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Basketball - How to Take a Charge

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Charge: (noun) a foul committed by an offensive player in basketball when he or she initiates contact with the defensive player.

The charge is one of the most exciting plays in basketball and also one of the most difficult plays to pull off, as whether or not the charge will be called is entirely up to the referee's discretion. You will most often take a charge when an opponent drives into the lane1 and you allow them to run you over. In most cases, the rule boils down to whether or not the defense was 'set' (which means 'not moving') when the foul was committed, which means that in order to get the call, you have to simply let yourself get flattened. Taking a charge requires strength, bodily control, moderate acting skills, and, most importantly, guts.

The Advantages

So why would anyone possibly want to do this? What possible compensation can you get for throwing yourself into harm's way?

Immediate Effects

When your opponent is called for a charge, they are charged with a foul and your team regains possession of the ball. This is useful not only for offensive purposes, but also if you need to push your team into the 'bonus'2 or cause an individual player on the other team to foul out3.

Presence in the Lane

If your opponent knows that there is someone in the lane waiting for them who is willing to sacrifice their body to stop a drive to the basket, they are likely to think twice before entering your territory again.

Earning Points with Your Coach

Taking a charge is considered to be one of the marks of a true 'team player'. You ability and willingness to 'take one for the team' (especially in a non-competitive setting, like practice) just might increase your playing time significantly.

Getting the Crowd Going

Earning a charge is a great way to get the crowd involved in a game. Even if you don't get the call, you're still sure to turn a few heads. Nothing unites a large group of fans like a bone-crunching collision.


There's no feeling in the world like the one you get when you peel yourself off the gym floor and turn around to see the ref signal a charge4!

The Disadvantages

There are, however, a few disadvantages to attempting to take a charge. First, there's the obvious fact that you might get injured. Putting yourself in the path of an athlete who's coming at you at full tilt can hurt. There are, however, some precautions you can take that will lessen your chances of getting hurt, as addressed below.

The Block

Also, if you don't get the call, then most likely you will be called for a 'block' (a foul called when the defense initiates the contact), which will cause the opposite effect on the game: your team will receive a foul and the opponent will get to shoot the free throws, etc.

How to Take a Charge

There are several things you can do to increase your chances of taking the charge, but the most important of all is simply wanting it. If you don't like to get banged around, or you have a hot date the night after a game and don't want to deal with unattractive bruises then don't try it.

Here are the steps to taking a charge, starting in practice and ending with the charge itself.

Practice the Fall

You absolutely have to practice how you are going to fall before you attempt a charge in a game situation. This will greatly decrease your chances of getting hurt. You should fall backwards and 'sit down' so that you'll slide on your butt rather than keeping your knees locked and toppling like a tree or trying to catch yourself with your hands, which is an excellent way to break a wrist or two.

First, try practicing on your own on a gym floor so that you can slide backwards easily. Then, once you get the hang of it, enlist the help of a partner and practise your timing. Have them run towards you and when they (gently!) push you, fall exactly as you practised before.

Scout the Opponents

While this step is best done by watching a game that your team is not participating in, it is also possible to scout from the bench during the game or even while playing on the floor!

Although you can take a charge from anyone at anytime, it's a good idea to know who the more likely candidates to draw them from are. All you have to do is identify those players that have a tendency to slash and drive to the basket or lower their shoulder when they dribble. Then, whenever they get the ball in their hands, take a few steps off of the person you're guarding and be ready to help.

Get Set

Brace yourself for some explosive contact. You might want to cover up your 'vital areas,' especially if you happen to be a guy, but then again, it is generally agreed to 'look better' if you hold your arms straight up into the air. (It makes the contact look rougher which may just cause the referee to lean towards calling the charge as opposed to the block.) Don't lean in towards them and don't anticipate the blow and start to fall before they touch you5.

Take the Charge

When they hit you, fall backwards and slide just like you practised while letting out some kind of noise - an 'oof' or a shout of surprise will do. (This is where your acting skills come into play, so ham it up.) Then stand up, shake it off, and repeat!

If You Don't Get the Call...

... don't even bother arguing with the referees. Nothing you can say or do will get them to change their mind, and you run the risk of receiving a technical foul for your trouble. Also, if you back-talk the referee, you can count on never getting the call from him or her in the future.

1 The lane is the rectangle surrounding the baskets at each end of the court (during a free throw, each team lines up around the lane), so in order to get to the basket, one has to go through the lane. This makes it a great place to draw the charge.2If a team is called for over a certain number of fouls (usually six), then for each subsequent foul, the other team gets to shoot a free throw. If they make this one, they get one more, or a 'bonus' free throw.3If a certain player is charged with five fouls (six in professional basketball), then they have 'fouled out' and will not be allowed to play for the rest of the game.4This is done by placing one hand behind the head and the other straight out with a clenched fist.5The former makes it look like you initiated the foul and the latter (also called 'flopping') risks the offense stopping, taking a pull-up jumpshot, and embarrassing you completely.

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