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How to coach and teach proper footwork in basketball

Teaching proper footwork should be an important part of every basketball program. Using proper footwork makes the average player better and a great assist to team play. It is a bigger compliment to a player to say he is hard to defend, than say he is a great shooter. Mastery of this fundamental helps players to free themselves without assistance from a teammate. Basketball coaches used to use this as an important measuring stick in evaluating players.

Strategy speed

Getting open for passes is an important part of footwork. This is accomplished by changing speeds suddenly from a walk to a sprint. It is most effective when combined with:

  1. starts
  2. stops
  3. change of direction
  4. change of pace
  5. fakes and feints.

This is essential in developing a successful passing game. Teach your players different combinations such as:

  1. going from half-speed to full-speed
  2. going from a walk to a stop to a quick start
  3. going from quarter speed to a hesitation with a head and shoulder action to a quick start.

Timing your cut to meet the pass is most important. Help your player to understand the objective and maneuvers such as these will become natural reflex actions.

Set up simple drills for each specific form of footwork. The next step is to co-ordinate them into segregated parts of the offense under game conditions.


At the start of a dribble, the pivot foot must not leave the floor until the ball leaves the hand; however, for shooting or passing, the pivot foot can leave the floor, but cannot return before releasing the ball.


Every basketball player must learn to stop quickly, and within the limits specified by the rules, while maintaining balance. When the ball is caught while both feet are in the air, and the player lands on both feet simultaneously, the rules are the same as if he caught the pass while standing. Either foot can be used as the pivot foot.

Whenever the ball is caught while one foot is on the floor, that foot becomes the pivot foot. Since no pivot foot is established when the ball is caught with both feet in the air and the player lands on both feet simultaneously, I recommend you teach your players to catch the ball with both feet in the air. There are two methods of stopping with the ball, the running stride stop and the two-footed jump stop.

The running stride stop

Some coaches prefer the running stride stop because they feel it more natural and easier to execute. Good body balance is a requisite of quick and sudden stops without telegraphing the player's intentions. Hesitancy, or lack of decision defeats the effectiveness of execution.

When stopping in stride the player, running in a slight crouch, lowers his hips as his pivot foot hits the floor on the first count and the forward foot is slapped to the floor to make possible the suddenness of the stop. To maintain balance the body must be kept low. This footwork can be taught in connection with other fundamentals. For example, you could work in the running-stride stop during the last few minutes of daily shooting practice by having players dribble within shooting distance, stop suddenly, and shoot. This is a simple drill and often happens under normal game conditions.

The two-footed jump stop

The two-footed jump stop is not as natural as the running stride stop, thus harder to execute. For this reason many coaches in the past have refused to teach it; however, in recent years, I have seen it used as an effective weapon. Players who can master the two-footed jump stop can cover an extreme amount of territory with but little dribbling. One way to practice it is with your normal under-basket layup routine.

Change of direction

This is one of the most effective forms of footwork in basketball. A player can use it to free himself from a defender more than any other maneuver.

The rear turn

A drill for teaching basketball players the rear turn.This situation occurs when a player, with the ball, is confronted by a defender and there is no play in front. This calls for a stride stop not too close to the defender. The body weight needs to be well balanced. The player pushes off with his front foot and pivots on the rear foot. This puts his body between the defender and the ball, preventing a possible tie up or loss of possession. On the left are a couple of examples of drills you can use to teach this fundamental to all your players. Also, this is a simple method to teach them to read the defense.

The pivot

A drill for teaching basketball players how to execute the pivot.The pivot is used to evade an opponent and avoid loss of possession. The pivot can be executed from either a stride or jump stop. If dribbling, the player should stop five to six feet from his defender. This allows space for his approach and helps avoid a possible loss of possession.

If you are pivoting to the right, that foot should be even with the left, or slightly ahead. To produce the pivot spin, the left leg is swung around and the right shoulder is lowered as the spin starts on the ball of the right foot. The pivot spin is completed by transferring the weight and stepping out with a long stride at right angles to get away from the defender. Keep the head and eyes up, looking for open teammates.

The reverse turn

A drill for teaching basketball players how to execute the rear turn.This piece of footwork is effective and should be taught to every player and well versed on how to use this particular fundamental. The reverse turn is used along the sidelines against a charging defender, under the basket, or in the free-throw circle.

The reverse turn is executed differently from the front turn in that the player whirls 180 degrees on the balls of both feet simultaneously. He should push off with the forward foot and pivot on the rear foot as the weight is transferred. As he completes the pivot and still on the balls of both feet, he takes a full step in the new direction.

The front turn

A drill for teaching basketball players how to execute thefront turn.The front turn is used by a dribbler whose guard is not pressing him, but is approaching him near the sideline. As the defender comes alongside, the dribbler uses a running-stride stop with the foot nearest the defender farthest advanced. After stopping the dribbler pivots on the back foot, toward the sideline, bringing the front foot around at 90 degrees.

Upon completion of the turn, the body faces the opposite direction in a low body crouch, protecting the ball. The head and eyes should be up looking for the trailer coming behind

Fakes and feinting

This should be part of every basketball player's training and can be described as a combination of ball handling and footwork. Every player should use some form of them all to free himself from a defender with his own action. Any time you use in such practice will never be wasted.

Head and shoulder fakes

This is often used by pivot players. They simply us a quick fake in one direction then go in the opposite direction for their shot. You can well use the head and shoulder fake prior to a change-in-direction cut.

Ball fakes

This is a simple, but extremely good way of gaining an advantage over a defender. You execute a ball fake by faking a pass in one direction and in the same motion following with a pass, shot, or dribble in another. As an example it is often used by forwards to get the ball to a pivot player in the low post. He might fake a two-handed pass to the side of the defender's head and without pulling back, bounce the ball to the side of the defender's feet and under his arms.

Eye fakes

Many of the better defensive players watch the eyes of their opponent. If you suspect this to be the case, you can take advantage by using deceptive eye movement.

Arm and hand fakes

A good example of using arm and hand fakes is a receiver, using peripheral vision standing with his arms to his side, and raising the hands at the last moment to catch the ball. Also, you can use the opposite, that is faking a catch in order to draw the defender out of position.

Foot fakes

A few examples of foot fakes include:

  1. A quick bending of the knees to fake a jump shot, followed by a drive to the basket should the defender leave his feet, or continuing with the shot if he don't.
  2. A quick step forward and back, followed by either a shot or fake shot and drive to the basket.
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