Below you'll find 21 very effective passing drills for basketball coaches to use during practice. But first, let's cover the fundamentals of passing...
Passing is a critical area that successful coaches incorporate into their practice plans daily. The primary purpose of passing is to move the basketball between players with proper spacing in order to create high percentage shots taken and made. To do this, we will provide 5 key fundamentals of passing.
What makes a simple pass complete?
An on-time and on-target catch is considered a "complete pass".
Catch the ball with your eyes and hands in a ready position to receive the basketball. Attack, meet and grab the pass. Do not wait on the pass to come to you. Teach beating the opponent to the basketball every time possible.
5 passing lanes on a defender
When a defender is on the ball, you have 5 open windows to pass the ball:
- Over the defender's head
- Next to defender's right ear
- Next to defender's left ear
- Low right side of defender
- Low left side of defender
Practice passing through all windows against imaginary, stationary, and "live" defenders.
Two types of Passing: Air and Bounce
An air pass travels through the air. Effective bounce passes bounce up as high as they were executed. On both type of passes, stay low and maintain balance and control to an intended target.
Pass with both hands
Effective players are not wed to the dribble and know how to pass the ball on a moment's notice. This comes into play when a player has to use their weak hand to make a pass to a guarded or open teammates.
Basic Type of Passes
- Chest (hands on side of ball)
- Push with left and right (one hand behind ball... similar to shooting grip)
- Wrap around (step around)
Advance Type of Passes
- Behind The Back
- Hand Off
- Off the Dribble
13 Beginner & Youth Passing Drills
For beginners, coaches should start with a simple drill like partner passing to introduce new skills and terminology to your players (like the chest pass, bounce pass, push pass, overhead pass and so on).
Once players get comfortable with the basic passing technique (which won't take long) move on to more fun and challenging drills that incorporate movement, randomness, and defenders.
Block Youth Passing Drills
With block drills, you isolate a skill and you repeat the skill over and over for X amount of repetitions. Block drills are good for getting high number of reps, introducing skills, and building confidence but should be limited or even eliminated from practice as your players progress.
Interleaving Youth Passing Drills
We recommend interleaving drills (combining skills to practice more efficiently). If your players are ready, you can use drills like this to work on multiple skills:
Game Based Youth Passing Drills
Once players are competent you should use dynamic game-based passing drills that include decision making, random types of passes, movement, and passing under pressure. This type of drill gives you the best bang for your buck and your most effective development tool.
Monkey in Middle and Bull in Ring - Fun drills that adds defenders so players learn how to pass through open windows, use fakes, and make decisions.
No Dribble Advancement - Best drill for young kids to improve passing and pivoting skills, decision making, and ability to handle pressure.
Keep Away Passing / 10 in a Row Passing - Same concept... a variation to keep things fun and improve decision making, passing, and ball security. Note: with youth players we suggest 5v4 or 5v3 instead of 5v5.
14 Intermediate & Advanced Passing Drills
After the beginner stage you'll find that youth, high school, college, and pro coaches can all use the same passing drills. The only difference is the intensity level, speed, distance, and constraints get more challenging as you go up in levels.
Variable & Interleaving Passing Drills (No Defense)
You can start with a mix of variable and interleaving drills that do not utilize defenders.
Variable means the distances, angles and types of passes are continually changing. This is in contrast to block practice drills where you repeat the exact same pass over and over. Block practice is great for introducing the skill but does not effectively transfer passing skills into actual games.
Interleaving means you are working multiple skills or concepts at once (ex: passing and shooting).
The benefits of these drills include:
- lots of reps/touches
- allows you to reinforce skills, technique, and concepts
- great for warm ups and incorporating multiple skills/concepts at the same time
Random - Game Based Passing Drills
Many coaches only use traditional block style passing drills. That is a mistake because you are only practicing a tiny aspect of passing and not how things happen in a game!
In games, the distances change, angles change, quick decisions need to be made, receivers are moving at different speeds, you have to pass around defenders, and so on.
Game based drills are the most effective when it comes to developing the entire passing skill set and the decision making needed.
Defenders are utilized and players must now judge distance, pass away from defenders, decide what types of passes to use, pass under pressure, create angles, use fakes, and put everything together.
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