Dribbling is one of the fundamental skills of basketball and one of the first things we learn in youth leagues. Unfortunately, it’s also a skill that doesn’t get enough attention as players grow older. As a result, your dribbling either won’t get any better or worsen over time.
The good news is dribbling can be practiced all by yourself and doesn’t even require you to be on a basketball court. There are a wide variety of drills and fundamentals that could help you get the most out of this skill.
Before we get into some good drills to practice, we will first go over some of the basics to dribbling — it’s never a bad idea to start from square one.
There are so many ins-and-outs to dribbling, most of which will come naturally the more you practice. In order to get there, you will need to ensure that you have the fundamentals down.
First, you’ll want to make sure you have the right technique when dribbling. This will involve spreading your dribbling hand out comfortably, while extending your elbow and fingers to push the ball down to the floor. As the ball bounces back up, you’ll want to meet it with your fingers graciously.
You never want to dribble with your palm, always use your fingertips to guide the ball.
When dribbling, you also want to avoid keeping the ball in your hand for too long. The quicker you initiate the next dribble, the more control you will have over the ball. You’ll also want to dribble with a little force. Think of it this way, the harder your dribble is, the quicker it will get back to your hand. This won’t allow defenders much time to interrupt the dribble.
With the dribbling motion down, you can start to move around with the ball. Start with walking your dribble and slowly increase your walk into a jog — and eventually a run or sprint. It might be a little more awkward the faster you go, but use your imagination to find your comfort zone with the ball.
As you move around, always keep your head up. This will be difficult for beginners, so it’s okay to watch the ball at first. Eventually, you will want to be comfortable enough to have your head up at all times. This will make you more aware of what’s going on around you, eliminating the opponent’s opportunity to steal the ball from you.
As you continue, here are a few more fundamental tips before we get into a few drills:
- Don’t stop your dribble unless you have a shot or lane to the basket, keep your dribble going as long as possible
- Throw in different moves like the crossover or hesitation to give your dribbling more variety
- Practice angles. Focus on north-south dribbling, but also perfect the ability to make quick transitions from east-west to north-south dribbling
- Low dribbles are best for controlling the ball, high dribbles are best for trying to move quickly
- Always use the hand furthest from the defender to dribble with
- Never dribble into trouble, dribble into open space to try and create a play
- Dribble with a purpose. If you don’t have one, pass the ball
Now let’s go over three main drills that will help you get better at dribbling a basketball.
This drill is going to be very basic, but will help teach you control of the ball. The crazy thing is you actually won’t dribble the ball at all. Instead, just handling it to get a feel for it.
There’s a lot you can do with this drill. For starters, simply hold the ball and start wrapping it around your lower leg — like you’re covering yourself in bubble wrap. By making a circular motion around your leg, vary your speed and try to not lose the ball.
To enhance this drill, you can do these in a circular motion around your waist, head, or combine all three of them in one drill by going from your head, to your waist, to your legs and back up again.
You can even get crazy with it and do figure eights through your legs.
This drill will help you dribble with force and control without really moving. There will be three phases of this: ankle height, waist height, shoulder height. We will also alternate your hands so both get practice.
For this, simply get in your stance and start dribbling as low as possible. Try to keep the ball just a couple of inches off the ground at all times. Alternate with your left and right hands, trying to not lose the ball.
As you improve with that, bring the ball up to waist level. Repeat the same thing, but this time try to dribble with as much force as possible. Eliminate as much time as possible between you letting go of the ball and it returning to your hand.
Lastly, take the drill up to shoulder level. Again, dribble with force and try to keep control the entire time.
With so many drills out there, these are just two that can be done all by yourself. Don’t shy from getting together with friends to work on your dribbling outside of practice.