Monday, December 14, 2009

Dribbling the Basketball While Running

Basketball as a sport can be made to look so easy. We watch Lebron James dribble the ball down the right side of the court while he surveys the positions of his team mates and the opposition. Suddenly he breaks left toward the basket, switching his dribble to his left hand, one more step and one more bounce then he switches back to the right hand as he elevates for the dunk.

Not once in this sequence does he look at the ball (until it is going through the hoop). As he does each movement, including side steps and head fakes, he keeps the ball bouncing slightly out in front and to the side, positioned ready for the next spectacular play.

Dribbling the ball is an essential part of basketball. A player that can dribble with confidence and control will have more options to attack the basket and get good looks to shoot a jump shot or attack the basket for a lay up or dunk.

We collected some video of a player running and dribbling the ball with his right hand, as well as some close up video of the players hand while he bounces the ball while standing.

We set up the video camera on the side of the court so we could watch the player run through the camera field of view. This allows us to see where he bounces the ball as he runs through. If the player ran toward the camera we would be unable to determine how far in front he pushes the ball.

The close up video of the hand will show a good example of how to bounce the ball in the dribble.
  1. A correctly inflated basketball should bounce most of the way back up to your hand if you simply dropped it. You only need to push the ball down with enough force to get it back to your hand. Push too hard and the ball will bounce higher than expected and you may lose control.
  2. Bounce the ball off your spread fingers. You do not want to push down with your palm. Allow your fingers to feel for the ball as it bounces up and then spread your fingers and push down on the ball for the next bounce. Push down by bending flexing (bending) your wrist.
  3. Keep your head up surveying the court and position of your team mates and the opponents. You should do this whether you are running with the ball or simply standing still.
  4. Keep your legs slightly bent and be ready to make your move. You do not want to be caught back on your heals as you are dribbling the ball as this makes it easier for an opponent to steal the ball. Be in a position ready to move.
  5. Although we do not show this in the video, you should learn to dribble with both hands and on both sides of your body. This will allow you more options when driving toward the basket or preparing for a pass.

Now take a look at our player in the first part of the video as he runs at 3/4 speed while dribbling the ball. Dribbling while running fast can put your opponent off balance and create room for yourself and your team.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when dribbling and running:
  1. Once again, do not look down at the ball. You need to trust that the ball will bounce where you want it. This may be difficult at first but will come with practice. When running and dribbling it is even more important to keep your head up and see the court and be prepared to change direction quickly.
  2. Bounce the ball far enough out in front of you so that you do not need to check your run to keep control of the ball. Many a fast break will come to nothing if you need to slow down to get control of the ball.
  3. Bounce the ball out a little to the side. If you are dribbling with your right hand keep the ball a little outside and far enough in front of your right leg. If you bounce the ball directly in front of you then you will have more difficulty controlling it as you run. Of course if you are about to cut in toward the basket then you will need to bounce the ball in front of your body, but then you will also be turning your body or switching dribbling hands and will still be keeping ball slight outside your legs.
  4. Once again use your fingers to bounce the ball and push it out in front of you. Do not use your palm as you are likely to lose control and probably the ball if you are running fast.
Practice will help you learn any new skill or get better at it. The more you practice the easier you will find the skill as your muscles and body learn what to expect and anticipates the limb movement and muscle action required.

We often say watch video of pros and of yourself and then practice with this in mind. Watching pros allows you to see how it should be done. Watching yourself ensures you know how you compare to these pros. Both are important. If you practiced all day but had no idea what you were doing wrong, you could teach your body to perform the skill incorrectly.

With video technology today there is no reason why you cannot easily assess your own performance. Take a look at previous articles in this website to find more tips on filming yourself or how to do specific skills.

Happy Holidays

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