When to Start Basketball
Basketball is fun, exciting, and great exercise, and it can teach children important lessons that can be applied to other aspects of life. The good news for parents eager to get their children involved in an athletic activity is that basketball can be introduced at a very young age. Basic motor and coordination skills such as dribbling (bouncing) a ball and shooting can be introduced when a child is just a couple of years old.
Youth leagues accept children starting around age five or six, an excellent time for children to begin learning the fundamentals of the game. Concepts such as hustle, teamwork, sportsmanship, and attitude can be introduced early on, as can more technical aspects of the game such as footwork, defense, and shooting mechanics.
Young players must develop a feel for and confidence with the ball. With a mini ball, younger players can develop dribbling with practice techniques such as hip circles, leg circles, ankle circles, and neck circles. They should practice all aspects of dribbling: right-handed and left-handed dribbling, dribbling with their heads up, switching hands while dribbling, dribbling around cones and chairs, dribbling on the playground, and even dribbling in the driveway.
It is important for a player to be able to dribble with either hand and to maintain a dribble despite obstacles. Speed while dribbling is also important. Young players can have dribbling races and even play tag while they are dribbling a ball to improve their overall dribbling ability.
Practice Passing and Catching
Young players also must learn how to properly pass and catch the ball. They should practice a variety of passes: two-hand passes from the chest, one-hand baseball passes, two-hand bounce passes, and over the head passes. At the same time, players can work on catching the ball with two hands. Players should be taught to catch the ball in an athletic position, with their knees bent, their hands making a target chest high, and their feet balanced shoulder width apart.
Footwork is another appropriate area of focus for young basketball players. Developing players may not be ready to make a ball fake or jab step and dribble drive to the basket, but they can practice the footwork for these moves and learn the basic footwork that is the foundation of good play.
To practice footwork, young players can use an imaginary basketball. They can play games out of these drills, or coaches can place X's on the court showing them where their feet should go as if they were learning dance steps.
Basically, children can begin to play as soon as they express an interest in the game. While young players learn the fundamentals, they can develop a passion for the game that could last a lifetime.