How to Stop Fouling in Basketball in 5 Easy Steps

how to stop fouling in basketball

Are you finding yourself in foul trouble on a game-by-game basis and wondering what you have to do to stay off the bench and in the game?

Like any sport, basketball has rules and regulations you need to abide by in order to have the ability to participate in the game.

While these rules are helpful, sometimes it can feel like the referee is out to get you and that there’s nothing you can do about it.

Trust me, the referee is just doing their job and making sure that everyone on the court is playing fair. It is up to you as a player to understand these rules so that there is a safe and fun environment for everyone on the court.

You need to know how to play defense without fouling, which includes moving your feet, eliminating the use of your hands from time to time, and avoiding frustration and fouling out of anger.

If you don’t learn how to control yourself on the court, you’ll find yourself on the bench and out of the game. And you don’t want to lose playing time and let your teammates down, right?

If you’re looking to stay in the game without fouling the offensive player each and every possession, read on!

What is a Foul in Basketball?

A foul is basically breaking the rules.

Think of when you were a kid playing hide-and-seek. The seeker has to give the hiders an opportunity to hide, so they cover their eyes and count to 30. If the seeker peaks to see where the hiders go, then that’s breaking the rules. Same thing for basketball.

When you play defense, you can’t hit the arm of the offensive player or shove them when they’re driving to the basket.

At the end of the day, any unnecessary physical contact that stops the offensive player from dribbling or shooting is going to be called a foul.

Reasons You Need to Know How to Stop Fouling in Basketball

(Image via Sports Illustrated.)

Every player has a set limit of fouls each game before they are no longer allowed to play, which is called “fouling out”.

In other words, the main reason you should learn how not to commit fouls is so you can stay in the game.

There is also a term in basketball called “team fouls”. Each team gets a certain amount of fouls each half. Once a team hits that marker, the other team is in the “bonus”, which means that they get to shoot free throws for any foul, whether it is in the act of shooting or not.

It’s hard to win close games when the other team can draw fouls and shoot free throws every other trip down the court.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Stop Fouling in Basketball

Now that we understand why it is important for you to learn not to foul, so let’s take a look at how to avoid fouling!

1. Move Your Feet

If you don’t move your feet on defense and try to stay in front of the man you’re guarding, you leave yourself prone to trying to reach in for the ball or shove your man to stop them from getting to the basket.

Defense, at the end of the day, is all about stopping the other team from scoring, and if you can’t stay in front of your man, scoring becomes very easy for the offensive players.

On defense, get in a wide stance and shuffle back and forth to stay in front. This is not easy. Staying in an athletic stance can be tough on your legs, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes!

2. Watch Those Hands

(Image via Basketball HQ.)

There aren’t a lot of better feelings than getting a steal on defense and turning it into a quick two points at the other end. But you have to be careful.

Referees are constantly watching defenders when they go for a steal. If you are reaching in and hitting the offensive player’s arm when you try to steal the ball, you’ll get a foul.

Be smart with the chances you take.

To help stop reaching in, you can learn what the offensive player is trying to do and beat them to the spot. If you’ve noticed they’re bad at dribbling with their left hand, force them to go left, and when they leave an opportunity open for you to steal, go for it.

Just pick your spots, be smart, and don’t reach in on every possession. Great defense isn’t about blocking shots and getting steals.

3. Avoid Frustration

Sometimes games don’t go your way. Maybe you’ve missed your last three shots, and the man you’re guarding is on fire, so you get frustrated. This frustration, a lot of times, leads to fouls.

It’s human nature. When we get angry, we can get more physical, especially when playing sports. This increased physicality leads to reach-ins, shoves, loose ball fouls, and hits.

Stay calm and even keel. Remember that shooting slumps come and go for everyone. If your man is scoring like there’s no tomorrow, realize that you need to sit down and move your feet to stay in front of him.

Find a calming technique like taking a breath to relax and refocus on the task at hand.

4. Get in the Right Position

A lot of fouls can be avoided if you position yourself correctly. When I say position yourself correctly, I mean staying between your man and the basket to force a tough shot.

Sure, we all want to get steals and blocks because they look better on the stat sheet, but forcing contested shots is just as good.

Learn the tendencies of the guy you’re guarding. Does he like to drive with his right hand or left hand? Does he pull up for jumpers or attack the basket hard?

If you can understand where your opponent is trying to go, you can beat him to the spot and hold your ground. If they go up for a shot when you’re in front of them, jump straight up and down with your hands in the air for a good contest.

5. Be Under Control

(Image via Hartford Courant.)

We’ve all been coached to play the game hard. We’ve been told to sprint up and down the court, sprint off screens, jump as high as we can for rebounds, but we need to make sure all of these movements are under control.

Think of a running back in football. It’s the running back’s job to find the open holes and sprint through them. If they simply get the ball and run forward as fast as they can, they’ll most likely run into a brick wall.

In other words, pick your spots. Know when to be aggressive. You can’t run head-first into the offensive player, or into the defensive player, for that matter.

If you can control yourself on the court, you can control how many fouls you get called for.

Key Considerations for Playing Good Defense

Work on your stance.

A lot of defenders that have trouble staying in front of their man have a tendency to stand up on defense. Trying to stay in front of an offensive player who is running toward you and trying to get by you for a basket is difficult if you don’t have a good athletic stance.

Contest shots with your hands straight up.

It’s so tempting to want to bring your hands down when your man goes up for a layup. Again, we all want to block shots, but forcing the offensive player into a difficult shot is safer and very effective.

Know the offensive player.

Study your man. Understand his tendencies and where he wants to go. If you can beat your man to the spot he’s trying to get to, your tendency to foul will drop drastically.

Taking it to the Next Level: Avoiding Foul Trouble

Know how many fouls you have when you’re on the court.

We all pick up fouls here and there. Sometimes the referee is calling a tight game (this is another thing you need to be able to realize during the course of a game.)

If you have two fouls and there are a few minutes on the game clock before the half ends, make the smart play and don’t take risks. Focus on staying in front of your man as well as you can instead of trying to get steals or blocks. There’s nothing worse than picking up that third foul before the half and playing on pins and needles the entire second half in an effort not to foul out.

Alternative Methods to Playing Defense

Play defense with your hands wide. Playing defense with your hands out wide will help alleviate the natural tendency to reach in or hit the offensive player.

When you’re practicing your defense in a 1-on-1 drill, hold a tennis ball in each hand to help stop you from using them constantly.

This one is more for coaches, but zone defenses are a great alternative to man-to-man defenses in terms of keeping a team out of foul trouble.


Fouling in basketball can become a problem quickly if you don’t know what you need to do to fix it. If you find yourself fouling out game after game, trust from teammates and coaches can diminish.

The key to staying out of foul trouble is to play good defense and avoid taking risks whenever possible. Move your feet, watch your hands, stay calm, and study your opponent and you’ll be out of your fouling tendencies in no time.

Have fun and play hard!


How do you not foul when defending?

Work on your defensive stance, don’t reach in too often, and understand your opponent’s tendencies.

If you can do all three of those things on every possession, you’ll cut out fouling in no time!

How do you block a shot without fouling?

Do not swing your arms. When a referee sees a defender swipe or swing their arms for a block or steal, they’ll blow the whistle more often than not.

Instead. Keep your hands up to contest the shot, and if the shooter leaves the ball exposed, flick your wrists to block the shot.

Why do you get fouled out in basketball?

A player fouls out when they receive 5 personal fouls in a game for most leagues that are not professional. NBA players and other professional league players get six fouls.

This helped alleviate how much players foul in games.

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