Teach Children, Ages 2-5, to Dribble a Basketball
Teach Young Children, Ages 2-5, to Dribble a Basketball
- Keep it simple
- Make it fun
Step 1 - Dribble Backwards
Backwards dribbling levels the playing field. It makes everyone a bit uncomfortable. However, what it also does is helps young children to focus better. The backwards dribbling teaches good form and body positioning because it challenges young children to focus their sights directly on the ball. The backwards dribble is an entry level approach to dribbling that is highly effective however well under-taught. Young children can make fast improvements in their dribbling technique.
Dribbling backwards requires you to help young player's:
- FIND BALANCE
- FIND QUICK FEET TO GET THEM OUT OF THE WAY AND AVOID DRIBBLING THE BALL OFF THEIR FEET
- NATURALLY POSITIONS THEIR HEAD OVER THE BALL
- BE LESS DISTRACTED AND MORE ABLE TO CONCENTRATE ON WHAT THEY ARE DOING
Dribbling fundamentals for young children should incorporate two styles of dribbling, the Speed Dribble and something called the Strong-Arm Dribble. Both require a strong coaching emphasis be placed on ball security.
Step 2 - Teach Strong Arm Dribble
Have young children start by squeeze the basketball between their feet. This will stop them from running off during your two-minute spiel. Leave the basketballs in this position until you're ready to use them.
The Strong-Arm simply is a shield created by the off-dribbling arm to protect the ball. The set-up for getting children to begin better understanding this begins with the following conversation.
Coach: "Show me your muscles!" Have fun walking up and down the row tapping on young children's muscles and saying, "Man, those are big muscles!" Young children love this.
This has nothing to do with basketball and everything about getting young children warmed-up to the learning process.
After children are posed and showing you their muscles, it is now time to create their Strong-Arm.
Since most children will show you their muscles by bending at the elbow and pointing their fists either towards their ears or towards the sky, you already have them half way to the Strong-Arm position.
As a visual reference for you, imagine being in their same muscle posed position. If you took one fist that is pointed up and pounding it on an imaginary table in front of you, you will have created the Strong-Arm position.
Tell children, "Make a fist and (watch me) pound it on the table." Essentially, children arms should lay flat at a 90 degree angle in front of them.
Next you tell children who still have their basketballs squeezed between their feet, "I am going to come around and check your Strong Arm."
This requires tapping on the top of the arm of each child to make sure it doesn't drop. As you do say, "Yep, that is a Strong-Arm! Good Job!"
After you've done this have some fun and humor them by having one child push down on your arm. Let it fall, then flop it up and down and tell them, "Do you know what this is called...a noodle arm...do we want a Strong Arm or a noodle arm?"
Have kids shoot for a minute to get the wiggles out and then add a basketball to the instruction
Regardless of what you might see on YouTube, the majority of young children under age four struggle with dribbling. In the next phase, we add the dribble to the equation. Young children can learn a whole lot using their Strong Arm and not dribbling. I will tell you how to adapt the following instruction to working with children that struggle with the dribble.
Tell children, "Put the basketball on your pocket and with your other arm hold up your strong arm." Once they are all in this position, tell them to place the basketball behind them. Use one child as an example and take their basketball that they have beside them instead of behind them.
Next move up and down the line of players trying to get their basketball that should be behind them and their strong arm should be shielding you away.
This might be the extent of your teaching depending on the ages of your participants. However brief or incomplete you think it is, it teaches young children the value of ball security, an important aspect of dribbling that is under-taught.
Finally, add the dribble with the Strong Arm.
- Play a game where the kids DO NOT dribble but instead focus on creating their Strong-Arms©. Each child will try to knock the ball out of another child's hand but protect his own ball using his Strong-Arms©.
Step 4 - Teach the Speed Dribble
A much more fun and much less complicated dribble, the Speed Dribble requires young children to move quickly as they dribble the basketball across the floor. For very young children, under age four, this could mean simply running without dribbling across the floor. This adaptation is an effective first step that we need to accept as part of the early progressions of dribbling.
Begin by asking, "Do race cars drive fast or slow?" Answer: Fast. "What happens if the race car driver goes too fast?" The kid answer, "He will crash!"
Next, describe what they will be doing, "The next dribble is called our speed dribble." Ask, "Do you think we will go fast or slow?" Answer: Fast. Ask, "What happens if we go too fast?" Answer: We will crash.Tell them, "Dribble as fast as you can up the floor but be careful not to do what?" Answer: Crash.
Get them dribbling up and down the floor.
Control them by integrating stop's using a whistle or red light, green light game.
Do not over-instruct here. The speed dribble will happen at a variety of rates among young children. They will naturally double dribble and travel for a time.
Referees understand young children's limitations when dribbling and so must we as coaches.
- Race Track Game. Every child knows what a race car looks like and that it travels fast. Create a race track with a circle of cones. Line young children up on the starting line. Tell them their basketballs are now race cars. Every race car has a number on its side, ask children to tell you what the number of their race car is. Ask them what race cars sound like and get them to make the noises. Tell them they are going to have to dribble and steer their race car around the track three times. As they go around, offer to fill their race car up with gas holding out your gas pump (finger) and making the sound pumping gas makes. When they are done, have them go the other way for three laps. Have fun with it.
- Have patience. A few steps at a time. Children learn best by doing. Conversation is one way of "doing" kids can enjoy. Dribbling is not always easy. Work on it in increments and keep instruction light. Children can quickly get frustrated if they are not dribbling well.
- Use a hands off approach to teaching. Use easy phrases children can understand and remember. This way they can be empowered through self-direction and self-correction, and learn more because the instruction requires their focus and concentration.
- Inspire children with praise. Encouragement can allow you control you otherwise wouldn't have. Children live for praise. Positive feedback builds confidence, improves listening capacity, helps develop emotional maturity, and enables a child's ability to find value in self-improvement.
Good luck and enjoyable teaching.
I am often asked, how do you vary your teaching approaches to accommodate for the many different levels of skill that come with working with young children? I have a rule and like many of them it is universal in nature so that it doesn't have to be adapted to different sports or to my different teachings. This rule has allowed me, in the interest of better teaching young children, to explore sports in a more thorough fashion.
If you follow this rule, you too will discover how sports works best for young children. In fact, if you are going to work with young children I don't believe you can do without it.
Coach Pickles' #1 rule for teaching young children sports is break all the rules.
Follow it and cover a lot more ground with young children. Avoid the long explanations and just keep kids moving and I promise your coaching successes will be more plentiful and the overall experience you provide young children will be much more fruitful.