Traveling Violations

By Todd Von Sossan

The prescribed limits described for traveling differslightly depending on if the player who catches the ball has both feet on the playing court, one foot on the playing court, or is airborne and has no feet on the playing court. We should all read, review, study, and fully understand the written rule of traveling, but here are a few simple points to keep in mind when judging whether or not a player has committed a traveling violation.

Here are some key points in regards to traveling violations:

  • A player cannot travel unless he is HOLDING the basketball, not dribbling, muffing, fumbling, etc. He must be holding the ball and then move his feet / pivot foot in excess of the prescribed limits to constitute a traveling violation.
  • When a player catches a ball in your area, immediately identify his pivot foot, if he has established one. If he picks up his right foot, then his left foot is his pivot foot (say to yourself, LEFT)‐‐and just the opposite if the player picks up his left foot first, the right foot is then his legal pivot foot.
  • Once you have identified a player’s pivot foot, you only need to focus on that foot (right or left) to determine if a traveling violation has occurred. If the player picks up this pivot foot prior to releasing the basketball for a dribble, he has committed a traveling violation. How many times the player fakes, or jab steps, with his non pivot foot is irrelevant, and should not be considered when judging traveling violation.
  • When a player jumps to attempt a shot, then realizes that his defender is going to immediately block his shot, and he drops the ball to the court and begins a dribble, a traveling violation has occurred. Don’t let this play catch you off guard. By rule, no dribble can be started with both feet off of the playing court.
  • If a player dives on the court for a loose ball, controls the ball, and then slides several feet, this is not a traveling violation. Once in control of a loose ball, the player could physically slide the length of the court, as long as that slide was created by his own, initial, momentum; by rule, this would be a legal play. Once this player comes to a stop, then the decision making process of what constitutes a traveling violation enters the picture.
  • On a drive to the basket, when a player ends his dribble and collects the ball, he is permitted 2 steps prior to releasing the ball on a shot or a pass. Count the steps: 1 ‐ 2 is legal; 1 ‐ 2 ‐ 3 is not. If you get to 3 and the offensive player is still holding the ball, call a traveling violation.
  • When at the trail or center position, don’t be a spectator when the ball is in the paint area of the playing court. When an offensive post player catches the ball with a defender immediately behind him, be prepared for a drop step or spin move to the basket. This call is extremely difficult for the lead official to make with multiple feet and large bodies to contend with on that play. The trail or center official has the most open and clear look at this play. If the offensive player travels, blow the whistle and make the call. Don’t feel as though you are calling this violation right under your partner’s nose, because for the majority of these plays, the lead official has the worst look.

As players continue to get quicker, correctly applying the traveling rule becomes more difficult. Load your mind in advance so you won’t be caught off guard and blow your whistle for acts that are not, by rule, traveling violations, OR not blow your whistle on acts when traveling has occurred. There are far too many traveling calls made because an offensive player applied a head fake, jab step, or combination of these, without ever moving his pivot foot. If you cannot explain to a coach verbatim what occurred and why you called a traveling violation, then it is best not to make that call. Know the rule, find and focus on the pivot foot, and then your judgment in making this call will improve significantly.