Does Stationary Ball Handling Waste Valuable Practice Time?

By Joe Haefner

Many players will spend 10 to 20 minutes or even more on stationary ball handling during practice or a skill session. I see players do it in the gym and I see it on players’ workouts on the message boards on the web. Not to mention, I would spend almost 10 minutes on this every practice as a coach and nearly 15 to 20 minutes as a player.

I think this is a mistake, because most of the meaningful ball handling during a game occurs on the move. Many coaches also preach if you are going to dribble, make sure you are going somewhere with it. So shouldn’t we spend the majority of our ball handling work on the move?

Well, you might also argue that if you are working on stationary ball handling or ball handling on the move, it doesn’t matter because they are going to get better at handling the ball.

That is somewhat true. However, dribbling on the move is a slightly different skill than dribbling while stationary. Hand position and the angle of the dribble are different. When dribbling on the move, your hand will be slightly behind the ball rather than having your hand on top of the ball. The ball is also being pushed forward and sometimes backwards at different angles rather than dribbling the ball straight into the ground. You also add the additional facet of lower-body movement. Combining coordination between the upper and lower bodies can be difficult for some, so it needs to be practiced.

Now, back to the original question…
Is stationary ball handling wasting valuable practice time?

Yes and no. I think the answer to this question is situational.

Are you working with beginners?

With beginners, you may want to start with stationary ball handling to help them progress to dribbling on the move and build some confidence.

On the other hand, an intermediate to advanced player may skip stationary ball handling. Their time may be better spent on practicing moves off the dribble. Or in a team setting, your time may be better spent on game-like situational drills that force the player to make the decisions with the basketball. A couple of drills would be the 1 on 2 Drill and 3 on 2, 2 on 1 Transition Drill.

How much time do you have for practice or a skill session?

If you are short on time, you might want to practice skills that are more important. You might want to use drills that are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck.

If you have 90 minutes, you might be able do some stationary work for 5 minutes. If you have 60 minutes, maybe you want to skip it or spend 2 to 3 minutes on it.

What are you doing and why are you doing it? What is the purpose?

Some coaches use stationary ball handling to improve hand-eye coordination and rhythm.

Some coaches use it as a beginning progression.

Some coaches use it as part of the warm up.

Some coaches use it for 3 to 5 minutes to improve ball handling.

These are some extremely valid and important reasons to do so.

Here is a sample 2 ball workout that I like to use for 3 to 5 minutes that meets all of the previous statements.

Ball Slaps – 10 seconds
Finger Tips – 10 Seconds
Figure 8 (No Dribble) – 15 to 30 Seconds
Two Ball Pound Alternating Heights – 15 to 30 Seconds
Two Ball Front to Back – 15 Seconds
Two Ball Side to Side – 15 Seconds
Two Ball Alternating Dribble – 15 to 30 Seconds

Then, I like to practice 1 or 2 difficult advancements. Here are some samples:
Two Ball Figure 8 Dribble – 30 Seconds
Two Ball – One Crossover, One Between the Legs – 30 Seconds
Dribbling with Tennis Ball Tosses off the wall – 30 seconds

Final Thoughts:

You will often see trainers doing crazy stationary ball handling drills. Some of these trainers are good. Some are bad. Just because someone can dribble 4 basketballs at once while rotating 5 tennis balls around their head does not validate them as a good trainer, even though, it is a cool trick and fun to watch.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for kids going in the driveway and doing tricks with the ball to have fun, but when it comes to a practice or a skill session I believe that your time needs to be used in a more efficient manner in order to produce skilled basketball players.

Now, let’s say that you take that extra 10 to 20 minutes spent on ball handling and apply it to developing more important basketball skills that applicable to the game or take part of that time to develop athleticism, don’t you think that would make a better basketball player?

Tell us what you think…