Youth Basketball: The Dribble Difference
With today’s fast-paced “spread and attack” style of play, young players who have mastered dribbling the basketball will create confusion with defenders and have more opportunities to pass the ball to teammates who are in easy scoring position. The skilled dribbler who can break through a full- or half-court press defense and evades sideline traps, will always have at least one fully open shooter nearby or even an open shot at the hoop.
The dribbler who develops the skill of dribbling with either hand, creates more options and keeps defenders off-balance, because there is no predictable side for defenders to focus on. With one hand strong on the dribble, it frees the player’s other arm to serve as an effective screen to put even more distance between the ball and the defender. The ball will be stolen less, with fewer fast-break scoring opportunities for the other team.
It’s important to teach young players to keep their eye off the ball, with the head up and pivoting to look for teammates at the basket for a shot, or even to provide a quick feint to throw off the defender. The best dribblers can dribble a basketball both softly or hard into the court, to control the tempo of the play. They can change direction and speeds quickly as they dribble, always keeping the defenders guessing.
The Power Dribble allows the player to dribble the ball at a very intense rate. Teach young players to thrust the ball downward with power and be ready for it to spring right back into their hand for the next dribble. The Crossover Dribble starts with dribbling with the right hand, and then quickly bouncing the ball to the left hand, alternating hands and building power and consistency. Double Ball Dribbling has the player practice by dribbling two balls, one in each hand. This boosts arm strength and control, and also helps young players keep their heads up without looking at the ball.
These drills are ideal because they can be done away from practice, on just about any hard surface, and they help build confidence in a basic basketball skill. To make the drills more challenging, vary the number of repetitions, change the speed and force of the dribble, and use fixed obstacles if no one else is around to play the role of the defender.