Blocking Shots Can Lead To Foul Trouble And Other Defensive Problems
Instead, Try This Simple Defensive Tactic That Can Decrease Your Opponents' Shooting Percentage By As Much AS 25 Percent!

It doesn't matter if you play zone, man to man, or press...

Contesting shots can greatly improve your defense!

Notice, that I'm saying "contesting" and NOT "blocking." I believe teaching players to block shots can form bad habits, and most players do not have the ability to consistently block shots without hurting the team's defense.

Here are some tips to Contesting Shots:
  • Close out fast & under control. If you close out too fast, a smart player will blow by you. You can also end up fouling the shooter if you can not stop your momentum.

  • Extend your arm and hand up as high you can. Sometimes, players like to put their hands in front of the offensive player's eyes to disrupt their vision.
  • Never Leave Your Feet. This can lead to a number of problems. An offensive player can draw the foul or drive by you. It can also put you in terrible rebounding position.

I recently read an old article in a Winning Hoops newsletter where a coach did a study on 5 basketball games. It included games of Cincinnati & North Carolina, Temple & Kansas, Michigan State & Louisville, Kentucky & Indiana, and Maryland & Oklahoma.

In the article, he recorded that..

NON-contested shots made 58.4% of their shots.
Contested shots only made 33.6% of their shots.

That's a 25% percent difference!

Contesting shots is not the only factor (rebounding, turnovers, and so on) that determines a win or loss, but it certainly is a critical one.

Start contesting shots today and watch your defense improve!

You can also find more defensive drills & strategies in our Man to Man Defense System

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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marc says:
10/28/2008 at 8:37:46 AM

is there a way that the defence can play any type of zone(2-3/ 3-2/ 1-3-1/ 1-2-2/ 2-2-1 etc.) and go to man on the second pass or would it just be best to play, match up zone?

  1 reply  

Phil Moreno says:
2/18/2018 at 5:39:49 PM

I believe you can match-up out of a 2-3, 1-3-1, 1.1-3 after the 1st pass to the wing or to the h/p.


Don Kelbick says:
11/17/2008 at 7:23:08 PM


I used to do that all the time, especially in special situations (end of game). If you can get them to guess what defense you are playing, the offense would be much less effective.

Another thing we used to do was call defense by sides. We would start the possession in a zone. If the offense initiated their offense with a pass to the left, we would stay zone, if they entered with a pass to the right, we would go man.


Thomas says:
11/18/2008 at 5:34:34 AM

I'm trying to wean all of my players from trying to block shots to keeping there feet, staying low & letting the player shoot the ball, rely on shots missed and run the floor in offense, is there a secret to keeping them on the floor?



Joe Haefner says:
11/18/2008 at 7:40:52 AM

I've always coached midgets, so my philosophy has always been fairly simple. If you leave your feet to block a shot, you're coming to sit next to me.

Maybe, you only give certain players permission to jump to block shots. Teach them when and when not to leave their feet.


Jeremy says:
2/23/2009 at 4:28:37 PM

From the article "Sometimes, players like to put their hands in front of the offensive player's eyes to disrupt their vision"

Isn't that face guarding and would be considered illegal? I know its rarely enforced, but I believe that's suppose to be a technical foul at all levels.


Joe Haefner says:
2/24/2009 at 12:01:09 PM

Thanks, Jeremy. You never stop learning. I didn't realize that it was illegal. I guess there is something legal in the NBA referred to as "eye guarding."

I'm going to try to find the distance of legality, because I'm not talking about sticking your hand in the opponent's face. I was referring to sticking your hand about 12 to 18 inches from the face as a way to annoy the person or temporarily block their vision. It seems like tons of NBA players do that when they go for shot blocks. They stick their hands straight up towards their face rather than going for the block.

It'd be similar to the person playing defense in the picture above.


Jeremy Coenen says:
2/24/2009 at 12:25:16 PM

Thanks Joe - I just learned that myself when reading the rule book and saw that face guarding was a technical and decided to do more research. I never knew it either and was taught to put the hand in front of the defenders face as well. I have never seen this called and never knew it was a rule until this week.

Reading up on it - the rule sort of makes sense as the chance of getting poked in the eye when being defenseless is probably somewhat high if the defender has the hand very close to the shooter's face - at the same time I never saw a clear distinction of what exactly constitutes face guarding (distance from face, etc). I know the NBA is slightly different, but according to one source this has been a rule in basketball at most levels since 1913.

Like you said - you never stop learning. Thanks for any clarification you can dig up on the rule.


Joe Haefner says:
2/24/2009 at 1:03:13 PM

Hi Jeremy,

Over the lunch hours this is all I could dig up from this website:

"Face guarding is defined in rule 10-3-7d as purposely obstructing an opponent's vision by waving or placing hand(s) near his or her eyes. The penalty is a technical foul. Face guarding could occur with a single hand and a player's hand(s) do not have to be waving; the hand(s) could be stationary but still restrict the opponent's vision.

The committee does not intend for good defense to be penalized. Challenging a shooter with a 'hand in the face' or fronting a post player with a hand in the air to prevent a post pass are examples ofacceptable actions. The rule and point of emphasis is designed to penalize actions that are clearly not related to playing the game of basketball properly and that intentionally restrict vision. Often, that occurs off the ball or as players are moving up the court in transition"

I saw some other similar posts.


