Youth Basketball Coaching Tips
A Half Dozen Ways to Improve Dribbling Skills


These youth basketball coaching tips are going to focus on the basics. Coaching tips often look at "big things" - offensive plays to set up your star guard, beating a full court press, effectively containing a star player on your opponent's team. All important, for sure, but all secondary to learning strong basic fundamental skills, especially if you are coaching youth basketball.

Regardless of your game strategy, regardless of your pep talks and scouting forms, if your players can't perform basic basketball skills in game situations, your team will not win and your players will not develop.

And when we are dealing with younger, less experienced players, who don't have the fundamentals ingrained yet, focusing on their development is so much more important than winning games.

And like the first tip says, everybody dribbles, so ballhandling is a good place to start.



Youth Basketball Coaching Tip #1:
Everybody Dribbles

Dribbling is one of these fundamental skills, and in fact, perhaps the most important skill to teach simply because it is a skill used by every member of your team at one time or another. Every team member doesn't need to become an excellent ball handler - most won't - but all players need to become proficient (and a couple of them should be excellent).


Youth Basketball Coaching Tip #2:
Handle the Ball According to the Situation

Dribbling will occur in one of two general situations - when the player is closely guarded, as when your team has set up and are running their offensive play; and when the player is running the floor, trying to beat the defense to the basket, usually on a fast break. Each situation requires a different style of dribbling.

All of your players need to know how to dribble the ball when under close man-to-man defense (i.e., control dribble); in fast break situations it will usually be guards and perhaps small forwards carrying the ball, and they will need to know how to get down the court fast while dribbling (i.e., speed dribble). Both situations will arise in any game, and the team will need to be able to take advantage of either situation as it comes along. So teach both.


Youth Basketball Coaching Tip #3:
Basic Dribbling Mechanics

Emphasis:

  • The ball should always be dribbled with the fingertips - never the palms. The fingertips have more control.

  • Players' hands need to be relaxed, not rigid - as the ball comes up, the player's hand moves down to receive it, comes up with the ball, and then pushes the ball down again - all a fluid movement.

  • Eyes do not watch the ball - they are raised, watching the court. The player knows where the ball is because he can feel the ball's movement with his hands and partially because he can see the ball movement with his peripheral vision. This allows the ball carrier to see other players as they cut, and to see plays develop and defenses change.

  • Players need to develop both left and right hand dribbling abilities - a player that can only dribble with his right hand is only half a threat to score and an easy man to mark.

  • Players need to be encouraged to practice ball handling and dribbling every day. If players want to be good ball handlers, they need to practice, practice, practice.


Youth Basketball Coaching Tip #4:
Teaching Control Dribbling Mechanics

  • The player is low but with his back straight, legs bent, on the balls of the foot, body turned slightly away from the defense (though not so much that he cannot see the entire floor)
  • The ball is dribbled low, next to the player, and in control (the lower the ball is to the floor, the more difficult it will be for a defensive player to steal it and the more control the ball carrier will have)
  • The player's free hand is held out in front of the ball, to protect the ball from being stolen - in essence, the player's body and free hand act as a shell around the ball to protect it from the defense

Have players dribble around the court, and walk around correcting their mechanics. Be sure they use both hands when dribbling, and that they switch appropriately (e.g., when dribbling with their right hand, the left hand should be out protecting the ball; when dribbling with the left hand their right hand should be protecting.) Then run some control dribble drills to reinforce the skill and to ease them into game situation usage of the skills.

One other thing to drill into them - Eyes Up! Players can't look at the ball - they need to see the floor, looking for open players or scoring opportunities. This is very often a sticky point with most players, especially young players - they want to look down. You might want to try some Dribble Specs - they've been around for decades, they're cheap and work well to keep players' eyes off the ball.



Youth Basketball Coaching Tip #5:
Teaching Speed Dribble Mechanics

  • The player pushes the ball out in front of them - they will be running quickly, so the ball needs to cover more ground with each dribble
  • The ball is dribbled higher than in a control dribble, about waist height

  • The player must maintain control - he cannot over-run the ball or allow it to bounce away from him - he needs to be quick, but he can't rush

Again, as before, start off by having them run the court, dribbling, just to check their form. With the speed dribble, there isn't a lot of form to focus on - what they really need to do is to control the ball so that it doesn't bounce away from them, ahead of them or too high. And this will come with practice, as they begin to understand how the ball reacts during the speed dribble.

Basics first, and then introduce some speed dribble drills.


Youth Basketball Coaching Tip #6:
Eliminating Limitations

Dribbling is a key fundamental skill that all players need to learn - even if they may never find themselves taking the ball upcourt or leading the fast break. A player that can't dribble the ball is limited in what he can do on the court. And we don't want limitations.

Really emphasize proper fundamentals during any dribbling drills - players can't be allowed to be sloppy in practice, because they'll be sloppy in the game as well. Review and enforce strong basic skills, and then give them some drills to drive home the lessons.




"Competing in sports has taught me that if I'm not willing to give 120 percent, somebody else will."

- Ron Blomberg






Great program to help players become sensational ballhandlers

effective ballhandling program