Under: defending cross-screen
action, “lock-in” to the cutter, take the cutter
to the screen and “release” and go under
the screen and meet the cutter
Bump the cutter: To step in the way of a
cutter who is trying to cut to the ball for a
Buttonhook: to move in one direction, turn
sharply and double back. Normally a Post
Up move.
Buying Time: One defender playing two
offensive players by “stunting until a
teammate can recover to his man.
Basketball Glossary
atch: the act of receiving the ball from
a pass
Catch and Face: Where a player on
receipt of a pass turns fully to the basket so
that their face and shoulders point squarely
at the basket. Facing the basket in a triple
threat position.
Centre: (1) The position in which a player,
usually the tallest player on the
team, stays near the basket.
(2) The player who plays that
Centre circle: The painted circle at
midcourt used for the opening jump ball.
Charge: (1) A violation when a player
with the ball runs into a defender
who is standing still. Also called a
"charging foul."
(2) To commit that violation.
Chest pass: An air pass thrown from the
passer's chest to a teammate's chest. It can
be a one-handed or two-handed pass.
Chin the ball: To hold the ball with both
hands under the chin, elbows out, to
protect the ball.
'Choke it off' - taking away passing
options in transition defence /defensive
Chronological Age: The actual numbers
of years and days since birth.
Circle the Post: the post defender
constantly changing post position.
Close (ing) out: A defensive technique
where a defender sprints to guard a player
who has just received a pass to contain the
dribbler or challenge the shot. This
happens when the defender gives help and
now is rotating to the open shooter.
Combination defence: A defence that is
part man-to-man and part zone. Also
called a "junk defence."
Concept/s: the thinking framework of a
relevant body of knowledge
Conditioned: Where a drill or task has
particular elements removed or added to
focus on a particular aspect, e.g. no
dribble or within a fixed time etc
Constrained: As for the meaning of
Contain (ment): the act of slowing and
stopping the ball from moving through a
dribble or pass to an intended area on the
court. Staying in front of the dribbler,
getting the ball handler under control.
Containing the dribbler: Slowing and/
or stopping the dribbler from getting past
the defender
Contest: No easy passes or shots, hand
up, always challenging.
Continuity offence: A sequence of player
and ball movement that repeats until a
good shot is created.
Control dribble: A dribble manoeuvre in
which the player keeps their body between
the defender's body and the ball.
Clear-Out Play: A set play designed to
clear an area of the court of all offensive
players without the ball so the player with
the ball can play 1-on-1.
Basketball Glossary
Corral the Dribbler: Nearest defender in
the middle of the floor is in position and
directing the defender on the dribbler. They
are in a containment mode.
Cross screen: A movement in which a
player cuts across the lane to screen for a
Corral Stance: The on –ball defender’s
body position is influencing the dribbler to
above the elbow area.
Curl pass: A low, one-handed pass made
by stepping around the defender's leg and
extending the throwing arm. Also called a
"hook pass."
Crossover dribble: A dribble manoeuvre
in which a player dribbles the ball so they
can change the ball from one hand to
the other.
Curl: see cuts
Cut: A sudden running movement to get
open for a pass.
Types of Cuts:
Backdoor Cut: An offensive play in which a
player on the perimeter steps away from the
basket, drawing the defender with them, and
suddenly cuts to the basket behind the
defender for a pass. The opposite of an I-cut.
Banana Cut: A wide, curving cut, as opposed
to a cut that is a straight line.
Basketball Glossary
Basket Cut (Blast Cut): A hard cut toward the
Curl Cut: A cut that takes the player around a
screen toward the basket.
Flare Cut or Fade Cut: A cut that takes the
player away from the ball. For example after
using a baseline screen or on the defenders
help (like shown in the graphic.
Basketball Glossary
Flash Cut: A cut that takes the player from the
lowpost to the highpost, or in the middle of the
paint from behind the defence (mostly used to
describe a cut against a zone).
Flex Cut: A cut from the weak side corner to
the ball side lowpost, using a screen at the
weakside lowpost.
I-cut: An offensive play in which a player on
the perimeter steps toward the basket,
drawing the defender with them, and
suddenly cuts to the perimeter for a pass. The
opposite of a backdoor cut.
Basketball Glossary
Popout Cut: A cut taken around a screen
straight to the ball.
Shuffle Cut: A cut that takes a player around
a screen on the Highpost to the basket.
Shallow Cut: A cut from the top of the key to
the ballside corner.
Basketball Glossary
UCLA Cut: A cut that takes the player from the
top of the key to the Lowpost over a screen at
the highpost.
V-cut (or L-Cut when 90° angle): e.g. the
player starts at the Lowpost and cuts to the
high post, initiates contact with the defender
and then cuts to the wing. It can also be
executed from the wing; in this case the player
cuts to the Lowpost and comes back out.
Basketball Glossary
ead: Defensive call when defending
an offensive player who has used
their dribble.
Developmental Age: Refers to the degree
of physical, mental, cognitive and
emotional maturity.
Deep catch: catch of the basketball In the
keyway close to the basket.
