Ball Skills


Ball Skills


Ball skills reflect how comfortable a player is with the basketball. Can a player confidently and effectively dribble and pass with both hands? Can a player stop, start and pivot with and without the basketball. Can they skillfully execute a number of change of pace, change of direction, stops and starts, and movements while dribbling, passing and catching a basketball?


We develop ball skills using mostly mix drills. Initial learning may require blocked practice of pivoting, passing and dribbling, but as learning progresses mix drills means that we use random practice to practice these skills the way the game is player. Training these skills blocked and in isolation can slow a players development as they are not using the skills in the context of the game. We prefer training ball skills by providing players an opportunity to pivot, pass, stop and start, and dribble with opposed practice, or decision-making opportunities.


Building Block Drills

Side Dribble Drill Series

Use side dribbles to change the context in which players learn to dribble. Moving sideways, forwards and backwards challenges a learner in different ways. Invent your own or add some of our other dribble movements to the series. For example Between the Legs Backward (and the many variations) can be down in the Side Dribble Series format.

Use as a dynamic warm-up. After initial learning…Mix the order. Do it cross court. Confine the space so that other players are in the way simulating the confined space of the game. Progress to side dribbles into a shot starting from half-court or Circle Side Dribble Shooting.

Ball Pick-Up Drills

Use ball pick-up drills to develop your players ability to efficiently and effectively pick up the ball from a live dribble into a shot in the same way each time they need to. The ability to consistently repeat the ball pick-up fundamental creates less variance in the shooting motion.

Dominant Side Ball Pick-Up – Bring the weak hand to the ball and pick-up the ball at position 1 (hip).

Weak Side Ball Pick-Up – Bring the ball to the hand from hip to hip to position 1 on the dominant side hip.

After initial learning in space (in isolation) of the basic concepts and dribbles, combine ball pick-up with lay-ups, finishing moves and shots. Vary the starting location and angle. Add your own variations. I used ball pick-up drills to start our practice. Our players all have a ball and shoot to a number (First to 5). We keep switching the ball pick-up challenge, and with each new challenge they have to switch baskets so it gets them moving around the gym. Since they rebound their own shot and move around the gym, in addition to executing the skill, it is an effective skill based warm-up.


And when appropriate add a level of challenge to add desirable difficulties for the learner.

Basketball Decision Training Drills

Basketball Decision Training is a bridge between unopposed and opposed practice. It combines skill and mind training. Cues are presented by the passer that stimulate a decision by the shooter. Similar to a game, the shooter does not know what decision they are going to make until they read the defender. The cues presented by the passer represents the cues from the defender. It is an age appropriate activity for all levels of basketball. This is because the hard part in learning basketball are the decisions, not the skill. Basketball Decision Training immediately combines the skill and decision.

Why use Basketball Decision Training?

  1. It allows you to coach skills and decisions at the same time.
  2. It is random practice. In a team game like basketball, no skill is executed twice the same way. Technique is tactically and context specific so after initial learning there is little benefit to practicing a technique in isolation.
  3. It increases retention and transference to the game. Techniques learned by players in isolation usually do not transfer to the game because the player has to essentially re-learn the skill, (almost from scratch), within the ever-changing context of the game. As a result, it makes you wonder whether the skill would have been taught within the game context in the first place.

Here is how I suggest you teach Basketball Decision Training to your youth players.

How to Teach Basketball Decision Training Shooting