Get Better At Ball Handling - 10 Tips + Drills To Improve Your Handles

Dec 16, 2023
get better at ball handling

Improve your ball handling abilities

Whether you're a beginner looking to enhance your basketball skills or an experienced player aiming to take your game to the next level, improving your ball handling is essential to becoming a better basketball player and improving your game.

Back in the day, only guards were really required to handle the ball, but now no matter what position you play, it's important to have good dribbling skills.

Effective ball handling not only allows you to maintain control of the ball (and prevent turnovers) but it also helps you create scoring opportunities for yourself or your teammates and push the ball in transition to name a few of the benefits.

So, how exactly do you get your handles better in basketball?

In this complete guide for basketball ball handling, you'll learn 10 tips + a handful of drills to help you improve your basketball dribbling and get better handles.

By keeping these ball handling tips in mind and incorporating the suggested drills into your workout routine, you'll be well on your way to developing tighter handles and greater confidence with the basketball.

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1. Dribble Every Day 

Consistency is key when it comes to improving your ball handling skills. To get better handles in basketball, you have to dribble every day. Make it a habit to dribble every day, even if it's just for a few minutes.

By incorporating daily dribbling into your routine, you'll develop muscle memory and help improve your coordination with the basketball.

Set aside dedicated time each day to work on your handles, whether it's in your driveway, at the gym, or when taking a walk. The more you dribble, the more comfortable you'll become with the ball in your hands, leading to increased confidence and control during game situations.

*scroll down for a list of ball handling drills you can add to your daily routine

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2. Pound The Ball

To dribble a basketball better, it is essential that you pound the ball as you dribble. What I mean by this is dribbling the ball hard, with force.

A common mistake that younger players or beginners make is to gently dribble the ball.

If you don't dribble hard enough, the ball won't bounce back up into your hand, making it easier to lose control.

Also, when you're in a game scenario, if you dribble softly the ball is easier to steal from you. Think about it - the softer you dribble, the longer it takes for the ball to get back into your hand. The longer the ball takes to get back into your hand, the more time a defender has to try and steal it.

To improve your handles, practice pounding the ball with purpose and intensity. Use your finger tips to forcefully push the ball into the ground as you extend your elbow. When you use your fingers, wrist and elbow to generate power, you'll develop a stronger and quicker dribble. 

Also, try to keep your eyes up as you dribble. By not looking at the ball, you'll develop better court vision.

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3. Get Better At Both Hands

To get better at ball handling, it's crucial that you develop the ability to dribble with both your dominant and non-dominant hand.

If you can't dribble with your weak-hand, you are severely limiting the impact you can make on the floor. You're limiting your full basketball potential. 

When you can only dribble with your dominant hand, it makes you more predictable and easier to defend. 

By dedicating time to improving your weaker hand, you'll become a more versatile player and increase your options on the court. Start by doing basic dribbling drills with your non-dominant hand and gradually increasing the difficulty as you get better.

Focus on maintaining control and accuracy with each dribble. With consistent practice, you'll notice significant improvements in your ability to handle the ball with both hands, making you a more versatile player on the court.

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4. Do Both Stationary And Moving Drills

To enhance your ball handling skills, it's essential to practice both stationary and drills where you're moving.

Stationary drills will help you to focus on technique, control, and coordination without the added difficulty of movement. Stationary drills can include a simple pound dribble for a certain number of reps, dribbling between your legs, behind the back, side-to-side, and forward-and-back (more drills below).

Ballhandling drills where you're moving on the other hand, are a little more difficult and will further help you to improve your control of the ball. Drills like this can include dribbling while sprinting, changing directions, and navigating through cones or defenders.

By incorporating both types of drills into your basketball training, you'll become an all-around better ball handler.

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5. Master Change Of Direction And Change of Speed

Being able to change direction and speed quickly is something that separates good ball handlers from great ones. When you're able to do both of these things, you're able to get wherever you want on the court. 

Think about Luka Doncic. He is not the fastest player, but he is able to change speeds very effectively which helps him get to wherever he wants to go on the court.

To elevate your dribbling skills, practice drills that focus on changing direction and speed while maintaining control of the ball.

This can include performing crossovers, between-the-legs dribbles, and behind-the-back dribbles while moving in different directions. Also, work on accelerating and decelerating to throw off defenders.

By mastering change of direction and change of speed, you'll become a more elusive and unpredictable player, making it harder for defenders to guard you effectively.

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6. Work On Combo Moves And Freestyling

To take your ball handling to the next level, incorporate combo moves and freestyling into your training.

Combo moves involve combining different dribble moves together. By stringing moves together, you'll be less predictable and harder to guard. 

Experiment with various combinations of crossovers, through-the-legs moves, spins, hesitations, and behind-the-back dribbles to keep your defender off balance.

Another fun and beneficial way to improve your ball-handling skills is to freestyle. Freestyling involves improvising your dribble and stringing together different combo moves without any planning.

