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Teach Children, Ages 2-5, to Dribble a Basketball

Updated on March 8, 2017

Teach Young Children, Ages 2-5, to Dribble a Basketball

Learning Objectives

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Make it fun

Step 1 - Dribble Backwards

Backwards dribbling levels the playing field. It makes everyone a bit uncomfortable. However, what it also does is helps young children to focus better. The backwards dribbling teaches good form and body positioning because it challenges young children to focus their sights directly on the ball. The backwards dribble is an entry level approach to dribbling that is highly effective however well under-taught. Young children can make fast improvements in their dribbling technique.

Dribbling backwards requires you to help young player's:


Dribbling fundamentals for young children should incorporate two styles of dribbling, the Speed Dribble and something called the Strong-Arm Dribble. Both require a strong coaching emphasis be placed on ball security.

Ball on Pocket
Ball on Pocket | Source
Strong Arm
Strong Arm | Source

Step 2 - Teach Strong Arm Dribble

Have young children start by squeeze the basketball between their feet. This will stop them from running off during your two-minute spiel. Leave the basketballs in this position until you're ready to use them.

The Strong-Arm simply is a shield created by the off-dribbling arm to protect the ball. The set-up for getting children to begin better understanding this begins with the following conversation.

Coach: "Show me your muscles!" Have fun walking up and down the row tapping on young children's muscles and saying, "Man, those are big muscles!" Young children love this.

This has nothing to do with basketball and everything about getting young children warmed-up to the learning process.

After children are posed and showing you their muscles, it is now time to create their Strong-Arm.

Since most children will show you their muscles by bending at the elbow and pointing their fists either towards their ears or towards the sky, you already have them half way to the Strong-Arm position.

As a visual reference for you, imagine being in their same muscle posed position. If you took one fist that is pointed up and pounding it on an imaginary table in front of you, you will have created the Strong-Arm position.

Tell children, "Make a fist and (watch me) pound it on the table." Essentially, children arms should lay flat at a 90 degree angle in front of them.

Next you tell children who still have their basketballs squeezed between their feet, "I am going to come around and check your Strong Arm."

This requires tapping on the top of the arm of each child to make sure it doesn't drop. As you do say, "Yep, that is a Strong-Arm! Good Job!"

After you've done this have some fun and humor them by having one child push down on your arm. Let it fall, then flop it up and down and tell them, "Do you know what this is called...a noodle we want a Strong Arm or a noodle arm?"

Have kids shoot for a minute to get the wiggles out and then add a basketball to the instruction

Regardless of what you might see on YouTube, the majority of young children under age four struggle with dribbling. In the next phase, we add the dribble to the equation. Young children can learn a whole lot using their Strong Arm and not dribbling. I will tell you how to adapt the following instruction to working with children that struggle with the dribble.

Tell children, "Put the basketball on your pocket and with your other arm hold up your strong arm." Once they are all in this position, tell them to place the basketball behind them. Use one child as an example and take their basketball that they have beside them instead of behind them.

Next move up and down the line of players trying to get their basketball that should be behind them and their strong arm should be shielding you away.

This might be the extent of your teaching depending on the ages of your participants. However brief or incomplete you think it is, it teaches young children the value of ball security, an important aspect of dribbling that is under-taught.

Finally, add the dribble with the Strong Arm.


  1. Play a game where the kids DO NOT dribble but instead focus on creating their Strong-ArmsĀ©. Each child will try to knock the ball out of another child's hand but protect his own ball using his Strong-ArmsĀ©.

Speed Dribble
Speed Dribble | Source

Step 4 - Teach the Speed Dribble

A much more fun and much less complicated dribble, the Speed Dribble requires young children to move quickly as they dribble the basketball across the floor. For very young children, under age four, this could mean simply running without dribbling across the floor. This adaptation is an effective first step that we need to accept as part of the early progressions of dribbling.

Begin by asking, "Do race cars drive fast or slow?" Answer: Fast. "What happens if the race car driver goes too fast?" The kid answer, "He will crash!"

