All basketball players of all ages should have a pre-game/pre-practice ball-handling routine. Ball-handling is a skill any basketball player should be consistently working to improve. Instead of walking onto the court and immediately shooting from downtown, let your hands get a feel for the basketball first. These are exercises you can do prior to a game, practice, even bored sitting at home.
Ball Never Touches the Ground
- Ball slaps: You know that feeling when you're dribbling the entire first quarter/first half of practice, and you just don't have a good feel for it? Here's why. You need to warm your fingers and hands up. Slap the basketball like you're trying to pop that puppy - please don't. This helps to get those touches and tips throughout the game/practice. Head up, eyes up.
- Finger tip drill: Next step is to warm your finger tips up. Stand straight once again, eyes forward, arms extended in front of you with elbows locked. Start the basketball in your finger tips and quickly pass the ball back and forth from your left hand to right, back and forth. Step 2 - Begin to bring your arms down towards waste then back towards in front of your face. It's almost better to fumble it or drop it a couple times - this means you are actually using finger tips and not your palms.
- Around waste: Get in a standing position with eyes forward (do not look down at ball) and continuously take the ball around your waist/back as quick as possible. Be quick, but don't hurry.
- Around legs: Sit down to not hunch over. Imagine a book resting on your head - that type of posture. Feet together. Just like the waist drill, continuously take the ball around your ankle area as quickly as possible. The better posture and stance (lower you are) the easier it will be. If you feel it in your thighs then you are doing it correctly. If you feel it in your back, you are not. The closer you can keep basketball down by ankles and not calves/knee area, the easier it will be.
- Around each leg: Get in a good stance. Sit down, don't hunch over. Starting with right leg, take basketball around the right ankle as quickly as possible. Repeat with left leg. Stagger stance in the position of your stance of which leg you are using. Keep eyes up. Quick, quick, quick.
- Figure 8: Get in a good stance and stay level and balanced. Pretend a book is resting on your head. It will be very easy to start swaying back and forth or even bobbing up and down -- do not do that. Keep your core tight, sit down, eyes up simply weave the ball in and out of your legs in a FIGURE 8 motion. Basketball doesn't touch the ground.
Ball Hits Ground--One Ball Only
- Power dribble: Right/left hand--Dribble time. Now, the basketball may touch the ground. And I mean slam that puppy. Really try and push the ball into the ground as hard as possible, keeping your hand on top of the basketball. Do not let the ball go above your head/shoulder area - anything higher may get out of control. The louder the sound you hear, the better. I can't hear that basketball...Slam it!
- Soft dribble: Right/left hand--Remember the drill we just did, do the exact opposite. You should be able to hear pin drops, that's how low and softly I want you dribbling the basketball. Do not use your palms - use your finger tips. Keep those eyes up and really get low in your stance.
- Dribble around left/right leg: The drill we did a few minutes ago (taking the basketball around each of our legs) that is exactly what we will be doing here, only dribbling it. Once again, posture is key. Sit down eyes up. I always tell my athletes that I would rather have them mess up with their eyes up, in comparison to not messing up looking at the ground. These drills may seem a little awkward or unorthodox at first - that's the point. The lower you keep the dribble going around each leg, the better. It should ideally only take 3-4 dribbles to go around the leg before bringing it back up to the front of your body, starting the process again. When you take the basketball around your leg, do not bring it back to the front of your body completely off the path it needs to be on. Bring that basketball at an angle directly back up the side of the inside of your right (or left) foot, so that the basketball is good to go right around your foot continuing the drill. Your heels and toes will be your worst enemy during this - trust me. Keep that ball away from them both. Do not hunch over. Sit down and keep those eyes up. Repeat each leg. Reverse direction for each leg as well.
- Figure 8 dribble: The drill we did a few minutes ago (figure 8 drill between our legs) that is exactly what we will be doing here, only dribbling it. Once again, posture is key. Sit down eyes up. Remember - no bobbing or swaying from side to side, it will be easy to do. Once you get a nice rhythm down, the drill becomes easier. Keep dribble low and watch out for those ankles and toes again. Reverse direction as well.
- Spider dribble: This one is fun. Tough, but fun. Start in a comfortable position - not standing straight up, but don't feel you need to be overly low. Begin dribbling basketball in front of your body, only using your right hand - then your left hand - right hand (behind your body) - left hand (behind your body) - right hand (in front of your body) - left hand (in front of your body), and repeat. This is all about control. Be quick, but not in a hurry. Have fun with this one.
Two Ball Dribbling--Alternate
Exactly like the two-ball dribbling at the SAME TIME, only this time alternate your dribble - left - right - left - right. Once again, sit down and keep those elbows in. DO NOT let the basketball get too far out in front of you. As close to your toes as possible. This will be harder than the SAME TIME dribbling, but once you get a nice rhythm down, you will get it. Don't get frustrated.
Two Ball Dribbling--Right/Left Leg (other ball remains dribbling out in front)
Similar to the drill where we dribble around each leg, only this time you need to have another basketball dribbling out in front of you while dribbling around your right or left leg. Once again - EYES UP. This will be tricky at first but stay with it.
Two Ball Cross/Switch Hands
Begin the two ball dribbling (SAME TIME) and every 5-6 dribbles, switch basketballs from left to right, right to left. The key is to really keep the balls at a good distance from hitting one another. One switch - take the ball in your right hand in front of the ball in your left to make the switch. The next switch, take the ball in your left hand in front of the ball in your right to make the switch, continuously alternating how you switch the basketballs from hand to hand. DO NOT be one sided in the two ball dribbling. I shouldn't be able to tell if your strong hand is your right or left hand.
Two Ball - Side of Body - Front to Back
The next two drills will be involving the two ball dribbling with a bit more movement to the basketball. In this drill - your feet need to be a little closer together, dribbling the basketball more so on the side of your body, not out in front. Begin dribbling each basketball to the front of your body, followed by bringing it back towards the back of your body and repeating (simply flipping over the palms of your hands with each dribble). Keep those eyes up and sit down, feel the burn in your legs, not your back. Create an in sync front-to-back motion with the dribble.
Two Ball - Front of Body - Side to Side
Wrapping up the workout, we finish the two ball dribbling with the same type of drill as above, only this time in front of your body with a side-to-side motion instead of front-to-back. Chest out, eyes up. Your feet do not need to be as close together as the drill above. More of a normal stance.
Throughout these drills, it will be very tempting to look down at the ground. KEEP THOSE EYES UP. Posture is key in each drill. Like I mentioned before, pretend there is a book resting you're trying to balance on top of your head. Sit down and do not hunch over. If you feel it in your thighs and legs - you're doing the drills correctly. If your back begins to hurt - you're doing the drills incorrectly. Simple as that folks. Now, pick that basketball up, get off the couch, and go make yourself a better basketball player today. Enjoy!
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