Proper footwork is the foundation of the game of basketball. Building a skill-set of solid footwork techniques can ensure the proper development of 12-year-old youth players and high school players.
Some footwork techniques included here are time-tested basic fundamentals. Others may be completely unfamiliar, but are widely used in other sports and are applicable to basketball.
Proper footwork can enhance any player's ability to play offense, defense, rebound or any other part of the game of basketball. This article is not meant to be the absolute authority on footwork, but hopefully it will serve to inspire both coaches and players to focus more on footwork. If there are terms and descriptions that are unfamiliar, please refer to the demonstration photos and videos at 1on1Basketball.net.
The following are 10 important aspects of footwork that I have used in coaching major college and pro players:
You can't score unless you make shots. A quick surefire way to improve your shot is to simply have your feet and hands ready to catch and shoot even before the ball is passed. To play defense properly, most coaches and players understand that you must start with a ready position that allows the defender to move in any direction, including jumping up to block a shot or standing still to take a charge. The basic ready positions for both offense and defense in basketball are essentially the same. This is the most basic and necessary athletic stance for success in most sports, including basketball.
Heels Up -- Coaches in every sport often teach players to "get low" and "stand on the ball of the foot" or "on your toes." These phrases are simply metaphors to more easily explain how to perform this technique. When done correctly, it is actually the area of the foot directly behind and across all of the toes, which includes the ball of the foot, that will bear and support the weight of the body. Raising the heels off the floor automatically causes the legs to bend, making it easier and more natural to lower the body into a slight squat that provides balance, power and enhances propulsion. This bio-mechanically correct contact point of the foot, combined with a low center of gravity, is the optimum position for basketball players to start any movement. Players will then find it easier to sprint, jump, slide, stop, pivot and hold their position.
Wide Base -- Maintain a wide stance with both feet about shoulder-width apart. A shoulder-width stance is sufficient enough to increase the ability to quickly move forward, backward, or shoot jump shots and free throws. To increase the ability to move laterally, separate the feet even more than shoulder-width. Establishing post position requires an extremely wide stance.