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The Importance of the Back Up Dribble and How It Reduces Turnovers Against Pressure.

How many times have you seen a player dribble up into a trap andů
  • Stop
  • Try to dribble through the trap
  • Throw the ball away

I'm sure you see this quite often and more times than not, the results are not good.

With the player's and coach's goal of advancing the ball, we sometimes forget the old saying, "Sometimes, you need to take 2 steps backwards in order to take 3 steps forward."

Let's go back to the first situation where the player dribbles into the trap. Instead of stopping, the player could take two hard back up dribbles to create space. When space has been created, the player can:

  1. Cross the ball over quickly and dribble towards the middle of the court.

  1. Explode by the defender up the sideline if it opens up. That's a little more risky, but if you have smart ball handlers, they'll be able to recognize when they can do this.


  1. Throw a pass over the trapping defenders. Make sure that the player does not float backwards when throwing the pass. This will result in a soft pass that can result in a turnover.

When performing the back up dribble, the player needs to be:
  • Exploding backwards and covering a lot of ground. If they are not explosive, the defenders will easily be able to recover.

  • Protecting the ball and facing forwards. Do not turn your back to the defenders while dribbling backwards.

There are situations where doing this move would be a bad idea such as when you've just crossed half-court and the back up dribble would result in an over-and-back call, or it's been 8 or 9 seconds and you need to get the ball across half-court before a 10-second violation.

Teach the move by using this drill below:

  1. Line your players along the baseline in 3 or 4 lines. Have them dribble to the free throw line, take two hard dribbles backwards, then explode forward with the dribble.

  2. Perform this move 4 times down the court. At the free throw line, half-court, opposite free throw line, and the end of the court.

  3. After the first line has almost reached half-court, start the next group in line.

  4. After that, you can progress to the crossover move.

Tip for first time running through this drill:

Have two players or coaches act as defenders that would trap the dribbler near the sideline. After that, the players will have a better understanding how the situation would present itself and the footwork they would need to use when practicing the dribble without defenders.

Another way to work on the back up dribble would be to line them up across the baseline and have them back up dribble the length of the court as fast as they can.

For a press breaker play, you can reference the Line Press Breaker.

How To Develop Your Ball Handling Skills - Step-By-Step Workouts

If you'd like to become a great ball handler, check out the Progressive Ball Handling & Footwork Workouts App.

It provides a step-by-step process with professionally designed videos and workouts. It has over 200 drills and 24 levels of workouts.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...

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Most Likes First   Oldest First   Newest First

Coach Scoggins says:
9/25/2008 at 12:50:32 PM

I have kids from 4th to 7th grade and dealing with the non-stop pressure that many AAU teams employ for that age group has been a challenge. This looks like something that can really help us.


Coach Johnson says:
9/26/2008 at 11:32:50 AM

The key to this drill is having the kids going at game speed and to keep the dribblers eyes up to see the open lane or open player. It's something we do everyday.

  1 reply  

natasia says:
1/25/2017 at 9:03:41 AM

I am a basketball player myself , also a freshman at Brandon high school. I had to stop playing bc I had a knee injury back last year and im fully healed. I have been having major issues with me in basketball ever since I had my knee surgery I keep loosing the ball every time I try and play in a game and its so hard for me to play now, I always look down at the ball bc I have to look down at the ball or I will loose control it sucks... maybe with some of ur tips I can go back to being a real good ball player I would love to meet u in person.

  1 reply  

Dylan says:
6/7/2018 at 5:44:19 PM

Natasia how are you doing now as I believe you should be a junior in September


clyde says:
10/9/2008 at 3:27:48 AM

that practice is really effective!!! do you also have a drill for a break through a 2-1-2 defence post???


Joe Haefner says:
10/9/2008 at 6:58:44 AM

Hi Clyde,

Take a look at this link:


Nick Giroux says:
12/23/2008 at 10:31:38 PM

great drill shows great improvement


Dave says:
1/13/2009 at 12:49:45 PM

Actually, I could use your help.
I am a first time coach helping 9-10''s boys...5 of the 8 kids on my team haven''t played before so we''re working on fundamentals often (which makes it tough to keep the 3 skilled players focused) - many of our opponents are playing a trap defense and forcing the inexperienced kids to turn the ball over.

What offensive plays/drills can I use to get them comfortable against a trap so they don''t force the ball as often?

Any help is appreciated!


Dave says:
1/13/2009 at 12:51:49 PM

just a quick comment - there is no backcourt defense in my league, but as soon as we cross midcourt they run their two guards at our PG for the force....


