Drill: Closeout, Slide, and Backpedal

Defense is extremely important in all sports and this drill helps young athletes develop their defensive techniques through practicing closeouts, defensive slides and backpedaling. This drill helps improve the young basketball player’s balance and defensive awareness; knowing at all times where their defender is on the court.

The premise of this drill is to have the coach stand at the top of the key with a ball and have the players line up on the baseline. This drill only encompasses the perimeter of the key, that way it is easy to run in any  open gym space with very minimal equipment needs. One at a time, the player will sprint up to the coach while properly closing out the offensive player (a.k.a the coach). Next, they will practice defensive slides from one elbow of the key to the next and finish off the drill by backpedaling to the end baseline. Once the player, starts backpedaling, the next individual can start the drill.

Closeouts and defensive shuffles are important to practice in basketball because these skills essentially help slow the defender down and prevent them from taking an easy jump shot or layup. The ability for a defender to move their feet with speed helps stops the offensive player from getting a basket and possibly a fast break opportunity.

With great practice and instruction, these defensive skills will prove to be very important during games and competitions. Your ability to stop the offensive team from scoring is the way you are able to win games; moreover, it is important to practice and start teaching these skills at a very young age.

As my dad always used to say when he coached, “Defense wins games, offense packs the house!

DESCRIPTION Have all basketball players line up on the baseline in single file. The coach will stand at the elbow of the key with a ball. The space used for this drill is just the perimeter of the key, and coaches can use two pylons to outline where the player will practice defensive shuffles (the two elbows of the key). One player at a time will sprint and close-out the coach with the ball at the elbow of the key, proceed to defensive shuffle to the other elbow and backpedal to the end baseline.

Once one player has completed their cycle, the next player can do the same routine.

SKILL FOCUS Defensive shuffles, close-outs, balance, defense awareness, speed
AGE (STAGE) 6+ (FUNdamentals Stage) 9+ (Learn-to-train Stage)
EQUIPMENT 1 basketball, 2 pylons
Key Teaching Points Ensure the defender is sprinting out to the offensive play (coach, in this situation) with their hand up, knees bent – teach proper close-out techniques

Ensure the defender is not crossing their feet when shuffling across the free-throw line

Focus on balance when back pedaling but also getting back on defense as fast as possible

Feel free to take a look at the video posted below of Dominique Wilkins instructing young athletes on how to properly execute this drill.

Let me know what you think by posting your thoughts, comments, and opinions below!

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