Turnover is a play where one team unintentionally gives possession to the opposing team. It measures offensive carelessness, defensive excellence, and is important in American football and basketball. Turnover margin is used to show the overall effectiveness of a team’s offense and defense. In hockey and soccer, it is committed when a player loses control of the puck or ball.
A sports turnover is a play in which one team unintentionally gives possession to the opposing team. In many sports, how often this happens to a team is thought to measure offensive carelessness, defensive excellence, or both. American football is probably the sport in which this statistic is given the most weight. In football, it’s either an interception – a pass thrown by the offense that is caught by the defense – or a fumble by the offense that is recovered by the defense. There are other plays in which possession changes hands, such as kickoffs, punts, and unconverted fourth down plays, but only fumbles and interceptions qualify as turnovers.
Statistics have long shown a strong correlation between turnover and success in wins and losses. The team that runs the ball the least in any given game is much more likely to win that game, and therefore a great deal of emphasis is placed on both protecting the ball on offense and forcing fumbles and interceptions on defense. Interceptions are calculated into the formula that is used to rate quarterbacks, and runners are often misjudged if they are prone to fumbling. Turnover margin, a statistic that compares the number of turnovers made to the number committed, is commonly used to show the overall effectiveness of a team’s offense and defense.
A turnover in basketball can occur when a player passes the ball to the opposing team or commits an offensive foul or some type of violation that gives the ball away to the other team. In basketball, as in soccer, it is a statistic that is given a lot of weight for both teams and individual players. For a point guard, the player who touches the ball most frequently and who is assigned to distribute the ball and execute the offense, the ratio of turnovers to assists: an assist is recorded when the player passes the ball to another player who then scores — is often used to show efficiency, or lack thereof.
In most sports, however, the term is also used when not held as a statistic. In hockey or soccer, for example, it can be committed when a player loses control of the puck or ball and is then acquired by an opposing player. However, it doesn’t have the meaning it has in football or basketball, as the fluid structure of hockey and soccer allows for a constant flow of possession from one team to another.