Passing a Basketball for Beginners:
5 Types of Passes

passing a basketball

Passing a basketball is a fundamental skill youth players should practice regularly because it's the foundation upon which every good offense is built. Teams that rely solely on individual players dribbling around the court will find it difficult to score many points against a good defensive team. 

Before you can teach beginners how to make specific types of passes, make sure they understand the basic fundamentals involved in passing and catching a ball. You can find some quick general tips at the bottom of this post. Until players can throw and receive a basketball with confidence, there won't be a whole lot of team play. 

There are 5 common types of basketball passes:

  1. Bounce pass
  2. Chest pass
  3. Overhead pass
  4. One-hand push pass
  5. Baseball pass

Learn how to execute each pass and when to use them to break down the defense.

The fundamentals of each pass are broken down into basic steps, perfect for teaching beginners.

The bounce, chest and overhead passes use two hands. They're the easiest for young players to perform. Start with these passes first.

After teaching the fundamentals, introduce some passing drills to give your kids a chance to pass to a partner, against a defender, and in game-like situations.

Passing a Basketball
5 Effective basketball passes

Passing a Basketball
1. Bounce pass

When to use:

  • At the end of a fast break, when passing to a player in the post, or to a player making a backdoor cut. 
  • Most effective when it begins with a shot fake or pass fake up high. 
  • To pass under the hands of a defender whose hands are up.
  • It's the slowest of all passes. Never throw a cross-court bounce pass because the pass is easily intercepted.

How to execute:

  • Passer should aim to bounce the ball about 2/3 the distance between himself and the receiver. For a visual aid, place a piece of tape on the spot where the pass should bounce.
  • Receiver should catch the ball at the waist.
  • Pass should be pushed outward, not thrown down.
  • Pass should start at the waist with arms extending out toward the spot where the ball should bounce.
  • Pass should never begin from the chest or overhead. This causes the ball to bounce too high.
  • Hands should follow through about waist high. 

Passing a Basketball
2. Chest pass

When to use:

  • Most efficient and effective pass for ball movement.
  • To get the ball to a teammate when there's no defender in the passing lane.

How to execute:

basketball pass
  • Pass should begin at the passer's chest and be caught at the receiver's chest area. 
  • Ball's flight should not have much of an arc. It should be a pretty direct flight. 
  • Hands should follow through chest high. 
  • Pay careful attention to your players' elbows. Make sure they're tucked close to the body, not flying out into "chicken wings." Elbows sticking out force the hands to rotate incorrectly and ultimately reduce accuracy and strength of the pass.

Passing a Basketball
3. Overhead pass

When to use:

  • To pass over a defender whose hands are down.
  • Great for skip passes across the court, for outlet passes, or to feed a post.

How to execute:

basketball passing
  • Passer should begin with the ball just above the forehead with elbows facing the target. Don't bring the ball behind the head. It can be stripped from the back, and it takes longer to throw the pass.
  • Grip the ball with the fingers pointed upward and thumbs on the back of the ball pointing inward.
  • A good rule of thumb is that if the arms were rotated downward, the elbows would graze the ribs.
  • This pass should be aimed toward the partner's forehead. She should receive it at about chin level.
  • Many kids are weak in their upper body and triceps muscles, so they will find this to be a more difficult pass.
  • The hands should follow through forehead high and should look just like a bounce pass or a chest pass, just higher.

Once your players feel comfortable with the first 3 basic passes and they're strong enough to throw a ball with one hand, it's time to add the one-handed push pass and the baseball pass.

Passing a Basketball
4. One-hand push pass

When to use:

  • To pass under the arms of players or past a defender who is guarding closely.
  • It can be a direct pass or a bounce pass.
  • It works best when the passer fakes high and then passes low.

How to execute:

  • Just like a regular bounce pass, the passer should aim to bounce the ball about 2/3 the distance between herself and her partner.
  • The partner should receive the ball in the waist area.
  • The pass should be pushed outward, not thrown down.
  • To teach this pass, a player needs to have an obstacle to step around. I suggest using a cone or something small at first, which is placed about two feet from the passer directly in between the passer and the receiver.
  • If passing on the left side of the body, the left hand is used to pass. If passing on the right side, use the right hand.
  • Crossover step - Passer steps around the obstacle with the foot opposite the passing hand to protect the pass with the body. The ball is passed around the obstacle to her partner. 
  • Side step - A quick push pass can also be done with a short side step using the same foot as the passing hand. The short step creates enough distance for a safe passing lane.
  • The problem most young kids have is being strong enough to throw this pass with one hand, especially using the non-dominant hand. Don't worry if the pass is weak at first. It's a new skill that will improve with time.

Passing a Basketball
5. Baseball pass

When to use:

  • To make a long pass to a player down the court. It's a difficult pass to control.

How to execute:

  • The baseball basketball pass is thrown just like throwing a baseball.
  • It's a very difficult pass for kindergarten and early elementary basketball players to execute because they have difficulty controlling the ball with their small hands and generating enough strength to throw it very far with any accuracy.
  • The passer faces sideways to the target (parallel to the sideline) with the throwing hand behind.
  • Body weight starts on the back foot.
  • Keep two hands on the ball as long as possible to stop the pass or ball fake, if necessary.
  • Passer begins with the ball behind his ear with his opposite arm extended and pointing toward the target.
  • The fingers are spread behind the ball.
  • Bring the ball forward past the ear by leading with the elbow and stepping with the opposite foot.
  • Shift the weight to the front foot and follow through in the direction of the throw.

Passing a Basketball
Quick basketball passing tips

  • Place hands on the sides of the ball, fingers spread, with thumbs facing up. 
  • Keep elbows loose and at sides (no chicken wings!) 
  • As arms extend, the palms rotate naturally outward and the thumbs rotate downward, causing ball to spin backwards as it flies. 
  • Step in the direction of the target, extending legs, back, and arms. 
  • Force wrists "through" the ball. The strong hand tends to dominate, so emphasize forcing the weak hand through the ball. 
  • Ball goes where the fingers direct it. Releasing it off the first and second fingers of both hands provides backspin and gives the ball direction. 
  • Follow through by pointing fingers at the target with palms facing down.

Passing a Basketball
Quick tips for catching a basketball

  • Extend arms without locking the elbows with palms facing the passer. 
  • Keep all body parts "squared up" to the passer. 
  • As the ball reaches the hands, naturally "give" with the pass. Catch it softly by bringing it into the body. 
  • Never let the hands rotate and attempt to catch the ball on the sides. This is how people get hit in the nose! Keep palms facing the ball, so hands act as a shield.
  • For those players who are afraid of the ball or have trouble catching it, begin with the bounce pass. Players are generally less scared since it's caught at the waist rather than closer to the head. And it comes in slower than a pass through the air. Consider using a foam or rubber ball until they get comfortable. 

Passing a Basketball
Related articles

Passing drills for 1 player

Passing drills for 2 players

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