Diamond-and-one: A combination
defence in which four defenders play zone
in a diamond formation and the fifth
defender guards a specific offensive player
Deep corner: Position on court close to
end line to take deep catch.
Defensive rebound: A rebound made off
a missed shot at the basket a team is
Diamond Press: A full-court press with a
1-2-1-1 formation.
Defensive slide: The quick "step-slide"
movement a defender makes when closely
guarding the dribbler.
Dig hand: Generally the inside hand
(closest to the split line) of an on ball
defender defending a dribbler
Defensive stance: The stance used to play
defence-knees bent, feet wide, arms out,
Dig out in Post: Perimeter defender drops
to help, then challenges the post player’s
dribble in the lane.
Defensive stop: Gaining possession of the
ball before the offensive team scores.
Dishing: A slang term for passing the ball
to a player open for a shot; usually after
dribble penetration.
Defensive transition: When the team on
offence suddenly gives up possession of
the ball and has to convert from offence to
Deflections: getting a hand or finger tips
to a pass to change the flight of the ball
Delay offence: An offence used to take
more time with each possession.
Denial defence: A defence in which a
defender tries to prevent their man from
receiving a pass.
Denial stance (position): The stance used
to play denial defence-body low, knees
bent, hand and foot in the passing lane.
Deny the ball: To use a denial stance to
keep the offensive player from receiving a
Distort (the Zone): Offence team tactic to
change the shape of zone
Dog: early pickup of the dribble (ball) in
teams back court.
Dominant and non dominant: Mainly
used to explain which hand a player uses
in a drill i.e. Right Hand is a right handed
persons dominant hand.
Double down: To drop from the perimeter,
leaving your man or zone, to double-team
a low post player.
Double low stack: When two offensive
players set up at one of the blocks to run a
Double screen: See Screens.
Double-teaming: A defence in which two
defenders guard the same offensive player
at the same time.
Basketball Glossary
Down screen: See Screens
Dribble: (1) To advance the ball by
bouncing it on the floor.
(2) The bounce of the ball caused
by a player pushing the ball
Dribble drive kick: The short abbreviated
meaning for the game style of dribbling to
beat the defence through driving to the
basket to then force the defence to rotate
before passing the ball to a receiver who
is open.
Dribble entries: The art of dribbling the
ball to start an offence instead of passing.
Used when a pass is not possible to a
player in a continuity play.
Dribble exits: dribbling the ball away
from the baseline. normally occurs against
a zone defence to open up the baseline bit
can be used as a term when taking the ball
away from an intended play.
Dribble penetration: When a dribbler is
able to drive into the lane; she "penetrates"
the defence.
Drive: To attack the basket by dribbling
hard at it.
Driving lane /passing lane: the concept
to help decision making by a player on
offence who is faced with a defender
ahead of him/her. If no player in front
drive all the way to basket, if player comes
in front then pass the ball. Timing is
Drop step: A low post move when an
offensive player with her back to the
basket swings one leg around the defender
and uses it as a pivot foot to gain inside
Drops: A method of defending ON-Ball
lbow: The corner made by the
intersection of the free throw line and
the lane line. Each lane area has two
Elbow lock: Straightening the elbow joint
from the bent position when shooting the
Elbow lift; lifting the elbow as part of the
shooting technique
End line: See baseline.
Entry: Beginning of a play. Can be used
for Continuous-, Set- and Special plays.
Basketball Glossary
Most Popular Entries:
Zipper Cut
Diamond or Baseline Exit
Basketball Glossary
Wing Exchange
Exchange: Where players swap positions
on offensive in the front court
Fan the ball: When the defence forces the
ball toward the sideline.
Euro step (move): an individual offensive
move similar to a strong side step but has
the ball thrown to the floor earlier to avoid
travelling violations.
Fake: movement made with the aim of
deceiving an opponent. Can be ‘Head
Fake’ in shooting, ‘Pass Fake’ (Fake a pass
to make a pass) or any deceptive move.
Fake screen: the intention to trick the
defence into thinking a screen will be set.
ace up: See Square up.
Face Guard: block out facing opponent
Fade cut: See cuts.
Fake: a movement made with the aim of
deceiving an opponent.
Fast break: A play in which a team gains
possession of the ball (through a defensive
rebound, steal, or made shot) and then
pushes the ball toward the other basket as
fast as possible, hoping to catch the other
team off guard and score an easy shot.
Basketball Glossary
Fast break lanes: sections of the court i.e.
the right lane, the middle lane, and the
left lane.
Feed: to pass the ball to a teammate,
normally used in ‘Feed the Post’
Feeder: Player who makes the pass
Foot fakes: Quick step fakes by offensive
players. The defensive player takes these
fakes by creating space with the back foot
to allow proper reaction.
Force Down: Push the dribbler to baseline.
Fill behind: Offensive player fills behind
when the ball has been driven baseline
Forward: A position usually played by a
tall, athletic player. A "small forward" or a
"3" plays on the wing, and a power
forward or a "4" plays in the high or low
post area.
Filling the lanes: A fast break in which
players from the offensive team run up the
court in the right lane, the middle lane, and
the left lane.
