If you are looking to improve your dribbling skills, the best thing to do is learn a few basketball dribbling drills and work on them every day. When I was first playing basketball, I was the guy who hardly ever dribbled. Unless I had a clear path to the hoop for a layup, I either took a shot or, more likely, passed the ball. Why? Well, my dribbling skills were pretty much non-existent.
Finally, I learned just a handful of dribbling drills for basketball, and I worked on them whenever I got the chance. Now, I won’t say I developed an ankle breaking crossover overnight, but I did improve to the point that I wasn’t afraid to put the ball on the ground and was actually fairly happy with my dribbling skills, considering I played down low.
So, I’m going to outline a handful of good drills to get you started on improving your ball skills. Whether you are just starting out or are looking for a way to get your game to the next level, a daily routine of as little as 20-30 minutes of basketball dribbling drills can really make the difference.
No matter how new you are to the game, these drills will help you.
How to Dribble a Basketball
For those of you who are just learning to dribble, this section has some basic tips to make sure you are getting started right. Even if you know what you are doing, they might serve as a good refresher to help you eliminate any bad habits.
- Dribble with your fingertips, not the palms of your hands.
- Don’t slap at the ball, instead allow the ball to hit your fingers, and then push the ball down using your wrist and your forearm.
- Always work on dribbling harder. This speeds up your dribble and makes it harder for defenders to reach and steal the ball. Also, the faster your dribble the more control you have over the ball, and the quicker you can change directions.
- Always, always, always keep your head up! If you are looking at the ball you can’t see what is going on around you and won’t see when your teammate comes wide open. This can be hard to do when you are learning to dribble, so when you are doing your drills you should have something to look at like a basketball rim or a spot high up on the wall. A handy aid that can help with this is a pair of dribbling goggles; you can get them for $4-5 on Amazon.
- Make sure you always practice with both hands equally, or maybe even extra with your off hand. You need to be able to dribble well with both hands or you will be giving up half the court every time you get the ball. If you find that you can’t dribble as well with your off hand, you need to work it more so that you can be comfortable going both ways with the ball.
Now that you have some basic things to think about while you are learning to dribble, let’s get to some drills to help you improve.
Here are six of my favorite dribble improvement drills. Ideally, you should do them one after the other without stopping, but they are each small enough that you can work them into your day whenever you have some spare time.
V Dribbles :
This is a good way to start your drills and get warmed up. Start with the ball in your right hand, dribble once straight down, then dribble it across in front of your body to your left hand (forming a V), dribble once on the left and then back across to the right. Start off slow and gradually work up some speed. After about a minute, pause for a couple seconds and do the same thing except behind your back.
One-handed V Dribbles:
Once again starting with your right hand; dribble once and the make a V dribble across the front of your body, but slide your right hand across and pull the dribble back to the right. Basically, it is a fake crossover. You should do this with both hands. Also, do it on each side, dribbling forward and then pulling the dribble back with the same hand. Do each of the four variations (right side, right front, left side, left front) for about thirty seconds.
This drill will help you develop your change of pace. Start dribbling as fast as you can for ten dribbles, then immediately switch to a normal pace for 5 dribbles, then as fast as possible for ten, etc. Do this for about thirty seconds, and then switch hands.
The Figure Eight:
Start dribbling the ball outside your right foot as low to the ground as you can. Slowly bring it around the front of your foot and in between your legs. Switch to your left hand and take it around behind your left foot. Go all the way around the foot and back between your legs. Then switch to back to your right hand and take it back around your right foot. Maintain your dribble as low and fast as you can the whole time. Do this for about thirty seconds, then switch directions and do it for another thirty seconds.
Start with the ball in your right hand and your left foot well ahead of your right foot. Dribble the ball from your right hand, between your legs to your left hand. As the ball is reaching your left hand, switch your feet so that your right foot is in front and dribble the ball back to your right hand. You need to switch your feet back and forth with every dribble. Do this for a minute at a time, or see how long you can go without getting crossed up.
This was one of my favorites because some of the guards on my team (who were much better ball handlers than me) couldn’t seem to do it. Start in a low crouch (athletic stance) and dribble the ball straight down between your legs with your right hand. Follow that with your left hand. The next dribble should be your right hand reaching around behind your right leg, followed by your left hand behind your left leg. Keep the ball in one spot as much as possible. This drill helps you develop quickness and control. Do it for at least a minute, I liked to try to keep it going as long as I could.
The double crossover is done with the goal of throwing defenders off balance and was made popular by Allen Iverson. You need to start with the basketball in your right hand, then bounce the ball under your left leg. You need to catch the ball with your left hand. Then repeat the move with your left hand. Repeat for 20-30 seconds.
Tips to Help You Keep Improving
To keep improving, you need to keep challenging yourself. For example, you can work on strengthening your grip and improving your control by doing drills with just one finger at a time. If you do this, you will be surprised how much stronger your fingers get and how much better you will be able dribble even if the ball doesn’t hit your hand perfectly.
One great way to challenge yourself is to increase the difficulty of the drills you already know well. For example, try doing them with your eyes closed (or with a blindfold). Even if you haven’t been looking at the ball, this will help you be better able to dribble by feel alone. If you can control the ball with your eyes closed, just imagine what you will be able to do when you can see where you are going!
Another great tool that I used to use is wearing gloves while doing drills. You can buy dribbling gloves designed to help you improve your dribbling, but I used to just use a pair of thick puffy winter gloves. This makes it harder to feel, grip, and control the ball which challenges you to work harder. When I started using gloves is when I saw the biggest improvement in my confidence while handling the ball.
Finally, keep yourself engaged by learning new basketball dribble drills on a regular basis. Ask your coach if he knows any drills for you to try, or get on YouTube (check out the great workout video below) and look at some of the stuff there. Better yet, don’t confine yourself to other people’s drills, get creative and come up with some of your own.
Whatever you do, make sure you keep trying things outside your comfort zone. Don’t worry about losing the ball; just keep working until you figure it out. If you never try any drills or moves you don’t already know, you won’t improve much beyond where you are. If you work just a little bit each day, you’ll have impressive dribbling skills before you know it.