Coach Jim says:
3/8/2009 at 8:14:16 AM

Also, using the "correct" hand really helps disrupt the shot. This means that Right-handed shooters have the ball to the left of the defender, so extend the left hand to distract the shooter, for leftys, use the right hand. Too many times, right-handers reach across and pick up a foul usually tapping the shooter's elbow and usually after the release!
If you do teach blocking shots, teach them to time it right as the ball has been released in the air, not in the hand, with the "correct" hand extended upward, attack to ball where it is going to be, not where it is! No swatting, keep it in play, avoid body contact!
Coach Jim


Doug Moe says:
3/6/2010 at 7:21:17 PM

Face guarding is never called.

Thus teach your players to put a hand right between the "shooting box" formed when the shooter is releasing - very distracting as a shooter.


SacHoopCoach says:
5/3/2010 at 5:33:59 PM

We teach our players to put a palm to the player''s nose. Yes, it is a technical foul, but we play this way until we receive a warning and then we stop. It is very rarely called. In fact, it has been called once in four years.


Logan says:
11/30/2010 at 10:01:37 AM

I got a technical called for putting my hand in an opponent's face. I had no idea it was a rule and just thought it would be a good way to disrupt the shooter's focus. My coach didn't even know what the call was for. We all learned that rule because of me. I just thought I was being crafty. Oh well, live and learn.


Randy says:
12/18/2012 at 4:21:25 PM

I do understand that shot blocking can be over-emphasized and as such can lead to bad habits. However, teaching how to properly block shots is important. True teaching proper technique includes knowing when to attempt a block. (Benching a playing for an attemptted block alone makes little sense to me) Shot blocking is part of developing big men. On the perimeter, well that is somewhat different, but I would still argue that teaching techniques to your guards is not wasted time.


Ken says:
12/18/2012 at 7:50:37 PM

I'm not so sure I want to teach my players that we know is against the rules and we could get a T for it.... There is more to coaching the game than trying to circumvent the rules for a W! JMO

Randy -

I wonder how many shots get blocked vs a foul? I think I would rather challenge the shot using the correct hand. We certainly didn't want to make it easy for the shooter. We had a rule.. NEVER foul the jump shooter... got that from Hubie Brown.

IF we knew he was a good shooter, we would close out hard and try to make him put the ball on the ground - if he was a poor shooter, we would just close out and challenge him a little bit because we probably wanted him to shoot it vs a better shooter. Having a good scouting report will give you that information.


Joe Haefner says:
12/19/2012 at 10:06:21 AM

Randy, thank you for your thoughts and adding to the discussion. Groupthink is never a good thing.

Here is what I have done with my youth and high school teams. I teach them to contest on the perimeter. Do not leave your feet. In the post area, I will give some leeway depending on the athletes.

Around the basket area, I teach players verticality. Always go straight up. Don't swat. Tap the ball and try to keep in play. Based on the year, I may so no jumping and make exceptions for a couple of players. You may also do the opposite. Allow all players to block with an exception of a few players. However, I have not coached a team with this team athleticism.

Basically, no time is spent teaching blocking around the basket with youth teams. I just tell them to go straight up. If I see a fouling problem, I will tell them to keep their feet.

In my opinion, at the youth and middle school levels, there are far too many more important things to teach than how to block shots.

Also with your comment, what age group are you referring to?

Also, how much time needs to be dedicated to practice to ensure that these blocking techniques are properly executed?

My belief is that the pay off is not worth it and you are better off focusing on other areas in your game. You are more prone to foul.

Could I be wrong? Absolutely.

What are your thoughts? What have you done to teach blocking techniques?


K.B. says:
12/19/2012 at 10:26:01 PM

I've always taught my players to contest high and to not leave your feet until the shooter leaves their feet. Do not try and block the shot. I love the idea of contesting a right handed shooter with the left.


allen l says:
3/11/2013 at 9:41:08 AM

word word word bball


coachW says:
12/16/2014 at 9:19:36 PM

Closing out on a right handed shooter with the left hand? I''m not so sure. If I do that 90% of kids left foot comes up...making it easier for shooter to drive by with right hand. Thoughts?

  1 reply  

Joe says:
12/17/2014 at 8:35:09 AM

You must be referring to the picture. When taking the picture, we weren't even paying attention to the feet.

However, that is one way that people teach close outs and they will play the strong side and try to force the offensive player to go to the weak hand.

Jim Huber also teaches 2 hands up to deter shots and post passes... I think he got this from Dick Bennett (Tony's dad).

2 hands up will leave in you a position that will be more square to the defender.

It also depends what level you coach at... Kevin Eastman coaches at the NBA level. Often, he has athletes that are good enough "jump after the offensive player jumps" to jump and contest or block a shot. So they can stay down and still contest shots.

You'll also find that advanced players will try to take either the shot or the dribble away. For example, a lights out shooter that has a quick release... in some situations, you might have no choice but to fly at him with hands up knowing that you're going to give him a drive or a very difficult shot.

A very good dribble penetrator, you might close out slowly and give him the perimeter shot.


coachW says:
12/16/2014 at 9:22:34 PM

Kevin Eastman says close out short and low. Meaning butt down and away from shooter.


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