Reducing Turnovers: Ball-Handling and Passing

Reading the sports page during basketball season, you will typically run across more than a few headlines like “Tech Turnovers Cost Game” and “Turnovers Costly for Badgers.” In addition, when TV analysts break-down games, they always speak on turnovers… but also “points off turnovers.” Meanwhile, point guards are judged on their “assists to turnover ratio.” To sum it up, turnovers are not good… and if you have too many, they can kill your game.

Turnovers Defined

A turnover happens when the possession of the ball is lost to the opposing team as the result of a bad pass, steal, an offensive foul, stepping out of bounds or an offensive violation.

It should always be the goal of your team whenever you have the ball to get in a good shot with every possession and then, of course, to rebound. A turnover is basically a waste of ball possession. Additionally, if this occurs at near half court or towards the back court, it actually may result in a flawlessly easy lay up for the opposing team and that is what is meant by “points off turnovers.”

The best teams know just how important every possession f the ball is and they look for a good shot to take with every possession of the ball. Always remember, turnovers pulverize your momentum and they kill your offense.

But before you give up on coaching youth basketball and turn to a life of eating donuts on the sofa… remember that this is not a sign of a bad team. It is in all actuality a very common problem. All coaches and their teams will go through issues with turnovers. It just takes a lot of effort on both parts to reduce your turnover counts.

As a coach, you know that your players want to use their athleticism and to simply play without worrying every second about losing the ball. Often times a player will get into so much of a hurry that they get out of control. This is when the turnover happens.

As a coach, it is your job to do what you have to do to reign your team in and to teach them how to value each possession of the ball. You already know that you want your players to act aggressive on the court and to hit the defense hard, but it can be hard to tell the difference in “playing on the edge” and just being reckless.

Now that we know a little more about turnovers, let’s look at a few tips to reduce both ball-handling and passing turnovers…

1. Know a good pass.

A good pass is one that hits on target. It goes exactly where you intended. It is also caught in a place on the court where something good can come of it. If the ball is too hard for the receiver to catch then you have a bad pass.

2. Be on target.

We touched on this in tip one. However, it is so important that it bears repeating. Be precise. Most times the target pass is the “shooting pocket.” This is where you would put the ball in a triple threat placement. The difference is that you want your players to target nearer the other player’s face.

3. See the defense.

Your passers will need to develop their court vision and learn to “see the defense.” They will also start to develop the skills to be able to pass away from the defense. You can teach your players to do this by getting in the triple threat position.

4. Make a sure pass.

It can be easy to want to make the risky pass that is closer to the net, but it is always best for players to make the easy pass. This is better termed the sure pass because you can be more sure that the other player will catch it and there will be less chance of a turnover occurring.

5. Keep it as simple as possible.

As we talked about before, a sure pass is the way to go to avoid turnovers. This usually means a two-handed pass. So many players are trying one handed tosses now days and these are simply not very accurate… at all. This may be because they come with more backspin on them when thrown.

As far as turnovers go, don’t beat yourself up when they occur. Remember that they happen to every coach and every team too. Take every incident of turnovers as a learning experience. When you look at the positives, you will be able to learn from your mistakes and teach your players to become all the better for it.


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