Up 3 late in the game I’m fouling every time. But I’ve learned that fouling on purpose is hard. You can’t foul a shooter. You don’t want to make it too obvious and grab a guy and get called for an intentional. And a lot of times the officials aren’t looking to call a foul in that situation – they want the game to play out. So fouling on purpose isn’t nearly as easy as you think.

So if you are going to foul on purpose, you have to be willing to practice it. Here are some of the rules we developed to teach our kids how to foul.

Keep the ball in front of you

This is rule #1 and it is absolutely essential. If you let the ball get ahead of you it is almost impossible to foul. If you foul from behind you can very easily get called for an intentional foul. If you get beat, and now your teammates have to help, they are in no-mans land. If they run up and try to foul they risk the throw-ahead pass that can lead to an easy three.

You must keep the ball in front. And that starts with an understanding that they are going to come at you at speed as soon as the ball gets in play. They have to attack quickly, and they are desperate. If you are flat-footed for a second, you are beat.

Foul your own man

The biggest mistake defenses make in time-and-score situations is that everyone becomes attracted to the ball. Look at most desperation shots, I bet you can find an open man if the offense was willing to make an extra pass.

When you tell your team to foul, that is all your kids are really thinking about. And they know they can only foul the guy with the ball. So unless you train them properly, two or three of them will run up to the ball in an attempt to commit the foul – leaving someone wide open for a hit-ahead 3.

When we are in “Red,” which means we are going to foul, we tell everyone to guard their own man and the guy guarding the ball will commit the foul. If we get beat, then we are in our regular help principles and we have to scramble – and we only foul if the situation presents itself.

It’s a huge mistake in these situations to leave your man to try and foul the ball. Stay with your own man, and if he gets the ball it’s your job to foul him.

Go for the basketball

This one sounds simple, but how many times have you seen someone foul a kid by putting two hands on his back and playing pitter-patter like it’s a two-hand touch football game? Usually the ref will give him (or you) a long look like “I know you are fouling, but go for the ball so you don’t put me in a bad spot.” Plus, I’m sure your kids watch a ton of the NBA, where you are allowed to foul on purpose away from the ball.

You have to make a play on the basketball. If you focus on the ball, this should also make it easier to determine that he’s not in the act of shooting or getting ready to step into a shot. Hammer the point into your players heads – go for the ball.

Come across his harms, get into his body

Our technique for fouling is to go for the ball, make sure you come across his harms, and then bump him with your body. Remember, most officials in this situation are not looking to call a foul. So you have to make it clear, without making it obvious that all you wanted to do was foul.

A simple reach in might not do the trick, especially if he continues up the floor. So make sure you get his harms, but step into him so there is body contact. Once the official sees that bump he has to blow the whistle.

Keep running

As you are fouling him, keep running up the floor with him. Don’t stop and just swipe at him and put your hand up expecting the whistle. If he gets past you, the official will likely let it go. Foul him while you are running along side of him, and don’t stop. Keep running, so if the foul doesn’t get called you can either foul him again or contest the shot.

Hands up on the whistle

This is a key to avoid ever getting called for an intentional foul. As soon as you hear the whistle, show the official your hands. Put both of them up in the air. This makes it look like you weren’t trying to foul him. If the official is close to calling an intentional foul and he sees you react that way, he’s less likely to call it. Get those hands up on the whistle so he thinks you were trying to avoid a foul.

In the front court – only foul if he has his back to you or he is starting his dribble

This takes a lot of practice. If they get the ball into the front court, or they are inbounding from the front court we tell our players two things – they can only foul when 1) He has his back to you or 2) When he starts to dribble the ball.

If he is facing you he can easily step into a shot as you foul him. And if he is picking up his dribble, it’s also easy to pick it up and continue into a shooting motion. You want to crow him on the catch and if he catches it with his back to you, you foul him right away. If he is squared up, once he goes to put the ball down you foul him. If you foul him the right way the won’t even be able to gather the ball back to make it look like he was shooting.

Fouling at the right time in the front court is challenging.

Be ready to contest and rebound

A lot of times a perfectly executed, clear foul will not get called. Again, the officials aren’t looking to call a foul in this situation. In fact, I’ve had plenty of officials ask me before the play starts up “What are you doing here?” They want to know if we are trying to foul, and I’ll always tell them.

But a lot of times these fouls go uncalled. So your team needs to be ready to get a stop. Contest the shot and finish with the basketball, just like you always do.

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