Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stationary Ballhandling Drills: WHY?!

This will probably be one of the things I post that a lot of people disagree with, but it is how I feel. How many of you spend practice/workout time doing stationary ballhandling? If any of you do, I have to ask: WHY?!

Stationary ballhandling is not an efficient way to learn how to dribble after the 6th grade, in my humble opinion. This is especially true of stationary ballhandling drills where the players do not dribble, but simply pass the ball around their legs or other body parts. Again, great drill for elementary school, but after that there is no purpose. Have you ever seen a player catch the ball and start passing it around his right leg? Have you ever seen a player go to half court and start dribbling figure eight circles? Didn't think so. I mean think about it, how inefficient some of these drills are in teaching kids how to dribble a basketball in a game situation.

I used to be a fan of such drills, but then a number of years back I watched a Forest Larson tape where he made some good points about the uselessness of stationary ballhandling and I agreed what his points. Almost all ballhandling should be game like and on the move. Instead of pounding the ball with their right hand, players should be dribbling around with their right hand. Instead of going around the right leg, players should be working on their between the legs direction change move - dribble, direction change, more dribbles. Players should work on, and get good at, using dribbles that they are going to find themselves using in a game.

The ONLY stationary ballhandling I like to do is with two basketballs. Then you are really working on coordination and ball control skills. It's also much more efficient because you are working both of your hands at once. In a good 5 minutes of two ball stationary, you can accomplish as much, or even more, as someone can do in a 10 minute session with one ball.

Also, the ONLY TIME I COULD EVER SEE DOING ONE BALL STATIONARY DRILLS is if you have no gym space and are doing it for that reason. If that is why you have to do it then I understand.

As always it comes down to taking a look at what we do as coaches and then asking the important question: Why do we do it? I think a lot of us use stationary single ball ballhandling drills for two reasons:

1. We grew up doing them. This is a reason many of us use for doing a lot of what we do, but not a good enough reason to keep doing things! :)

2. They are seen as solid, fundamental drills. I understand where people are coming from on this one. There is something romantic about working hard on these drills. It is also seen as a walk before you run kind of thing. But again, I would rather have playes what I work with doing game situation ballhandling. There is such limited time in each practice and workout, so why not spend time working on game situation ballhandling, ballhandling they can actually use?

Thoughts and feelings on this?


JRMurray said...

I can see your point although I do see some purpose for doing stationary drills. I feel the benefit is that even though they aren't moving, the player still gets to improve the feeling of the ball in their hand(doing the around the waist etc.) as well as working different muscles than you do just dribbling. I'm at the middle school level so my oppinion may change if I were to move up. The other benefit is it gives players drills they can do with no space on their own (the few who actually do this). I tell my kids that if you can find 10 minutes a day to do these in your garage or room it will help you improve.

JohnCarrier said...


I again agree that you can do it when space is an issue because stationary ballhandling is FAR better than not doing ballhandling for lack of space. I also like the fact that you are teaching them something they can do at home on their own with no basket. So point taken there.

It's an interesting point on the different muscles being worked. Again though, it just comes down to doing game like actions when working on fundamentals.

Thank you for the input!

John Carrier

Joel said...

I completely agree with this. I never make anybody I work out do stationary ball handling. The biggest reason for this is that I believe that a player's feet should always be moving when they are dribbling. Stalling your feet allows you to get jammed by a good defender. Therefore, to me, stationary ball handling builds bad habits. You will never find me working on this with anything older than an elementary school kid.

John said...

Interesting post. I always like these "do we do something just because we've always done it?" questions. It's a great question not just in basketball but for everything you do in your life. My personal view is that stationary drills are great for walking before you can run. However once you get past the basics you need to practicing everything at game speed. After your players have learnt basic shooting form, do you still have them shoot stationary jump shots?

Anonymous said...

Great blog first of all, going through it on a lazy Sunday.

I have to respectfully disagree with your assesment, although I see where your coming from. I think that stationary ball handling drills are very important for all players throughout all levels. I say this after seeing a college level player struggle with catching the ball in traffic during the season last year and this summer watching him work for about 15 minutes a day on just these drills just to get that feel.

I agree that at the middle and high school levels and beyond you shouldnt have to spend any time really on stationary ball handling, but on "free days" or with individual players I think they are great.

Larry Hughes said...

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