The One Drill Every Coach Should Use -
1 on 1 Full Court Defense Drill

I believe that every single coach should spend at least 5 minutes of every practice on 1v1 full court defense. It doesn't matter if you play a defense where you pack it in or pick up full court.

Not only is this a great drill for improving your ball handling and on-ball defense, it also...
  1. Improves athleticism. When your players are constantly shuffling, sprinting, stopping, and accelerating for the length of the entire court, you will see steady improvements in their court speed, quickness, and body control. For this reason alone, I believe all coaches should use this drill.

  2. Conditions your players. This drill is a great conditioner, especially if you have them play defense 2 or 3 times consecutively. Our court was big enough where we could have 4 lines of 4 to 5 players. We would have one player guard 3 consecutive times against 3 different players. We would have each player go through the drill twice. This usually took about 10 minutes.

    Now, a real kicker is to make them handle the ball against a fresh defensive player after they have played defense 3 consecutive possessions.

  3. Defense will feel easy during the games. Even if you pressure the entire game, rarely do players have play 1v1 defense for 84 feet (or 94 feet for college) and on top of that, they never have to do it for 3 consecutive possessions. Now, if you play half court or quarter court defense, defense will feel extremely easy during the games compared to your practices.

  4. Improves team defense. If your players can really dig down and stop their opponent from getting to the basket, this makes your team's defense that much better because they are never playing at a disadvantage. In my first few years coaching, I put too much of an emphasis on help defense and not enough on 1v1 defense. What I found is that we were great at helping, but our 1v1 defense was terrible and we were constantly at a disadvantage.

  5. Gets the competitive juices flowing. This is a great drill to put at the beginning of practice to raise the intensity level. When you put one player against another, this usually gets them working hard from the start.

Here are a few things to emphasize and watch for:
  • All Feet. Don't Reach.

    When practicing this drill, players tend to reach so I constantly reinforce "All Feet" to make sure they are not reaching. Not only does reaching increase the number of fouls committed, but I also noticed that when players reach, they lose their balance for an instant and that's all it takes for a good offensive player to blow by them.

  • Chest Up.

    I found some players lean forward too much and this causes them to lose balance. When I see this, I remind them to keep their torso up. Every single body is different, but usually when the neck/chin is above the toes, this is a good position.

  • Chest Forward.

    This would be the opposite problem of the tip above. The player is leaning too far back and is putting too much weight on his heels which makes it difficult to stay balanced and explode in either direction.

  • Front Of Feet.

    It's important that the players keep the majority of the weight on the front of their feet to stay balanced and ready to move in any direction.

  • Don't Lean.

    When players lean too much to one side, they will lose balance. In 1v0 drills, I reinforce that when players stop, they reposition their shoulders in the new direction they are heading. This helps prevent the upper body from swaying and the player from losing balance.

  • Run!

    There are times when a defensive player will get beat over and over again and all the coach yells is "Shuffle faster. Shuffle faster. Shuffle faster." Well, the coach can yell until he's blue in the face and the defensive player can shuffle until he's blue in the face, but this usually isn't going to make the defensive player any faster. It's usually not lack of effort. It's the improper choice of movement. They just need to run!

    Sometimes, a player may be lightning-quick and the defensive player will struggle to keep up using just the defensive shuffle. So the player has to run with their upper-body facing the offensive player to stay in front. A lot of athletic development coaches call this the crossover step. Players will also have to turn and run to get in front of the offensive player if they have gotten beat.

What are your thoughts on this? Please add your comments below.


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tournelle says:
12/17/2016 at 10:30:54 AM

THE last note to switch from shuffle to run when its necessary and back,

thx going to use it


izeke1310 says:
7/16/2014 at 12:38:04 PM

I agree with this philosophy and I will now increase my man to man skills defensive training


Ken says:
2/19/2012 at 8:56:32 AM

Coach -

Try this drill we called "Man Maker"

Its a 3 on 3 half court drill with NO dribble.
3 defenders at the free throw line... 3 offensive players on the end line... a player at the free throw line passes the ball to an offensive player,
now the offensive has to get the ball past half court with NO DRIBBLE... the offense must stay in their lanes ( the half court is divided into 3 lanes) there is NO 10 second call, that forces the offense to to work hard to get open and protect the ball... the defense has to be very intense to keep them from getting across half court... make the losers do 5 pushups or 1 up and back if you need some consequences.

Don't expect them to be great at this right away... but after a few times that should get their competitive juices flowing,

Another thing we did was to run "SITUATIONS" at the end of practice, the kids love it because they love to compete and its a great teaching tool.... they are mini games that you can make up as you go along.

Team A has the ball down 2 with 20 seconds to play... they have NO timeouts - they are in the bonus and the ball is being taken out at half court. Just an example

Hope these help


Coach Russel says:
2/18/2012 at 11:19:58 PM

I am coaching 5th and 6th grade boys with only one 6th grader which is a real good athletic . I am having a problem with the defense intensity. I am going to try this drill and see if it improves the speed of the players. Thanks for this drill.


Coach Jay says:
9/1/2011 at 12:26:18 PM

The 1v1 drill is designed for 2 players to good hard at it from baseline to baseline. there is not right or wrong way to perform it, just that players give their all and both the offensive player and defensive player will both gain.


Christensen Servas says:
5/11/2011 at 7:19:33 PM

On Ben Mitchell's point---- it is absolutely true, the monkey position is much quicker. As a coach I have been teaching it for many years and I think it is better than the usual defensive stance being taught.


Christensen Servas says:
5/11/2011 at 7:19:29 PM

On Ben Mitchell's point---- it is absolutely true, the monkey position is much quicker. As a coach I have been teaching it for many years and I think it is better than the usual defensive stance being taught.


Bill Ayers says:
3/25/2011 at 5:57:04 PM

A very important aspect of this drill is teach your players to play the ball, not the man, when the ball is being dribbled - we cue "head on the ball." (note: our players defend the man from the 3 pt. line in). We want our defense to turn the ball at least 3 times prior to crossing the half-court line. We call this "1-on-1 1/2 court full court," and run it daily at every level (it is the first full court defensive drill we teach at the elementry level).


Joe Haefner says:
3/24/2011 at 12:51:05 PM

I have used 2-ball dribbling with this drill, but I used it with good 7th grade players. It got pretty sloppy, because the ball handlers struggled with it, so I'm not sure how 4th graders would do. If you don't have enough balls for everybody, it's a good option because it keeps everybody involved while working on 2-ball drills.


Ben Mitchell says:
3/24/2011 at 8:40:49 AM

Couple of teaching techniques. I read Ralph Miller's philosophy on defensive stance and it is contrary to what we have been teaching. First he calls the stance the monkey position and it keeps you in defense position and allows you to be quick. What you do is drop your hands down below your knees and come to a natural squat if you do this you can see how the arms dropped and palms up actually allows you to stay down comfortably. Their is no lead foot because good offensive players attack the lead foot. To turn with the offense you use the elbow to create the movement and then open up with the hips. Please look at Gary Payton's stance and you see what I mean.

  1 reply  

Kevin says:
9/29/2016 at 7:38:15 AM

I realize this is an older post and Ben's comment (and follow up comments) are 5 years old. But the defensive stance he speaks of is contrary to what is generally taught to youth players, especially in any training videos on YouTube. Yet, players known for their defense, like Gary Payton, Michael Jordan, Kobe, Kawhi, Iman Shumpert all look to follow more of this position with hard below knees and wide stance. Wondering why most people teach it differently. Also, wondering about the last statement on using the elbow to create the movement. Not quite understanding that. Any online videos for teaching this style defense.


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