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Basketball: Lateral Movement

The saying “defense wins games” rings true in most sports. Good defensive play often keeps less-talented teams in games. Basketball is no different.

Being a great defensive player in basketball is about attitude, intelligence and movement. It’s often hard to measure a player’s attitude or intelligence, and harder still to coach those types of intangibles. Movement ability, however, can be taught.

Defensive Position
Proper position is obviously important when it comes to moving correctly on defense.

Start with your feet slightly greater than shoulder width apart.

Bend your knees, keeping your back straight and vertical, not bent, till you are down as far as you can go. Then come halfway up.

Move the arms slightly outward from the shoulders and move the forearms parallel to the ground.

The hands should be slightly clawed – ready to handle the ball at any time.

Lateral Movement
Playing good defensive basketball requires good lateral movement, the ability to stop and change direction instantly without stumbling, and the ability to quickly rotate the hips.

The most fundamental movement skill is the lateral shuffle or defensive slide. Players will want to maintain good position in front of the ball handler and be able to change direction quickly. Maintaining a consistent hip height and creating optimal push-off and stopping angles with the lower leg are the keys to proper lateral shuffles.

The main thing to be aware of is the hip height. When the hips rise up during the shuffle, the feet are pulled up and away from the floor surface. When this occurs, in becomes even more difficult to change direction quickly. If the hips settle too low, then a great amount of energy is expended just getting back up into normal defensive position.

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