6 Tips to Improve Passing and Reduce Turnovers

1. Do overload drills to build speed and strength. Using 2-ball passing drills such as Machine Gun Passing, Middle Man Passing, Pass & Switch, and Partner Passing with 2 balls where each partner passes simultaneously will build speed and accuracy. Using drills that force players to use one hand to pass, (such as Pound Passing) especially with their weak hand, will build strength and confidence. (It is important to explain to your players that the one-hand passing drills are DRILLS to build specific skills, not techniques to use in games.)

2. Teach spacing. This is the most overlooked and possibly the most important aspect of offensive play. Teach your players what is the optimum distance they can effectively pass.

3. Teach players to shorten the pass. As an aspect of spacing, taking a dribble toward a receiver will, in certain instances, improve spacing.

4. Make the easy pass. There is no need for great passes when ordinary passes will do. Pass to an open teammate, in an area he can catch it, away from the defense. If you cannot do that, don't throw the pass.

5. Emphasize the catch. While we would all like every pass to be perfect, we all know that will not be the case. The receiver must go where he needs to go to catch the ball. This may seem unrelated, but, to draw a parallel, baseball players know that a great defensive 1st baseman makes great infielders. He covers up for bad throws and can make a shortstop a star. By emphasizing the catch, passers will become more confident and receivers more aggressive.

6. Scrimmage without dribbles. Nothing will teach players more about spacing, passing angles, getting open, and making effective passes than not allowing them to dribble. Be prepared for some initial frustration.

Remember, your players will take on your values. If you do not value passing in your practices, they will not value passing in their games.

Recommended Training Material:

Baden Heavy Training Basketball - 29.5"

Heavy weight training ball used to improve passing, dribbling, and ball skills. It can also improve core strength & and hand/arm speed. You can use the weighted ball with almost any passing or dribbling drill. Players will also improve confidence and skill with the ball....(more info)

If you have any questions or comments about passing, please post them below...


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coach clarke says:
8/15/2007 at 11:16:15 AM




Scott Hillen says:
8/15/2007 at 3:10:54 PM

I tell players too come meet the pass in stead of waiting for passes step to the pass. That will limit turnovers


Max Salazar says:
8/28/2007 at 12:03:54 AM

Hi Coach Haefner, you really help me to improve my coaching skills. Am looking forward to learn from you more. God Bless

  1 reply  

Lou Francis Arreza says:
6/26/2015 at 11:31:58 PM

Thank You Coach Haefner It really help me how to pass


William says:
11/5/2007 at 4:09:45 PM

It is a great feeling to go through the drills and instruction and see that things that are in my mind are confirmed through this web page. I am youth coach and this website has enabled me to take a last place team to a 3rd place team in a matter of months. Thank you


elder binga says:
3/27/2008 at 12:00:11 PM

passe como faço


Salman says:
5/9/2008 at 4:26:31 AM

I tried hard to improve my passing.But everytime i pass the ball it slips from my player or it goes in a u direction.now i have a tournament comin up and i just wanna improve my passing.


Joe Haefner says:
5/9/2008 at 7:45:37 AM

Hi Salman,

Keep running the drills and using the tips mentioned above. Be persistent and you will improve.

Joe Haefner


Rusty says:
6/20/2008 at 5:30:15 PM



sharon says:
10/21/2008 at 11:36:57 AM

i am not very good at basketball and i always get nervous when someone misses my pass or when i enter the court during matches...


Renee' says:
1/8/2009 at 3:07:07 PM

I grew up playing basketball and have love for the game. I am now coaching my two boys this year. They are 6 & 7. I know the fundamentals of the game. However after reading the tips on passing and different things I realized that I had not focused on that as much as I should. Thank you for refreshing my memory. Wish us luck, please! Thanks for everything!


