In the world of basketball, offensive techniques are constantly evolving, with players and coaches seeking new ways to gain an edge over their opponents. The defensive side of the ball however has long been left to dogma and old-school approaches. Today, we delve into a unique defensive technique that has the potential to alter defensive fundamentals: the forward stance. This lesser-known defensive stance has proven to be a game-changer, allowing players to apply relentless pressure and disrupt the flow of the opposing team's offense. Drawing inspiration from basketball icons and defensive idols like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Gary Payton and many others, we explore the nuances of the forward stance and its effectiveness in elevating defensive skills to new heights.
The Forward Stance:
The forward stance stands apart from traditional defensive positions, offering a fresh perspective on how to guard an opponent effectively. Rather than the conventional upright position, the forward stance emphasizes a lower center of gravity and an aggressive crouch. It challenges the conventional defensive positions we have all been taught. But by adopting this stance, the position allows you to react swiftly to offensive movements, maintaining optimal pressure and agility throughout defensive play.
Advantages of the Forward Stance:
Disruptive Defensive Pressure: With the forward stance, players have the ability to apply relentless pressure on the offensive player. In this stance, the defensive player takes up and gets into the offensive player's space without necessarily moving their feet forward. This allows the defender to maintain an appropriate foot-distance while extending their reach precisely at the offensive player’s dribble pocket. And nothing is better than a defender who is able to start your defensive point of attack with pressure.
Movement Versatility: The forward stance offers a lower center of gravity and the compact nature of the crouch allows for swifter change of directions. In the historic defensive stance, changing directions can sway the upper body of the defender outside of their balance frame, greatly decreasing their change of direction explosiveness. Where as the forward stance lowers the center of gravity and when a defender needs to change direction, the sway is far more limited and if anything, centers the mass above the force point - the leg that is creating the explosive change of direction.
On-Ball Steal: The forward stance is a new posture for a defender and a key difference comes from their reach. Many defenders underestimate their new reach towards the dribble in this stance. For this reason, a coach cannot skip or undervalue the build-up drills to stealing the ball and getting comfortable with the stance. (See the On-Ball Pressure Clinic)
Embracing the Forward Stance:
Focus on Lower Body Strength and Mobility: Mastering the forward stance requires a strong lower body foundation and flexible hamstrings. Prioritize exercises that enhance explosiveness, lateral quickness, and change of direction. Incorporate squats, lunges, and plyometrics into your training routine to develop the physical attributes necessary for optimal performance in the forward stance as well as active stretching and mobility movements. (See Footwork Training Program)
Active Feet: The focus on footwork must always follow the introduction of a new stance. If the stance is the foundation, footwork becomes the ground floor. For the forward stance, a tremendous amount of activity is needed. The feet truly never stop moving and shifting. The defender is typically changing his angle or leverage every second beat. Because the defender is pressuring the ball so tightly and aggressively, they must be ready for the offense to react. When a defender in the forward stance transcends from reacting to the offensive player to anticipating or forcing a response, the defender is approaching a new level of defense. Although this may sound idealistic or incredibly difficult to obtain, one must remember that the more you pressure an offensive player, the more predictable they become. We refer to this as Disruptive Control.
Athleticism: This stance requires flexibility and explosiveness, but by no means does the defender have to be a world class athlete. Rather, they just need to comparable to the person they are guarding. Look at any pesky defender, and you’ll notice an athletic component. For consistency of your players, although the stance’s success may be determined by match-up, it must be in use predominately by your most athletic players. They don’t have to be Michael Jordan or Avery Bradley, but ideally they are the Avery Bradley athleticism of your level. *Also, if you do have a super athletic player, this stance allows you to get the most out of them on the defensive side of the floor, especially when guarding the ball.
The forward stance represents a unique and effective defensive technique that can take a defender’s game to new levels. As exemplified by basketball legends, the forward stance offers enhanced defensive intensity, disruptive pressure, and versatile. By incorporating this stance into a defensive repertoire and dedicating time to developing the necessary skills, a defender can become a defensive force on the court. Embrace the forward stance, defense needs to catch up to the times, defense needs a revolution.