Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dribbling Perfection

Strange Internet Factoid: If you Google 'tennis ball' and  'dribble', you will get lots of hits of players in other sports - dribbling with tennis balls! Guess tennis balls are the perfect combination of size, bounciness, cost, and availability. Yea, tennis!

Dribbling is one of those great basic skills that I strongly encourage my students to perform any time they have a racquet and a ball available. When the arrive early, when they have nothing better to do at home (outside only!), walking from the car to the court, you name it. Dribbling has many variations to keep it from getting too boring or too easy. It is one of my standard homework assignments. First lesson for all of my students includes some form of dribbling.

  • Foam ball/ages 4-6 - maybe it's not a true dribble but the idea is the same - I ask them to drop, then catch, the ball and repeat. For example, bounce and catch five times, then get a high 5.
  • Red/orange balls/ages 6+ - the true dribble. I show them ups (repetitive bouncing of the ball into the air off the strings) and downs (bouncing ball on ground by tapping it with strings). 
    • Progression: Dribble while moving along the lines of the court.
    • Progression: combine ups with downs by tapping ball into air with strings, letting it bounce on ground, then tapping into air again, repeat.
    • Progression: perform combo dribble with a partner. Stand a few feet apart. Tap ball into air, hoping when it lands on the ground it lands somewhere between them so that the partner can be the next one to tap it into the air. Repeat. Note this can also be done with younger players and foam balls without the racquets. Have them toss/catch after one bounce with a partner.

Sometimes we have a dribbling contest. For my beginners I let them decide which form of dribbling they will attempt. I set a time limit, usually one minute. Player dribbling the most times without a miss wins. If they miss, they start back at zero. They find this challenging because having to actually count the dribbles adds a level of difficulty.

Def not suggesting A-Rod is
a creative accountant. But we both
feel like crying when we have one on our court.
Caution: very sad to report every time I do this I have a 'creative accountant' in the mix. I usually ask everyone how many dribbles they completed. There is always someone who has figured out how to beat the system, listen to everyone else's score, and just pull a higher number out of thin air. I always try it this way first because it tells me a lot about my students. If there seems to be a discrepancy, I have two remedies. I would love to hear yours.

Remedy 1: Pair up the players. Have one doing the counting while the other is dribbling; switch and repeat.
Remedy 2: Allow the reported score to stand. Repeat the contest a few more times. Winner can participate each time but can only win once.