Joe Haefner says:
1/13/2009 at 1:50:33 PM

Use plenty of ball handling and passing drills to get them comfortable with the ball in their hands. You can find pass and ball handling drills on our drills page:

My advice would also be to practice those situations. Create some situations that trap the offender. Also, teach them how to break the trap by splitting the middle or faking a step in one direction, to step around the side of one of the defenders. If the offensive player wants to pass it to the right, fake left, keep the pivot foot grounded, and step with the other foot to the right side of the defender.

You can also use this great drill where you overload the number of players on defense to make the offense work harder:


coach B says:
4/25/2009 at 3:30:54 AM

great drill...i''m coaching a 7/8 grade girls team and we are having trouble with the trap and just with the defense pickin us up full court. We recently scrimmaged with 9/10th grade girls and all our turnovers were from the trap. So this drill will definetely help us out a lot.


ariel rabe says:
5/21/2009 at 1:39:18 AM

Dribbling forward, when the ball is within 3 feet of the on-rushing defender, it is wiser to make the quick left or right change of direction. As always the defender's reaction is short by 2 or 3 steps and with enough space to dribble the ball up-court.


Lynn Leonard says:
11/18/2009 at 12:43:45 PM

Great drill! I have guards who try to dribble through the trap and it's not possible. Turnover results. Much needed drill. Thanks


seetot says:
12/27/2009 at 1:57:14 PM

I think it a really good drill


pawpro says:
11/29/2010 at 7:40:49 PM

I have a couple of players who repeatedly get called for traveling. They travel as they begin their move to the basket. They just don''''t get the ball to the floor soon enough. Any ideas of how I can work this problem out of their game?


Jeff Haefner says:
11/29/2010 at 7:50:47 PM

How old are these players?


Amy says:
12/2/2010 at 8:47:20 PM

These are 12 year old girls.


Jeff Haefner says:
12/5/2010 at 7:45:44 PM

The only thing you can do is give them time and drill their moves to the basket over and over. Refs usually won't make that call unless its real obvious. Time will also fix the issue. If they get called for the travel consistently and their coach emphasizes the importance of keeping turnovers to a minimum, they will figure it out.

I have one player that has/had a similar problem. We do lots of chair drills where they pick up the ball, make a pivot, and then make a move to the basket. I usually don't make a big deal about it but this player was getting pretty bad at lifting up and dragging his pivot foot. I started stepping on his pivot foot (to stop him from dragging it) each time he picked up the ball. After about 5 reps he stopped traveling and could do it on his own.


Cathy says:
4/27/2011 at 3:32:21 PM

What are chair drills? Please explain. I'd love to work them for my 8-9yr old girls AAU team. Thanks. Love your site glad I found it today!


Joe Haefner says:
4/27/2011 at 6:30:28 PM

Hi Cathy,

Here are a few:

I like to use chairs as teaching tools. For footwork and shooting drills we have the shooter pick the ball off of the chair, a rebounder pass it to a person by the chair who sets it on the chair. I do this because it's hard to have accurate passes when you're working with kids. If you want to work on footwork and shooting, use the chairs. If you want to work on passing, do that in another drill.

In dribbling drills, they also force the player to change direction like they would when they are dribbling around a person.

I used to never use them, now I can't coach without them because I like them so much.


Cathy says:
4/27/2011 at 9:31:14 PM

Thanks so much. I actually found some after asking where to look. I will start using them! Love this website!
Do you offer any courses near Indy I could take?


Samuel Reyes says:
12/5/2011 at 8:17:36 AM

Thanks, this drill will really help me in pressure based games.


Eric says:
4/30/2012 at 5:00:49 PM

great stuff. do you have some good concepts and/or drills on getting out of a two on one trap in a corner?


Ken says:
5/1/2012 at 9:25:23 AM

Eric -

The drills above can be very useful... but IF your players are caught in a corner they are in trouble. Our guards were small compared to the teams we played..... Here is something that we employed IF the dribble was live.

We taught our players to step past the original defenders inside shoulder and attack the defender coming up to trap... we wanted to make contact with their inside shoulder which should get you a foul called on them... either way, you have a good chance to break through the trap.

I hope this helps.


Jeff Haefner says:
5/1/2012 at 11:59:03 AM

Eric - For me time is better spent teaching players how to get open and stay out of the corner. The best thing you can do is avoid the corner trap in the first place because it's a tough spot to be in. Teach them the danger areas (the corner is one of them). Then teach them how to get open and get the ball where they want it by using their body to seal, set and read screen, change speed, etc. You can spend some time teaching them how to step through a trap, maybe show it once, but I think the majority of your time is spent on other fundamentals that keep you out of there in the first place.


Eric says:
5/11/2012 at 12:17:14 PM

Thanks Jeff and Ken!


