Today’s items are ideas to help your coaching staff and players identify why turnovers happen. In my opinion, identifying things that cause turnovers is the first step to avoiding them and correcting them when they do happen. If you have anything to add as I go, please send it to me!
I hope that there are a couple of ideas in here that get you thinking about improving how your team takes care of the basketball.
The first step to cutting down on turnovers is for the players to understand the cause of their turnovers. The second step is then to develop a plan of action to eliminate the problem areas. It is also essential that the players understand the significance of each turnover. An average team scores around a point per possession, so every turnover is essentially giving away one point.
I have listed (in no particular order) some of my thoughts about recognizing why turnovers are made and then some things I look to do to improve upon taking care of the basketball. This list is not all inclusive, so if you have any thoughts to add, please email them to me!
I have categorized them. The categories are in bold. The parenthesis are my thoughts on some ideas to avoid and correct the type of turnover listed.
Poor recognition or lack of concentration
- Player doesn’t recognize the type of defense, what the objective of the defense is, and what is the best way to beat that particular defense. For example doesn’t recognize and distinguish a half court trap as opposed to a man to man defense. (Coach helps recognize defenses from bench in games and works against changing defenses in practice)
- Three second violation due to a player being unaware that he is in the lane. (Call all violations in practice scrimmage and in drills.).
- Just because there is no defender around a teammate, does not mean she is open. Other helping defenders deflect and steal passes–not just the defender guarding the receiver. Players must be aware and have vision of all defenders.
- Throwing the ball to where you think a teammate should be rather than seeing that he is there before throwing the pass
- Picks up dribble without a pass. (Every time a player picks up the dribble in practice, other than to avoid a 5 second count, without a pass–it is an automatic turnover or an automatic 2 points for the other team in a practice scrimmage,. I believe in keeping score every time we scrimmage with special rules that work to even the talent level between the first and second units or that discourage plays that will be turnovers in games against equal or superior talent, but not always in practice against the second unit.
- Make the easy pass The best pass is one that is caught—every pass cannot be an assist pass.
- Player catches in or dribbles to a coffin corner. (Intersection of timeline and sideline, or sideline and baseline)
- Lack of pass fakes to move the defense to an area that is advantageous for the offense. (Pass fakes put the defense on their heels!–I like the term fake a pass to make a pass)
- Putting the ball above your head and losing leverage (keep the ball in triple threat)
- Feet too close together when holding or pivoting with the ball leading to poor balance
- Not making a jump or 2 foot stop and losing balance
- Not catching a pass with two hands
- Not meeting a pass
- Going to fast and being out of control on the dribble
- Not passing the ball away from the defense.
- Not getting set or leaning into the defense when setting a screen.
- Being too far away from the defensive man who is guarding you when passing. You have to get the ball by the defense before releasing it to make a pass. If the man guarding a passer is a couple of feet off, he has time to react and deflect the pass. Ed Schilling says “break the glass on the pass” That is think of the plane of the defender as a sheet of glass and put the ball through the glass (your hand and the ball by the defender).
Lack of Toughness (Both Physical Toughness and Mental Toughness)
- Contact by the defense is NEVER an excuse to lose the basketball We do not ever blame the official for a player losing the ball. Rather have an offensive foul protecting the ball rather than getting stripped for a layup. Rather have the player get knocked down and called for traveling than to lose the ball. Getting stripped for a layup by the other team is one of the worst plays a player can make.
- Being flustered mentally and loss of poise leads to bad decisions and turnovers.
- Being afraid to make a play leads to indecision and turnovers
Poor Skills (Skills can be improved during the season, but it takes a lot of work daily. If these are weak areas, players must be willing to work in skills The best time to improve skills is out of the games season)
- Player can’t hold, pivot, the ball with your head up
- Player can’t dribble the ball going full speed
- Player can’t dribble or pass with weak hand
- Can’t catch a game speed pass
- Teammates not getting open causing a five second count.
- Poor spacing
- Poor timing on cuts
Physical superiority by defense.