Joe Haefner says:
1/8/2009 at 6:51:07 PM

Hi Renee,

If you are coaching 6 & 7 year olds, it's good to teach fundamentals, but it may be more important to teach kids how to move, because very few kids know how to move properly. We expect kids to be able to run and dribble when they barely know how to run. You have to be able to move without a basketball before you can move with a basketball.

Also, it's very important to keep things fun. too many kids quit sports, because it's not fun anymore. I believe a study said that 80% of kids quit sports by age 13.


Mark says:
3/10/2009 at 10:31:18 AM

I've never played organized basketball at any level - but when my 6 year old son wanted to play - he asked me to help coach his team. I'm having a blast and this site has helped a ton.

One thing that has worked wonders for us on spacing/moving without the ball is a drill we call "1-2." It kind of evolved in the following way: In the first game, everyone was yelling for the kids to move without the ball - but that's WAY too ambiguous for 6 years olds. Move where? So, in the next practice, I found four spots on the floor - the post blocks under the basket, and 2 spots out near the wing, where two lines on the court intersect. One kid stood on each of the four spots. I asked them to count to 2 and run to the next spot - all rotating in the same direction (at this age, our league doesn't allow screens/picks anyway.) As you can imagine, each kid counted at a different rate - ran at a different speed, etc --they were quickly running over each other. We changed it so that the man with the ball could yell "1-2!" and everyone on the court moved. At first, we did it without a ball on the court at all (coach yelling 1-2), then we added keeping your eye on the man with the ball and keeping your hands ready (coach had the ball at first and passed it in now and then) - finally, we let the kids take turns yelling "1-2!" and passing it in.

It was fantastic -
1: the kids moved without the ball
2: they kept good spacing by using the spots on the floor
3: there was no ambiguity - they knew where to move and moved with purpose
4: whoever brought the ball up felt empowered - that the team moved on his command

The other coaches thought we were running plays with 6 year olds! "1-2" really just became a buzzword for move to your spots!

Sorry for the long post - or if some of the terminology is off. I've gotten so much out of this site I thought I'd share something age specific that worked for me!

Thanks again!

  1 reply  

Kevin says:
1/12/2015 at 2:00:35 PM

I'd be curious to hear people's thoughts on this. It sounds like a great idea, but not sure if it actually teaches them properly. I know it would definitely do what it is meant to do short term.

  1 reply  

jeff says:
1/12/2015 at 2:14:04 PM

Yea I have not tried that before. I know lots of coaches (including me at times) will use spots on the floor to teach offensive spacing. I saw Bob Huggins use spots when teaching is 5 out offense. However I'm not sure I would have them go to a new spot unless that was a piece of your offense.

Some coaches will put spots on the floor, then tell them when you are covered or pass, cut to the basket. Then fill open spots.

I think using "spots" can be a good thing, but like you said, use the spots in a way so you are teaching fundamentals.

I have also developing some decent youth teams without using spots. We just emphasize spacing, use string dribble dribbling, and use a lot of no dribble drills.

  1 person liked this. 2 replies  

Mark says:
1/13/2015 at 8:15:15 PM

Yep - I've learned a lot since this post, but remember - back then I was working with SIX year old's. Most of this site is geared towards 10 and up.

I know for a fact a few of the kids from that team are still playing for park districts, travel programs, or starting in HS feeder programs. I don't for a second pretend it was a direct result of a coach they had at 6 years old - but, they learned a very basic, short term tactic (not just "running around.") They learned to keep their eye on whoever has the ball and their hands in a ready position. They got a sense of court vision/spacing (even though, yes - it was fabricated.) And last, they had some fun and some success in the VERY short term.

I'd argue - for six year old's (not sixth GRADERS) - this does constitute learning some VERY basic fundamentals.

If I was doing this with 8 or 10 year old's - I'd ask someone to smack me in the head.

Conversely, if I could teach a group of 6 year old's with varying athletic ability and attention spans a 5 out motion offense -- with one hour a week practice.......well, I would deserve some sort of award!

What I do like about this site is the age appropriate listings for players as they advance through!


