The hip turn, drop step, and basketball defense

I have written about the hip turn and crossing one’s feet on defense multiple times because many coaches find these points controversial, and I frequently receive questions about the hip turn and defense. I have used the video above to demonstrate good defense during a game, but I finally added the video below to demonstrate the hip turn and drop step at a slower speed to illustrate the difference.

Furthermore, I published a peer-reviewed paper in the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching on the hip turn and drop step (available here). Despite what other coaches have said, I did not make up a study; the study was approved by five professors on my dissertation committee, including one of the foremost authorities on agility in the world, and reviewed by two or three others before being accepted for publication. Until someone else publishes a peer-reviewed study that compares the hip turn and drop step, it is the best source of objective information available on the two methods of footwork.

If you want to teach the right thing, teach a drop step; please do not yell at your players for being slow when they drop step. If you want to teach the quicker method of footwork, teach the hip turn. Better yet, do not teach anything. Players naturally use a hip turn when forced to change directions at a high rate of speed in the absence of other instruction.

In my study, the one player who used the hip turn naturally – before the study intervention – was an outlier; she was so much faster than the other players that I could not include her in the study. In the other players, although they naturally drop stepped at the beginning, once they were introduced to the hip turn, they were faster when using the hip turn than the drop step. This despite 6+ years of practicing drop steps!

Hopefully the videos above demonstrate the usefulness and differentiate the techniques. The hip turn or drop step will not determine one’s defensive success, as there are numerous factors involved in successful defense. However, to improve quickness when changing directions, the hip turn is the quicker method of footwork.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals

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