Bad decision making
- A bad shot that has very little chance of going in and that no one on our team is prepared to rebound is the same as a turnover because it leads to a fast break by our opponent
- Forcing a pass into a crowded area
- Dribbling into a crowd
- Jumping in the air to pass
- Attempting a pass that has to be thrown too far giving the defense time to adjust
- Missing a player who is open and then trying to pass him the ball to make up for it after the defense has recovered.
What we can do to improve
- Don’t Put a player in a position that she is not able to handle.
- Set reasonable, but demanding goals for turnovers in games. In a 32 minute game, our goal is single digit turnovers.
- Keep stats on turnovers in practice just like you do in a game.
- Blow the whistle to teach in practice when a play happens that usually results in a turnover in a game–even if it doesn’t result in a turnover in practice. Examples–not making a jump stop, catching a pass with one hand, not meeting passes.
- Call traveling tight in practice. Don’t allow players to get away with anything that would draw a whistle in practice.
- Emphasize turnovers in practice by more than talk. Have penalties for turnovers—points for the other team in scrimmages when the first team makes a turnover, making plays that would be a turnover in a game against comparable talent (ex: dribbling to the corner and picking the ball up) a turnover against the second unit in practice–even if a turnover doesn’t occur, blow the whistle and give the basketball to the other team.
- Make practices tougher than games so that players can carry over skills from practice to games. Examples: Allow the second unit to handcheck the dribler, put 2 defenders on dribblers in zig zag dribbling, 2 on 1 split the trap drills–allowing clean but physical fouling.
- Teach players the rules and also to play the game the way it is called. For example don’t mess around with the ball on the 10 second lines. I have seen many over and back calls that were wrong, but the player should not be making a move with the ball at the line, get it across)
- Discusss what can be learned for the future for every turnover made in a game. I don’t believe in having the players watch and entire game video, but you can cut out the turnovers and teach how to avoid them in the future.
Dead ball turnovers (travel, 10 seconds, holding for a five count) are better than a bad pass because we can set our defense on a dead ball, but it is hard to defend when chasing the ball from behind. We’ll take a shot that we have a 50% chance to make. We don’t throw a pass that has a 50% chance of being caught.
Some of my least favorite turnovers
- Lobbing the ball to the post from the baseline
- Putting the ball above our head on the catch and being stripped
- Throwing the ball in front of the defense in a 2 on 1 situation
- Not making a two foot stop and traveling
- Trying to dribble a loose ball and not grabbing it with two hands
- Not chinning a defensive rebound and getting stripped
- Not meeting a pass and having it stolen
As I stated earlier, I will be adding to this post over the course of the next couple of weeks.
Comments from Readers
(to add a comment, send me an email)
Great article on turnovers. I do have a question about your statement about not liking the pass in front of the defense on a 2 on 1. Unless I am interpreting your statement incorrectly, we teach, in fact, to pass the ball in front of the defense in a 2 on 1 situation.
We follow this rule on a 2 on 1. It is a rule that picked from Rick Pitino back in the 80’s at a clinic in Sidney, NY believe it or not. We do not pass the ball back & forth while in transition. We tell the player with the ball that he is a scorer and will not give up the ball UNLESS the middle of the defender’s chest is in his driving line. At that moment that the chest is in the driving line, we make a bounce pass to a teammate who scores. That bounce pass is always in front of the defense. In addition, we use this rule with all our players in mini 2 on 1 situations to “read” the defense when we are driving to the basket within our set offense whether to continue to drive & score OR to pass/kick to open teammates on the arc for 3’s. It has been a hallmark rule for 30+years for us and has led us to numerous open scoring chances.
One other addition that we have added over the years is we have drilled our players to use the inside hand to dribble in transition enabling the driver to make a pass with that hand rather than dribbling with the outside hand then transferring the ball across the body to pass to the teammate. I got this concept from John Beilein from Michigan who is also a friend of mine.
Elmira Notre Dame Boys Basketball Coach
Director, Shoot the Lights Out Basketball Academy