Dribbling Drills to Practice Before You Play Basketball
Sports & Activity
Basketball coaches lend insight on how to improve your dribbling game.
There are a number of skills in the game of basketball. Learning each foundational move—from passing to shooting—can improve your overall game. But of these basic skills, dribbling is essential to holding your own on the court.
“Dribbling is the most important thing in basketball,” said Oz Martin, president and founder of Legacy Youth Sports. “Eventually, you have to handle the ball sometime during your game. The basis of basketball starts with dribbling.”
That’s why dribbling drills are so important, particularly for new players. Ashleigh Edwards, co-owner and operator of Iconic Sport Performance, a basketball training facility, said that dribbling is “extremely important and necessary to a team’s overall success.” It’s so crucial that she said that “dribbling should be learned even before learning to shoot.”
Dribbling drills “can help improve your ball control, hand-eye coordination, and agility,” said Matt Wilson, a sports performance coach. These drills can also help you to become more comfortable handling the ball and ultimately improve your confidence on the court, he said.
Dribbling is a skill that can be constantly worked on, Martin said, pointing out that even professional players do dribbling skills regularly.
Of course, if you don’t know how to dribble, you’re probably not familiar with dribbling drills that can help improve your basketball game. Whether you’re completely new to the game or want to refine your technique, experts recommend doing these dribbling drills to level up your skills.
How to Dribble
It’s important to first go over the basics before you do drills. While dribbling uses your hands, it’s important to know that “you don’t dribble with the palm of your hand — it’s your fingers,” Martin said.
To dribble, Martin recommended doing the following:
- Keep your head up so that you can see what’s happening in the game.
- Extend your arm down and use your fingers to push the ball toward the ground.
- Use your fingers to receive the ball as it bounces up, and bend your arm at the elbow. Repeat.
In general, you want to try to keep the ball from bouncing above your hip, Martin said.
How Often to Practice Dribbling Drills
Edwards recommended practicing consistently. Dribbling for just 10 minutes per day will make a big difference in your game, she said. “The goal is to enhance your touch, your ball control, [and] ball handling overall, as well as your confidence,” she added.
Martin suggested dribbling “as often as you possibly can.” At a minimum, he recommended doing dribbling drills three days a week, for 30 minutes or so at a time.
Dribbling Drills To Try
For dribbling drills, you’ll typically need a basketball and possibly some cones or objects that you can work around. Experts suggest working your way through these, starting in 30-second increments and working your way up to doing them for several minutes at a time.
- Seated dribbling. Martin suggested sitting on a chair or bench and dribbling that way to focus on what your hands are doing without worrying about your legs and feet. “Start getting the rhythm of the ball going up and down in your hands,” he advised. “You can stand up from there.”
- Standing dribbling. Once you’ve gotten the hang of dribbling while seated, Martin suggested moving to standing dribbling.
- Walking dribbling. Feel comfortable standing and dribbling? Martin suggests that you start dribbling while you walk, and then run. Keep in mind that the rules of basketball say that you must bounce or dribble the ball with one hand while you move both feet. If you stop dribbling or touch the ball with both hands, you can only move one foot.
- Weaving around cones. Once you get the feel of dribbling while standing, Martin suggested setting up cones spaced out in a line or random pattern and practicing weaving around them “to get the feel of going side to side.” This, Martin said, gives you the feel of transitions that you would experience in a game when you may need to dribble around an opponent.
- Non-dominant dribbles. Experienced dribblers can alternate dribbling between hands on the court. That’s why Martin recommended dribbling with your non-dominant hand to strengthen your off-hand dribbling. “Concentrate on not looking down,” he advised. This skill, he explained, allows you to see what’s happening in the game, allowing you to make better plays and more accurate passes.
- Between the legs. Comfortably dribbling between your legs gives you one more tool to escape defenders, Martin said. Meaning, if you’re dribbling in the game and an opponent tries to take the ball from you, you could dribble between your legs and transition into another direction to get around them. He suggested standing with one foot in front of the other and your knees bent, while practicing sending the ball in a V-shape between your legs. Shift the ball from hand to hand to learn this skill.
- Ladder dribbles. Ladder dribbles help work on agility, a skill that’s necessary in order to move around opponents, Wilson said. To do this, lay a rope ladder on the ground or, if you don’t have one, use chalk to draw out a rope pattern on the ground. Then, practice dribbling with one bounce in each square created by the ladder, working your way up and down for a minute. You can mix things up by first going in a lateral movement and then dribbling in and out of the ladder from side to side.
- Pocket pounds. Focus on dribbling the ball as hard as you can while making sure it doesn’t come any higher than your pocket (or where your pocket would be). This helps with ball control and overall strength, Martin said. Edwards suggested doing 50 reps of these at a time.
- Push-pull drills. This skill helps you learn better ball handling, as well as transitions in the game. Stand with your legs slightly bent and push and pull the ball from one side of your body to the other using the same hand to “emphasize dribble manipulation,” Edwards said. You can do this on a line to make sure you’re keeping your stance and full range of motion. She suggested doing 30 seconds of work, followed by 30 seconds of rest, and doing this for three rounds.
- Regaining control. There will be plenty of situations in games where the ball is bouncing wildly and you’ll need to get it under control while dribbling. That’s why Martin recommends that you practice regaining control with the ball when it’s at a level that isn’t ideal. “You have to gain control if you steal it from a person,” he pointed out. To do this, you can try randomly bouncing the ball off of a wall and trying to regain control from there, getting it to a comfortable dribbling speed and pace, or have a friend pass the ball to you when it’s not well controlled.
Words by Korin Miller