The Importance of Switching Gears

In your basketball training, you need to work on skills beyond the basics (shooting, ball handling, etc.).  As a player, particularly as a guard, and especially as a point guard, you need to have different gears and constantly change speeds.  Just like a baseball pitcher mixes fastballs, curveballs, and change-ups to keep the batter off balance and guessing, a basketball player needs to change speeds to continuously keep defenders guessing.

One player comes to mind when I think about changing speeds. Chris Paul.  Chris Paul is one of the best players in the game at flipping gears.  At any time in a given possession you might see Chris walking the ball up the court, you might see him in a slow jog…almost skipping down the floor, there are controlled yet hard drives, and there is his full out open court sprint.  You may also see him shift gears at a moment’s notice exploding from a walk to sprint or from a full out sprint on a fast break to a dead stop (maintaining control).  The way CP3 changes speed frequently makes him VERY difficult to guard.  The defense can’t just sit back and guard, they have to be constantly aware and constantly thinking….this will tire out a defender by the end of the game.

Often times in younger players I notice an inability to change speeds.  Players want to do as go as fast as they can at all times.  I understand the desire to do that, and I know these players are just trying their hardest…but to become a good player, you have to be able to effectively switch speeds.

As a player you should work to develop “gears” like Chris Paul.  You should have several different speeds that you can use, almost like a car with a six-speed transmission (first gear, second gear, etc…)  When you practice you need to work on being aware of these gears and even practice changing gears…going from first gear to third, second to sixth, forth to first, sixth to first…. and so on.  And more importantly, you need to work on being able to change speeds while remaining under control.

Work on doing drills the full length of the court changing speeds at the foul line, half court, and ¾ court.  You can also mix in a move coinciding with the change of speed.  Mixing in some work changing speeds is a vital addition to your basketball training routine.

Do you have multiple speeds?  Do you struggle maintaining control?  Leave comments below…

About Joe Lucas

Joe Lucas is the founder of The World of Hoops. DSC_8916 He has 25 years of experience playing basketball, training basketball players, and coaching basketball. The World of Hoops provides intelligent and intense basketball training to take basketball players to the next level.


  1. I agree being able to play at with different gears is so important. The best players have many different gears they use to get past defenders!

  2. Obie Obumseli says:

    What are some other drills that help change speed? Also, what are good ways to create more gears for yourself.

    • Joe Lucas says:

      One drill is to set-up cones 1/4 of the way down the court, at half court, and 3/4 down the court. Start at the baseline and dribble down, at each cone completely circle each cone then sprint to the next. Focus on exploding to full speed, circling the cone as fast as possible, then exploding again.

      You should also work with live defense, maybe try a drill like the 8 second drill, you can also make rules like no between the legs or no behind the back…this makes you focus on only changing speeds and hesitation.

      In every drill you do pretend there is a defender on you, change speed, slow to quick. Be sure to pay attention when you watch NBA games…notice how well the guards change speed…try to emulate that in your head when you are working on it.

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