Engaging Basketball Defense Drills For Young Players


Without a doubt, the best time for young athletes to learn the fundamentals of playing any sport is when they are young. If a young player can develop good fundamentals and playing habits before the bad ones become second nature, they have a realistic chance of becoming the best player they can possibly be.

In basketball, the most overlooked aspect of the game is defense. Kids love to watch their basketball heroes put the ball in the basket, essentially ignoring any efforts to keep them from doing so. Great offensive players like Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Stephen Curry will tell anyone who will listen that they most fear great defensive players like Larry Bird, Bill Walton, Gary Payton and Hakeem Olajawon. What these great defensive players have in common is solid fundamentals on defense.

The old adage that “offense scores points, but defense wins championships” has rung true since the beginning of basketball history. With that in mind, here’s four defensive basketball drills your young player(s) can learn today to become better defensive players in the future.

1. The Stance Drill – The most basic defensive drill is the stance drill. The drill is used to teach players the proper body, foot and hand position to use based on what the offensive player is attempting to do. With the players lined up directly across from the coach, they will start with the basic defensive position with their feet square to the coach, knees bent and their hands out to their side at waste level. From this position, they can do the following:

  • Offensive player moves right – Defensive player slide steps left with the left hand slightly down and right hand slightly up
  • Offensive player moves left – Defensive player moves right with the right hand slightly down and the left hand slightly up
  • Offensive player steps back – Defensive player slides forward with hands out to the sides at waste level.
  • Offensive player steps forward – Defensive player holds position with hands directly up to prevent shot or overhead pass

2. Zig-Zag Drill – This drill is used to perfect a defensive players foot movement as the offensive player dribbles the ball down the court. With the coach lined up at half-court, players line up at the base line. Using the ball, the coach will motion left or right. The player’s task is to use a slide step and move in the direction of the ball, keeping their hands in the proper defensive position at all times.

3. One-on-One Drill – This drill is designed to teach a defensive player how to react when guarding an offensive player who has the ball. The drill starts with the defensive player passing the ball to the offensive player and then engaging them on defense with the proper defensive stance. As the offensive players makes a decision to dribble, pass or shoot, the defensive player takes the proper defensive position to prevent such actions.

4. Shell Drill – The purpose of this drill is to train defensive players the proper techniques to use is a five-on-five setting. There will be five players on each side with the offensive alignment as follows: a player in each corner, a player on each wing, and a center at the top of the free throw circle. As the offensive players pass the ball around, the defensive player is required to keep the proper stance, whether they are on the ball, preventing an incoming pass or guarding off the ball.

Repetition is the key to learning the proper fundamentals for any sport. By having your young basketball player practice these drills on a regular basis, the proper positioning will become instinctive, giving them the ability to play good defense on a regular basis. Remember: it’s never too early to teach youngsters how to do something the right way.