  1 person liked this.  

Kevin says:
1/15/2015 at 11:56:09 AM

What is string dribble dribbling?

Mark, do you think that after they learned this that the players were more inclined to move around?

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
1/15/2015 at 1:49:42 PM

Sorry, I meant string dribble spacing. Here's an example...

Player with ball at top of key. Player without ball at right wing. Player with ball dribbles at wing. Wing player quickly cuts to fix the spacing. In this situation, we have the wing player back cut to the basket and receive a pass for lay up.

You can put players in almost any position to work on moving as the ball is dribbled (wing, corner, low post, high post, etc).


Jill B says:
3/10/2009 at 4:19:16 PM

WOW!! Mark that is something I need!! I just found this site. My son (6''''2") has been playing basket ball since he was 2yr. HE is just awesome. This is my third year watching him in High School!! He will graduate next year. But the community thought it was me who taught him. Now they are making me coach of for 2nd & 3rd Graders. I let my son coach last year, because I had no clue. Now he is not wanting to help me and I am on my own. I am very excited to help more kids with this game and now enjoying it alot more learning all the terminology of post, lay-ups and all. Thank you


Christ says:
5/10/2009 at 10:30:06 PM

I have a question, is there any drills for you to help practice recognizing open man in the court. I'm a point guard, but I can't see everything that happens in the court, and I want to practice on that. I just want to practice assisting the open man to get an easy basket.


Joe Haefner says:
5/11/2009 at 1:52:19 PM

I would advise to do tons of ball handling drills with your head up. The more comfortable you are with the ball, the easier it will be locate the open player, because you won't be worrying about handling the ball.


Sam says:
7/5/2010 at 10:13:32 PM

I am just starting basketball in the 7th grade as my second year of middle school. I love playing and watching but was always to nervous to go on a team. I have the summer to get ready, thanks for the awesome website but i have a question.. Im trying to remember the rules and play but is it better to focus on one part of the sport (like on center players since im tall) or to try to be Okay at everything?


bagan says:
7/22/2010 at 6:47:58 AM

please send me the basic rules to teach the new players to play basketball.


yeah..!! says:
10/20/2010 at 6:39:34 AM

This is awesome


David H says:
12/23/2010 at 7:28:12 PM

I thank you guys for all the great work you've done for basketball at all levels. I really enjoy learning new skills, drills, techniques, etc. I was going over your basic and advance passes! Could you please add the "no look pass" for advance passes of course.( a la Magic Johnson) thanks guys :)


ashiishh says:
8/15/2012 at 4:29:52 AM

superb tips which have improved my gane


Coach M says:
1/7/2013 at 6:11:02 PM


Love this site. Lots of great info here. I am an 8th grade coach in Michigan.

I used to be an old school, pass first kind of coach that did a lot of drills where my players could not dribble. I found that my players were not as aggressive attacking the basket as I would like. I now use predominantly a dribble drive motion offense and spend a lot of time teaching my players to attack the basket hard and kick when stopped. There is a system to it. We work on a lot of one on one skills and ways to finish at the basket, and we spend a lot of time on shooting. We press a lot and run the floor.

I have found my players enjoy this style and it motivates them greatly. I teach that the spacing is important for the purpose of allowing players to have driving lanes. I avoid drills where we are not allowed to dribble because it can encourage my players to not attack the basket.

I do see the value in it, though, for cutting and screening offenses.


Late bloomer says:
11/7/2013 at 4:13:37 AM

Hi coach joe,

I'm 43 years old and new to basketball. I play basketball to become fit and lose my belly. But when I started to play the game I've learned to love it. How can I improve my skills despite my age and late learning? Thanks.


Ken Sartini says:
11/7/2013 at 12:04:21 PM

The first thing you need to do is to get yourself in some semblance of good shape... the last thing you want is some cheap injury.... there goes your love.