Next, describe what they will be doing, "The next dribble is called our speed dribble." Ask, "Do you think we will go fast or slow?" Answer: Fast. Ask, "What happens if we go too fast?" Answer: We will crash.Tell them, "Dribble as fast as you can up the floor but be careful not to do what?" Answer: Crash.

Get them dribbling up and down the floor.

Control them by integrating stop's using a whistle or red light, green light game.

Do not over-instruct here. The speed dribble will happen at a variety of rates among young children. They will naturally double dribble and travel for a time.

Referees understand young children's limitations when dribbling and so must we as coaches.


  1. Race Track Game. Every child knows what a race car looks like and that it travels fast. Create a race track with a circle of cones. Line young children up on the starting line. Tell them their basketballs are now race cars. Every race car has a number on its side, ask children to tell you what the number of their race car is. Ask them what race cars sound like and get them to make the noises. Tell them they are going to have to dribble and steer their race car around the track three times. As they go around, offer to fill their race car up with gas holding out your gas pump (finger) and making the sound pumping gas makes. When they are done, have them go the other way for three laps. Have fun with it.

Instructional Reminders

  • Have patience. A few steps at a time. Children learn best by doing. Conversation is one way of "doing" kids can enjoy. Dribbling is not always easy. Work on it in increments and keep instruction light. Children can quickly get frustrated if they are not dribbling well.
  • Use a hands off approach to teaching. Use easy phrases children can understand and remember. This way they can be empowered through self-direction and self-correction, and learn more because the instruction requires their focus and concentration.
  • Inspire children with praise. Encouragement can allow you control you otherwise wouldn't have. Children live for praise. Positive feedback builds confidence, improves listening capacity, helps develop emotional maturity, and enables a child's ability to find value in self-improvement.

Good luck and enjoyable teaching.

Rule #1

I am often asked, how do you vary your teaching approaches to accommodate for the many different levels of skill that come with working with young children? I have a rule and like many of them it is universal in nature so that it doesn't have to be adapted to different sports or to my different teachings. This rule has allowed me, in the interest of better teaching young children, to explore sports in a more thorough fashion.

If you follow this rule, you too will discover how sports works best for young children. In fact, if you are going to work with young children I don't believe you can do without it.

Coach Pickles' #1 rule for teaching young children sports is break all the rules.

Follow it and cover a lot more ground with young children. Avoid the long explanations and just keep kids moving and I promise your coaching successes will be more plentiful and the overall experience you provide young children will be much more fruitful.

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    • ellahall2011 profile image

      ellahall2011 5 years ago

      Very informative and fascinating hub.

    • profile image

      Professional Sports Fan 6 years ago

      So here are a couple of recommendations for younger players when it comes to dribbling drills. First, if a player is 5 or 6 years of age or younger, or even if the player is older but very small for their age, I recommend starting out with a smaller basketball.

    • profile image

      chrissy 6 years ago

      Hello. I'm a Mom, Brand new being called into coaching. In regards to this quote of yours, "Identify a point of reference, for example the baseline, where they should try to keep their feet planted." Where do they keep their feet? How do they posture their body? Are they to stand upright or bend over? Do they bounce right in front of them-if so how far out from them? thanks much. Chrissy

    • profile image

      1dave5 7 years ago from England

      If anyone wants to become a better ball handler then visit one of my hubs thats on ball handling.


    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 7 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Coach, I think you need to keep it real simple to teach young kids to dribble. Keep the ball on the fingertips, and your head up. Do the same with your other hand. From there they can learn all sorts of dribbling drills to improve ball handling.

    • profile image

      adriana  7 years ago

      I think you information is great

    • profile image

      eesti korvpall 7 years ago

      the sooner you start the better

    • profile image

      Jason Roatan  7 years ago

      Those children don't look very young. I already taught my 6-year old niece to dribble a ball.

    • profile image

      coachjen 7 years ago

      Thank you so much for these wonderful tips. My husband and I have volunteered to coach a team of Under 7's at our local YMCA and plan on starting with your hub about dribbling and shooting at our first practice. My daughter is so excited for the season to begin to play pizza position!

