What is Traveling in Basketball?


As a sport, few are more ferocious and fast-paced than the sport of basketball.


The game is rapid, with leads changing hands constantly and teams often seeing large scoring runs.


This comes through intelligent creative play, moving with the ball, and getting into good scoring positions.


In a good basketball team, just about any player who is out there on the court should have the capacity to net their team a few extra points.


However, in basketball, some things can go wrong when moving with the ball. For example, you are limited to how you can move around the court with the ball itself.


Move in the wrong way, and you could get a travel violation. So, what is traveling in basketball?


Traveling in Basketball: The Basics


Many assume that the term traveling in basketball associates with the ‘road trip’ element of going to play different teams away from home. If only that were the case!


In fact, traveling is a form of movement violation that is commonly seen in basketball. At higher levels of the sport, such as the NBA, it is rare to see a player make a travel violation.


If they do, they are usually called on it. Many other high level basketball leagues, though, including those in Europe, tend to be quite lax when it comes to calling and spotting a potential traveling violation in the league.


The art of traveling in basketball is never a good thing; when you commit a traveling offense, you are more or less guaranteed to give the opposing team the ball back.


Traveling rules came into place to ensure that players need to use intellect, skill and movement combinations to get the ball into the hoop.


Without proper violations and rules for movement, it would be a far easier sport to play.


If you ever hear the refs whistle go and the game stops for a reason that you cannot determine, it might be down to a travel violation.


Traveling is a really important part of the game to understand, as it is one of the most frustrating fouls to give away.


Commit more than one traveling offense and you might find your coach has a nice warm space for you on the bench next to him/her!


Traveling happens regularly in basketball, but you might want to know how, why, and when to avoid the prospective foul.


What is a traveling foul?


So, the act of traveling comes through the process of moving incorrectly with the ball. Traveling is a violation that a referee will call out if the player is in control of the ball and makes an illegal movement with their feet whilst not dribbling the ball.


Basically, you can move just about any way that you wish with the ball when you are dribbling. Once you stop dribbling, though?


You are limited as to what you can do with your body at that given moment.


You are typically limited to how many steps you can take with the ball without dribbling, and it is often limited to three steps.


(Yes, you will see big name players taking more than three steps and not getting called for it – but more on that in a moment…).


This can become a real headache as you might wonder why a player is called for travel violations when others get away with it.


By not dribbling the ball and moving too many steps, though, you do run the risk of being called for a travel violation. Trust us when we say that teammates and coaches get heavily annoyed by such a basic error!


So, how does a travel violation get called?


It really depends on what league you are in and the context of the situation itself. For example, sometimes it can look like a player has traveled but in reality they are within the rules of the sport.


So, here are some of the most cast-iron facts about travel violations in basketball:


  • The most common reason for a travel violation stems from a player who is not dribbling.


  • Once dribbling with the ball, you cannot be picked up for a travel violation.


  • The only person who is on the court who can be called for a travel foul is the ball handler.


  • You cannot be out of bounds of the court and be called for a travel violation.


The most common reason for a travel violation to be called would be down to the position of what is known as the pivot foot.


So, a player will be called for a travel violation based on their pivot foot movement. The pivot foot, if you are interested, is the single foot that must remain in contact with the floor.


You can spin on that foot, you can turn on that foot, and you can do anything except move that foot up and off the floor.


So long as you have the ball and you are not dribbling and/or jumping to shoot/pass, you must keep the pivot foot on the floor. It really is that simple.


The pivot foot is the key way to make sure that a player is not traveling.


When you stop dribbling with the ball, such as when you post up or when you go into a triple threat action, you have to keep one foot on the floor at all times.


Please note that if one foot comes up off the floor, the other stationary foot becomes the pivot foot. The first floor to land contact on the floor is often assumed to be your pivot foot.


Confusing? It is a little – just remember that unless you are on-the-move or shooting/passing, you need to keep one foot on the floor at all times.


Common travel violations


The travel violation can be hard to understand especially if you are new to the sport. Just some of the most common reasons to be called for a travel violation, though, include:


  • Lifting your pivot foot off the ground and returning the pivot to the floor prior to passing/shooting.


  • Lifting the pivot foot off the floor before you start dribbling with the ball.


  • Jumping and then returning either foot to the floor prior to shooting/passing.


  • Dragging/sliding your pivot foot across the floor (it can only turn, not move).


  • When a player hops into the air to pass/shoot, but comes back down without acting.


  • Stepping back to shoot from distance without keeping your pivot foot stable.


  • Shuffling your feet upon snaffling up a rebound.


Please note that these are very basic and simple explanations of how the situation can unfold.


You should work with a basketball coach if you keep getting called for this violation, as it is a part of the game that you need to get rid of.


Where are travel violations called?


You will regularly see a team called for a foul when traveling at lower league level.


At youth levels, refs tend to be pretty strict about the rules so that players have to learn them and adapt their game to fit.


However, some argue about just how thorough the calls are as you move up the leagues.


For example, European basketball is rife with travel violations, to the point where many players who come from Europe will have to re-adjust as they get to the NBA where you are far more likely to be called for a travel.


That is if you are not a ‘star’ player. Watch NBA basketball, and you’ll likely find yourself exasperated as star players and big names in the league commit offense after offense without censure.


Referees are often, fans believe, quite happy to let a big name get away with a small technical violation like the art of traveling.


It is seen as something mostly picked up at when playing at youth level, or when dealing with a ‘lesser’ name at the highest level of the sport. Is this frustrating?


You bet – but it’s simply part of the game today.


The Euro Step conundrum


Just before we finish, we want to look at how the Euro Step is one of the finest examples of breaking the rules of traveling.


The Euro Step is when a player picks the dribble up, takes a step in one direction, and then takes a second step in the other direction, going around a player to then go into the air and take a shot/layup.


The second step, though, should be a violation. It often, though, is not considered a violation as it is a secondary part of the original move.


It was a pretty controversial move when it was first brought in, but today is a staple of the NBA and one of the most common moves used by players who want to try and take their traveling to the absolute max without fouling.


Is traveling a hard thing to get right? You bet.


Over time, though, you should be able to get this out of your game – practice makes perfect, as does having plenty of patience to know when to stay in position and when to move. Happy hooping!

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