1.1.2 Closing out
When “closing out” the defender aims to stop their opponent from shooting and from driving. Key teaching points are:
- “Fly with the ball” – the defender needs to move as the ball is passed, not waiting until their opponent has caught it
- Move efficiently – if the defender moves to their left, they should step with their left foot first
- Sprint – the defender needs to move as quickly as possible, particularly if they have to cover a long distance (e.g. if they were on the help line and are moving to an opponent outside the three point line)
- “End with a chop” – as the defender gets closer to their opponent (having covered approximately two thirds of the original distance between them), they should start to take smaller steps (“choppy” steps). This helps the defender to balance and to be ready to defend their opponent.
- “2 Hands High” – the defender raises both hands in front of their face, while taking small, choppy steps. This protects against a quick shot, but also moves their hips forward and brings the weight slightly back, which is important for finishing in a balanced stance (ready to move laterally if necessary). The defender should not reach forward with one arm (which is commonly done to protect against a shot) as this will put them off balance and leave them unable to defend the dribble.
A further two teaching points are that players should:
- Communicate – the defender should call “ball” as they start to move and not leave it until they are in position. The earlier they indicate to team mates that they will defend the ball, the less likely it is that two defenders will move to defend the one player.
- Anticipate – if the defender believes that a pass may be made to their opponent, they may move their position slightly to be closer to their opponent.
Perhaps most importantly, defenders need to practice the skill of “closing out” in contested situations, as it more than simply moving to a new position on the court. As they Close-out, the defender must be ready to change direction to defend a dribble.
Activities to practice “closing out”Sprinting
Many coaches will introduce “closing out” without an offence player, with the
defender moving towards a chair or other marker.
It is recommended that this type of activity is used sparingly, if at all. Instead,
closing out is best practiced in a contested situation – although when first learning
it, the coach may limit what the offensive player can do.
Here, the defender passes to an offensive player and “closes out”.
Initially, the offensive player may not move, but does shot fakes and/or drive fakes,
which the defender reacts to. Progress to where the offensive player may dribble
(after the defender touches the ball) and then to fully contested, where the offence
may move when they wish.
The coach passes to one of the offensive players, and x1 must Close-out and defend that player. The number of dribbles of the offensive player can be limited.
With young players, the activity should be done so that both offensive players are in a position where they can shoot.
x1 should “read” the coach, anticipating where the pass will be made and moving slightly towards that player.
If the perimeter player penetrates the key, they now become the defender, pass the ball to the perimeter and Close-out.
Continue for a set time (e.g. 3-5 minutes), with the player scoring the most points being the winner. Points are only earned on defence and players only get to play defence if they can penetrate into the key as an offensive player.