Why Ball-handling is such an Important Skill for Young Players

June 18, 2023

Basketball training is key for any player looking to separate themselves from the pack. As a basketball coach and basketball trainer, one question that I frequently receive from a lot of parents regarding basketball training is “what are the most important basketball drills for kids?”

I do believe that every aspect of the game is important but there are some foundational skills that must be taught, and for young players, ball-handling should be near the top of that list. The ability to dribble the basketball effectively gives plates the ability to navigate the court and get to wherever they want on the floor. Being a great ball-handler inherently puts players in the position to be a better scorer AND better playmaker than if they were not. It is also an essential skill for players because it helps with handling pressure and full court press defenses. Ball-handling should be near the top of the list of basketball drills to focus on for youth players.

Ball-handling Fundamentals: At Ness Skills & Drills Basketball Training, we like to introduce dribbling fundamentals to players by taking them through a ball wrap series. Ball wraps are a simple drill where players wrap the basketball around a specific body part to gain familiarity with it.

Here is a sample ball wrap routine:

Ball wraps around the waist each way x 30

Ball wraps around the shins each way x 30

Ball wraps around each leg individually x 30

Figure8 ball wraps each way x 30

From Ball Wraps I like to progress to basic stationary dribbling drills such as pound dribbles and crossovers so that they can begin to get a feel for how the ball should feel bouncing off the ground. I like to emphasize players using their fingertips and NOT slapping the ball, while also making sure the ball is in their hand longer than it is in the air/on the ground.

It is also important for players to make sure that they are in the correct stance while going through these stationary dribbling drills.

Stationary ballhandling stance checklist:

1) Head up Body low - players should keep their eyes off the floor to train themselves for real game scenarios in which they will need to see their own teammates as well as opposing defenders while they handle the ball. Staying low is key so that the ball doesn’t spend too much time outside of the dribbler’s hands.

2) Bend your knees not your back - I just emphasized the importance of staying low, however, it is crucial that they do this with correct athletic posture. Players should stay low by bending their knees, NOT their lower back, because it allows them to take on a more athletic position so that they can actually move efficiently from the stationary position. It also saves them from experiencing a lot of lower back pain that comes from poor posture.

3) Feet slightly wider than shoulder width - this is important because a wide stance establishes a solid foundation for good balance

As a basketball coach, it is important to stress the checklist above in order to effectively teach ball-handling. Basketball drills are only effective if the correct form and technique is being emphasized.


Here is a basic sample dribbling routine:

Pound Dribbles:

Ankle high pound dribbles each hand x 50

Knee high pound dribbles each hand x 50

Waist high pound dribbles each hand x 50


Shoulder Crossovers x 30

Waist crossovers x 30

Low Crossovers x 30

1 dribble pound crossovers x 20

2 dribble pound crossovers x 10

Manipulation Dribbles:

Side to side windshield wipers each hand x 30

Back and forth dribbles (push/pull) each hand x 30

In and out dribbles each hand x 30

The intermediate and combo dribbling drills below are for players who have gained a solid level of proficiency with the ball wraps and basic stationary drills.

Intermediate Stationary ball handling drills:

Scissors between the leg x 50

Reverse Scissors between the legs x 50

Stationary behind the back x 50

1 Dribble behind the back x 10

2 Dribble behind the back x 10

StationaryCombo Moves

Pound-Between-Cross x 10 each leg

Between-Cross x 10 each leg

Pound-Cross-Between x 10 each leg

Cross-Between x 10 each leg

Pound-Between-Behind x 10 each leg

Between-Behind x 10 each leg

Pound-Cross-Between-Behind x 10

Cross-Between-Behind x 10

Between-Cross-Behind x 10

Stationary ball-handling drills are great for establishing a foundation of hand speed and ball control but they do not entirely simulate game situations. It is important to incorporate on the move ball-handling drills for kids as well. Here is a simple drill to teach youth players to get a feel for moving with the basketball:

Full Court Ball-handling

Setup 6 cones: 1 at each elbow on the court and 2 at half court on the left and right side lined up with the elbows so that 3 cones on either side form a straight line. For the drill, have players start on the baseline on either the left or right side and perform the designated move at each cone, finishing on the opposite side with a lay up.

Once they shoot their layups, players will grab their own rebound and come back towards the same basket they started at, doing the same move on the way back and finishing with another layup. Then they will wait for the coach to assign the next move. Players should make sure not to go until the person in front of them gets to at least half court to avoid collisions.


This is NOT a zig zag dribbling drill - players should aim to make their move and stay tight to the cone going right past it WITHOUT getting too wide on each move

Here is a sample sequence of moves that I like to go through with this drill:

Speed Dribble (Sprint past the cones full speed without stopping)

Stutter Step

In and out


Between the legs

Behind the Back





Double Behind

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