Come Join the Block Party


For many years, I struggled with having players who liked to block shots, but often got in foul trouble attempting to do so.  Some players were good at it and I loved the intimidation factor it added to our defense.  Other players just seemed to constantly get more fouls then blocks, and thus, didn’t help our team much at all.  There were even times I instructed my big men not to attempt to block shots, because I didn’t want them sitting on the bench in foul trouble. 

It wasn’t until later in my career that I finally came up with a plan that seemed to satisfy me and my players.  I decided that since big jumpers and tall players love to block shots, why not take advantage of their abilities?  My “Plan” was in two parts: 

  • First, teach them how to block shots correctly. 
  • Second, instruct them on when to block a shot and when to just put “hands up” on a shooter. 

About once a week we started to spend five minutes working on shot blocking in practice.  The routine involved a couple of smaller players driving at a “medium” speed to the basket and attempting a lay-up shot, while a defender would come across the key and attempt to block the shot without fouling the shooter.  We accomplished at least three things with this drill:  

  1. Some players learned they weren’t very good at shot-blocking, which caused them to attempt less blocks and stay out of foul trouble.
  2. Many players got better at shot-blocking because practice made them better. 
  3. Most players became much better at not fouling the shooter.

The second part of “the plan” was more mental in nature.  I had once read a quote by the great shot-blocker, Bill Russell, who said, “You don’t need to block every shot, you just want your opponent to think you might.”  With taller players, I didn’t want our opponents to “think” we never would attempt to block any shots.  So, I instructed my Bigs to block a shot early in the game if they thought they could, but only if they didn’t have a foul yet.  Once they had a foul, for whatever reason, they were not to attempt any shot-blocking for the rest of the half, but just put both hands up on any shot attempt close to the basket.  An early “rejection” let our opponents know we could block their shots, so they had that on their minds the rest of the night.  Even if we fouled on the first attempt, the seed had been planted.  Although that defender would not be able to block anymore shots for awhile, we usually had others in the lineup who could continue to look for opportunities.  Also, our opponent didn’t know our player with the early foul was no longer blocking shots, but they surely “thought” that he might.

As the game progressed, players could again attempt a block in the third quarter if they had only one or no fouls at that point. Two or less at the beginning of the fourth quarter was a green light too.  All others, with two or more fouls, would play “hands up” defense, no shot blocking, until later in the game.  Usually, we still had shot-blocking threats available throughout the game, especially late, so it seemed like we were attempting to block shots any time the opponent attacked their basket.

If you have a tall player or two, or a couple of quick jumpers, try my plan or come up with one of your own.  Size and good jumping ability can be an advantages if you know how to use them.  Join the Block Party.  Your defense will improve and your players will thank you too. 

Key Teaching Points:

  1. Have a Shot Blocking Plan and let your players use it.
  2. Build a shot-blocking session into a practice each week.
  3. Teach two hands up, on-ball defense, near or under the basket.
  4. Shot blockers are not usually on the ball, but rather weak-side help defenders.
  5. Train players to be responsible for knowing how many fouls they have.

NOTE: I would enjoy reading your comments on this subject.  If you have thoughts, suggestions, or drills to share, please use the Comments Section below.  Thanks. TB

For more tips on Training Bigs, check out Coach Battenberg’s book, “Power Post Play” at:


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