Coaching Kindergarten Basketball 101 (Guide For New Coaches)
When it comes to coaching kindergarten basketball team, many youth basketball coaches do not know where to start and what skills to teach. Coaching kindergarten basketball can be rewarding but challenging at the same time.
Here is an in-depth guide to help you learn the essentials skills and keep things smooth and productive when coaching basketball for the first time.
Checklist for coaches
Being a youth basketball coach can be a wonderful experience in working together. But before hitting the court, it is essential to plan and sort things out accordingly. Here’s a checklist of tasks that will make coaching easier for first-time coaches of youth basketball:
Gauge your child’s interest
Start by asking questions to gauge the child’s interest in basketball. For example: “Are you really interested in basketball?” and “How do you feel about me coaching your team this fall?” The answers to these questions will help you formulate a more appropriate training program for your players.
Find a kindergarten basketball league
Parents should research the available options in their area and try to get their child enrolled as early as possible. Remember that most leagues run out of spots quickly. Early enrollment also lets you take advantage of early-bird discounts.
How To Run A Youth Basketball Practice
Most leagues hold pre-season coaching meetings that discuss everything from rules, practice time, and policies. If you intend to coach a kindergarten basketball team, it is vital to join these meetings and gain information about the league, game, uniforms, picture day, and other details.
Attending meetings also gives you the opportunity to ask about the organization and policies for specific scenarios such as canceling a game due to bad weather. You might even be able to find an assistant coach to help you with the team.
Understanding rules and regulations
All youth basketball leagues have rules and regulations that the coach and players must abide by. As a coach, you should learn these by heart before training begins.
Some leagues may have a specific playing time or have a goal height requirement. Others may have specific rules for traveling and working with kids, including lining up players according to skill level to even out the games.
There may be certain expectations from the youth basketball coach as well. You should be aware of the rules for coaches, such as whether you will be allowed to be on the court or not.
Be prepared for kindergarten basketball practice
Always go into the practice with a clear practice plan. Understand what is needed before, during, and after practice. Ask the league organizers what is expected from coaching youth basketball before you hit the floor for practice.
Some questions you might ask are:
- Do coaches have to adjust the height of the basketball goal?
- Do coaches have to get the youth size basketball out of storage closet?
- Does the league provide cones or other equipment for practice?
- Do you know what court you get for practice?
- Does the league require coaches to have a talk, character trait discussion, or even a devotional during practice?
Here’s a list of must-haves for practice and training sessions for coaching youth basketball:
- A complete list of names of the kids on the team. This should be verified with the league and updated if necessary.
- Coaching equipment, including whistle, whiteboard/clipboard, cones, basketballs, and different-colored practice vests or pinnies
- A written practice plan listing out the time frame for the entire practice
Getting ready for game day
Just as you would prepare for practice, you should also be prepared for each game. When the first whistle blows, things can get crazy pretty quickly, so you need to be prepared for the different situations that could come up.
Arrange to have your team arrive at least 15 minutes before the game. You could then have them do simple warm ups such as lay-ups, pass, cut, shot lines, defensive drills, and passing skills.
It is especially important to remember the basketball league rules before and during a game. If the league requests that you do equal playing time, you will have to work that out to the best of your skills.
You can find apps and printable cheat sheets online to help keep you organized with equal playing time.
If the league requires the kids to line up and match up with the players on the other team, take the time to coordinate with the other coach. Some leagues may equip players with colored wristbands to help them identify which player they are guarding.
Some leagues require coaches to be on the basketball floor and serve as referee. Check out some YouTube videos on referee skills and coordinate with the league and the other referee coach to ensure that you’re all on the same page when you teach.
Game coaching kindergarten basketball
Always show up at least 15 minutes early to get in some organized warm-up dribbles before the game. Remember that kids are super excited to start playing at this age, and this is likely their first basketball experience. Therefore, strive to create a lasting memory and devote your energy to create a fun game day experience for all the kids and parents.
Always be prepared with a list of kids on your roster. For kindergarten basketball, consider having a full game worth of substituting lists. There are apps and forms you can download to help you organize equal playing time for all your players from these and other sites:
If the league requires you to be on the floor while you referee, it’s always best to have an assistant on the bench to maintain control of the team. Again, remember that you’re working with five year olds, so you need all the help you can get!
Remember to be thoroughly prepared for your first practice. Double-check all your equipment and make sure they are functioning properly. It is also advisable to be familiar with each team’s jerseys and practice wristbands.
