Dribbling Drills

by Coach Ronn Wyckoff, Author/Producer

Basketball On A Triangle

I hope everyone has enjoyed a peaceful holiday season. Now, as we look at the New Year, what can we accomplish? What goals do we have in our personal lives and with basketball? Goals are the road map, giving us direction. Remember the adage: Failing to plan is planning to fail.

I was speaking with my older son during the holiday about practice planning for his 5th grade boys team. One issue we discussed was how to build confidence and train the young players to not dribble all the time with the strong hand. Also, many young players look way too much at the ball while they dribble. This is especially true when the player comes under pressure. This will most likely be accompanied by turning the back on their teammates while trying to keep from losing the ball.

While I don't have the space here, nor the capability for great diagrams and pics that can illustrate all this, here are some of the dribbling drills I teach. I will attempt to give as much detail as I can to give you a good 'visual'.

To preface these drills, if you at any time have a player finding it difficult to dribble with the off hand, or to keep from looking at the ball while dribbling, take them back to the very basics where you teach them "how" to dribble. This is where they can learn to dribble without looking at the ball and where you have instilled confidence and control with use of the weak hand. They must have a place that's comfortable to fall back to, when this happens, in order to then be able to work forward for success.

1) Start with walking while dribbling the ball at hip height. Because of the distance the ball is off the floor, the ball is out of the dribbler's hand for this time/distance. It could cause their confidence to ebb, causing a need to look at the ball. Have them walk and dribble slowly, using the hand/elbow action they learned early on. (If they have too much trouble, take them down on one knee and continue to practice and build confidence there.)

As the player increases forward motion, the ball will have to be pushed out ahead of the dribble-side foot, even with, but slightly outside, the hip. Practice going around dribbling, first with one hand, then the other. Each time they change sides with the dribble, the ball should be dribbled slightly forward of the front foot and pushed slightly toward the other hand while the other hand comes toward the ball to continue the dribble.

By now, players should be able to jog easily, dribbling at hip height, pushing the ball slightly ahead of the ball side foot. There will be ball errors, but emphasize the coaching points up to this point. Don’t let them slap at the ball. Have them drive the ball with the fingers and the arm movement you’ve practiced. They should be able to dribble with either hand and minimize looking at the ball.

2) Now, set up 4-6 chairs in a straight line. Explain to the players that when they approach a chair, to pretend it’s a defensive player and they must dribble by it using the hand away from the chair. Teaching Point: Always dribble with the hand away from the defensive player, keeping the dribbler’s body between the ball and the defender.

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Have the players walk the dribble out to the first chair, passing to one side using the rule above. Have them touch the top of the chair with the near hand as they go by. This will make the player aware that the ball is being dribbled with the hand away from the chair. As they pass the chair, the ball is switched over (still on the dribble) to the other hand, so when they pass the next chair, they will do so on the other side, again touching the chair with the near hand.

3) From the straight line of chairs, go to a ziz-zag set up. The angles approaching the chairs are sharper now and the players will actually be changing directions with each chair. Walk through first, then jog, then run. Touch each chair in the beginning to check the hand being used for the dribble. As they go around a chair, have them immediately change dribble hands for the next chair.

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4) Have the players line up on the end line. On the whistle, have them move slowly up the floor, on the dribble. On the next whistle, stop and assume a protective stance while continuing the dribble. On the next whistle, switch dribble hands and start again up the floor. At each stop, the player goes into the protective stance. On each start, the player will have switched dribble hands and go back to an up-right open court stance. This alternating action simulates having no pressure on the open court and then meeting the pressure of defense. Watch for balance, foot placement, body angle, correct dribbling hand for the direction heading, the angle of the back, and dribble height.

5) Eyes Up Drill. This is designed to have the player protect-dribble all over the backcourt area, halfway between the mid-court line and the three point line. The coach, or another player, can move around anywhere below the three point line.

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Never turning their back on the other player, the dribbler must continually change directions/dribbling hands in order to hold eye contact with the other person. When that other person raises their arm over-head, the dribbler must immediately make a good pass to the person with the hand up. The passer then makes a fake and then a cut to the basket for a return pass and layup.

This drill teaches keeping the eyes up, protecting the dribble, making a pass off the dribble and fake and cut to the basket.

A defensive player could be added to play on the dribbler. I would have them be passive at first, allowing the dribbler to move and pass freely. The more advanced the players, the more game-like this drill can be made. Don’t go live until individual defense has been taught!!

6) Circle Dribbling. (King/Queen Of The Hill.) In the circle at center court, or if the free throw area has a full circle, have 4-5 players each go in with a ball. (Big kids use only 4 players.) On the whistle, each player begins to dribble, protecting the ball from the others while trying to knock the other balls away. For young players, you can go easy on the rules at first. No one may stop dribbling or dribble outside the circle, or they’re out. All players need to keep their eyes up to see what is happening and must dribble-protect while changing hands and directions and trying to slap the other balls away. Last one in is a winner. This is a fun competition drill at any level.

7) Bumper Cars. This is an all over, half-court drill, where any and every type of skill and dribble may be used. More advanced players may go between the legs, behind the back and use a spin dribble. (This is the only free-style dribbling I allow at every practice.) Players must go after the other dribblers while avoiding having the ball taken away as they attempt to slap another dribbler's ball away, if they can. Eyes are up all the time. Dribble never stops. It’s time to practice all the skills, alternating between open-floor and protect dribbles. 10-12 dribblers within the confines of a half-court makes for a good avoidance/skill drill.

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In my DVD, Basketball On A Triangle: A Higher Level of Coaching and Playing, and in my book, with the same title, due out in '07, I go into much greater detail about how to teach all the things mentioned above. http://www.basketballonatriangle.com/

Yours in Sport & Spirit,
Coach Ronn