The phrase “defense wins championships” is a cliche for a reason — it’s true. While we all love a crowd-raising dunk or an ankle-breaking dribble, the defensive side of the ball is equally — if not more — important. That is why all quality coaches and basketball training programs stress defensive technique, positioning and strategy just as much as offensive skills and development.

Hoop Dreams provides competitive and recreational youth leagues, elite skills training and summer basketball camps in Lexington. Led by Coach Mike Scott, our experienced group of trainers are passionate about sharing their knowledge and experience to help young players develop competitive skill-sets and grow their love for the game — contact us today in Lexington for more information!


In today’s post, we are going to go over just a few of the key fundamentals of solid defensive play. To learn more, sign up for one of the basketball training programs at Hoop Dreams!

First, let’s take a quick look at some standard defensive mistakes to avoid.

Five Key Defensive Mistakes to Avoid

  • Standing upright or with your feet close together — instead, focus on staying in a wide, low, athletic stance to avoid losing your balance
  • Lunging or leaping while sliding — this can cause you to get caught with your feet close together, making it easier to lose your balance
  • Being too close or too far from your opponent — too close and it’s easier to drive by you; standing too far makes it easy for the opponent to get a shot off
  • Swiping down at the ball — this aggressive motion is likely to get the attention of the officials, so try swiping up at the ball instead
  • Moving out of position to try and cut off a pass — your target may try and fake a pass to get you to move, but you should always stay in-between your man and the net

Alright, now let’s touch on a few of the defensive fundamentals that you should be focused on in your basketball training.

Keep Your Opponent at Arm’s Length

Keeping your opponent at the right distance is very important to restricting their court vision and the options that they have for offensive play. If the player you are guarding is a shooter, they will look to create space to get a shot off. If you play your opponent too closely, it is easier for them to get around you and harder for you to stay in-between them and the net.

Keep Your Feet Shoulder-Width Apart

Having your feet too close together exposes you to a variety of disadvantages. Mainly, it weakens your center of gravity and decreases your balance and power. At the same time, if your feet are spread too far apart it can slow you down and cause issues when you are sliding for defensive play. All worthy basketball training should start with an emphasis on a proper defensive stance.

Using Your Hand to Disrupt the Ball Without Reaching

While you are keeping your opponent at arm’s length, it can be advantageous to have one hand in the dribbling lane to disrupt their play. Even if you aren’t stealing the ball, you are dictating the opponents moves by taking away offensive options and forcing them around the perimeter.

Proper Positioning for Active Hands

When you have the ball you don’t have to think about this part of the game, but it is equally important to keep your hands active on defense. Make it a habit to remind yourself that your hands should always be doing something to impede the progress of your opponent. Optimal defensive hand position means having one hand up high to deflect passes and shots and one hand down low to disrupt the dribble.

When it comes to proper basketball training, you should always spend as much time on defense as you do on offense. To be a valuable part of a team, your teammates need to be able to rely on you to play both sides of the ball, and you need to be sound defensively to play in competitive leagues. Keep an eye out for part two of our defensive fundamentals blog post. We help youth players in Lexington take their skills to the next level — get in touch with Hoop Dreams for more information!