3 Simple Tricks That Will Instantly Double Your Defensive Quickness

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You can literally double the quickness of your team just by incorporating a few simple techniques.

This quickness allows you to take away easy shots and scramble to close out, even when you get beat to the hole. Quickness simply makes a defense difficult to score against.

Tip #1 - Teach your players to move on the pass, NOT the catch.

This tactic alone can double to quickness of your team and make it seem like you have a super quick swarming defense.

You must train your players to start moving to their correct defensive position when the ball is leaving the fingertips of the passer.

This makes a huge difference because most players will start moving to the correct defensive position when the ball is caught. In fact, most players think that is what they are supposed to do. And they have developed this bad habit at an early age.

By simply by moving on the pass, you get an extra second to get to your position. In fact, many times your players can actually get to their position at the same time the ball arrives!

So all you need to do is require your players to move on the pass during each defensive drill. This is most effective during 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 shell drills. They should literally be moving when the ball leaves the passers fingertips. But don't leave before this happens; because you don't want to fall for pass fakes.

You should also make it a point to explain the reason why they should move on the pass. Simply by demonstrating the huge difference in a close out drill will do the trick. Set your players up in the close out drill. Have them throw a skip pass and move on the catch. Then have them throw a skip pass and move on the pass. The offensive player that catches the ball won't be able to get their shot off. It will be ridiculous how big of a difference this makes.

Tip #2 - Drill your players into the habit of always keeping their knees bent in an athletic stance, even when they are two passes away on help side defense!

Now imagine you have five defense players that all move on the pass. And ALL of them have their knees bent and they are ready to move...

You have just converted from a slow easy to score against defense, to a fast extremely tough defense in just two steps!

It's easy to illustrate this point...

Just line up your fastest player on the team and the slowest player on the team and let them race 15 feet. Have the slowest player bend his knees in an athletic stance. Then have the fast player stand straight up. Yell, "Go!"

The SLOW player will win every time!

Tip #3 - Let your players know who they will be guarding ahead of time.

An easy way to improve mental quickness and anticipation is to study your opponent. Some of your smart players will sit on the bench or maybe even watch game tape to become familiar with the moves of the player they will be guarding.

But you need to let your players know who they will be guarding ahead of time so they can study their moves.

For more defense tips, check out our new basketball defensive system.

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


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Alanna says:
11/21/2007 at 10:18:38 AM




mark says:
11/21/2007 at 12:47:57 PM

I really like the tip on moving during the pass. Great to teach to my young kids.
Thanks, mark

  1 person liked this. 1 reply  

ray says:
4/25/2015 at 11:38:17 PM

i agree mark i have a game coming up and this has been very useful for practice with my team. It helped us get good defense and a good chance of stealing the ball before the other team gets it


Tammy says:
11/21/2007 at 1:08:11 PM

Nice tip! I'm not a really good defender but I'll try it.

  1 reply  

Ryan says:
4/25/2017 at 8:26:03 PM

Nice ideas I'm gonna use them


V says:
11/21/2007 at 1:09:50 PM

Quality advice. All for free!!


Sue Morris says:
11/21/2007 at 2:18:21 PM

Great tips...I'm going to include them in practise tonight. Especially like the tip about moving on the pass. I'll also try the race!!


Coach V says:
11/21/2007 at 2:30:09 PM

Good tips for increasing my defense skills in my 14-under team. Go ahead


Jimmy says:
11/21/2007 at 2:46:40 PM

Great tips. Moving on the pass is a key part in becoming a good defender.


Ava says:
11/21/2007 at 3:23:14 PM

They are alright but what happens if my coach doesn't have the names of the players on the other team ahead of time? For tip #1 do you mean when they pass the ball you start running or what?


Jeff Haefner says:
11/21/2007 at 4:11:29 PM


You won't always know who you'll be guarding and you won't be able to do much about that. But with most organized middle school and high school basketball you'll know which team you'll be playing. Coaches can almost always get game tapes. Just ask the coach. Most players have numbers on their jersey too, so you can go by number.

For moving on the pass, yes, you start quickly moving (running or sliding) to your spot as soon as the ball is passed. You should be moving while the ball is in the air. Sometimes you don't have to move very far and other times (on a skip pass) you have to go farther. It's all about anticipating and watching the ball.



