Running and shooting in basketball is usually the first part of the game a young player understands. Coaching basketball defence to children as early as possible helps them see there’s more to putting the ball in the basket. It is also important to keep the other team from scoring.
Start by getting the team to see the importance of defence. As some senior players to demonstrate how defence works. The children will relate more to a demonstration and also try to follow older players from their club.
Do knee bending exercises. Many children play basketball standing straight up and you want them to get used to moving with knees bent so they are slightly crouched.
Bring in the defensive shuffle. Make it fun by having kids race each other when shuffling and seeing how low they can bend their knees and still move. Emphasise that feet are not hopping, they are sliding across the floor and turning on a pivot.
Start a simple drill. Have two lines of six each (or four lines of three each) across the floor from each other. Have players shuffle to the middle one at a time from each line, touch hands and shuffle back. Emphasise the side-to-side shuffle not the hop.
Introduce a more complicated shuffle drill that goes around the outside of half the court and crosses on a diagonal through the centre. This forces the players to change foot direction and stay in a defensive crouch.
Practice straight up defence under the hoop. It may seem this should be limited to the taller players who will be playing base and centre positions but every player should understand how to put hands straight up in the air and avoid touching the player with the ball.