The Importance of Footwork on Defense

August 19, 2023

The Importance of Defensive Footwork

Footwork is a foundational skill for all basketball players to have for a number of reasons. The importance of footwork comes up on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. 

In most sports, everything starts from the ground up and basketball is no different. Your feet are the foundation that give you a solid base and allow you to move effectively and efficiently (or inefficiently if your footwork is poor). 

I have personally seen gifted athletes struggle to harness their talent because their footwork/coordination was not on par with their athleticism. Guys that could run fast and jump high but couldn't dunk the basketball because their footwork on their running start was so bad that it put a ceiling on how high they could get.

In my training program, the goal is to avoid the above situation and get the most out of your body and that all starts with great footwork as the foundation


It almost goes without saying that footwork is essential on the defensive end of the floor. This starts with the correct defense stance which is: feet wider than shoulder width apart for a solid base, knees bent in an athletic position (sitting down like you’re in a chair), chest up, and hands out. 

Push Step

The correct way to slide your feet on defense without crossing them is a key skill as well. This footwork is referred to as a defensive slide or a push-step. If you cross your feet when defensive sliding it puts you at a much higher risk to lose your balance and or trip. 

Crossover Step

A crossover step is another important defensive maneuver - it comes into play when you need to turn your entire body and run - if a ball handler gets far enough past you, you cannot slide to catch up, so you may need to take a crossover step and then sprint to catch up. 


Closeouts are extremely important as well- a closeout occurs when an offensive player catches the ball and a defender has to  run out to defend them. Having sloppy footwork on a closeout can make it easy for the offensive player to blow straight past them.

The correct footwork on a closeout is for the defensive player to sprint at the offensive player and then once he is 6 feet away the defender chops his feet and throws his hands up while breaking into a defensive stance. This technique is effective because it allows the defender to get there quickly (sprint) and on balance (foot chop) in order to either contest the shot or defend the drive.

Without a solid foundation of footwork, it is almost impossible to replicate the above defensive techniques consistently and effectively - with that being said, this isn’t even an exhaustive list of all defensive footwork, it’s just a couple of things that illustrate the point well. If you watch a basketball game you will see these things being utilized by players at all levels. At the highest levels of the sport it occurs naturally, whereas for youth players it must be broken down and taught in order to take effect. Stay tuned for a breakdown of why footwork is important on the offensive side of the ball as well.

If you are located in Maryland, make sure to try out free workout in my program, you won't regret it!

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