Nancy says:
11/21/2007 at 9:01:07 PM

These were great tips. They are times perfectly because I have noticed that on defense my players move to late. I like the idea of moving on the pass. Thanks, these were great!! Keep 'um coming!!


Ronald Almeyda says:
11/21/2007 at 9:03:42 PM

This is a good tip! The athletic stance and the kness bent is very important in establishing denfensive positioning. Let me add that I always teach my players to use their hands on the off the ball defense. One hand pointing at the direction of the ball and the other hand pointing to his man. So that at all times a player will know where the ball and his man on defense. Also, I encourage them to voice out their position so the other players on defense will be able to recognize the help and weakside defense, etc. Thanks and more power!


Coach Eros says:
11/22/2007 at 12:13:55 AM

its good to know that there are ways to speed up the defense. for sure this will be effective once we praticed it. but we have to go back to the basic so that the players will be able to master the art of defense.


imad says:
11/22/2007 at 12:31:33 AM

Hi Jeff, thanks for this tip, accually it is tru and i think most of the coach's try or tell or even teach his players to move with the ball not to move when the offence receive the ball, but the seceret and the diffecult part how to make it a habit and that you don't have to shout at them all the time in the games so that they do it. So is there any special drills to help them, or i have to keep shouting at them untill hopefully one day they will do it as a habit.
Thanks for all your effort in suppling us with great tips.


cobbs says:
11/22/2007 at 3:13:06 AM

thanks to the tips, really good teaching and im excitted to the new release this end of nov. more power and God bless always!


Jeff Haefner says:
11/22/2007 at 6:29:43 AM

Hi Imad,

To get you players to develop a "habit" of moving on the pass, you can do a couple different things:

- Explain the "reason why" to your players. Demonstrate the difference and make sure they understand "why" they are doing these things. It’s easy as a coach to forget to teach the reason why and just try to make them do it. People don’t like to be force fed.

- Playing time. The ultimate motivator is playing time and if you reward the good defensive players that move on the pass, they'll all get the message. Or if you pull a player out of the game and leave them out because they didn't go hard on defense, they'll get the message.

- Repetition. We do tons of 4on4 and 5on5 shell work. This is when you emphasize defense and the kids know it. This is where we develop many habits. We start with just passing the ball around and don't move on to the next thing until everyone is moving on the pass (even if it takes the entire practice). If it's non-negotiable from day one they just do it and it's not a problem.

Hope this helps.

Jeff Haefner


Coach Ruwe says:
11/22/2007 at 8:18:52 AM

Great tip regarding moving on the pass & not the catch. This idea alone will improve my zone defense's "shifting" speed.


- Coach Ruwe in the nasty 'nati


Michael says:
11/22/2007 at 10:54:23 AM

I like this moving on the pass tip. Have tried in once, it works when showing it to one player. The thing is to get everyone on the defence to react to it. But great tip.


Coach J says:
11/23/2007 at 1:00:44 PM

I appreciate the great tips! I will incorporate them in my defense!


singhuolee says:
11/23/2007 at 5:14:36 PM



Coach Miller says:
11/25/2007 at 3:50:18 AM

Good stuff.
It gives those who think they are the slower player a system to even the playing field.


coach john ramirez says:
11/26/2007 at 1:08:17 AM

you do not have off nights in playing defense.


coach G says:
11/26/2007 at 4:49:11 PM


Thank's for all the good advice and the good play's. My kids really enjoy the hard work and dedication you guy's put into it


Brad says:
12/4/2007 at 2:38:04 PM

Great tips, this will help at any level and allow -slow footed kids again an edge in games on close-outs and not allowing good open looks at the bucket - keep them coming love the FREE advice...


harold says:
6/25/2008 at 12:31:39 PM

what not also to teach players to move whwn a pass is to be received


Coach Harris says:
9/17/2008 at 4:57:12 PM

Simple but effective tips, helps to be reminded.


ke says:
10/8/2008 at 3:03:17 PM

Please explain in more detail how the race goes...one person is running standing straight up and the other person is sliding?????


