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How to Make a Basketball Player a Defensive Stopper with Smothering Speed

by Lee Taft, MS, CSCS, SPC, USATF,
Performance Director, Sports Speed Etc., LLC

Becoming a great defensive player in basketball has to do with attitude, intelligence, and movement ability. The first two are usually something you're born with, yet can be developed somewhat. The last of the three, movement ability, can be taught. Granted some players are naturally quick and agile, but even quick players must learn the skill of athletic movement.

Playing defense on a ball handler requires good lateral movement in the form of a defensive shuffle and crossover run. The ability to stop and change direction instantly without stumbling is imperative. The ability to quickly rotate the hips and place the feet in the exact position to explosively push you in the direction of the offensive players move, will separate you from the rest. Combining laser-like movements to counteract every offensive move will put you in control of the offensive players' game.

The purpose of this article is to teach you a few essential methods of athletic movement that will improve your ability to play defense like never before. Whether you're a coach or trainer trying to improve your athlete's abilities or an athlete wanting to become quicker, these methods will produce results.

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The first and most foundational movement skill is the lateral shuffle or defensive slide. The role of the defensive slide is to maintain good position in front of the ball handler and be able to change direction quickly. The primary teaching points, which will improve lateral shuffle speed and quickness, is to maintain a consistent hip height and create optimal push off and stopping angles with the lower leg. The ultimate goals are to eliminate unwanted motions and increase speed.

When teaching the shuffle, the first area of concern is the hip height. When the hips rise up during the shuffle, the feet are pulled up and away from the floor surface. When this occurs, in becomes even more difficult to change direction quickly. If the hips settle too low, then a great amount of energy is expended just getting back up into normal defensive position. The straightest line between to points is a straight line. If the hips are going up and down while the directions of travel is left or right, a decrease in the speed of movement will occur. The second area of concern when teaching the shuffle is the position of the lower leg. The lower leg is responsible for creating optimal stopping and starting angles. This simply means when the lower leg stops the body, it must be in a position to not allow stutter steps, rolling of the ankle, or causing the body to fall over due to planting the foot to close under the hips.

The ultimate goal of maintaining proper hip height and push off angle is to increase the overall speed of movement. The power leg, the leg pushing the body in the direction of travel, must be able to push off with triple extension at the ankle, knee, and hip. The power leg must also be able to recover back under the hips to be able to push down and away continuously. If this action is mastered while maintaining proper hip height the lateral shuffle will be quick and explosive.

The third area of concern when mastering the shuffle is the "Hip Turn". The "Hip Turn" is used to quickly turn the hips and feet in order to apply aggressive force into the ground with the power leg and propel the body in the direction of travel. This is to be performed without a rise of the hips and with a proper push angle.

The hip turn is used to stay with the ball handler when an attempt to dribble by you occurs and you were in an athletic stance or shuffling. The old method of pivoting will get you beat every time. The pivot creates friction on the floor and doesn't allow for an aggressive push off angle using the plyometric abilities of the muscles.

To execute the hip turn, simple rotate the hips and feet while dissociating from the upper body. The power leg will be placed opposite the direction of travel to immediately propel the body. This move will allow you to react and move with the offensive player's first move. Once the hip turn is completed, then you must decide quickly to use a shuffle technique, crossover technique, or turn and run with the ball handler.

If basketball players, wishing to become better defensive stoppers, would take the time to learn and practice these simple techniques, then they would see dramatic improvements in their quickness.

Contact Information:


Lee Taft, MS, CSCS, SPC, USATF, Performance Director,
Sports Speed Etc., LLC
210 W. Hamilton Ave.
PMB 319
State College, PA 16801
Phone 814.574.5719
Contact Lee by email.
General Information.
Related Websites
Laser Like Speed
Sport Movement

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