Popping (Defensive Footwork)

In front-court play, you will often have to guard a player immediately after he/she receives a pass or ends a dribble, particularly when your opponent is close enough to the basket to shoot a high percentage shot. To guard that player, you can either 'jam' or 'overplay'.

Whether you jam or overplay, to guard that player effectively, you must be able to execute a first, quick step, so that when he/she initiates a drive, pass, or shot you can react by adjusting your location on the court. That first step enables you to move forward or backward or laterally very quickly. The technique for doing this is called 'popping '.

Popping is the quickest way to adjust your location the court in relation to the player you are guarding. For example, when a player lowers the ball to initiate a drive, you can quickly react by popping away from him/her. As the player reacts to your pop by raising the ball to initiate a shot, you can quickly close by popping forward. The more athletic you are, the greater the distance you can cover with a 'pop'.

Backward and Forward Popping

The Stance: With arms at your sides, stand erect with your feet shoulder width and parallel to each other. Get into a staggered defensive stance, by stepping backward with your right foot. The front foot should be pointing straight ahead, and your rear foot should be at a 45-degree angle. Flex both knees to lower your center of gravity. Make sure your weight is distributed equally on both feet. Your torso should be erect. Look straight ahead.

As you step back, raise your arms away from your body, keeping your elbows bent. Your left hand should be head high in front of you, with the palm facing away. Your right hand should be waist high, just above your right hip.

Make sure you are relaxed, with no tenseness in the wrist, elbow, hip, shoulder, knee, and ankle joints.

Backward Popping

While in the staggered defensive stance, move backwards with an explosive jumping action. In this jumping action, both feet move simultaneously in a gliding motion over the court, so that there is only a slight air space between the soles of the feet and the court. The motion of the shoulder is parallel to the court. In essence, maintain the defensive stance throughout the popping action.

Forward Popping

While in the staggered defensive stance, pop forward, with the same technique explained for the backward pop.

An Exercise: Assume a staggered defensive stance with your left foot forward. Rapidly execute the both popping actions, that is, pop forward the moment you complete the backward pop, and pop backward the moment you complete the forward pop. Do ten repetitions as quickly as you can. One repetition means a backward and forward pop. Then, with your right foot forward, repeat the exercise. Ten repetitions is one set. Do several sets.

Lateral Popping

The Stance: Stand so that your feet are shoulder width apart and parallel to each other. Raise both arms directly in front of you so that the forearms are vertical and your elbows are directly in front of and slightly higher than your shoulders. Your hands are facing away from you. Maintain your physical balance, as described above under the heading The Stance in the section on Backward and Forward Popping.

Lateral Popping.

Using the same popping action as explained in Backward and Forward Popping, quickly pop laterally to the right, then to the left.

An Exercise: Assume the stance for lateral popping. Rapidly execute a lateral pop to the right, immediately followed by a lateral pop to the left. This action is one repetition. Do 10 repetitions as quickly as you can. Do several sets of 10 repetitions.

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