Forward pivot: the footwork that a player
uses when the pivot foot anchors a forward
movement where the player’s chest turns to
face the basket or the ball.
Fire: early trap before the screen is set on
pick and roll coverage.
Foul: A violation of the rules.
Field goal: A 2-or 3-point basket.
Flare cut: See cuts.
Flare Screen: See Screens
Flash: See cuts.
Flat show: a method of defending
ON-Ball screens.
Flat Triangle: the positioning of a
defender who is marking a player
without the ball. The three points being
the ball; the offensive player and the
defender. Also referred to as ball -you –
man relationship when defending a player
without the ball.
Flex cut: See cuts.
Flex offence: A popular continuity offense
that utilises the flex cut and downs screens.
Flexibility: The range of motion of a joint.
Floater: A high arching shot over
defenders also called a "tear drop."
Follow through: the wrist action at the
end of the shot."
Foul line: See free throw line.
Foul shot: See free throw.
Foul trouble: (1) Player foul trouble occurs
when a player accumulates
three or four fouls and is in
danger of fouling out.
(2) Team foul trouble occurs
when a team accumulates
seven or more team fouls in
a half and is "in the bonus."
Free throw: An uncontested shot taken
from the free throw line as a result of a foul.
Also called a "foul shot." A successful
(made) free throw is worth 1 point.
Free throw line: The line a player stands
behind to shoot a free throw. Also called
the "foul line."
Free throw line extended: An imaginary
line extending from one end of the free
throw line to the sidelines.
Freelance: an unstructured type of offence
where players take advantage of whatever
offensive opportunities arise.
Basketball Glossary
Freeze dribble: A dribble which
momentarily pauses the defender
Front: To guard a player by standing
directly in front of him/ her and therefore
between him/ her and the ball.
Front cut (Face Cut): Cutting in front of the
defenders face towards the ball or basket.
Frontcourt: A team's offensive half of the
court. The opposite of the backcourt. Also
used to describe parts of a team: front
court = all forwards and centres (backcourt
= all guards)
Fronting the Post - guarding through
denial the post player in close, from
receiving the ball in the post area. Types of
Fronting are ’Side Front’ (basket side or
high side) ‘Fully Front’ and ‘Toes In’. N.B.
playing behind the post is the ‘Non Denial’
Full-court press: A man-to-man or zone
defence in which the players guard the
other team in the frontcourt. Also called a
Funnel the ball: When the defence forces
the ball toward the middle.
Good looks: the opportunities that a
player has to maybe shoot or pass the ball
to a player who is in a better position.
Guard: (1) A position on the perimeter.
The point guard or "1" brings the
ball up the court and begins the
offence. The shooting guard or "2"
is usually the teams best outside
(2) To defend an offensive player
Guide hand: The shooter's non-shooting
hand. See also shooting hand.
alf-court line: The line at the centre
of the court parallel to the sidelines
that divides the court in half. Also called
the "midcourt line."
Hallo: the movement of hands on defence
around the defenders head in anticipation
of a pass past the defenders ears
Hand-check: To make hand contact with a
dribbler while guarding them.
Handler: Player dribbling the ball.
F.U.S.D.: Fake up, stay down, close-out
Hand in the lane: an off ball defensive
denial position where the defenders hand
is in the likely passing lane to the player
Hand off: A pass to a player cutting
towards the ball where the cutter takes the
ball out of the passers hands.
ive-and-go: An offensive play in
which the player with the ball passes
(gives) to a teammate and cuts (goes) to
the basket to receive a return pass. One of
the game's basic plays.
General Training Age: Refers to the
number of years in training, sampling
different sports.
Goaltending: A violation in which a
defender touches a shot as it nears the
basket in a downward flight.
Hand pressure (on defence): the ability
to generate pressure with the use of the
hands (delaying the offence or working
towards a steal) on the offence
Hands up: keeping players hands up in
the air to be ready to rebound, defend or
Hard show: A method of defending ONBall screens.
Basketball Glossary
Head in the lane: when denying a pass
to a player the defender stands in the
passing lane with their head directly in the
passing lane.
Hedge: In a pick-and-roll, when the
screener's defender steps into the path of
the dribbler so the dribbler has to hesitate,
giving their defender time to get around
the screen.
Help: When a defensive player moves to
help another defensive player to stop
penetration or challenge a shot.
Help and recover: A defensive move in
which a defender leaves her assigned
player to guard a teammate's assigned
player and then goes back to guard their
own player.
Help side: The half of the court (if the court
is divided lengthwise) that the ball in not
on. Also called the "weak side" or
”backside” The opposite of the ball side.
High post: The area around the free throw
Hit: aggressive double team on the
dribbler both in the front court and
Hook shot: A one-handed shot taken with
a sweeping, windmill motion.
nbound: To pass the ball to a teammate
on the court from out-of-bounds.
In-bounder: The player who inbounds the
Inside-out dribble: An advanced
dribbling move, a fake crossover dribble.
Inverted: Regardless of defensive position,
keep “Bigs” guarding basket area and
‘Smalls” out on the perimeter.
