It's hard to win basketball games without a solid defense. And the key to being a good defender is a strong defensive stance. You might have the right mentality, athleticism and work ethic, but without the proper stance, your defense will be suspect. A good defensive stance allows you to be ready to move in any direction, to contest shots, and to have active hands, ready to steal the ball, tip passes or simply make the offense work harder to do what they want to do.
Here are some stance pointers. Playing defense with the right stance requires work in practice to make it a comfortable habit. Once you master it, playing pressure defense becomes more efficient.
Good defensive stance starts with the feet. Point them forward and position them slightly wider than your knees, which should be shoulder-width apart. Place your weight on the balls of your feet (but not on your toes), and keep your heels off the ground. Bend your knees to the point where you can reach straight down with one hand and touch the floor with your fingers. When you bend, think about sitting down in a chair. Rule of thumb: if you think you are low enough, try to get lower. In general, players do not play low enough on defense. If you can't move, then you are too low. But with practice, you will be able to stay really low and still move fluidly.
When reaching to the floor to see how low you are, check how flat your back is. You want your back to be flat, slightly arched, but not totally straight. Straight would be upright. Flat is as level as possible from your shoulders to your hips. To help with this, stick your chest up when you reach down. This might feel uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier with practice and as you get stronger. Keeping your chest up will help keep your back flat, which is better for your back, keeps you balanced and prevents falling forward. Your upper body should be leaning forward, but your weight should still be balanced. If you have weight lifting experience, a basketball defensive stance is like a Back Squat, except in a stance, your feet are wider, your weight is off your heels instead of on them, and you lean forward more. Make sure to keep your eyes up.
Coaches have differing opinions on hand placement, depending on how aggressive they want your defense to be. But regardless of defensive style, it's important to keep your hands up and active, not down at your sides. Your hands can be out to the sides; you can reach with one hand to dig at the ball and keep the other out wide; or you can have one hand out wide and one by the offensive player's hip, on the same side as your hand out wide.
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