Shopping Basket 0
Human Kinetics Publishers, Inc.



Techniques to defend on and off the ball

By American Sport Education Program (ASEP)

Jump Ball Strategies

The defensive jump ball situation can provide your team with a possession if played correctly. If you know that there is little chance to get the tip, then your team must attempt to force the opponent to tip the ball to the tipper’s weak side-the side of the court where it would be the most difficult to tip the ball (this would be to the right and to the back for right-handed players). You should also be sure to position a player on each side of the offensive player where the tipper can most easily tip the ball. This will force the tipper to tip the ball at another player in a more difficult position.

Playing the Post

The post area refers to anywhere in the free throw lane area, with the high post being the free throw line area, the mid post being the area halfway down the lane, and the low post being the area located closest to the basket. Playing defense in the post area is different than playing defense on the perimeter (the area outside the lane). The defense will usually try to keep the ball out of the post area because it is much easier for the offensive team to score in this area. Players should defend the post offensive player based on her position and her ability. The first method is to front the offensive post player to completely deny the pass into the offensive post. To do this correctly, the help-side defensive player must be in a position to stop the lob pass over the defensive player who is in the fronting position. The second method is to play directly behind the post player. This method will allow the ball to be thrown into the post player but is intended to prevent that player from getting a shot in front of the basket. This is the best method to use when the offensive post player is not a good turnaround shooter, and it is an effective method for blocking out the offensive player. The third way is to play on one side or the other of the offensive player in a partial fronting position. This will keep the ball from entering the post and yet allow a good position for boxing out.

Playing on and off the Ball

When using a man-to-man defense, playing "off the ball" and playing "on the ball" are two basic concepts that your players must be aware of. Certain rules apply when guarding a player with the ball versus guarding players without the ball.

On the Ball

Playing "on the ball" simply refers to defending the offensive player with the ball. When playing on the ball, as the offensive player begins to dribble, the defender should react by sliding the feet and maintaining an arm’s distance from the opponent. The defender should try to beat the offensive player to the spot that the player wants to reach (see figure 8.5). Moreover, if the defender can get the offensive player to stop and pick up the ball, the defender can then move closer and crowd the offensive player, blocking the passing lanes and applying extensive pressure with the arms (see figure 8.6). When playing on the ball, players should also strive to maintain focus on the opponent’s midsection; if they watch the ball or their opponent’s head or feet, they are likely to react to a fake that will put them out of position.

More advanced defenders can focus on four defensive strategies when playing defense on the ball:

  • Turning the dribbler. Defenders who establish position a half body ahead of the dribbler can force the dribbler to turn or reverse direction. This makes it much more difficult for the dribbler to find an open teammate for the pass because the dribbler is concerned with the defender.
  • Forcing the dribbler to the sideline. When a defensive player forces the dribbler to dribble toward the sideline, the dribbler can pass in only one direction. A defender can do this by working for position a half body to the inside of the court, with the inside foot (the one closer to the middle of the court) forward and the outside foot back. This technique limits the offensive player to one side of the court and makes the offensive team work much harder to score.
  • Forcing the dribbler to the middle. By taking position a half body to the outside of the court, a defender can force a dribbler to the middle. This strategy will move the dribbler toward one of the defender’s teammates off the ball.
  • Forcing the dribbler to use the weak hand. By overplaying the strong hand, defenders can force the dribbler to use the weak hand. Defenders can overplay the strong hand by being a half body to the dribbler’s strong-hand side.

Off the Ball

Playing "off the ball" simply means guarding an offensive player who does not have the ball. Defending an opponent without the ball is just as important as guarding a player with the ball, but it is a bit more complicated. When playing off the ball, defensive players need to apply the defensive concept of ball-you-man, as shown in figure 8.7, which simply means that a triangle is created between the offensive player with the ball, you the defender, and the offensive player that you are guarding. Defenders should also position themselves so that they can see the ball (and know if they need to come and help a teammate on a pass or drive), and they must keep track of a moving opponent (their player), who may be trying to get open to receive a pass. The closer an opponent is to the ball, the closer the defender should be to that opponent. The farther the ball is from an opponent, the farther away a defender can play that opponent and be able to give help to the teammate guarding the ball. Defenders must also be able to move quickly as the ball is passed from one offensive player to another and must be able to adjust their position in relationship to the ball and the player they are guarding.

Denial Position

A player should use the denial position when her opponent is one pass away from the ball. The space between two offensive players where a pass can be made is called the passing lane. A defender wants to have an arm and leg in the passing lane when guarding a player who is one pass away (see figure 8.8). This denial position allows the defender to establish the ball-you-man relationship and discourages the offensive player with the ball from attempting a pass.

Open Position

When offensive players are two or more passes away from the ball, the defensive player wants to establish an open position that still maintains the ball-you-man relationship. In the open position, the defender is farther away from the offensive player, pointing to the ball with one hand and to the opponent with the other hand (see figure 8.9). Using peripheral vision, the defender moves to react as the ball penetrates toward the basket (to help out on the drive) or moves into denial position if the offensive player cuts hard to receive a pass.


This is an excerpt from Coaching Youth Basketball, Fourth Edition.

Facebook Reddit LinkedIn Twitter
Share Facebook Reddit LinkedIn Twitter


Print Save to favorites

Also of Interest

Coaching and Officiating Basketball Store
Basketball Store

Get the latest news, special offers, and updates on authors and products. SIGN UP NOW!

Human Kinetics Rewards

About Our Products

Book Excerpts


News and Articles

About Us

Career Opportunities


Business to Business

Author Center

HK Today Newsletter


Exam/Desk Copies

Language rights translation

Association Management

Associate Program

Rights and Permissions




Certifying Organizations

Continuing Education Policies

Connect with Us

YouTube Tumblr Pinterest

Terms & Conditions


Privacy Policy


Safe Harbor