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Third and fourth grade is when many children first start to play basketball.
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Developing a group of third- or fourth-graders into a cohesive basketball team is challenging for any coach. But you can enjoy a successful season if you keep things positive and rewarding, teach the right skills and drills and implement a simple half-court offense that your players can quickly grasp.
Many of your players will probably be new to organized basketball, so keep practices upbeat and action-oriented. Keep explanations of drills brief; demonstrate as much as you talk. Limit the length of each drill to a few minutes due to short attention spans. Emphasize working hard, following instructions and learning the rules and the basics. Use water breaks in practices to cover the rules of the game. Create an affirming atmosphere that motivates kids to do their best.
For offensive drills, concentrate on dribbling, shooting and passing. With dribbling, do stationary ball-handling drills first. Have players practice moving the ball from hand to hand around their heads, chests, waists and legs. Get players used to dribbling low with either hand in a dribbling crouch. Progress to movement drills. Play dribbling relays; divide the players into teams and instruct them to dribble to the opposite baseline and back using a designated dribble, such as a left-handed speed dribble.
For shooting form, start with the basics. Teach the b-e-e-f method: balance, eyes on the target, elbow under the ball and follow-through. Work on shots around the basket, free throws and layups. Progress to teaching your players how to move from one spot on the court to another, receive a pass, square up to the target -- either the basket or, if they're banking their shot, the shooting box above the basket -- and shoot.
For passing, teach the bounce pass, chest pass, overhead pass and baseball pass. Have players practice passes with a partner. Then group them in trios with a defender trying to steal or deflect his two teammates' passes. If she deflects or steals a pass, the passer becomes the new defender. Then work on passing to teammates who v-cut and cut to the basket, teaching multiple skills at once.
Teach your players a defensive stance and how to slide their feet. Run them through defensive slide drills. Set up cones in a zigzag pattern 10 to 12 feet apart from baseline to baseline. Players slide their feet from cone to cone while in a defensive stance, pivoting on their inside foot whenever they reach a cone. Then practice moving around the three-second lane, shuffle-stepping forward from the right low post to the right free-throw elbow, sliding to the left free-throw elbow, shuffling backward to the left low post and sliding back to the right low post.
Set and Play
With practices limited, an easy set to learn is the three-out, two-in. The No. 1 position, or point guard, is at the top of the key. The No. 2, who is your shooting guard, and the No. 3, your small forward, are the wings. The No. 4, or power forward, and the No. 5, your center, are at the low-post blocks. Put your best dribbler at the No. 1 position and your best interior scorer at the No. 5. Teach players how to dribble past defenders and move to get open. Instruct your Nos. 3, 4 and 5 to pursue offensive rebounds and your No. 1 and No. 2 to hustle back on defense.
If time allows, teach the screen and roll, a simple play at any level. Name plays after players' positions; вЂњ15вЂќ means the No. 1 player dribbles around a screen from the No. 5, who then rolls to the lane.