Basketball Defense Basics for Youth Athletes

There are two things that must be successful in basketball to win a game and that is defense and offense.  However, all coaches know that when it comes down to it, defense wins games.  The offense can be a little off, but if the defense is spot on, the game can be won.  There are three main basketball defense basics that all youth athletes should learn and work on to ensure that their defensive game is as strong as it can be.

Defensive Position

The key to effective defense is keeping your eyes fully focused on the defender and keeping your chin up.  Weight should be evenly distributed among both legs and the legs should be shoulder-width apart.  A slight bend at the knees and hips is important as it allows for quick movement and pivoting when necessary.  Keep arms up and active to block the passing lanes.  This sounds like a lot and it is, but when teaching youth athletes these techniques, it is important to have them start by doing it alone, without an opponent, as this makes it easier.  Make sure that they have the mechanics right and then put them out there to defend an opponent one-on-one.  Look at their strengths and weaknesses and help to correct them as necessary.

Defensive Distance

Being too close or too far away from an opponent will be a defensive disaster.  If the defender is too far away, this allows their opponent to easily shoot, pass and dribble the ball.  You want to put pressure on the offense and too much distance will not accomplish this.  On the other hand, being too close allows the opponent to quickly get around you, especially if they are bigger and faster.  A general rule of thumb for distance is being able to reach your arms straight out and be able to place your hands flat against the opponent’s chest.  Of course, this is not really possible in game, so players will have to practice getting the right distance by simply using their judgment.

Defensive Footwork

The number one rule of footwork on defense is to never cross your feet.  This will allow the opponent to quickly get around you.  You also put yourself at risk for tripping over yourself doing this.  Crossed feet makes changing directions very difficult and takes away your ability to move to the side as needed.  Youth athletes will need to practice moving side to side while always keeping their opponent directly in front of them.

Rose Kitchen is a former athlete and current coach. She has a background in nursing, fitness and nutrition and sports nutrition. Find more from Rose at Sports Fan Nation Media.