By Jeff Haefner
As a parent, you clearly want your child to be successful and you probably would like them to practice their skills.
One of the best things you can do as a parent is to sneak in the fundamentals and keep it fun for youth players.
If your child ends up having fun with the sport and wants to play each week, you win! Avoid the temptation to make those father/child basketball times about "improving their basketball" -- instead and make it more about "fun".
In this article Bruce Brown says, “When kids are asked about bad memories from athletics, the most consistent answer is... the car ride home with mom and/or dad after the game." Brown suggests that you save your analysis after the game, give your athlete time and space, and be a confidence builder after the game.
Bottom line, it's important for maintain a positive attitude when it comes to sports and player development.
A simple way to keep the positive vibe going is for you to "sneak in" fundamentals with your kids at home. Here's how...
1) Have Contests
Have a contest with your child...Who can dribble the longest with their weak hand? Who can dribble with two balls? Who can look up and count the fingers on the other person's hand while dribbling?
These contests are good with really young kids, especially if they have siblings.
2) Play Simon Says with Hand Signals.
You can play traditional Simon Says and give your child verbal instructions on what type of dribble to use. The player(s) can be stationary while dribbling. Examples:
"Simon says, dribble really low (sock level).""Simon says, dribble high.""Simon says, pound the ball as hard as you can!""Dribble low!!!" Did I get you? I didn't say Simon Says!!"Ok. Simon says, dribble side to side (windshield wipers).""Simon says, dribble really low around your right leg.""Simon says, dribble front to back."
In addition to verbal instruction, they have to watch your hands. If you hold up your right hand, they dribble on that side (their left hand because they are facing you). This forces them to keep their head up while dribbling because they have to watch to see which hand you have up. It also challenges them mentally.
Now tell your child "If you can play the game 45 seconds without messing up, Dad has to do 10 push ups while you're on my back!”
I don't know about you, but my kids will do just about anything for a shoulder ride or getting on my back for push ups. My daughter is currently 8 and my son is 6. I don't know when it will wear off -- but right now they still think it's the best ever.
What works for your kids? Please share in the comments below this article.
3) Play Puzzle Games
Buy a cheap 24 or 30 piece puzzle and play shooting or ball handling games with the puzzle. For example, each time they score a layup they get one puzzle piece, a shot from outside the key is worth two puzzle pieces. As soon as you get all your puzzle pieces, put the puzzle together and see who gets done first.
4) Play Knockout
Play the classic game of knockout. Kids and parents line up at free throw line. First two players have a ball. First person shoots a free throw. Person behind tries to "knock them out" of the game by shooting the free throw and making the basket first.
If you're not sure how to play, here's a more detailed explanation of knockout.
5) Play Dribble Knockout.
I much prefer this variation of knock out. It's a great skill builder and lots of fun. In fact, this game has probably helped my kids with their ballhandling more than anything else we do.
Since this drill/game requires a few diagrams and a little longer explanation, visit this link to learn how dribble knockout works. It's a great game.
6) Play 1 on 1 with Variations
Play some 1 on 1 with your child (and get some healthy exercise while you're at it). Of course, challenge your child but also take it easy on them so they have some fun...
Here's a TIP and a perfect example. Let your child make that cross over move on you a few times. Then once they get good at it you can take it away by playing defense and see if they can come up with a solution. Maybe they'll come up with their own counter move. That's the best way to learn!!
As a variation, your child could play 1on1 with a friend or sibling and you can be the outlet pass on the sideline when they pick up their dribble. After they pass to you, they have to get open until you can pass it back. (It's a great way to learn the give and go play.)
7) Play the "Count Your Passes" game
Spread out in a circular type of shape -- so each player is about 12 feet apart (it can be more like a triangle if you only have three participants). Mom, dad, siblings, and friends can all participate.
Start with one ball. Ask, "Do you think we can make 5 passes in a row without a drop?" Then start passing the ball around in a circle counting out how many successful catches are made. Keep trying until you reach your goal of 5 in a row. You can of course progress to a goal of 10 passes in a row, 20 in a row, 30 in a row, and so on. Young kids have a lot of fun with this and enjoy the challenge.
You can designate different types of passes too -- chest pass, overhead pass, left hand pass, or bounce pass (if you're playing on a hard surface). For a bigger challenge, add a second basketball. Communication will become important when adding a second ball.
Lastly, mix things up by adding a time limit. See how many successful passes you can make in 1 minute. Set a goal and see if you can beat it. The ball will really need to get zipping around. Be sure to call out the count on each good catch.
Bonus #8 - Don't forget to Play HORSE
Last but not least, don't forget to play a classic game of HORSE. There's a reason that the game is so popular... it's fun and something every parent should find time to play with their child.
Have fun with your kids. Show them through your actions that basketball is a fun game.
If they develop a love for the game, they have a chance to be reach their true potential.
Do you have other ideas? Share your ideas below on some fun games that parents can do with their child...
What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...