By practicing this (especially against a defender), you'll get better at reacting to the defense in real-time. 

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7. Practice Dribbling Under Pressure 

In live games, you'll often face defensive pressure while dribbling the ball.

To prepare for these situations, you want to practice dribbling under pressure. Have a teammate or friend act as a defender and provide pressure on you while you dribble.

Focus on protecting the ball, maintaining control, and keeping your composure while being challenged by the defender. Try to create space with your dribble while your defender pressures you too.

This will help you develop the ability to keep control of the ball even while under duress and it will help you become more confident and composed when facing aggressive defenders during games.

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8. Practice Dribbling The Ball Away From Your Body

Another good way to improve your ballhandling is to practice dribbling the ball away from your body.

The further the ball is from your body as you dribble, the harder it is to control the ball. When you keep the ball close to your body, it is easier to handle.

So when you do your dribbling drills (when applicable), practice letting the ball go out wide.

On your side-to-sides, keep the ball in front of your body as far as you can reach and let the ball go nice and wide on each rep. When you practice your crossover, let the ball go wide, away from your body before controlling it. When doing a stationary drill like pound dribbles, reach your arm out away from you and pound the ball.

Keep in mind, this doesn't mean it's always a good idea to let the ball get away from your body in game action. In fact, that might make it easier for an opponent to steal the ball from you.

The difference is that when practicing, letting the ball get out away from your body will help you to improve your handles.

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9. Incorporate Ball Handling Into The Rest Of Your Workout

To maximize your ball handling skills (and your time), try adding ball handling work into the rest of your workout routine. You can work on your handles while also working on skills like shooting and finishing.

When doing shooting drills, add in a dribble move before you shoot. When doing finishing/layup drills, add in some sort of combo move before you go in for your layup.

By combining ball handling with other parts of your workout, you'll get that many more dribbling reps in and improve your handles faster.

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10. Take A Ball With You Everywhere

Lastly, take a ball with you everywhere you go. Whether you're at home or outside somewhere, having a basketball with you helps you improve your feel for the ball.

Use any available downtime to work on your handles, whether it's dribbling in your backyard, practicing moves in your living room, or even doing stationary drills while waiting for the bus. 

Even if you can't dribble it, carry the ball with you places. Hold onto it. Get used to the feel of the ball and get comfortable with the ball by taking it wherever you go.

Pistol Pete Maravich, one of the greatest ball handlers ever, brought his ball with him everywhere. He even took it to bed and slept next to it.

From the book Maravich: "He would dribble 2 1/2 miles to the playground in his hometown of Clemson, South Carolina, and then dribble that same distance back. He would dribble alongside while riding his bicycle. He would dribble while watching movies, switching seats halfway through the movie to get equal work in with both hands. A basketball was his constant companion, even sleeping with one beside him."

Unlike with shooting, the opportunities to work on ball handling are endless. Take advantage.

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15 Dribbling Drills To Improve Your Handles

1. Stationary Dribbles: Practice dribbling one basketball in place, focusing on ball control, speed, and keeping the ball low. Pick a spot on the floor and try to hit that same spot with each dribble.

2. Figure 8 Dribbles: Dribble the ball in a figure 8 pattern around your legs

3. Crossover Dribbles: Perform quick crossover dribbles, alternating between your dominant and non-dominant hand.

4. Between-the-Legs Dribbles: Master the between-the-legs dribble, practicing with both hands

5. Behind-the-Back Dribbles: Practice behind-the-back dribbles, alternating between your dominant and non-dominant hand.

6. Side-to-Side Dribbles: with the same hand, dribble the ball back and forth in front of your body from left to right, then right to left, and vice versa (aka windshield wipers)

7. Forward-And-Back: with the same hand, dribble the ball to the side of your body from forward to back, back to forward, and vice versa

8. Two Ball Dribbling: Dribble two basketballs simultaneously. Dribbling with both hands challenges your handle and coordination more than 1 ball does.

9. Speed Dribbles: Dribble the ball as fast as you can in place while maintaining control and accuracy

10. Cone Dribbling: Set up cones and dribble around them, improving your ability to change direction quickly.

11. Full Court Dribbles: Dribble the ball from one end of the court to the other, focusing on maintaining control and speed while you keep your head up.

12. Dribble and Shoot: Combine dribbling with shooting drills to simulate game-like situations.

13. Dribble and Pass: Practice dribbling and then making an accurate pass off the dribble to a teammate 

14. Dribble and Finish: Incorporate layups or other finishing moves into your dribbling drills to work on scoring while handling the ball.

15. Dribble With A Defender: Practice dribbling while being defended by a partner

More basketball tips:

• How To Get Better At Basketball - The Ultimate Guide  >>

• How To Shoot Better In Basketball | 13 Tips To Improve Your Shooting >>

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