Pass This Way To Open Up The Entire Court

By Jeff Huber

I recently read an article about Pacific University coach Dave Smart. For those who aren't familiar, Smart is a coaching legend in Canada.

In his coaching career at Carleton University, Smart won 13 National Championships.

Among the things Smart is known for is using the force weak man defense. For most players, this means forcing them to their left hand.

When asked why he uses this defense, Smart said it's because it forces players to pass with their weak hand.

That's pretty telling, but also very true!

I can attest from my experience as a varsity boys basketball coach.

At the varsity level, most players can dribble functionally with their weak hand.

A decent percentage can finish with both hands.

But a very select few can pass with both hands!

If you develop this skill, you will set yourself apart and make yourself a more well-rounded player. Learn how below.


Why This Matters

If few players are able to pass with both hands, it clearly isn't a skill that prevents players from getting on the floor.

That's true, but that shouldn't make it okay to limit yourself in that way.

Why? Because being able to pass with both hands opens up the entire floor.

Think about this. Imagine yourself being closely guarded at the top of the key. You are trying to pass to a teammate on the left wing.

If you can't pass with your left hand, you have to pass the ball from the right side of your body. Maybe, if you're able to throw a true chest pass, you can release the ball from the middle of your chest.

Either way, you are not creating space between the ball and the defender. You are actually passing the ball across your body. This brings the ball back closer to the defender. It's a major reason that passes to the left side of the floor are easier to deflect.

The issue is not only deflected passes. It's also passes you see but can't throw. Imagine you are dribbling left at a teammate who is being denied. If that teammate makes a hard backdoor cut and is open, can you throw that pass? Can you make a one hand bounce pass that's on time and on target with your left hand? Most players can't.

Thus, the problem is twofold. First, the passes you do throw are subpar because you're using the wrong hand. Second, there are the passes you don't throw because you don't have the skill. In other words, you commit more turnovers and get less assists. So, how do we change that?


How To Become An Ambidextrous Passer

If you're like most players, passing with your weak hand feels awkward. At first, many of your passes will be off target. That's to be expected. Don't give up. Work through it.

To become a good passer with your weak hand, you need reps. You can get them through traditional passing drills. You can also work them into your routine in some clever ways.

Here's how:

  • Pass with your weak hand in all drills - any time you are doing a drill in practice where you aren't guarded, pass with your left hand. Rebounding for a teammate during a shooting drill? Pass with your left hand. Passing to the next player in line during a ball handling drill? Pass with your left hand.
  • Think of the number of reps you can get if you do this. It's an easy way to start to build the muscle memory of weak hand passing.

    You'll also want to drill weak hand passing.

  • Incorporate passing into your dribbling drills - we recently talked about the Kill the Grass dribbling drill. One variation of the drill is to have a partner give you a signal to pass while you are dribbling (see below). This forces you to keep your head up. To work on your left hand passing, do kill the grass with a silent signaler and make every pass with your left hand.
  • If the ball is already in your left hand when you see your partner's hands, immediately pass the ball. If the ball is in your right hand, execute a quick change of hands move (between the legs, behind the back) and then pass with your left hand. This is a great way to make your weak hand passing more game-like.

  • If you don't have a partner, use something like the Breakthrough Ball Handling and Footwork Workouts. In addition to developing your dribbling, they also incorporate passing.
  • Perform a workout like this one, but make every pass with your weak hand.

    The great thing about these workouts is that you don't need a partner. You just need a wall to pass off of.

Finally, incorporate weak hand passing into game play.

  • Constraint yourself when you play - after you've practiced weak hand passing, you need to use it in competition. Too many players train skills they never use in games. Give yourself this rule - whenever you are passing to your left (if you're a right handed player), you'll pass with your left hand. This could be a left hand push pass or a one hand pass, depending on the situation.
  • Early on, this will be challenging. That's okay, that's part of the learning process. Stay disciplined and you'll see improvement.


Conclusion

Passing is an underrated skill. It's one that all coaches appreciate.

The ability to pass with both hands will allow you to throw and complete more passes.

You'll be one of the only players on the court able to do so.

That means when a coach tries to force you to your weak hand, they'll quickly learn that you don't have one. Good luck guarding that!


Related Resources

Ballhandling and Footwork Workouts


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