“I was fouled!” How many times have you heard that after a player misses a shot or fumbles the ball out of bounds? They might say it to their coach, their teammates, their parents, or even worse to themselves. Don’t allow yourself to fall into that trap. Learn to embrace physical contact and play through it.
Although basketball is billed as a “non-contact” sport we all know that is really not true. The fact is, there is contact on every possession. Good players realize that contact is part of the game. They do not allow themselves to depend on being free of contact as they dribble or shoot. Instead, they figure out how to absorb or initiate contact and still make the necessary play.
My number one for developing the ability to finish plays despite contact is adjusting your mindset. Don’t expect the referee’s calls to go your way. Get used to playing in practice without looking for fouls. When you play in a pick-up game, DON’T call fouls. Get in the habit of finishing plays no matter what contact you encounter. Make these simple changes in your mindset and over time you’ll get better at absorbing contact and still making a play.
Taking this concept one step further is the offensive player that initiates or invites contact in an attempt to draw fouls. Some players have a knack for drawing fouls. Through experience they have learned how to use their body to initiate contact with their defender. The more you play not expecting fouls to be called the more you’ll be surprised that contact doesn’t affect your game as much as it used to.
What are some specific skills you can work on to help you deal with contact as a player?
If you initiate contact, you have the advantage. Your opponent will often be surprised that you are creating contact giving you more leverage to finish plays at the rim, hold a box out, or fight through a screen. Hitting first (within the rules!) gives you the edge on your opponent.
Whenever you are moving the ball from one side of your body to the other, rip it through violently. Below your knee or above your head works best. By getting in the habit of ripping the ball through the defense you’ll have far fewer balls poked away by a reaching defender.
When you are driving to the basket, after your last dribble, keep the ball on your outside hip. Avoid “swinging” the ball from side to side as you go up for a layup which brings the ball right to the defender. If your opponent tries to reach in and steal the ball, he will have to go across your body in order to get to it. Locking the ball away leads to fewer turnovers, more fouls being called on your opponent, and stronger finishes around the basket.
If you are a coach, you can help your players learn to play through contact by limiting the amount of fouls you call in practice (keeping in mind that you are trying to teach good defensive habits too).
Make these three skills part of your game. You’ll see immediate improvement in your ability to play through contact and be more physical. No coach I know will complain about that!
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