Today’s game rewards players who can dribble at an elite level. Your goal is to have the dribbling skills needed to thrive on the court.
So what do you do? Where do you begin?
At the youth, middle school, and high school levels, most coaches value players who can reliably handle the ball against pressure. Players who can dribble will always have a significant advantage on the court.
How do you get these dribbling skills?
Start by grabbing a basketball and finding a hard surface.
You probably won’t be allowed to dribble on your kitchen tile.
But even if you do not have access to a gym, you can always find a sidewalk or an empty parking lot to practice dribbling.
As the old adage said: if there is a will, there is a way.
Assuming you have the will, these 21 drills will make you a great dribbler in no time!
There are four crucial aspects to becoming a great dribbler:
- Ball Height & Speed Variation
- Directional Footwork
- Body Height Variation
- Game-Like Comprehensive
Start your dribbling routine with one of the first three components. Once the first three components are mastered, finish with the fourth component.
Be patient as your progress. Always push yourself in every drill to get better.
Here are each of the dribble phases and their corresponding drills.
Phase #1: Ball Height & Speed Variation
NBA guards such as Kemba Walker and John Wall do an excellent job of changing speeds and dribble height levels to get to their spots on the court.
Going from a high dribble to a low dribble keeps your man off balance.
Start by practicing dribbling the ball at four heights:
- Shoulder level
- Waist level
- Knee level
- Sock level
Practicing dribbling at a higher level when you are about to go into your attacking move.
As you go downhill, you will need to keep your dribble low in order to prevent defenders from deflecting the ball.
The first drill simply trains your ability to change the ball height as you dribble the ball.
Drill #1 – Ball Height Changers With One Ball
Start the drill by dribbling at each of the four levels in a stationary place.
Here are the key teaching points for this drill.
- Focus on finger pad control – always dribble with your fingertips, not your palms
- Keep your eyes up – always have your eyes on the rim and know where your four teammates are located on the court
- Stay in an athletic stance – always be in the habit of maintaining an athletic stance while you dribble
- Keep your off hand out for protection – always be mindful of opposing defenders trying to steal the ball from you
Drill #2 – Ball Height Changers With Two Balls
It is the same concept as the first drill, except you will obviously not have an off hand.
For two-ball dribbling, it is crucial to stay in an athletic stance.
You must put an equal amount of weight on each side in order to successfully dribble with two balls at once.
Once your balance is correct, work on dribbling both balls at the same height level.
Also work on ball exchanges at the sock level and any of the other heights.
Drill #3 – Sitting Dribbles
This drill will allow you to focus on height variation and transferring the ball’s momentum.
Key teaching points include:
- Use your core – you will often find yourself in a position similar to doing sit-ups and crunches
- Keep your finger pads on top of the ball – still dribble with your fingertips, not your palms
- Pound the ball for building momentum – it is much harder to dribble at a higher level while sitting down than standing up
Be creative while doing this drill. Dribble over your legs going from left to right – and vice versa!
Drill #4 – Skip Dribbles
Skip dribbles help you change height levels as you dribble.
Key teaching points include:
- Explode up as you jump forward – you want to simulate these dribbles as if you are quickly going full speed from a near standstill
- Keep your hand on top of the ball – as you will dribble the ball higher in this drill, you want to get into this habit because the officials will call a carrying violation if you are not careful
- Pound the ball each time you land on the ground – the harder you pound the ball, the more control you will develop on each dribble
If you are practicing on a basketball court, perform these skip dribbles from the baseline to half court with your right hand. Switch hands on the way back.
If you are practicing on the street, approximate the same distance while doing this drill.
Drill #5 – Standing High Dribble Series
Be creative while doing this drill.
Work on combining four dribbling moves between the crossover, through the legs, behind the back, and V dribbles.
Start with a higher dribbling height to become more comfortable with each combination practiced.
Then as you develop a good rhythm, you can work on a lower height as well.
Drill #6 – Dribble Sprints With Popcorns at 2-3 Spots
Start by dribbling full speed from the baseline to the free-throw line.
Stop at the free-throw line and do popcorn dribbles. Popcorn dribbles are short, rapid dribbles that are stationary.
Go to the half-court line and do more popcorn dribbles.
Then go back to the free-throw line and do more popcorn dribbles.
Once you reach the baseline, do more popcorn dribbles and stop.
The key teaching points include:
- Stop in an athletic stance for balance – it is always important to be the habit of dribbling in an athletic stance
- Use the off hand for protection when popcorn dribbling – you will always use the lower dribbles whenever you are navigating traffic on defense
- Quickly push the ball out in front for dribble sprints – pushing the ball out ahead will allow you to cover more ground
- Keep your eyes up – again, always keep your eyes on the rim
Drill #7 – Wall Touch Series (crossover, through the legs, and behind the back)
Touch the wall after each dribble.
There are three progressions as you do this drill.