Joe Haefner says:
10/8/2008 at 3:13:07 PM

Hi Ke,

The race is meant to emphasize the importance of being in an athletic stanc has on moving quickly.

In the race, there is no sliding. the players will just run forward. One is standing straight up in an "unathletic stance" while the other has he knees bent in an "athletic, read-to-run" stance. You'll notice that the player with his knees bent will be able to move much quicker. That's why we emphasize "no standing straight up" on defense.


Alex says:
10/8/2008 at 7:38:20 PM

Thanks a lot for this. I'm a good offensive player but i'm not so great at defense. I'm sure this'll help


Coach Miller says:
10/9/2008 at 8:16:36 AM

Once again,great stuff.
I can easily name several High School, AAU and travel programs that your tips and drills have saved or revived.
You remain a constant source of know how,motivation and time saving ideas for all of us,thank you.


Aqil says:
10/12/2008 at 12:21:22 PM

Thank you very much. This ought to enhance my skills fast.


:] says:
11/7/2008 at 1:33:53 PM

im a freshmen & i just made the varsity team
im trying to do whatever it takes to become better and this site really helps
theres a ton of great pointers


Dr Laurence J. MacDonald PhD says:
1/27/2009 at 1:32:57 AM

I coach professional basketball in China and have been coaching for 35 years both in Canada and the United States. I have learned many things over the years, however, every once in a while on this very site, I find a gem. Something that someone else has thought of and given it a little twist. You never stop learning about this great game.

Dr. Laurence J. MacDonald PhD
Head Coach Keen Lady Dragons
Hong Kong, China.


William Murphy says:
2/27/2009 at 5:25:32 PM

These are great tips. I''ll be implementing these suggestions at tonight''s practice!



David says:
12/14/2009 at 7:38:13 PM

I am a kid who loves basketball, but isn't all that great at it. These tips are bringing me more confidence in myself. Tryouts are tomorrow,12/15/09, through Friday,12/18/09. These tips will surely help me in this struggle!
Thank you so much for these!


rafael says:
1/21/2010 at 8:41:45 AM

Is there a specific man-man defensive play to deny the ball over to a strong center? Or which zone defense may be better to implement?


Joe Haefner says:
1/26/2010 at 6:15:57 PM

Hi Rafael,

Here are a couple of options within man tom an

- 3/4 Front where you have the defender partiall step in front of the post player with the defender's leg and arm in the passing lane.

- Full front - this is where the defender is completely in front of the player and facing the ball.

We have plenty of pics and explanation in our Man to Man Defense eBooks as well: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/pr/mandefense.html


marquie says:
7/13/2010 at 8:02:25 PM

danq thiz is realy kool maybe it will help me improve 2 becominq a n.b.a player...//


meaghan says:
7/27/2010 at 12:19:59 PM

thanks so much i play on 3 teams and all that really helps but this henlps alot who ever invented this thank YOU!!!!!!!!


roland says:
10/6/2010 at 12:37:33 AM

i like your advice.it really helps...


ASH says:
12/18/2010 at 7:58:16 AM

i like ur advice.thnx v much!


Douglas says:
12/18/2010 at 7:27:22 PM

Can''''t wait to try these out on my youth team. Thank you.
Loving your e-books as well.


Boss says:
1/13/2011 at 1:03:48 PM

The most basic and unhelpfull tips that you are suppose to know by the 5th grade. Please come up with tips that are made for individuals that are highschool or better.


William says:
1/19/2011 at 9:52:09 PM

I am the best shooter on the team at my high school and i am only a 10th grader, but my coach thinks that d-fence is 100% of the game, and im getting about 12 points a game in 3s alone and i still cant get that varsity uniform and there are only 7 people on the entire vasity team, i was just wondering what else i can do, i play ok d-fence but we have no offensive game besides our posts


mobster says:
5/5/2011 at 1:54:34 PM

i am totally tryying them


Kyle says:
8/4/2011 at 4:10:05 AM

I am 43, never played, never coached. I am deployed military, and joined the unit team in a tournament. We are winning because I am using these tips, and communicating to others to use them, especially the move when the ball is passed tip. Many thanks.