Help side defence: the side of the tem
defence on the opposite side to where the
ball is. Players in this position are help
defenders to the person marking the ball
Investment Stage: The stage or phase of
a player or coaches involvement with
basketball where they decide to spend a
greater amount of time in the pursuit of
becoming the best they can become Can
occur at any time but normally is occurs
around 17 to 23 years of age for a player
and at any age for a coach.
Help-side stance: The stance used to
guard a help-side offensive player. See
also pistol stance.
Isolation play: An offensive play
designed to have a specific player attack
the basket 1-on-1. Also called "iso play."
Help the Helper: The secondary help
defender gives support and “stunts up” to
contain the offensive player of the primary
help defender until they can recover back.
Hesitation dribble: A dribble manoeuvre
in which the dribbler hesitates, pretending
to pick up their dribble, but suddenly
continues to the basket. Also called a "stopand-go dribble."
Jab step: A short (6 to 8 inches) out-andback step by an offensive player to see
how the defender reacts.
High hand: where the players shooting
hand finishes as high as possible in their
shooting action.
ab-and-cross: A play in which the
offensive player makes a jab step in
one direction and then follows it by driving
by the defender in that direction.
Jam Point: Forcing the outlet receiver to
go back for the ball.
Jam the outlet: On rebounds the nearest
player pressures outlet pass to delay
Basketball Glossary
Jam the cutter: When a defender steps in
the way of a cutter to prevent them from
cutting to the ball.
Jump ball: A procedure used to begin a
game. The referee tosses up the ball in the
centre circle between two opposing
players, who jump up and try to tip it to a
teammate. Also called the "opening tip."
Jump hook: A variation of the traditional
hook shot in which the shooter takes the
shot with both feet in the air.
Jump shot: A shot in which the shooter
faces the basket and releases the ball after
jumping into the air.
Jump stop: The action of coming to a
complete stop, legs apart and knees bent,
when dribbling or running; can be a onefoot or two-foot jump stop.
Jump to the ball: When a defender, after
her man passes the ball, changing to a
denial position so their man can't cut
between her and the ball.
Junk defence: See combination defence.
eeping hand high (shooting): when
shooting the basketball ensuring that
the shooters hand is held high as possible
to encourage a better arc in the flight of
the ball once its shot.
Kick ahead pass: Passing the ball to a
player ahead on the break.
Kick-back pass: A pass back or behind to
a perimeter player after dribble
penetration from on ON-Ball screen.
K.B.I.F.: Keep Ball In Front
Knock Off (Bump Off or Bump): A big
defender bumping out a small defender on
perimeter after a Big/Little Mismatch
inside. Also used as a principle in Zone D.
ane: The rectangular painted area
between the baseline, the lane lines,
and the free throw line. Also called the
Lane line extended: An imaginary line
from the junction baseline and lane line to
the same junction on the other half of the
court. (Used to describe a proper spacing
in a four out offence). Sometimes called a
Layup: A shot taken next to the basket in
which the shooter extends their arm, lifts
their same-side knee, and aims the ball at
the upper corner of the painted square on
the backboard.
Lead Pass: A pass thrown ahead of the
intended receiver so that they can catch
the ball on the move and maintain their
Leading for the Ball: The movement of a
receiver, when getting open away from a
defender to receive the ball, in an
appropriate attacking position on the court.
Can be from a man ahead or L cuts, V cuts
Level of Ball: In transition, all defensive
players must get below the ball in order to
be in the “Corral Position”.
Line: Imaginary line drawn between the
offensive player you are guarding and the
Line of shot: The line of sight between
releases of the ball from a players shooting
stance to the basket
Line of sight (shooting): The line for the
shooters vision from the players shooting
stance to the ring
Load to the Ball: All help defenders are in
position on the strong side and forming a
defensive wall.
Basketball Glossary
Lob pass: A pass that is passed in an arc
in the air over a defender
Long close outs: Closing out to an offence
player from a relatively longer way away.
(The player normally has time to set for the
perimeter shot
Long Show (by the screen defender in
a pick and roll situation): Where the
screen defender hedges or helps
aggressively out wide in the dribblers lane
away from the screener.
Motion Offence: a style of attacking play
with no predetermined order of movement
of players or the ball. The attack is based
upon constant movement of all five players.
Players look to use basic individual and
team plays to take advantage of defensive
errors. Some order may be given to the
movements by the Coach introducing rules
of action, for example every time a pass is
made the passer looks to cut to the basket
or set a screen away from the ball.
Loose-ball foul: A foul committed when
neither team has possession of the ball.
Moving pick: A violation that happens
when a screener leans or moves after
setting a screen.
Low post: The area on one side of the
basket around the block.
Muscle Memory (Movement Patterns):
The learning of an appropriate sequence.
an ahead: A principle of advancing
the ball to a teammate in an
advanced position on court.
Man offence: See man-to-man offence.
Man-to-man defence: A team defence in
which each defender guards a specific
player or man. Also called "player-toplayer defence."
Man-to-man offence: A team offence
used against man-to-man defence. Also
called "man offence."
