How to Get All 5 Players SPRINTING in Transition Defense -- On Almost Every Possession

Whether you're a half or full court defensive team -- it's essential for those FIRST THREE TRANSITION STEPS to be a sprint!

If you can get players sprinting and your defense SET on every possession, you have a chance to be a good defensive team. If your team is slow to react or jogs to spots, you're probably in for a long season.

The first three steps in transition defense are critical -- they must be a sprint.

Now getting ALL your players to sprint on every possession is extremely difficult.

If you allow them, players will walk, jog, or even stand when they are supposed to be sprinting. As a coach, this can be maddening. We've all been there!

Simple and Effective Solution

To help solve this problem, here's a very simple and effective method to get your players sprinting in transition defense on almost every possession:

Step 1 - Show Them What It Means to Sprint

This is an important step. Most players don't have a clue what it means to sprint back on defense. They think a "fast jog" is good enough. The urgency just isn't there. So you NEED to show them what you really want...

Here's a clip from the Jim Huber Defensive DVDs showing players what it means to sprint in transition:

Step 2 - Incorporate Rules Into Scrimmages

Next, you can simply incorporate rules into your scrimmages.

There are dozens of transition defense drills you can run to get your players sprinting. There's nothing wrong with those drills.

However, when it comes to sprinting, I skip those drills to save time. Instead I utilize, "rules" and teach in the context of scrimmages.

Some coaches will scream "sprint" almost every time down the court. This isn't a good long-term solution in my opinion. It might be fine at first. But I'm not a fan of "joy stick coaching" during games -- you know one of those coaches that is hollering what to do every 5 seconds. I think players need to learn good habits and how to make decisions on their own.

To get your players to remember, simply add a rule during your scrimmages. The rule is...

"When the ball transitions to the other team, your first three steps must be a sprint. If not, your team loses 1 point."

This is of course a judgment call by the head or assistant coach. You need to use a little discretion to determine when to deduct points and when not to.

If you see a player standing there for three seconds, that is clearly a point deduction. If there's a split second where they are thinking, and then they remember to sprint, I don't deduct points. I'm mostly looking for "effort" and "awareness".

You also need to be sure to let players know when they lose points. This immediate feedback is important.

This rule is effective at all age levels -- I utilize this rule with both youth (5th graders) and high school teams.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to solving problems like this, my preference is to utilize competitive games with “modified rules” to get the results that we want. That is generally my favorite way to solve problems.

In any case, try this process and see how it works for you. In my experience, players will consistently start sprinting back on defense. A very simple and efficient way to get the results you're looking for.


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Ross Cronshaw says:
11/10/2015 at 5:59:46 PM

At the last part of the video he says you should "get low and stride out." Getting low makes you more stable but speed is instability. That''s way sprinters start leaning forward.
Acceleration is much better achieved with smaller, choppy steps, not long strides. Long strides create a negative shin angle and a braking effect.
The concept he is talking about is good but his bio-mechanic understanding could improve.

  1 reply  

Joe Haefner says:
11/10/2015 at 6:59:49 PM

Thanks for the comment, Ross.

I'm assuming you are referring to this article:


Alistair says:
11/10/2015 at 12:58:56 AM

I find it almost impossible to get girls to sprint.

  2 replies  

Jeff Haefner says:
11/10/2015 at 4:14:32 PM

Our 5th grade girls do a pretty good job of sprinting. Not gonna say it's 100% but they sprint more times than not. I don't know if this is why but we have emphasized EFFORT since 2nd grade. I tell them I don't care if you miss shots, miss lay ups, dribble the ball of your foot, etc... I know you are "trying" to make the shot. But if you don't sprint to defensive position, rebound, hustle... then we have a problem. That is simply lack of effort. All I care about is effort. The other stuff will take care of itself. Maybe that's why they do a decent job of sprinting in transition now. I don't know. I have mostly coached boys... the 5th graders are the only girls I have coached.


midd44 says:
11/10/2015 at 5:32:37 PM

i coach high school girls & watch the high school boys practice & i find the opposite. the girs go all out during the sprint while most of the boys coast, or don't go all the way to touch the line....don't mistake "sprinting" with "going fast". alot of girls typically don't look like they're "sprinting" even when they are


Mike Colucci says:
11/9/2015 at 11:16:14 AM

I coach grade school basketball and I like to incorporate several skills into one drill. We run this transition sprint; however, I have each player line up on the block with a ball. We then sprint dribble to the opposite end, jump stop, pivot and then sprint back into our m2m defense. We then have the team line up, sprint to the opposite end, pick up their basketball and repeat the drill.

I love the idea of running block to block in 4 seconds (and counting out the time, although for 5th graders, 5-6 seconds might be a bit more realistic.


Coach Jones says:
11/9/2015 at 10:44:05 AM

Good Advice.


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