How Can You Help Your Students Look up When Dribbling a Basketball?

By: Mark Banasiak @MoreThanGym

As you are aware, beginning and intermediate basketball dribblers love to look down at the ball because they lack the confidence to look up. After practicing and assessing the basic skill of dribbling in self and general space, I believe one of our jobs is to place the students in situations to increase their skill level as well as their confidence. As a result, I try to seek out and/or design activities that require the students to look up and use their peripheral vision while dribbling.

To help illustrate peripheral vision, I ask the students to hold their hands up to their eyes like binoculars. We talk about seeing straight ahead. We also mention that when they take the binoculars away, everything else they see is their peripheral vision. I further explain that using their peripheral vision (looking out of the corner of their eyes) allows them to confidently look up while dribbling a basketball.  I then have them participate in activities that require them to look up.  During any of these activities, the teacher should monitor and look for anyone who is continuously losing control and provide additional instruction as needed.

Here are some of those activities:

Dribble Freeze (K-2nd): This activity allows the students to dribble and move at their own pace; however, if they lose control of their dribble then they are frozen. They simply stand with the ball above their head and wait for a peer to dribble by and tap them on the shoulder. The structure of this activity requires them to look up to make sure they do not bump into anyone and to see who they can unfreeze.

Dribble Tag (K+): This activity allows the students to dribble while moving around in general space. The teacher can use a half pool noodle to attempt to tag the student’s ball. If a student loses control or their ball is tagged by the teacher, they must then move to the perimeter of the gym and complete 10 basketball jumps (hug the basketball and jump up and down). The structure of this activity requires them to look up to make sure they do not bump into anyone, to look for the tagger, and to quickly change directions to get away from the tagger.

Follow the Leader (1st +): This activity allows the students to spread out, face the middle, and follow the leader. As the leader, the teacher can dribble with either hand, alternating hands, go down on one knee, or lay down while dribbling. If you want to have some fun, let them try dribbling under their knees or allow them to spin the ball on their finger. I was surprised last year when one student who usually lacks motivation was the best ball spinner in the entire school! You may also consider allowing a few minutes of freestyle dribbling. This may provide you the opportunity to locate students who can serve as the leader. The structure of this activity requires them to occasionally look up to make sure they are following the leader.

Take That Cone (1st +): This activity allows the students to dribble a ball while moving through traffic and attempting to collect cones. The students are divided in half and placed at opposite ends of the gym. A whole bunch of small cones are then spread out in the middle of the gym. As long as they are maintaining their dribble, they can bend down, collect one cone, and return it to their end of the gym. Similar to Dribble Freeze, if a student loses control of their dribble they are frozen. They simply stand with the ball above their head and wait for a peer to dribble by and tap them on the shoulder. After a few minutes, all of the cones will end up at either end of the gym. The students will then be walking around and dribbling with no cones left in the middle. Don’t say anything! One or two perceptive students will soon ask if they can take the other team’s cones. At that point, simply restate the goal, “You may collect any cone and take it to your area.” The frenzy then begins as a handful of students will begin to take the other team’s cones. In an instant, the speed of the activity picks up with the students dribbling longer pathways, dribbling faster, and weaving in and out of the other students. The structure of this activity requires them to look up to make sure they do not bump into anyone, to look for peers to unfreeze, to change levels, and to pick up an item all while maintaining their dribble.

Dribble Two at a Time (2nd +): This activity allows the students to attempt to dribble two basketballs at a time. I like to pair the students up. One partner will attempt to dribble two basketballs at the same time while the other partner will execute 25 jumping jacks. They will then switch. The structure of this activity requires them to use their peripheral vision as they try to watch both basketballs.

Scattered Square Dancing (2nd +): This activity allows the students to dribble while having them participate in scattered square dancing. This is a simple dance where you call out movements and the students find the closest person to complete them with. There are individual skills that include changing directions (amongst the chaos of people moving everywhere) and partner skills. Have you ever tried to perform the elbow trim with a partner while dribbling a basketball? The structure of this activity requires them to look up as they perform the individual and partner dance moves.

Balance the Bagel (2nd +): This activity allows the students to progress based on their individual skill level. Each student will attempt to dribble a ball around the gym while balancing a bagel (sliced up pool noodle) on a ping pong paddle. As they successfully make a trip around the gym, they can stop and add another bagel to their stack/tower. The structure of this activity requires them to use their peripheral vision as they try to watch their bagels and the ball. The last time we participated in this activity, anyone who completed a lap with 5 bagels was allowed to trade for a small rubber ball to balance while dribbling.   **Click for a free lesson plan – Balance the Bagel**

Dribble Stare (3rd +): This activity allows to students to challenge each other. The students will stare into the eyes of one another and count down from 3. At that point, they may begin dribbling while continuing to look in each other’s eyes. If they remove their eyes from the other person’s eyes, they lose that round. The structure of this activity requires them to continuously look up to make sure they are staring into the eyes of their partner.

Put a Ring on My Finger (4th +): This version of Dribble Stare allows the students an opportunity to progress through three different levels (the gym is divided into three sections). All of the students begin in one level. They can select any opponent and participate in a round of Dribble Stare. If you win, you move up a level and select a new opponent from within that new level. If you lose, you move back a level and select a new opponent from within that level. If you make it to and win at the third level, you can get a ring (sliced up pool noodle), put it on your finger, and return to the first level. The structure of this activity requires them to continuously look up to make sure they are staring into the eyes of their partner while trying to collect as many rings as possible.  **Click for a free lesson plan – Put a Ring on My Finger**

Dribble Tag – Good, Better, Best (4th +): This activity allows the students to select which level they want to participate in. I divide the gym in thirds and define each section as one for those who think they are good at dribbling (high school level), one for those who think they are better (college level), and one for those who think they are the best (professional level). The students then dribble around their area. If they lose control for any reason, they must go to the side and do 10 basketball jacks (see below). For example, if you lose control of the dribble while moving and changing directions or if someone strikes your ball away from you, you must then go to the side. This activity provides for self-assessment. If the students feel they over or under estimated their ability, allow them the opportunity to change sections after a few minutes. The structure of this activity requires them to continuously look up to make sure they are staying away from anyone who may try to strike their ball away.

Note: A basketball jack has the same footwork as a jumping jack; however, instead of taking their hands from their sides to over their head, they hold the ball at their waist and take it above their head.

In order to help increase each student’s skill level as well as their confidence, I encourage you to seek out and/or design activities that require the students to look up and use their peripheral vision while dribbling!

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