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Saturday, February 02, 2008

More Thoughts on Coaching Second Grade Basketball

We had our third-to-last game today, and here are some thoughts at the season is now more than three-quarters over.

1. We worked more on defense than before, and a light bulb went off in me that I shared with the kids, that they absorbed, and then played great defense. I told them to look closely at the person they were guarding, see whether they were right-handed or left-handed, and then instead of being straight across from that person when they got the ball, that they slide to the side of the dribbling hand quickly to cut off the dribble. They did so very well (especially the best players), and the other team had trouble advancing the ball. Why did this work? Because most kids this age cannot dribble with both hands. The other team's coach came over to me and said that one of our best players was the best defender he'd seen all year -- she shut down perhaps the best player on the other team.

2. The other team's coach was a really good guy, encouraging and positive, and before the game we traded notes on the other team's we played. He asked me, "did you play the guy with the clipboard yet?" I laughed, because we had, and that particular coach was actually diagramming plays for the second graders. We played that team well, probably scored 3 fewer baskets in a high-scoring, low-defense affair, but his advantage was that he had better players overall than we did (as most of his kids could handle the ball well, skills that they could not possibly have picked up just by playing in this league this season). My opposing coach today chuckled at the intensity of this coach, and to a degree I had to agree. It's tough enough getting our kids to develop the basic skills, let alone to teach them a 1-4 stack with picks in the middle of the offense. Even though the coach about whom we were speaking was well prepared, we didn't feel we were laggards, and my opposing coach today told me that his team outscored that team, and, after the game, the guy with the clipboard told him that his team hit "lucky" shots. Ugh! Let's remember, guys, it's a kid's game played by kids.

3. There's one drill we didn't run in practice this season that we should have from the beginning, and that was having the kids dribble between chairs or cones or players on the team standing, say, five feet apart. The reason: my team's best dribblers do not look up when dribbling and, as a result, they miss all sorts of passing opportunities. Today we had several kids open down low, but the ballhandlers showed little court awareness. No matter how much we tell them, they have trouble looking up, and they really need to work on this. It got to the point in one quarter where the lesser dribblers were reluctant to pass to one of my best players because he's not good at finding them when they're open. The lesser dribblers need to work on better ballhandling skills, while the better ones need to work on dribbling with both hands and looking up.

4. Catching the ball isn't as easy as you think. Some of the kids who were open didn't convert good opportunities when they had them, because they weren't prepared to catch the ball. Had they caught the ball cleanly (as we teach in our catch-and-shoot drill), they could have taken some good shots. Instead, on a few occasions, the ball hit the floor and a scrum ensued.

5. We're still a bit flat-footed on rebounding, and the kids don't crash the boards as much as they should. We'll keep telling them, but if they do that, they'll get more opportunities.

6. The kids don't remember to keep their hands up on defense, and we tell them constantly. We play better defense than most teams because we keep our hands up most of the time. Keeping our hands up prevents many kids from getting good shots and creates deflections on defense.

7. One drill I'm going to try is a wing drill, where a player dribbles to the wing and then tries to get a pass to a kid who's near the low blocks on the same side. We had opportunities today, but either the kid near the low blocks wasn't in a good position to catch the ball or the dribbler waited too long. We need to make our decisions more quickly.

8. Many of the kids still have no instinct for the game, probably because they have so many things on their schedule and then play video games that they don't watch basketball. You wouldn't believe how much traveling goes on and how many kids don't realize that after the other team scores you must bring in the ball over the endline. We do try to reinforce this, but it's hard. The kids also aren't great about spacing, with the result in one instance that one of my best players had a clear lane to the basket, and one of my other players shadowed her so much that he ran into her. We try to preach spacing, but, again, it doesn't come naturally to some of the kids.

All in all, it's been a lot of fun, because each week you see kids show improvement. One of my kids has gotten better rebounding the ball inside, while another has found more strength and hit a couple of shots. Yet another, who didn't hit a shot today, took five good ones and played great defense. He's one of my best players, and the three other top players have shown improvement and regression on their road to getting better. One needs to play a little more under control, one needs to be more aggressive on offense, and the other one needs to pass the ball more. They'll all get there through more playing and practicing, I'm confident of that. My advice to other coaches out there: keep drilling, keep reinforcing the fundamentals, and your kids will show breakthroughs.


Blogger Steven said...

this is great perspective, thanks. I'm coaching 2nd grad boys for the first time now and I'm looking for all the advice and wisdom I can find. Keep it coming.

10:32 PM  
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11:02 AM  
Blogger host said...

thanks, im coaching 2nd graders for the first time, ive played ball my whole life through college, but teaching little kids is a another thing ive realized. please post more

8:45 PM  

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