My Bad! Reducing Turnovers in Basketball

If you play, coach, or just watch basketball you know that turnovers are not good things.  In the first few weeks of practice, even without our coaches telling them or bringing it to their attention, our players know that turnovers are bad. They respond with “My bad” when they realize a mistake, but nevertheless, turnovers give the ball to the opponent without our team having a chance to score.  They come in all varieties – bad passes, bad catches, dribbling violations, offensive fouls, clock management, and poor decisions; just to list a few.   We don’t want turnovers and I know our players don’t want to produce turnovers, but can we ever get rid of them?  Can we reduce them?  And is the same true about the mistakes we make in life, or, even deeper, the sin we commit in a fallen world?  I know I don’t have all the answers and quite honestly at this point in the season, I’m hoping to just help our players become more aware of the turnovers and more importantly, to begin adjusting their habits to limit and reduce our amount of turnovers.

BASKETBALL – Turnovers

I fall into the camp of coaches who understand that turnovers are a part of the game and there are some that we learn to live.  I don’t like it and I’ll be the first to point to a high number of turnovers when we lose, but I’m more concerned about the attitudes, reactions, and habits that lead to turnovers, as well as how we respond to turnovers (see Who’s Responsible for the Turnover?).  If we can address those, I know that we can reduce turnovers and have a better chance to win games.  Other coaches take a much more disciplined approach, which at times may be necessary for every team, but I like to help players understand why the turnovers occur in the first place.

HasteAngerEgoApathy, and Desperation all contribute to turnovers.  It’s an extensive and complicated subject, one that I frequently explore.   I think it’s helpful to teach players to understand what habits, attitudes, and decisions are creating the turnovers.  For the moment, let’s focus on passing turnovers and let me provide seven suggestions to consider:

  • Consider the what and the who – Know who you are passing to, know their abilities, and recognize the proper pass to throw.
  • Slow down – Speed kills, especially possessions.  As John Wooden famously said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”
  • Make the play you see, not the play you want – Why make the fancy play – because it works or because it looks good?
  • Anticipate the catch – Receivers need to be ready and to have their hands ready, ALL THE TIME.  The more creative a passer is, the more you must anticipate.
  • What is in the mind of the passer must be in the mind of the receiver – That comes from practice, familiarity, and discussions between teammates.  When turnovers occur, make the effort to understanding what each other was thinking
  • Be prepared for pressure – Knowing the plan ahead of time helps you handle pressure.  How does your team handle a trap?  Do you know where to be?  Do you know where your teammates will be?
  • Look for patterns – Constantly evaluate the types of errors you commit and what the root causes may be.

Our friends at PGC are a tremendous help in understanding the attitudes and habits that lead to turnovers.  Here are a couple of examples that can help:

LIFE – Maturity

Tim Elmore, a leadership specialist who has focused on the younger generations in our modern world in his books Generation iY, Habitudes, and Artificial Maturity, has been helpful as I coach young adults, as well as parent and mentor our three kids.  Unfortunately, I haven’t experienced the same pressures as our young people today, so I’m not always in a great position to understand how their world influences them, but Elmore does a terrific job of pointing out the differences, and more importantly how those have created some troubling trends. One of these is this generation’s expectation that things will and should always work in their favor, whether they have put in the work or not. Handling disappointment and turnovers in life is a lost skill.  Many will simply quit, some will blame everyone but themselves, and most are just not prepared to handle turnovers.  Elmore encourages all of us as mentors and parents to not shield our young people from turnovers, but help them recognize that difficulties in life will come and that they are capable of dealing with them when they do.  We can reduce turnovers, but not completely eliminate them, so why not learn how to handle them?

FAITH – Sin

I also fall into the camp of Christ-followers who understand that sin is part of our fallen world.  The Bible and God’s commands make us aware of our sin.  That doesn’t mean I like it or accept it.  In fact, since God hates sin, I hate sin and I want to do all I can to reduce sin in my life – which I can’t, but with God’s help and with His grace, I can overcome the sin in my life.  Paul relates the same quandary in Romans 7:15-25 when he asks “Why do I do the things I don’t want to do?”  Sin is sin, but with God’s help we can certainly strive to reduce it and consider the root causes in the same we can work to reduce passing turnovers on the court:

  • Consider the what and the who – Know what you’re trying to do.  Is it the right thing to do?  And who are you doing it with?  Are there situations and people you need to avoid?
  • Slow down – Speed often leads to sin.  Rushing from one thing to the next without considering our values and priorities leads to mistakes and slippage.
  • Make the play you see, not the play you want – God put you where He has for a reason.  See it, embrace it, and don’t make poor decisions simply because you want something.
  • Anticipate the catch – Find the good in other people and find the good in God’s plan.  Expect it and be ready to receive.
  • What is in the mind of the passer must be in the mind of the receiver – The best way to deal with sin is to think like Jesus.
  • Be prepared for pressure – Mishandling stress leads to all kinds of sins.  Through prayer and guidance, do all you can to prepare to handle temptation.
  • Look for patterns – Many of us repeat the same sins when we find ourselves in recurrent situations.  Find the patterns and look for triggers that lead you to sin.
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