When I scout, I’m always drawn to players who make many good passes in a game. Obviously, I appreciate a great pass as much as anyone else but given a choice over the course of game, I’d probably prefer a player to make twenty good passes than 2 or 3 great passes and a few good passes. But more on that later.
All of us know a good pass when we see one but if we’re going to “talk” good passes with our players, we might need to have a working definition of a good pass. While each of us might define a good pass a little differently, we would likely be in agreement on a few general principles:
- Low or no risk of a turnover. (Passing away from defender).
- Hits the open man, keeping or putting the defense at a disadvantage.
- Hits the receiver in the hands so he doesn’t have to waste valuable time gathering the ball.
- Avoids passing to a player who can’t quite handle the ball for various reasons (Examples: Certain big men in transition or any player who is put in a precarious position with little time and space to function.)
- Chooses the better of two options-one option being just OK.
Keep in mind that if a pass isn’t “good”, it isn’t necessarily bad. Most passes that aren’t “good” would generally be called “fair” or “poor”. We know that “fair” and “poor” don’t lead to winning. High percentages of good passes lead to winning,
The list of good pass characteristics can be modified as one wishes to suit individual philosophy and terminology. The important thing is that the coach and players are on the same general page. As always, when there are subjective evaluations, there is going to be “gray”.
Having gotten this far, what’s next? Perhaps the easiest way to wade into charting good passes is to videotape a segment of practice-maybe a half-hour of any 5 on 5 play-half or full court and afterwards chart good passes by all your players. You’ll have some “good passes percentage” numbers for your players but until you have a video session and explain how you arrived at your figures, the numbers will just be raw data. After your players understand your thinking, the raw data doesn’t necessarily have to be explained every single time.
Getting back to “great” passes, if a player makes some and also has a high “good pass” percentage and a good assist/turnover ratio, the great passes are meaningful. If a player has a low good pass percentage and a poor assist/turnover ratio, his great passes can be totally empty and meaningless when it comes to winning.
Obviously, keeping track of good passes can be very labor intensive but one doesn’t have to have every game charted. Once you’ve established it as a teaching tool, it will become a part of your team vernacular and your players will accept it as such. You can decide how often you’d like to chart good passes. Perhaps, you would only chart when you saw slippage in your team’s passing effectiveness.