Micahl says:
10/30/2011 at 7:24:43 PM

have been on this site 3 times now, just picked my 9 & 10 year old team today....won a state championship, played a year of college, and 3 years in the military....i am scared to death to coach all of these impressionable minds. i have never coached (head coach), firm believer of "rebounds equals rings, and if the other team cant score, they cant win!"... please, is there any advice you can give? these drills, so far, will be the basis of my teachings.

...and thanks!


Coach C says:
11/16/2011 at 9:32:37 AM

another good way to teach this is to practice shell drill with hands behind the player backs. that forces them to use their feet when jumping to the ball.


Joe DiMattina says:
12/7/2011 at 9:44:47 AM

I teach my players to move:

on a pivot, sprint(slide) on a pass.

Read the eyes(especially girls bball) and the shoulders of the person with the ball.


Ken Sartini says:
12/7/2011 at 1:31:49 PM


You are working with 9 & 10 year olds.. teach them fundamentals of the game... m2m defense and remember to let them have some fun. At that age its not all about winning... its about playing and having fun, developing a love for the game and learning a little bit about HOW to play.

Bob Bigelow has a great tape regarding working with young players... you can find it on this site.



Roman G says:
12/20/2011 at 5:02:30 PM

Thanks, very helpful


Hope says:
1/1/2012 at 10:11:42 PM

Thanks so much i am a basketball player and have a game tomorrow. These tips will hopefully work!


andre t says:
1/17/2012 at 4:36:20 PM

Very informational tips. Thanks!


Ken says:
1/17/2012 at 4:56:00 PM

William -

I think you already answered your own question.

I am the best shooter on the team at my high school and i am only a 10th grader, but my coach thinks that d-fence is 100% of the game, and im getting about 12 points a game in 3s alone and i still cant get that varsity uniform and there are only 7 people on the entire vasity team, i was just wondering what else i can do, i play ok d-fence but we have no offensive game besides our posts "

Its obvious that your coach is defensively oriented, so thats what you have to do, Improve your defensive game. Dive on loose ball, take a charge every time you can, rebound and play great helpside defense. OK in his book is not good enough... Look at the three tips and then work on your game. Good luck, hope this works out for you.


Pratyush Singh says:
11/28/2012 at 12:43:04 AM

As a player, tip #1 sounds effective, as it can lead to a high number of turnovers for the offensive team (interceptions), but for example the point guard fake passes to the 2 and passes to the opposite wing, meanwhile the person guarding the 2 has already 'jumped' the fake pass (anticipating the point guard would pass to the 2) leaving a back door cut for the 2 guard (the defensive player would be slow getting back, as he/she tried to intercept it but failed). Kinda hard to explain, but does it make sense what i am trying to say?


Mcditto mothibedi says:
4/5/2013 at 6:16:28 AM

Gr8 advice, will definately put this into practice.


Antz says:
8/18/2013 at 8:43:55 PM

thanks for the great tips from you guys, i am a newbie one in coaching an elementary players and you give a lot of help for me... young Filipinos love basketball so much


Antonio Douglas says:
8/26/2013 at 12:55:06 PM

I like this


James Sappington says:
3/22/2014 at 11:36:21 AM

Another defense quickness tip, always point your leading toe into the direction of the slide. This gives you more stability and speed than if your toe was pointed perpendicular to the direction of your slide.


Heidi says:
9/30/2014 at 10:46:04 AM

I'm a newbie and I don't really get tip #1. Does it mean if your guarding say #6 you start running when #6 passes? Aren't you supposed to guard your player only?


Deanna says:
9/27/2016 at 9:24:08 PM



MLipenk says:
11/16/2017 at 4:38:04 PM

I ran a "move on the pass" drill one night with the team. The very next game one of my quick-but-timid players got 4 steals off the wing pass. It works when they do it.


MLipenk says:
11/16/2017 at 4:44:46 PM

Pratyush Singh, As a coach, I completely understand what you are saying. It will happen with aggressive defense, but it is worth the risk to get steals and quicker on-the-ball defense. Most kids at the younger ages are quite robotic in their rotation of the ball from wing-to-wing and even telegraph their passes. All too often defenses are content to sit back and take a break and watch it happen.


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