Improving Your Footwork in Basketball

Set up footwork drills with cones, and keep your pacing steady.

It doesn’t matter how well you can shoot, or how fast you can dribble, if you don’t have good footwork, you will stumble like a klutz. That could result in having the ball stolen from you, and resulting in turnovers to the opposing team.

The good news, is that a dedicated coach and proper training can make your footwork more efficient.

Wayne Wharton is a coach and trainer in Southern California signed up at Sportamix who worked at the Tarzana Recreation Center in 2004 and coached in Irvine. He had to give up playing after many ankle injuries while playing at Calgary. Now, he has developed the Wayne Wharton Basketball Skills Academy and also specializes in helping disabled children learn the game.

“The 3rd to 8th graders that I work with may be good shooters, or may be good at dribbling, but they all need to improve their footwork, and that can be easy to do,” Wharton says. In fact, even players who may be a bit heavier than others or not as tall as typical basketball players can gain an advantage with good footwork.

“Great footwork is the most important skill for a point guard and center,” Coach Wharton says. “You can make your footwork your best asset because you can improve footwork.”

The benefits of developing good footwork includes:

  • Keeping you on balance for stronger passes
  • Reducing the chance of traveling
  • Creating various angles to pass around defenders
  • Allowing you to find better shooting positions quicker
  • Improving your ability to get open and create a separation from defense

Check Your Footwork

Here is a checklist to improve your footwork:

Ready Position Have a strong basic stance with your feet apart, hands up and ready to catch. Keep your heels up, stay low and have your feet at least shoulder-length apart.

Sprints It’s not just about running. Keep your knees high up to your chest and pump your arms while running.

Jump Steps The first step is always the strongest, so if you need a dynamic start, push off with one leg and bring your opposite knee to the chest when starting your run or lay-up.

Two-foot Jump Stop Jump up with both feet, land with both feet, and move in a different direction. The jump doesn’t have to be too high.

Tripod Lunge Step Take a long step with the foot furthest from the basket, then reach out with both hands to make the shot

Pivot A foot can turn as long as it does not leave the ground and not be considered traveling. Practice in a wider stance, balance on the left pivot foot and then lift and move the right foot and shoulder until they reach the same horizontal line as the pivot foot, but keep that foot anchored.

Jab Step Establish a pivot foot, keep the heel up and change direction. It is a mix of a pivot and a fake jump-step used to move away from an offensive player.

Crossover Step Keep low and push off with one foot and raise the opposite knee high and step with the other foot.

Drop Step A reverse pivot where you use your leg and hip to block or hold off the opposing player, usually effective to counter an aggressive offense. There are many off-shoots of these footwork techniques, and many various exercises.

In all your drills, try moving forward, sideways, and incorporate pivots with one foot anchored. Keep your movements smooth, but also try varying speeds to throw off opponents.

Double Dribbling with Defense In this drill, have an opponent push (literally) you back while you advance while dribbling not one, but two balls. (See video below) It will help with your ability to counteract a strong offense, and keep control of the ball(s).

“Good footwork is the best way to keep control of the ball,” Wharton says.

Coach Wharton uses this drill to help with fake-outs and lay-ups.