How to Improve Ball Handling?

ball-handling2I am going to bet that you will think I’m crazy for writing the next sentence that  you are about to read.  All I ask is a chance to explain myself after you read it.

“The best ball handlers in the game of basketball are the ones who make the  most ball handling mistakes.”

Call me crazy, but I know I’m right.  CP3, Stefan Curry, Skylar Diggins, Marques Haynes (He’s for you old schoolers out there!), and whoever else are the best ball handlers you know, have made the most ball handling mistakes.  I know that because the best way I know how to improve ball handling is by making lots and lots  of mistakes.

Oh, I guess I didn’t mention that they make their mistakes when no one else is watching in the many hours and hours of practice that they put in by themselves.  That is why they don’t make very many mistakes in games.  That is why their teams can count on them.

They are willing to make mistakes in practice so that they can play with very few mistakes in games.

Now, I don’t know any of those players personally, but I do know that every great ball handler practices…on their own…a lot.  And, when they practice, they practice the best way.  They push themselves past their comfort zone and their current skill limits.  Pushing yourself past your comfort zone in practice means not being afraid to make a mistake.  It means not getting mad or frustrated or giving up when you mess up a ball handling drill.  For every mistake you make, you are that much closer to improving your game.

So, here are the steps that I teach players who want to know how to improve their ball handling.

1)    Which drills you do aren’t as important as how you do them.   But, no matter what drills you do, always make it tougher on yourself than it would be in games.  Some examples are:

  • Dribbling two basketballs at once.
  • Dribbling three basketballs at once (yes I’ve seen it done)
  • Do your ball handling drills in gravel or in the grass (this is an old school drill and you should use an old school basketball too).
  • Have someone push, grab, foul, or hack you as you do your dribbling drills.
  • Dribble a heavy basketball
  • Dribble a ball that is a little flat
  • Dribble against two defenders, but only in practice.  If you can beat two players it stands to reason that you can beat one player guarding you.

Then, in a game when you are double teamed, look for the open teammate.   There has to be one.

2)    Always keep your eyes on a net when doing dribbling drills.  That develops the habit of keeping your head up during games allowing you to read the defense and spot open teammates.

3)    On all drills, start out slow, get a rhythm, then speed up until you mess up.  That is go faster, faster, faster to push through your current skill limit.  The only way to find out where that limit is and to work at expanding it is go until you mess up by either losing control of the basketball (or basketballs when you do two ball drills) or looking at the ball.

4)     Push yourself past your personal level of fatigue when you practice ball handling.  Many ball handling turnovers late in games are caused by players being tired.  Push yourself to that level in your workouts so that when it happens in games, you will already have been there and done that!

It looks like there is a common theme for how to improve ball handling—practice!  But, practice with the right technique.  When you practice, push yourself to do the drills faster than you have ever done them before.  Find ways to make your ball handling practices harder than handling the ball in games.  And, when you make a ball handling mistake, celebrate it as one step closer to becoming the ball handler that you dream of being!

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