Catch a Basketball Pass with Confidence

Learn the basics of throwing and catching a basketball pass. In this article, the skill of catching is broken down into 12 simple steps for teaching beginning players.

basketball pass

Photo: Some rights reserved by K.M. Klemencic

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When players are first learning how to play basketball one of the areas many young kids have trouble with is catching. 

Basketballs are hard. And they hurt if a player isn't ready or able to catch a sharply thrown pass. So, before a player gets hit in the face or jams a finger and develops a fear of the ball, make sure she has the skills to properly catch it.

12 Tips for catching a basketball pass

1. See the ball at all times

Players should never turn their back to the ball when they're on the court. For starters, losing sight of the ball is a sure way to get beat on defense. But from a safety perspective, it's a sure way to get nailed with a pass in the back of the head.

2. Relax and slightly bend the knees

Have good balance and be on the balls of the feet ready to move in any direction. Players need to be ready to jump up or move somewhere to catch a bad pass. Standing straight-legged makes it impossible to react quickly enough to get to the ball.

3. Move toward the pass to catch it

A big mistake a lot of players make is standing flat-footed waiting for the ball to reach them. Stepping toward the pass shortens the length of the pass and prevents a defender from stepping in to pick it off. 

4. Watch the ball all the way into the hands

Players often get excited, anticipating their next move before they ever catch the ball. Taking the eyes off the ball is a sure way to fumble it, travel, or lose it completely.

5. Keep the hands open

The fingers should be spread comfortably with arms held about shoulder width apart. Having the hands open prepares the fingers to catch the ball and prevents them from getting jammed.

The palms should be facing toward the ball. This provides a good target for the passer and lets him know the receiver is ready to catch the ball.

6. Give a good target every time

The receiver should let the passer know where she wants to receive the ball by providing a target with one or two hands open toward the passer.

When catching with two hands extend both arms toward the ball. If providing a target with one hand, the receiver should raise or lower the hand to indicate exactly where she wants to receive the ball. 

7. Catching a pass above the head

When the ball is thrown above the receiver's head, the arms should extend upward with the fingers pointing to the sky, thumbs facing each other, and palms open toward the passer.

8. Catching a pass below the waist

When the ball is thrown low, the receiver's fingers should point downward with the pinkies pointing toward each other, palms open toward the passer, and the thumbs pointing away from each other.

A lot of kids struggle with passes thrown low because they try to keep their fingers pointing up.

9. Bend the arms slightly on impact

Once the ball makes contact with the hands, pull the arms in slightly to soften the impact. A pass can't be caught effectively with stiff hands or arms.

10. Always catch the ball with 2 hands

To ensure keeping control of the ball, secure it with both hands. The receiver may need to reach with one hand for a high or low pass or to chase after a bad pass, but as soon as possible, pull it in with both hands.

11. Protect the ball

Once gaining control of the ball, protect it. Pull it in close to the body in the triple threat position. Leaving the ball exposed makes it easy for the defense to get their hands on it.

12. Square up to the basket after catching the pass

Squaring up to the basket with the ball in triple threat position allows players to see what's happening on the floor. It's impossible to see open passes, shots, or dribbling lanes with the back to the basket.

Exceptions to this rule would be when posting up in the lane, when kicking it out from the key to the wing, or attempting to score with a post move.

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