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Front-foot to free-foot drill

This is an excerpt from Youth Basketball Drills-2nd Edition by Burrall Paye & Patrick W. Paye.

Learn how to properly perform stance and footwork drills in
Youth Basketball Drills, Second Edition.

Individual • 3 minutes

  • Skill Focus Triple threat (9), rocker step (11), reverse pivot (36), front-foot-to-pivot-foot stance (129), front-foot-to-free-foot stance (130), parallel stance, advance step (137), retreat step (137), swing step (137), slide step (137)


  1. Line players up as shown in figure 1 in drill 129. Make sure you can easily observe the footwork. Rotation is from offense to defense to the end of the line.
  2. Player 1 breaks to the free-throw line. The coach tells player 1 which foot to establish as the pivot foot. X1 rolls ball to 1. X1 must put front foot up near 1’s free foot and outside 1’s free foot by half a body—this is the overplay (see figure 1).
  3. Player 1 uses jab step, jab-step pull-back, jab-step crossover, and reverse pivot, in that order. Observe X1’s footwork:
    1. If player 1 uses the jab step, 1 must get the free foot outside the overplay or X1 does not react. If 1’s free foot is outside X1’s overplay, 1 must use a circuitous route to dribble. A slight swing step might be required of the defender.
    2. If player 1 uses the jab-step pull back, X1 does not need to react. A jump shot under tight coverage is not available.
    3. If player 1 uses the jab-step crossover (see figure 2), X1 uses a slight slide step and a slight retreat step. X1’s first step coincides with the attacker’s first step. X1 moves the right foot slightly to the right. Then X1 slides the left foot to regain balance.
    4. If player 1 reverse pivots (see figure 3), X1 uses a slight slide step and a slight retreat step, using the same foot movement as in step c.
  4. Go over the drill’s footwork as many times as it takes to get it perfect.

  • Front-Foot-to-Free-Foot Stance
    1. The front-foot-to-free-foot stance is the simplest of the three options the defender has before an attacker begins the dribble. Figure 1 displays front-foot-to-free-foot stance initial stance. If the attacker has jump-stopped, there is a choice of pivot foot. The defender should meet the jump stop with a parallel stance and a slight overplay, compelling the attacker to choose a pivot foot. Usually it is best to overplay right-handed players to their right and left-handed players to their left.
    2. An effective initial stance must force the attacker to use only one of the three options available. The attacker’s three options are to drive right, drive left, or shoot. The defensive stance must take away two of these options. To be effective, defenders must dictate.
    3. The only effective front-foot-to-free-foot stance is the overplay on the side of the free foot.
    4. Remember the attacking principles of drill 17: The attacker should always attack the defender’s front foot.So if the defender is not in an overplay position, this is what happens:
      1. If the defender tries to play even to the attacker’s free foot and pivot foot with the defender’s front foot being on the side of the free foot, the attacker would simply direct drive to the basket for a layup. This would be unstoppable.
      2. If the defender tries to overplay the pivot-foot side, this opens a direct drive by the attacker to the basket. This, too, is unstoppable.
      3. If the defender plays in a loose coverage with the front foot being the foot on the side of the free foot, the attacker shoots. This, too, is unstoppable in the front-foot-to-free-foot stance with loose coverage.
    5. Thus the only stance and coverage that is logical when using the front-foot-to-free-foot stance is the overplay on the side of the free foot. This can be a reasonably tight coverage.
    6. The tight coverage eliminates the shot. The overplay by at least half a body eliminates the drive to the attacker’s right (see figure 1). Thus the overplay and front-foot-to-free-foot stance achieves the objective of the defender: He takes away two of the attacker’s three options.
    7. The attacker’s only achievable advantage is to make a move left. The attacker can do this by using jab-step crossover or reverse pivot. The attacker could pick up the free foot (right foot in figure 1) and try to put it beside the defender’s right foot. But a simple small slide step with a slight retreat step would prevent this (see figure 2). And the attacker would be turned sideways to the basket and could not shoot. The attacker could reverse pivot (see figure 3). Now the defender need do nothing. If the attacker does a full spin, the attacker’s back is to the basket—no shot available. The defender need only slide half a step to prevent a drive. The attacker has back to the basket—hardly a shooting position. Thus the attacker must put the ball on the floor to attack. Neither the jab-step crossover nor the reverse pivot gains an advantage because the defender’s right foot is already back away from the attacker. This is why this is the simplest of the initial stances; even beginners have no trouble understanding and using this stance.
    8. The attacker will have to put the ball on the floor to attack.
    9. The great disadvantage is the defender must play between a tight and loose coverage. Too tight coverage results in the attacker being able to get the free foot outside the defender’s front foot and get an unstoppable drive to the basket. Too loose coverage results in an easy jump shot.
  • Teaching Points
    1. The defender wants to be in a crouch, bending at the knees to almost a sit-down position. The defender should be able to touch the floor with the palms. The head is directly over the crouch and straight up, beneath the armpits of the attacker. The defender’s body is bent slightly at the waist with torso leaning slightly forward. Hands and arms should be out to both sides of the body, discouraging any offensive movement in either direction.
    2. A coach needs to be in a position to see the defender’s footwork against the jab step, the jab-step pull back, the jab-step crossover, and the reverse pivot. Make sure the defender executes each defensive technique correctly.
    3. Make sure the defender’s body position is always correct. Should the defender have to slide slightly, the coach must make sure the defender’s head does not bob. The defender’s head should always be level, as if carrying a bowl of water on top.

Read more from Youth Basketball Drills, Second Edition by Burrall Paye and Patrick Paye.