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Drills to improve ball handling

By Jill Prudden


Regardless of the style of basketball your team plays, all players need to be able to handle the ball. The best way for a player to gain confidence in ball handling is through hours of practice. When doing ball-handling drills I have my players first work on technique, second on speed, and third under pressure or gamelike conditions. This can be done first with stationary ball-handling drills, then with basic dribbling drills, and finally with advanced dribbling drills. While working on their ball handling, players need to incorporate other fundamentals of the game. They need to keep their heads up as if they were in a game. I remind our players to work in an athletic position as if they were playing the game. Start out easy to build and gain confidence. Then I tell them to challenge themselves. Go at a pace or speed that’s almost frantic. I want players to push themselves in all areas, including with their ball handling. If they never get past the easy stage, they never improve. As I tell my players, basketball is not a game of horse. Add pressure and challenges to your workouts to simulate game conditions. Your players should work daily on improving their ball-handling skills. Just 10 to 15 minutes each day can really improve all areas of a player’s game, especially her confidence.

Stationary Ball-Handling Drills

There are hundreds of ball-handling drills players can use to improve their ball handling. Sometimes you’ll need to tailor the drills to the weaknesses of the player. Ball-handling drills can be done stationary, while dribbling, or with two balls. Frequency, duration, and intensity all affect what a player gets out of her ball-handling practice. The best ball handlers I’ve coached put together their own ball-handling routines to improve their skills. The following basic drills have been proven effective in improving a player’s ability to handle the ball.

Ball Slaps A player holds the ball in front of her in one hand and slaps it with the other hand. Then she switches hands and repeats.

Body Circles Using both hands, players take the ball around their head, then around their waist, and then around their knees, each time completing a full circle. Have them repeat this routine in reverse order, then change directions.

Figure-Eight Around the Legs Players weave the ball between and around their legs in a figure-eight pattern.

Straddle Flip With feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, players start with the ball in front of their knees, held in both hands. They drop the ball and catch it with two hands behind their knees before the ball hits the ground. With their hands behind their knees, they drop the ball and catch it before it hits the ground as their hands change to the front of their knees. The ball stays between their legs and the hands continually go in front of their legs, knees, then behind their legs, knees. Hand position keeps changing.

Blur Players put the ball between their feet and grab it with both hands. They start with the left hand behind the left leg and the right hand in front of the right leg. They then drop the ball and let it bounce once. They quickly move their left hand in front of the left leg and the right hand behind the right leg and catch the ball as it bounces up. They drop the ball again and switch hands back to the original position (left behind, right in front) and catch it. Have them repeat this action. To add difficulty, have players catch the ball before it hits the ground.

Double Leg-Single Leg Players start with feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent, holding the ball in both hands in front of their knees. They take a side step with the right foot and circle the right leg. They then bring the right foot back to a shoulder-width position and circle the ball around both legs. Next, they take a side step with the left foot and circle the left leg. They then bring the left foot back to a shoulder-width position and circle both legs. Have them continue this pattern, circling one leg, both legs, then the other leg, always remaining in an athletic position.

Spider Players start with feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent. The ball is to be dribbled between the feet and under the body. Hands are in front of your body. Players start with a right-handed dribble and then do a left-handed dribble. Then they put their hands behind the body and take one dribble with the right hand and one dribble with the left hand. Ideally, the ball stays in the same place as the hand position moves from in front of the body to behind the body. The dribbles are low and quick.

Dribbling Drills

Dribble Figure-Eight This is done in the same way as the stationary figure-eight pattern except the ball is dribbled throughout the movement.

Dribble Attack Place five or six players in the free-throw lane, each of them with a ball. Players begin dribbling within the confines of the lane, trying to maintain their dribble while attacking the other players within the lane and trying to knock their ball away. Players are eliminated if they lose their dribble, kill their dribble, or cross the lane lines.

Get There Start at the free-throw line. Players get one dribble to score a layup. From half court they get two dribbles for a layup. From three-quarters they get three dribbles for a layup. From baseline to baseline they get four dribbles for a layup.

Pete Maravich Drill Start in the center circle with two minutes on the clock. Players dribble in the circle using all the dribbling moves they know, such as the in and out, crossover, behind the back, and so on. They do not leave the circle. Have them do the drill as rapidly as they can without rushing. Add a minute to the clock each day until they can dribble for five minutes straight.

Speed Drill This drill is done full court. Four cones divide the court equally into quarters. At each cone the player is required to perform a different dribbling move, predetermined before the drill begins. At the whistle, players dribble full court, executing a move at each cone. They should dribble right hand down court and left hand back. Accuracy and speed are important.

Two-Ball Dribbling Drills

Stationary Dribbling With Two Balls All dribbling is done in a bent-knee athletic stance. A coach calls out the dribble to be executed, using these commands: “same” (balls dribbled at the same time); “alternate” (balls dribbled out of rhythm); “side to side” (balls dribbled from side to side); “forward and back” (balls dribbled on the side of the knees, forward and back); and “one high, one low” (one ball dribbled high while the other ball is dribbled low).

Full-Court Dribbling Coaches call the same commands as in the previous drill, but players go full court and back with each type of two-ball dribbles.

Half Court and Back Players turn sideways with their shoulder facing half court. Dribble commands are the same as for the previous two drills. This time players slide to half court. This requires the player to push and pull the ball as she dribbles to half court and back.

Zigzag Dribbling Cones are placed on the court in a zigzag position. Players dribble two balls from cone to cone using dribble moves such as the hesitation, crossover, and in and out.

This is an excerpt from Coaching Girls’ Basketball Successfully.




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