Efficient passing requires vision, hands, movement and timing. Vision is the ability to see the floor and read what’s happening. The most basic form of vision comes with knowing the predetermined options available to the passer. If we are running a set play, the passer should have prioritized looks: primary, secondary and relief. The primary look is the most direct look to score. The secondary is the counter to an over play of the primary look, and the relief is an option to retain possession. Each player who enters a game should be able to function at this level.
The next level of vision is often more evident in transition or open play. This is creative passing, and requires the ability to see the game in patterns or cues. Creative passing involves reading the floor free of predetermined options, and reading the space on the floor to determine where a ball should be passed.
Passing requires hands, and by that I mean the ability to receive the ball and transfer it cleanly. Players that bobble balls, or catch a ball with their body slow the movement of the ball down negating it’s speed advantage over the defense. The other aspect of hands, is the absence of any involuntary ‘trigger’ mechanism in transferring the ball. Some players cannot pass if they don’t put the ball on the floor, or maybe sweep at across their body. This has the same slowing effect.
Movement is vital, and not just movement of the ball. The players off the ball must be willing to move. Cutting into attacking space. Cutting to shorten or create a passing angle to relieve pressure.
Timing is the final component. The actions of vision, hands and movement must come together at the right time to complete an effective pass. The passer and receiver have the ability to manipulate the timing with a fake, a dribble, the angle and speed of the pass.
Passing is infectious. It becomes a mentality of the group to pass and share the ball. It relieves pressure, literally and figuratively. If a defense congests around the ball, a pass changes the point of attack and puts the defense in chase mode. Figuratively, passing shares the responsibility of attacking offensive play.
Passing takes courage. Coaches hate turnovers and rail against them at every opportunity. High turnover players usually end up sitting next to the coach. Passing though is finding a gap and literally throwing the ball through that gap using all of the attributes addressed hereinabove. If you can do that consistently, you are a player. If not, a pretender.
I sign off with the words of racing driver Ayrton Senna: “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver.”