Six Key Components For Great Defensive Drills

by Randy Brown - Date: 2007-02-12 - Word Count: 711 Share This!

Great defensive effort is the trademark of championship teams in all sports. In basketball, defense is the ingredient that allows teams to be in every game. Good defensive coaches have a set of fundamental ideas that appear in every drill. These 6 components are the glue that make teams tough and resilient on the defensive end.

1. Establish a defensive philosophy and commit to it.

Defensive success and consistency comes from a good philosophy that is followed each day. An important job of the coach is to build his defensive philosophy prior to coaching his team on the floor. An every day commitment is needed. Players need to know their defensive system, terminology and techniques for individual and team defense. This does not mean that a man to man coach cannot play zone or a junk defense at times. Having a good system and being committed to it with flexibility makes for success on the defensive end.

2. All defensive drills are competitive.

Basketball is a tough, competitive game. Some drills are useful for teaching technique or skills, and are a much needed part of building your system. All good defensive drills contain some type of competition. This can be man to man, small groups, or team competition. For example, a half court three-on-three drill should be set up competitively. One group of three is on defense until they get three straight stops. Offensive teams of three take turns trying to score. The defensive unit does not come out of the drill until they get three stops in a row. Competition is the key to using practice to prepare for the game.

3. Drills include "conditions" that help players be accountable.

I've seen a lot of good coaches use conditions to improve the quality of different parts of their game. For example, a coach who wants to improve on ball defense could make penetration a condition in a half court defensive drill. All players know the focus is on penetration and will work harder and concentrate better because of it. A penalty of sprinting down the floor and back could be a result of a player not containing penetration. Other possible conditions are blocking out, contesting shots, not fouling, vision, being off on the weak side, avoiding screens, and help and recover. This is a great way to improve play in a specific area and improve the team's focus each possession.

4. Drills must be tougher than the game.

Many coaches believe that the hardest work has to come in practice, leaving the fun for game night. If the phrase, "You play like you practice" is true, than I would very much agree with those coaches. There is a natural tendency to let execution slip from practice to game. Add to this a practice setting that is not very demanding and intense, the results in the end are scary. Players must be accountable to the coach by proving that their practice habits prepare them for the game. There are no "gamers" in this game, only tough, enthusiastic practice players. Champions practice to win!

5. Incorporate game preparation into defensive drills.

An efficient way to improve your team and individual defense is to incorporate the next opponent's offensive tendencies into drills. The shell drill is a common drill that can be used to run the opponents plays or offense. You will be working on basic defensive concepts while preparing for your opponent at the same time.

6. Demand toughness, thinking, and communication.

We do our team a disservice by not demanding them to be tough both mentally and physically. Playing hard is only part of the equation when developing a defensive program. Playing hard AND thinking at the same time is what all players need to do. I've seen many hard playing guys run into screens, foul away from the basket, and allow penetration. This comes from not thinking while you are playing hard. Either one by itself is not sufficient. Lastly, communication in practice drills is a must. Good teams talk on defense as if it is the last possession of the game. Talking on the floor means you care about winning and care about your teammates.

Good coaches demand the best from their players in practice. By pushing your team in practice, you give them their best chance to win on game night.

Related Tags: basketball, coaching, defense, drills, fundamentals

Randy Brown has dedicated his life to the game of basketball. His 18 years in college basketball highlights a successful 23-year career. Coaching positions at Arizona, Iowa State, Marquette, Drake, and Miami of Ohio fill his resume. Mentored by Basketball Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson at Arizona, he learned the game from the best. At 39, Randy became the head coach at Division I Stetson University in Deland, Florida. His efforts have helped develop 12 NBA players including Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, and Jaamal Tinsley. His passion for mentoring young coaches and developing youth programs is known and respected throughout the country. Over the years he has authored over 50 articles on coaching basketball and has taught over 24,000 young players in summer camps and clinics. He works as a basketball consultant and mentor for coaches. He is also an author and public speaker. For free articles and questions, Randy can be reached at

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