Midcourt: Area on court between the
Midcourt line: See half-court line.
Middle on ball (screen): a screen on the
ball set in the middle of the court above the
free throw line
Mirror the ball: To follow the movement of
the ball with your hands when closely
guarding a player who is pivoting.
eurological Fitness: Movement
pattern repetition within the brain.
Non-shooting foul: A foul committed
against a player who is not in the act of
FF-Ball screen: See Screens
Offensive rebound: A rebound at
the basket a team is attacking.
Offensive transition: When the team on
defence suddenly gives up possession of
the ball and has to convert from defence to
On-Ball defence: Defence that occurs
when a defender guards the player with
the ball.
On-Ball screen: See Screens
ONE and DONE: Restricting the
opposition to one shot only per possession.
That is playing effective team defence with
good block out of offensive rebounders.
No second shot opportunities.
Basketball Glossary
One-and-one: Free throws awarded to a
team once its opponent has committed
seven personal fouls. If the shooter's first
free throw is successful, they shoot a
second free throw.
aint: See lane.
Palming: See carrying the ball.
Pass fake: See ball fake.
One-Guard Offence: A team offence
used against zones with two-guard fronts
(2-3 and 2-1-2 zones).
Passing game: A Motion Offence with the
emphasis on passing the ball with little or
no use of the dribble.
One pass away: The number of passes
(distance) a player is away from the ball.
Passing lane: An imaginary line from the
player with the ball to a teammate. If a
defender is in the way, the passing lane is
Open stance: The stance used to play
help-side defence-feet apart, body
balanced, knees bent, and arms out.
Options: Alternative attacking manoeuvres
that can occur in a game situation.
Out of Bounds: the area outside the legal
playing court, i.e. on or outside the
boundary lines of the court. N.B. SOB =
Sideline Out of Bounds; BOB = Baseline
Out of Bounds are important in offensive
and defensive team play.
Outlet: (1) To pass the ball after a
defensive rebound to start the fast
(2) The player who stays in the
backcourt to receive an outlet
Outlet pass: An overhead pass thrown by
a defender that starts the fast break.
Over Dribble: Where a player continues
to dribble without a purpose.
Overhead pass: A two-handed pass
thrown from above the player's head.
Overload: Outnumbering the defence.
Mainly used as a Zone Offence term.
Overtime: A 5-minute extra period played
when the game is tied at the end of
regulation play.
Passing technique: Power and accuracy
in passing comes from the players’ stance,
hand positioning and the stepping/pivoting
to pass culminating with a wrist rotation
and snap.
Penetrate: Attacking the basket with a
pass or a dribble
Personal foul: A penalty assessed on a
player who commits an illegal action.
Periodisation: Time management applied
to training; used to optimise child’s
improvement by providing a logical
training schedule that respects each stage
of development.
Physical components: See screen.
Physical fitness: See screen.
Physical literacy: The mastering of
fundamental motor skills and / or
fundamental sport skills (agility balance,
co-ordination or run, throw, jump etc).
Pick: See screen.
Pick-and-roll: A two-person play in which
on offensive player sets a screen (pick) on
the ball handler's defender and cuts (rolls)
to the basket after the ball handler drives
by the screen. Also know as a "screen and
Basketball Glossary
Pistol stance: When a help-side defender
is guarding their man, they point one hand
at their man and one hand at the ball (as if
they're holding a pistol).
Pivot: The action when the player with the
ball spins on one foot and steps with their
other foot to protect the ball from a
Pivot foot: The foot that the offensive
player spins on while pivoting.
Play/s: a term used to describe a series of
movements of players and/or the ball on
court, mainly used for attacking
Playmaker: A player who is adept at
setting up situations that enable team-mates
to have scoring opportunities. See also
Player-control foul: A non-shooting
offensive foul.
Player screen: See OFF-Ball screen.
Player-to-player defence: See man-toman defence.
Pocket (ball in the): Position of the ball in
when player is in stance on offence (in
triple threat) holds the ball on their hip or
on their pocket.
Pocket to pocket: Action of ball being
moved from one side of body to other
whilst in stance on offence. From one
pocket to the other side pocket
Point guard: (1) A position played by a
team's primary ball handler,
the player who brings the ball
up the court and begins the
offence. Also called the "1."
Pop out cut: See cuts.
Post: (1) A player who plays in and
around the lane area. A centre or
forward (a "4" or a "5").
(2) An area of the court, as in the
low post or the high post.
Post dribble: A dribble by the player
playing the post position.
Post entry (pass): A pass to teammate in
the post area
Post moves: Back-to-the-basket scoring
moves made by players near the basket.
Post-up (cut): (1) An offensive move in
which an offensive player
(usually a forward or a
centre) positions themselves
close to the basket with their
back toward the basket and
the defender behind them so
the offensive player can
receive a pass.
(2) To make that move.
Post trace: Post player moves from one
block and looks to seal at the opposite
Post Triangle: The relationship and
spacing by three players to pass and
receive the ball in the post position. i.e. Post
and two passers
Power: A combination of speed and
strength and ability to exert quickly.