Isiah says:
5/14/2012 at 2:23:45 AM

I have an 8th grade AAU team have hard time making good decisions against the press. Whether it be an 2-2-1 or a 1-2-1-1-, they make horrible decision even with me inserting a simple press break. What drills can I use to help this? We literally go over our press break for 30 mins at game speed but it never translates to our game. 30 turnovers in a championship game. HELP! Ha.


Jeff Haefner says:
5/14/2012 at 7:21:33 AM

Isiah - Play 3on3 full court NO dribble. We use side baskets to get two games going. 1 pt for scoring a basket. Minus 3 pts for a turnover or if I don't like how they are making decisions. Winner gets a drink, loser does up downs. I tell them over and over... meet your pass! face the basket in triple threat! and LOOK before you pass (see the defense)!!!!!! make the easy pass! I want them doing this on every pass so I'm a stickler about it. If you watch game film quite a few turnovers probably come from players going too fast, not seeing the defense, and dribbling right when they catch the ball. I also like pass fakes. Run the drill every day, emphasize the importance of taking care of the ball, and I think the problem will be solved


Ken says:
5/14/2012 at 8:28:36 AM

I agree with Jeff - then I would break down your press offense so they can see the parts and then put it together as a whole.

One thing I told my players is this.... DO NOT throw the ball away, we will take a 10 second violation before we throw the ball away ... we can play D when they take the ball out of bounds, hard to defend breakaway dunks or layups in your case.

We talked about getting the ball into the middle, once that happens, the press is in trouble.... I also wanted a ball reversal before we attacked too hard ... that way we got the D to change sides and leaving a weakness in the middle ...patience is the key here

I hope this helps.


Woodbridge Lions Basketball says:
10/25/2012 at 5:02:35 PM

Good Job guys! These drills has really helped me with my boys.

Thanks so much! Keep up the good job.


Nick says:
11/17/2012 at 7:34:05 PM

I'm in 9 grade i have decent moves i just need more confidence. Any ideas?


Ken says:
11/17/2012 at 8:43:58 PM

Nick -

First of all, relax and have some FUN!

Next, get out and work on your skills, dribble, passing and shooting. Then play in some pick up games so you can gain some experience.

Does anybody do that anymore? We used to play all the time.... its fun and we learned how to play the game.

Seriously, practice, practice, practice and play... thats the only way you will learn to relax.... and don't worry about making mistakes.... everyone makes them, its part of the game.


Ryan says:
1/25/2013 at 10:48:54 PM

I played a game tonight against a very tight man to man defense. I play point guard and I was struggling with whether or not to run the offense or burn my guy since he was playing so tight. Any tips on this or how to protect the ball better so the offense has time to develop.


Ken says:
1/26/2013 at 1:44:22 PM

Ryan -

Sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you... IF the D is so tight and your other players aren't open, that usually means the opening is at the basket.

"Burn" him as you say, and just maybe he will give you a little more space.


Cd says:
3/8/2013 at 3:19:42 AM

I have to shit


GCBC says:
4/7/2013 at 8:21:23 PM

We have a hard time against a 1-2-2 half court Trap. My kids (8th grade boys) always hold the ball too long and tries to dribble through traps. What advice does anyone have on how to beat a 1-2-2 trap?


Jeff Haefner says:
4/8/2013 at 7:23:21 AM

This video and PDF shows how we beat the full and half court trap:


Mattie J. says:
10/28/2014 at 8:55:16 PM

This is such an awesome website overall. It literally has everything I could ever want; drills, skills, workouts, tips, plays, EVERYTHING. Anyone who has not ordered the ebooks needs to do so, they're really great.


Tim says:
6/23/2016 at 11:41:05 AM

There is a bully at my school who is the same age as me. I am better than him but he said that I foul when I dribble past him......I need some ankle breaking moves to shut him up... Anything can help

  1 reply  

Lee says:
7/31/2016 at 4:52:07 AM

Hey Tim,if the bully at you're school has a lot of height i would try explosive moves and maybe a spinmove?
If we is light on his feet just try to shake him off and he is coming after you try a sham-god. I don't know if this has helped you. (This is coming from a 12 y/o guard) Anyway's i hope this has helped you.



natasia says:
1/25/2017 at 9:18:10 AM

spinmoves work and also keep the ball low not to low tho or u will loose the ball if he trys to get the ball from u back up about 3-5 steps then keep ur opposite hand in front of him so he cant get the ball if u have ur hand out it will be hard for him to get the ball. if u know how to the figure 8 move with a ball (u dribble low and fast inbetween ur legs) then u move to one side towards the basket and then I stop take a breath and then I shoot dosent go in every time but it works 98.7% of the time.(coming from a 15 y/o freshman girl in high school) don''''t worry kid he is just mad bc u got more game than he dose , if he says u foul don''''t listen he just wants the ball.


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