A Little Known Secret to Improve Team Passing and Dramatically Reduce Turnovers

Oddly enough, I've found that very few basketball coaches use this extremely effective tactic. In fact, I didn't use this tactic for many years myself, until I had one of those "LIGHT BULB" moments.

Here's how it works...

I actually had the "light bulb" moment a year or so after listening to Bo Ryan, one of the best college coaches in basketball. So, ultimately, I have to give him credit for the concept. His idea was right on, but it just didn't hit home with me for several years.

In order to cut down on those bad passes and turnovers, you need to get your players on the same page, right?

Do you ever have players cut to the basket just when the ball is passed to them? And the ball flies out of bounds?

If you're like most coaches, you probably just grit your teeth and think to yourself, "Oh well, that's just one of those things, and there's not much you can do about it!"

Well, now you can do something about it...

You simply establish some team rules and drill the following concepts in ALL your practices:

  Rule 1 - If you want the ball, give a hand target. If you are going to change direction, drop the hand target and give a new target.

Rule 2 - No hand target, no pass!!

It's as simple as that. This is a subtle way to establish non-verbal cues with your basketball team.

If you drill these rules long enough, you'll find that players make more accurate passes and reduce turnovers.

To take thing a step further, I also suggest emphasizing a couple of other related passing concepts:

  • Your hand targets should be away from the body.

  • Always pass away from the defense.

  • Use pass fakes, and make them believable!

  • Always catch the ball with two hands.

  • Every time you catch the ball in the front court, chin the ball and get in triple threat position.


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Bill Formella says:
7/3/2014 at 8:55:27 AM

This is one reason why Ryan''s team averaged only 8 turnovers per game. That statistic is almost unbelievable.


Michael J says:
3/3/2014 at 6:40:51 PM

Thank you very much everything is most helpful.


Mack says:
1/14/2013 at 10:10:57 AM

Good suggestions, we will implement in our next practices.


Ken Sartini says:
12/6/2011 at 7:37:16 AM

Passing can be difficult, especially for younger players... it is something that has to be worked on constantly.

There are some great tips here, I would just add one thing ..... pass the ball to the person on his way to the spot, not 2-3 seconds afterwards - IF you wait to long, the defender has a chance to recover. I see this in a lot of youth games. That could be from a few things -- not being able to handle the ball very well without looking at it -- lack of strength to make that pass -- lack of confidence.

Scott, break down your offense and the first step could be the entry pass... do it shell at first.... have the passer make that pass when the other player is on the way to his spot... showing a hand target.. then add a soft defense, from there you can go full speed.

One tip I got from Jeff Bzdelik, head coach at Wake Forest... how do you know when the person with the ball is going to pass? "When he brings his other hand up to the ball" - that can help the person receiving the pass - and of course, the hand target letting the passer know he is ready to receive it.


Scott says:
12/5/2011 at 10:45:57 PM

Great drill. I have 10 year olds who wait too long to throw the pass. They don't lead the player they're throwing to, resulting in an interception. Do you have any drills for this? We just were destroyed by a team playing aggressive deny defense. We couldn't even get a shot off in the first half! Help!


Joe Haefner says:
9/7/2010 at 12:22:36 PM


The player without the ball lifts a hand to show the passer where the player would like to receive the pass.


Gretchen says:
9/4/2010 at 4:41:25 PM

I read this because I want to learn more about the game of basketball. Can someone give me a brief explanation of a "hand target"? Thank-you.


Wathum Brian says:
8/9/2010 at 3:18:29 PM

I think its one of the biggest passin tips yet! thanks for the heads up,m goin to start enforcing those rules and tactics


Richard Smith says:
6/17/2010 at 6:11:02 AM

It is good tip that i was taught many years ago, i now use it when coaching my group of 50 recriut soldiers. they are keen and fit, it just requires some basic tips and drills to get a large inprovement.
Many thanks


6/1/2010 at 9:06:14 AM

good tip... it was great, i apply it and it works... im in the highschool team in the philliphines.. hope you do more good tips..


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