Changing Direction

In basketball players have to change direction often. To do this efficiently requires leg strength, a high degree of coordination, good body balance and proper footwork. A player that can change direction with efficient footwork will often be able to beat an opponent who is faster than them in a “straight” line.

There are two techniques to changing direction – using a pivot and without a pivot. When using a pivot, the player may pivot either forwards or backwards.

To change direction with a pivot means that the player will usually stop for a short time.

  • the foot closest to the direction you want to move (i.e. the right foot when moving right) is the pivot foot;
  • the last step in the current direction may be shorter; the knee should be bent and body weight is on the foot away from the direction you want to move;
  • body weight transfers to the pivot foot, which pushes into the floor (on the front part of the foot) to turn the torso in the new direction;
  • the first step in the new direction is with the foot away from that direction and is a longer step to accelerate.

Particularly when executing a backward (reverse) pivot, the player should quickly (and first) put their “chin to shoulder” so that they can see in the direction they want to move.

Changing direction without pivoting is a faster technique:

  • the last step in the current direction is with the foot away from the new direction;
  • the body weight moves to that leg, but the player should ensure their head does not move over that foot;
  • the first step in the new direction is with the other foot and must be a long, powerful step.

This style of direction change is quicker and more explosive than pivoting. The technique is sometimes referred to as pushing off the “outside” foot because after the change of direction the player moves away from the foot that is grounded.

Pivoting, however, is often used in conjunction with a dribble or post move or when the player is stationary and just starting to move. Players need to be able to do both.

Common mistakes when changing direction are:

  • shortening the length of step 3 or 4 steps before changing direction. Instead, the player should run normally and only shorten the last step;
  • losing balance because the player’s centre of gravity is too high. Keep the centre of gravity lower by bending the knees and keep the head centred;
  • the move is made as a curve and not as an angle. Instead, players should stop movement, shift body weight and take an explosive first step to the new direction.
Running Changing Direction
Change of Direction with Stutter Step