Familiarity with the wristbands is especially important. Many leagues now use wristbands to improve teaching and enhance the learning experience. Players are usually assigned specific colors based on their skill and game level. For example:
- Black. The best overall player with the skills to handle the ball and score.
- Blue. The second best player and likely to score and handle the ball.
- Red. The third best player and likely to score and handle the ball.
- Yellow. The fourth best player and likely to score and handle the ball.
- White. The fifth best player and likely to score and handle the ball.
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Tips for first-time coaching kindergarten basketball
First-time coaching can be overwhelming. While it may seem pretty straightforward, it is actually more difficult to coach a kindergarten basketball team than a team of older players. To make your task easier, here are some helpful tips and suggestions:
Have a plan
Always enter the court with a plan. It isn’t easy to handle a kindergarten team. Without a plan, you could quickly lose control and run all over the court before you know it.
When developing your plan, include points to cover, dribbling drills, and a list of games. It is also a good idea to show up early to practice sessions so you have time to discuss the plan with your coaching assistant.
Remember your players’ age range
Keep in mind that training a kindergarten basketball team is very different from training high school aged players. Forget what you’ve seen at your local gym or in the movies. Plan your basketball drills accordingly and focus on teaching skills, plays, and maneuvers that are better suited for young kids and their particular gross motor skills.
Keep it fun
Your ability to keep training fun is integral to your success as a coach. You should always strive to keep practice productive and fun even as you encourage and teach your players to play to the best of their skills.
If your players find training boring, they might lose their passion for basketball. But if you don’t encourage them to face up to challenges, they may not live up to their full potential.
Always strive for a balance of fun and challenge. Try to make the experience as exciting as possible while teaching your child the principles of sportsmanship and hard work.
Be clear on your own goals for coaching
The key to successful coaching is being clear about your motives when coaching your child for kindergarten basketball.
Some parents want their children to love the sport from an early age and become pros. But that might not be the path that everyone takes. Pushing a child to play a sport they don’t like takes away time that could be spent getting better at other sports.
Ask yourself if you are pushing your child into a game they don’t enjoy. Sometimes, it might be best to ease up on your coaching demands to improve your relationship with your child. As long as you are driven by the right goals, you are on the right track to becoming a successful sports coach.
Putting the child in a position to succeed
As a coach, you should know the strengths and weaknesses of all young players. It is generally best to place kids in positions where they have a good chance of succeeding when they play games. Conversely, forcing them into a position they don’t enjoy or have the potential for at their young age could be detrimental to their development.
Being supportive and willing to listen improves your chances of becoming a successful sports coach. Encourage open communication and pay attention to non-verbal cues. Learn to read between the lines as children are often unable to communicate or verbalize their feelings. Healthy communication is crucial for ensuring proper development and improving performance.
Always remember that you are coaching youth basketball. Don’t expect every child on your team‒or even just one of them‒to wow you with the amazing ball handling and basketball skills of Lebron James. Keep in mind that this is probably the first time for most of them to play basketball or be in any type of training situation and they need time to develop gross motor skills and proper form. Your job is to support, teach, and encourage them, not to put undue pressure on them.
Treat all players equally
Treating each player equally is essential when coaching a kindergarten basketball team. Resist the urge to play favorites, even with players that display unusual skill and ability. Treating everyone as if they were a valued member of the team will enhance their self-esteem and improve teamwork.
Communicate with parents
Think of the other parents as your partners in helping their children live up to their potential. Establish a healthy flow of communications and a good working relationship with them as early on as possible.
Take advantage of the pre-season meeting as an opportunity to discuss your goals with the parents and players. Let them know your motivation and coaching goals and how you plan to make training an enjoyable experience for their kids.
Keeps kids active
Remember that youth basketball players are super excited about their games at an early age. They cannot wait to start to play basketball, and this experience will likely carve a lasting memory of fun in their minds. Strive for a fun experience with every encounter so they will retain their enjoyment of the sport.
Kids are likely to stay focused when they are consistently active and moving. Avoid leaving them idle or having them stand around waiting for their turn to play. If possible, bring multiple sets of equipment, have fun games, or hold basketball drills and teach shooting games so that everyone has something to do while you are occupied with the other kids.
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Do not forget that a child is an individual first and an athlete second. Be sensitive to each child’s playing ability and skills. Although you should be prepared to push each young athlete to give their best, you should remain focused on making the experience enjoyable enough to those of younger ages so that everyone will want to return next season.