    • Coach_Pickles profile image

      Dr Brad Kayden 8 years ago from Chicago, IL


      Very good. It is a great system that, as you will find, really makes sense for young kids. They do more than just follow directions. As surprising as it might seem for 4 and 5 year olds to do, they quickly find focus and actually begin to think about what they are doing.

      Within each beginner athlete is incredible potential and it is up to us, as coaches, to first build the synergy with kids to make the inroads to unlocking that potential. That is what you are doing by opening up your drills telling them a story. Storytelling is one code or combination for unlocking beginner athletes' potential. However, storytelling isn't always easy for many coaches, especially those have trouble thinking outside the box or letting go of their pride.

      Beginner athletes have very specific needs that require us, as coaches, to fearlessly act unhibited and often, without losing control, return to the ways we once thought as children. This is how kids think, what they expect and respect and what more youth coaches need to remember.

      Kaly, people like you who've expressed commiting to teaching in the ways that I write about will almost automatically be taking the needs of the beginner athlete into consideration. The rewards for doing so are exhilarating and fun. I find there no better student to teach then beginner athletes. The teacher arrives when the student is ready. Beginner athletes (before age 7), I have found, are always eager and ready to learn and this gives me, as a coach, performer and educator, great purpose. However, they as we've talked about, learn differently and require a different type of coaching style.

      I believe we no longer have to ignore or believe that beginner athletes are overly difficult to coach or outright uncoachable. They just don't respond well to adult-style coaching methods.

      Good luck with your upcoming Little Dribblers camp! Let me know how it goes.

      C. Pickles

    • Coach_Pickles profile image

      Dr Brad Kayden 8 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Increase vertical, thanks for taking the time to write in your appreciation. The beginner athlete is something of an anamoly. If we, as Americans, continue to go on ignoring their needs we can expect that the rest of the world is going to pass us up on the world's larger athletic stages.

      Thanks again for the vote of encouragement!

      C. Pickles

    • profile image

      Kaly Shippen 8 years ago

      I am going to use several tips from this article in an upcoming dribbling camp we are doing! Thank you!

    • profile image

      increase vertical 8 years ago

      I do agree with this.. You keep rocking... Thanks for the excellent Hub!... keep going on with the good process....This hubpage is very useful and filled with lots of interesting links stuffz...

    • Coach_Pickles profile image

      Dr Brad Kayden 9 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Shahgul, thanks for reading "How to Teach Young Children to Dribble a Basketball."

      Try it. You will have to see it to believe how well it works. The one thing I don't talk about is how I get into dribbling instruction with the kids. Keep in mind they are young children when I ask them this question. "What are the three most important things you need to know to play basketball?" The answer: Dribbling, Passing, and Shooting. Simple, but rarely do children know all three. We can help them in this way better understand the basic components of basketball faster. After posing my question I say, "Today we are going to work on dribbling? What is dribbling?" And you know the rest.

      Enjoy and have fun with it. I do.

      Good luck,

      Coach Brad

    • profile image

      shahgul 9 years ago

      i think your instructions and the backwards dribble was very interesting and i like the way u explained it.well done.but i must tell u that now im going to use some of YOUR infomation in my assessment if u do not mind.thank you

    • Coach_Pickles profile image

      Dr Brad Kayden 9 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Mr. Basketball, thanks for reading "How to Teach Young Children to Dribble a Basketball."

      I admit, my coaching philosophy working with young children (ages 2-8) is unconventional. Considering the differences in young children's development coaching sports skills are not about winning or taking them further faster. If we are to coach young children and do so effectively, it is necessary to keep in mind the ways they think before we impose text book coaching examples. This is necessary if we expect they are going to retain what we teach them. The top three characteristics coaches from all competitive levels have stated they look for in players are: 1) a passion for the game; 2) a positive attitude; and 3) coachability. This instruction is designed to inspire all three characteristics in young children and prepare them for their progression to new levels.

      Good luck in your specific search for dribbling information.

      Coach Brad

    • profile image

      bob basketball 9 years ago

      not very valuable information