Progression #1: Crossover
Progression #2: Through the Legs
Progression #3: Behind the Back
Drill #8 – Leg Circles
Work on moving the ball around each leg. Go as fast as you can to improve your hand-eye coordination.
Exchange the ball from hand to hand, feeling the ball with your finger pads.
Keep the ball close and tight to your body.
Drill #9 – V Dribbles (5 Progressions)
Experiment with different speeds. Start slow and speed up on each rep.
Without further ado, here are the five progressions for this drill.
Progression #1: Simple V Dribble
Progression #2: V Dribble – Through the Legs
Progression #3: Dribble – Behind the Back
Progression #4: V Dribble – Through the Legs with a Leg Circle
Note: after completing the through the legs move, bring the ball back in front of you with a circle move.
Progression #5: V Dribble – Double Through the Legs
Drill #10 – Through the Legs
Drill #11 – Crossover
Drill #12 – Behind the Back
Start off in an athletic stance.
If you are right-handed, angle your body slightly to the right along with your right foot out in front. The opposite applies if you are left-handed.
Key teaching points include:
- Feel the ball with your fingertips as you dribble
- Keep your eyes up
- Engage your core when increasing the speed
- Prevent moving your body from side to side too much to maintain balance
Phase #2: Directional Footwork
Many players struggle with the key footwork needed to execute key dribbling moves on the court.
NBA point guards such as Chris Paul have the footwork to execute any move at any time and at any spot on the court.
Drill #13 – Side to Side (1-2 Laterals)
Do a continuous crossover into 1-2 footwork.
As you do the drill, change between speeds and heights to practice certain in-game scenarios.
Drill #14 – Change of Direction (Quick Exchange)
Work on two dribbles followed by a through the legs move.
Focus on exchanging and preparing for the next direction.
Your goal should be comfortably change directions even if you are facing pressure.
Drill #15 – Swivels or Turns (Pivots)
Work on half spins or backward/forward pivots while dribbling.
Do 6 reps with each hand.
This is a good drill to practice immediately before taking a turnaround jumper or if you are near the basket.
Drill #16 – Stop Momentum and Jab Dribbles
Work on two dribbles, alternating with a jab dribble.
Focus on attacking and stopping momentum with a jab dribble.
This is an important skill to master when facing pressure defense.
The jab step creates temporary separation between you and your defender so you can setup your next move.
Drill #17 – Slowing Momentum (Stutter Feet)
Work on bursts of stutters up the court or in a straight line.
This drill mainly applies to when you are attacking the basket in transition.
Also practice the hesitation move and the pull-up jumper in conjunction with this drill.
Drill #18 – Retreat Dribble
After retreating to the starting point, alternate between the crossover, through the legs, behind the back, and the double move.
This is another key dribble to learn against pressure defenses.
Take two dribbles in each direction. Then complete each retreat dribble move with both hands.
Phase #3: Body Height Variation with Combo Dribbling
Guards like Damian Lillard have mastered the art of changing body height to manipulate the defense.
Lillard always gets his shot off because his body height variation gives him a step ahead of his defender.
Drill #19 – Combo Moves (Stationary)
Do all reps with each hand.
Here are some combinations that you can do.
Double Crossover – always touch one of your hands on the floor to ensure that you stay low.
Double Through the Legs – do it with both hands but start with your primary hand.
Crossover Alternating – switch hand between each rep.
Behind the Back Alternating – switch hand between each rep and touch one of your hands on the floor.
Through the Legs – Behind the Back
Crossover – Through the Legs
Drill #20 – Combo Moves (On the Move)
Take 1-2 dribbles and then execute the move.
Always switch hands between each rep. After you finish with your primary hand, always do the same amount of reps with your weak hand.
Here are some combinations that you can do.
- Crossover Alternating
- Through the Legs Alternating
- Behind the Back Alternating
- Through the legs – Behind the Back
- Crossover – Through the Legs
Phase #4: Game Like Comprehensive Drills
Players often struggle in the games because how they practice is not how they should play.
You practice like you play. You end up playing like you practice.
It is important to simulate game like situations in your drills.
You are now incorporating the drills you practiced previously into game like scenarios.
Drill #21 – Triple Combination: Stutter, Jab Dribble, Quick Exchange
Drill #22 – Triple Combination: 1-2 Lateral, Attack, Jab Dribble
When Should You Use These Drills? How Often? Reps?
Here’s a free 30 Day Elite Handles Workout Program that shows you exactly when and how to do all these drills.
We also added a few bonus drills not shown here to take your dribbling to a whole new level.
If you have any questions, let us know!
Click the link to get the program!
O teach PE to 6th graders, these drills are great!! Very well broken down and explained!!
I’ve coached volleyball for 30 years and now venturing into coaching basketball for middle schoolers…so grateful for these vids of lesson plans of how to coach/teach the game!!!