So, start working your way slowly into the game, you've waited this long another year wont hurt you.,

If you look at the top left side of this page under HOME... you will see a lot of drills that you can use to help you...... and then its practice, practice, practice and playing.

Good luck, I hope this works out for you.


ray says:
12/8/2013 at 10:54:01 AM

I am a basketball coach with some very good players but the better players often use passes that spin too much and are too fast for the other players to catch and shoot quickly off them. What is the advantage of spinning the ball when you have a easy pass??


Shawn Pischke says:
1/7/2014 at 6:03:06 PM

Hey Coach,

I'm coaching a 13-14 boys rec team and we're having trouble with turn overs due to poor passing. We have some skilled players, but not the best ball handlers...

I'll give the tips above some reps in practice and hope it helps out. We run a 3-2 motion and we seem to get on top of each other. I stress spacing, but we seem to fall apart when the ball is pressured..Any tips or ideas on how we can drill to help this?



Ken Sartini says:
1/7/2014 at 7:25:58 PM

Work on the drills above and you might add this one to the list.



Djeudo Kiran says:
4/8/2014 at 8:31:59 AM

Thanks guys for the remarkable passing drills,they don't only work but the excecise is very exciting.I have thought some to my team mates and they are improving alot...
Thanks again.


Greg Tellis says:
11/10/2014 at 1:08:57 PM

Can you help the Warriors?


Kevin says:
1/12/2015 at 2:02:31 PM

Jeff, on the no dribble scrimmaging, can the ball handler take any steps usually? I coach 7 and 8 year olds and want to incorporate that, but I think that the defender has a huge advantage if the offensive player with the ball can't move at all.

  1 reply  

jeff says:
1/12/2015 at 2:22:36 PM

Kevin - They can only pivot or pass. No traveling. If they are beginners, start with 3 versus 1. Then 3 versus 2. Then maybe next year go 3 v 3. Basically you modify the environment so they can succeed about 50-90% of the time. If it's getting easier then crank up the difficulty. You can also go 5 v 2, etc... depending on how many players you have.

If they are really raw, you can start with something even easier like Bull in the Ring. That's actually the first drill I use when introducing defense and then build from there.

My son is currently 7 and we do quit a few no dribble drills. My daughter is older and we still do the drills. They have helped quite a bit. Great for spacing, passing, getting open, and pivoting.

Read more: http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/articles/6passingtips.html#ixzz3OdXUODNG


Daniel Lyons says:
12/18/2018 at 9:29:20 AM

I coach middle school girls and we have a huge issue. When we practice we do good with passing, spacing and shooting. However, in games we constantly turn the ball over. Most of the time, it's because it's not always the best the pass. It's not always on the player making the pass. At times, our players don't catch the pass.
Last night we played and the team we played was really not that good. We turned the ball over our first 6 offensive possessions, In total, we turned the ball over 28 times and took 26 shots. This is an area we desperately MUST fix. What is the best and most effective way to get this corrected?

  1 reply  

Jeff says:
12/18/2018 at 2:54:34 PM

There is no easy answer. It takes time, perseverance, and continual troubleshooting.

Here's a page with good passing drills that will help solve the problem. Choose a mix of block, interleaving and game based drills to help them improve.

With experienced players that were competent at catching, passing, and pivoting... we played a lot of no dribble drills like this to solve the problem. I'm not sure if your players are ready for that... but something to consider.


julia says:
3/6/2019 at 9:32:09 PM

I am running an offense where the past goes from point to high post. The problems challenging me are (1) spacing - guard to high post pass, (2) type of pass, (3) creating a passing angle, (4) does post move to position or establish position (start low and move up to receive). Since starting the build on this offense it seems crowded so have worked with creating more space between guard and post, having the post come a stop higher than the FT line, having guard keep the dribble alive to establish better angle. Got players who have been told never to bounce pass to a post. Been searching for some examples and solid reasoning on why to use a particular pass and can not find anything. Any suggestions, rules that work would be helpful.


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