SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Opening Day: 3rd and 4th Grade Basketball League

We were nervous, my co-coach and I. Only two practices, the last one before Thanksgiving. We heard reports that other coaches actually were putting in plays and that they were working. Well, what could we do? We thought we had some talent, and when we got to our game we learned that the kid who hit jumpers in the second-grade league was on the other team. Okay, so we had a challenge.

But it's a non-competitive league, an excellent ref stopped play to explain situations, and it's all about fun and developing skills. The league requires man-to-man defense (the high school coach apparently insists upon it), and the league also now requires that you play your best players in the second quarter (so that they get to go against the best players on the other team). All ten of our kids showed (one had a travel soccer game 25 miles away earlier that morning).

So what happened?

First, the kids played tenacious defense. They deflected, they stole the ball, they disrupted, and they rebounded okay if not great, but they hustled. I don't think the other team's coach had set plays, but if he did, they got no traction. Man-to-man defense can do that to you (it affected us to). Memo to coaches at this level -- don't worry so much about set plays. Teach your players to screen, roll and keep on screening. The outstanding shooter on the other team scored one bucket the entire game.

Second, the offense was uneven. We had a few skilled kids who could go coast to coast after a rebound, and we hit many more shots than the other team. Of our four primary ballhandlers, only one can dribble with his head up, slow down, keep his dribble and pass off it. He threw some outstanding passes. The other three are very athletic, but we kept telling them to slow down. Practice this week will emphasize playing more under control and passing. Still, we were off to a good start.

The best moment of the day came at half-time, when our best player, the ballhandler who passes and rebounds, came up to me and whispered, "I think I am dominating." I smiled and replied, "Tell you what -- hit a few more shots and throw some more good passes, and I might agree with you." He had an excellent game.

All in all, it was a fun day. The kids worked hard, and they're getting to know each other. My co-coach and I have taken mental notes on some of the things we want kids to work on -- catching and shooting for one, dribbling with heads up for all, setting screens for most. It promises to be a fun season.

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