Power dribble: A. strong dribble
(normally only one) by the post player in
the keyway.
(2) The player who plays
that position.
Basketball Glossary
Power forward: (1) A position played by
the larger of the
forwards on the floor,
usually a good scorer
and rebounder. Also
called the "4."
(2) The player who plays
that position.
Power layup: A two-footed layup.
Press(ing): A defensive attempt to force
the opposing team into making some kind
of error and thus lose possession of the
ball. It is accomplished usually by
aggressive defence, double teaming (see
above) or harassing the ball handler with
attempts to tie-up the ball. The press can be
applied full court, half court or any other
fractional part of the playing area and can
be based on either man-to-man or zone
(see below) principles. Can be used to
describe the amount of pressure (press) on
the ball in a man to man context.
Press break(er): A team offence used
against a press defence. Also called "press
Press offence: See press break.
Pressure man-to-man defence:
Aggressive defence where defenders stay
between their man and the ball.
Principle/s; the knowledge of some
associated actions combined as a group in
order to give meaning and understanding.
Primary break: A fast break that involves
only a few players from each team.
Pump fake: See shot fake.
Push pass: A one-handed air pass.
ead and react: Half court offence
based on assessing what the defence
is doing
Ready position: the general position
given to beginners and juniors to get ready
to play basketball offence or defence. A
general teaching position and stance
technique for beginners to introduce them
to the triple threat position
Ready stance: The balanced position from
which a player is ready to run, jump, slide,
or pivot. Their knees are bent, feet are
beyond shoulder width facing ahead,
hands are up and out, back is straight, and
head is up.
Rebound: (1) A missed shot that comes off
the backboard or rim.
(2) To fight for and gain control
of a missed shot that comes off
the backboard or rim.
Rebound triangle - a term used to
describe the positioning of a group of three
defenders who form a triangle around the
basket after a shot has been attempted.
The aim is to cover the probable positions
of the ball should a rebound occur and
prevent an opponent from gaining a good
position from which to collect the rebound.
Recovery: Process of return to normal
status after physical exercise.
Receiver spots: Positions on the court
where offensive players get to after dribble
Receiving technique: The culmination of
being on balance, stopping if required,
hand position and the gather of the ball
into a triple threat position, for preparation
to shoot, dribble or pass.
Rejection: A blocked shot.
Release: When the big man rotates back
to the basket, he releases the protector to
recover back to his own man.
Reverse pivot: the movement of a player
with a pivot or anchor foot when the player
turns their back away from the basket or
the ball.
Replace self: Where a player cuts towards
the basket and returns to where they
started from. Also known as ‘Pop back’.
Rim run: A move made at speed where on
receipt of a pass the ball is moved across
the body straight into a speed dribble.
Rescreen: a screen that is set once at one
angle and then is set again on the same
player from a second different angle.
Rotation (Rotating): The movement of
defensive players who leave their player
and rotate to another player who may be
of more threat.
Retreat step: A step in which the
defender's back foot steps toward the
baseline, and the lead foot slides in place.
Retreat dribble: a control dribble away
from the defender
Reverse: (1) A change of direction in the
flow of attacking movement, for
example a change from passing
down the right hand side of the
court to a quick movement of the
ball to the left side.
(2) A change of direction in
which the attacking players
endeavour to free themselves
from a close marking defender.
The change of direction is
executed after a move towards
the defender and a pivot so that
the attacking player turns their
back on their opponent and then
moves off In the new direction.
Also called a Roll or Spin move.
(3) When the ball is directed
back to where it came = Ball
Reverse layup: the movement of a player
with a pivot or anchor foot when the player
turns their back away from the basket or
the ball.
Run and jump defence: A form of
pressure man-to-man defence that relies on
surprising the ball carrier and OFF-Ball
Run–slide–run: A defensive footwork
Runner: A shot that the player shoots while
on the run.
Running clock: When the clock in a game
isn't stopped every time the referee blows
the whistle to ensure that the game ends on
time and the next game can begin when
afety: The offensive player at the top
of the circle. Responsible for covering
back after possession changes.
Sag: A tactic in which a defender leaves
their man or zone and drops into the lane
to help protect the basket.
Sagging man-to-man defence: A
conservative defence in which the
defenders stay between their man and the
basket by moving away from their player
and more to cover the basket.
Screen: A play in which an offensive
player runs over and stands in a stationary
position next to a teammate's defender to
free up the teammate to dribble or to
receive a pass. Also called a pick.
Basketball Glossary
Types of Screens:
(On)Ball Screen: Screen on a defender, who
is defending the ball carrier
Back Screen: Screen in the back of the
Cross (Across) Screen: Screen from one
Lowpost to the opposite Lowpost
Basketball Glossary
Dive Cut or/Slip screen: The action of the
screener in moving directly to the basket
before they set a screen. As in fake on ball
screen and cut to the basket.
Double Screen or Parallel Screen: Screen
set by two players next to each other.
Down Screen: Screen from the wing to the
Basketball Glossary
UCLA Screen or Up Screen: Screen from
the Lowpost to the Top of the Key
Flare Screen: Screen for a player moving
away from the ball
Off-Ball Screen: A screen set on a defender
guarding an offensive player who doesn't
have the ball.
