Basketball is a terrific sport both to watch and play, but for kindergarteners and first-graders, it can be a little overwhelming. The same goes for dads starting out their coaching career! My boys and I just finished our first season. We had fun and they learned a little basketball along the way too! Here are some things we did that worked for us.
Coaching is, first and foremost, about teaching. Just as important when coaching little kids is keeping it fun. I kept those thoughts foremost, even with warm-ups. Little kids are amazingly flexible already, so we just did a few simple exercises to get the blood flowing, usually about 5-7 minutes. Jumping jacks, toe touches, arm circles, overhead arm stretches, and then a coach-led, zig-zag jog around the court with lots of changes of directions to include trying to catch the tail (last person).
To simplify, we started with single skills: dribbling, passing, shooting, defense. We stressed ambidexterity in all the drills, especially dribbling. Starting with straight-line dribbles (down with the right hand, back with the left), we progressed to zig-zags (which helps to naturally teach the crossover dribble), and then with someone playing defense against them as they brought the ball up the floor.
Knowing there would be enough mashed noses from rebounds and batted balls, we only taught bounce passes. We used two-handed bounce passes from the chest and the step-around one-handed push bounce pass.
Our league had 9′ rims, but even that was a stretch for some of our guys. We just didn’t emphasize shooting that much. They pretty much chucked it up there however they could.
After 3-4 practices, we started combining two of the skills. Dribble-dribble-shoot was our version of two-lane layups. The player would take two dribbles to the hoop, jump-stop, and shoot. Or we’d have one player pass it to another who would turn and shoot. Again, only combining two things at a time (dribbling/shooting, catching/shooting). This last one was a nice drill because it started working the kids with one another, another key point. With the coach always doing the passing, it isn’t realistic.
Defense was pretty much a free-for-all. We played man-to-man and the kids would chase their “man” all over the court, sometimes even when they were supposed to be on offense!
It was a great experience and I’m already looking forward to next year. If you don’t make it fun, you won’t keep their attention. But as the coach, you need to make sure they learn a little basketball too. It can be frustrating, but when you see your little guys dribble, make a pass to a shooter who turns, shoots, and scores? It’s awesome!
I’m considering a small book about coaching little kids’ basketball. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences. Please leave a comment!