Basketball Glossary
Shot Screen: A screen set for a player to
shoot the ball, mostly on the weakside
Staggered Screen: Two Screens not next to
each other set simultaneous for the same
(On)Ball Screen: Screen on a defender, who
is defending the ball carrier
Basketball Glossary
Screen away: To pass in one direction
and set a screen for a teammate in the
opposite direction.
Screener: A player who sets a screen.
Set position: The stance a player begins
their shooting movement from.
Seam: in a zone defence refers to the area
of the court where the zones of
responsibility of two individual defenders
meet. Also called ‘Gap’. Used mainly on
offence against a zone in “attack or
penetrate the seams”.
Sealing the defender: After setting a
screen, the screener reverse pivots to "seal"
the defender putting the defender on their
Secondary break: A fast break that
involves most of the players from each
Set play: A sequence of player and ball
movement that has an end.
Shallow cut: See cuts.
Shell drills: Defensive drills designed to
work on all aspects of defence.
Shift: Movement up or down an imaginary
line in relation to the ball.
Shift the Zone: Move the defenders from
one side of the key to the other – thus
creating space
Shooter's roll: When a shot doesn't go
through the basket cleanly, but bounces
around softly before dropping through.
Shooting foul: When a defender fouls the
attacker with the ball in the act of shooting.
Shooting the gap: The movement of a
defensive player who anticipates a pass
whilst in an OFF-Ball position and rotates to
the gap where they think the ball is to be
Shooting guard: (1) A position played by
a perimeter player who
is usually the team's best
outside shooter. Also
called the "2."
(2) The person playing
this position.
Shooting hand: The hand used to shoot
the ball. See also guide hand.
Short closeouts: closeout to a player from
a shorter distance to minimise the offensive
player’s threat.
Short Show (by the screen defender in
a pick and roll situation): Where the
screen defender hedges quickly in the
dribblers lane but still remains close to the
Shot clock: The clock used to limit the time
allowed for a team to attempt a shot. Shot
clocks are used in pro and college games,
in some high school leagues, but not in
middle school and youth leagues.
Shot clock violation: A violation that
occurs when the team with the ball doesn't
get a shot off during the allotted time. It
results in a change of possession.
Shot fake: A movement in which the
player with the ball acts as if they are
about to shoot. It is designed to trick the
defender into straightening up, allowing
the player with the ball to dribble past
them. Also called a "pump fake."
Shuffle offence: A popular continuity
Basketball Glossary
Sideline: The line at each side of the court
that marks the boundary of the playing
Sideline play: A play used by the
offensive team to put the ball back in play
from the sideline.
Sink: Help defender drops below the level
of the ball to pick up a new offensive
Sixth man: The first substitute who comes
off the bench to replace a starter.
Skip pass: An overhead pass from one
side of the court to the other over the
Slash arm: an action whereby a player
raises one arm and hand and then quickly
moves the arm over and onto the other side
of a player to gain a better position to
defend or receive the ball
Slide: the defensive movement where a
player from a defensive stance moves
laterally to a new position to defend the
Slide run slide: the sequence on defence
which requires a defender to slide on
defence then run to recover position before
getting into a stance and then slide again.
Slip the screen: the movement by the
offensive team player who goes to screen
but then decides to slip of the screen and
go in another direction.
Snuggle (on defence): the close and tight
denial position of a player who doesn’t
have the ball and who wants to be denied.
Speed dribble: A dribble manoeuvre in
which the player pushes the ball ahead of
her and bounces it at chest height.
Specialising Stage: The stage or phase of
a player or coaches involvement with
basketball when they decide to only or
mainly play basketball and not other
Spin dribble: A dribble manoeuvre in
which the player does a reverse pivot while
bringing the ball around them so it ends up
in their other hand.
Spin move: A dribble manoeuvre in which
the player does a reverse pivot while
bringing the ball around them so it ends up
in their other hand.
Split Defender: When doubling the post,
this perimeter defender takes the first pass
Split line: the imaginary line that divides
the court vertically form baseline to
Splitting the Post - occurs when two
attacking players cross in front of a post
player, cutting on opposite sides of the post
player to basket, in an attempt to lose their
defenders on the post player.
Splitting the screen: When the screener,
seeing their defender hedging, gets out of
their screening stance and cuts to the
basket for a pass.
Splitting the trap: When a trapped player
steps in between the defenders to pass the
Square up: To pivot so the shoulders and
feet face the basket. Also called "face up."
Squeeze: A method of defending ON-Ball
Special plays: a play for a specific
situation and/or a specific player.
Basketball Glossary
Stack - a situation where two or more
attacking players stand close together very
near to the restricted area (see above)
usually in a low (see above) position.
Staggered feet: the stance of a player
where one foot is in front of the other foot.
Staggered screen: When two players not
next to each other set simultaneous screens
for the same cutter.
Stance: The balanced position from which
a player is ready to run, jump, slide, or
pivot. Their knees are bent, hands are up
and out, back is straight, and head is up.
Stance Slide run: same as slide/run/slide
Steal: (1) To intercept a pass and gain
possession of the ball.
(2) The name for the action.
Stop-and-go dribble: See hesitation
Stop and pop: An offensive move in
which a player comes to a sudden stop,
picks up her dribble, and shoots the ball.
Strength: The ability to exert force.
Stride stops: Stopping in a 1 – 2 or left
foot then right foot (right foot then left foot)
Strong side: See ball side. The opposite of
"weak side."
Substitute: A player who comes in the
game to replace another player. Also
called a "sub."
Swarm: Intense body pressure with active
hands going after the ball is picked up.
Swing step: A defensive step in which the
defender does a reverse pivot with one
foot and stays in her on-ball stance.
Swing wings: The exchange of a team’s
wing players from one side to other
Switch: A movement in which two
defenders change the offensive player
each is playing.
Swim stroke (Swim move): Action of a
players arm movement to remove their
defenders hand in the lane to ‘seal’ their
defender. Raising the hand elbow and then
replacing it beyond the other side of a
Swipe: Hand movement attacking the ball
usually in pick and roll defence or as a
help defender in the post.
ag: Help defender steps across
chucking/swiping at the cutter usually
entering the paint.
Tandem: In transition the two defenders
are back in recovery. The top defender
stops the ball and the back defender takes
the first pass out in a close-out position
Tear drop: see Floater.
Technical foul: A violation, such as a
player or coach using profanity, which
results in the other team getting free throws
and possession of the ball. Also called a
"T," as in "T him up."
Timing a lead: the combination of
movement by a receiver to move to receive
the pass at the right time (against a
Tip-off: The opening jump ball at the
centre circle that begins a game.
Trace the ball: as in hand pressure the use
of the hands to follow the movement of the
basketball when held by the offensive
Trail: Defender who follows cutters off
baseline screens then recovers
Basketball Glossary
Trailer: An offensive player, usually a
centre or a power forward, who trails the
first wave of players on the fast break.
Training Intensity: The amount of physical
activity undertaken within a session or drill.
Turnaround jump shot: A shot by a
player in the low post in which they catch
the ball with their back to the basket,
makes a forward pivot so they face the
basket, and shoots a jump shot.
Trainability: The genetic endowment of
players as they respond individually to
specific stimuli and adapt to it accordingly.
Turnouts: the lead by an offensive player
when they run away from the basket in
leading for the ball.
Transition: A movement that occurs when
a team changes from offence to defence
(defensive transition) or from defence to
offence (offensive transition).
Turnover: A loss of possession of the ball
caused by a steal, an offensive foul, a held
ball, or a poor pass.
Transition defence: the phase for team
defence when the ball is moving from one
end of the court to the other as a result of a
shot or turnover.
Transition offence: the phase for the
offence when the team is required to
convert from defending to attacking as a
result of a missed shot or turnover
Two guard offence: A team offence
mostly used against zones with one-guard
fronts (1-2-2 and 1-3-1).
Two-passes away Offence: A team
offence mostly used against zones with
one-guard fronts (1-2-2 and 1-3-1).
CLA screen: See Screens
Trap: A defensive move in which two
defenders guard the player with the ball by
forming a V with their bodies.
UCLA cut: See cuts. A cutting manoeuvre,
running a defender into the high post
offensive teammate.
Trapping: Sending a second defender to
trap the ball out on perimeter.
Unsportsmanlike Foul: A foul that occurs
when a player makes illegal contact with
an opposing player without intending to
get the ball.
Travelling: A violation that occurs when
the player with the ball takes too many
steps without dribbling. This is a common
occurrence with young players.
Triangle-and-two: A combination defence
in which three defenders play zone in a
triangle formation and two defenders
guard specific players man-to-man.
Up-and-under move: An advanced post
move that starts out like a turnaround jump
shot, but instead of shooting, the post
player "pump fakes," causing the defender
to rise out of their defensive stance. The
post player steps by the defender and
finishes with a layup.
Triangle offence: A popular continuity
Up screen: See UCLA Screen
Triple threat position: The bent knees
stance that allows the player three options:
shoot dribble, or pass.
-cut: See cuts.
Basketball Glossary
Wing: (1) The area on the court where the
3-point arc meets the free throw line
eak side: See help side.
Weak side back cut: A back cut (see
cuts) performed on the side away from the
ball (strong side).
(2) The offensive player who plays
in that area.
Wrist snap: the final action of the hand
when shooting the ball.
Weighting a pass: the timing and strength
of a pass to a team mate to suit a
particular situation
one defence: A team defence in which
players are assigned to guard specific
areas of the court, rather than layers.
Most popular zone alignments:
Basketball Glossary
Basketball Glossary
Zone offence: A team offence used
against a zone defence.
Zone press defence: Full court zone
defence, mostly used to trap the ball.
Most popular alignments:
Basketball Glossary
1-2-1-1 (diamond)
Basketball Glossary
Zoning: The help defender is protecting
against penetration by staying in a direct
line between the dribbler and the basket.
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