Saturday I had the opportunity to go to a basketball game to watch my grand daughter play. She is in 4th Grade and plays on a team of Third and Forth grade girls in a small town. The program is offered by the Coopersville, Michigan recreation department. This is the third time I have gone to one of her games this year. I was able to see both grand daughters participate a couple of times last season.
I am impressed by the program. It was not the skill level of the girls or the number of baskets they made. So why was I impressed? I was impressed by the attitude of the crowd, the coaches and the official. I was impressed by the attitude of the girls as they played. Everyone was respectful. Spectators cheered for good plays and encouraged the girls on both teams. No one worried about how many baskets were made. No score was kept. The girls played their hearts out and demonstrated great progress in skill and ability as the season has progressed.
The same official has been at each of the games I watched. From what I have seen, he is part of the secret to this impressive program.
Our official treats each game, each call, as a learning opportunity for the girls. When a girl is fouled, he blows the whistle and shouts for all the girls to “stay where you are”. He quickly lets them know what happened and gives the ball back to the one who was fouled so she can continue to play. When a ball goes out of bounds, he reminds the child who is about to throw it back in to check her feet to be sure she is not on the line. He stops a player who dribbles out of bounds and points out the line and gives the ball back so she has an opportunity to try again.
At the end of each half, he has the girls line up for a free throw at each team's basket. This is the only time a free throw is given. He challenges them to line up correctly, but gives them help if needed. They are learning. Each week there is progress made. Since this program was new last year, this is only about 12 games in. One skill, one rule at a time, they are learning. Some people might notice rule violations that are not being called. Maybe next game or .. next year he will start to call those violations. After 4 minutes of play, the bench players come in. Everyone has equal opportunity to play in each game.
The official uses a big booming voice with lots of care and concern for the girls and the game. The people watching the game are drawn in to the teaching/learning process and can so easily see the intent and purpose of this great youth basketball program. The coaches are on board with this concept and I saw many encouraging and helpful teaching moments between coaches and players throughout the games I have been able to watch.
My grand daughter and her team mates and others in the Coopersville youth basketball program have the unusual opportunity to participate in youth basketball at it's finest. I predict they will have fun learning about the game and learning about respectful competition. At their age, it should be about learning, not winning. It should be about building confidence, showing respect, encouraging each other and having fun. Some of them will go on to play at the more competitive middle school, high school or college level where they will learn more skills, rules, strategies and technique. Those who continue in the sport will start with a solid foundation for continued learning and a great attitude about the game. Some of the girls will not play on a basketball team again. They will take with them a basic knowledge of the sport and the experience of being in a very positive sports environment.
Thank you official Michael for guiding this group of young basketball players and their parents and coaches through this stage of learning.
Lynn Benson is the Managing Member of Benson Products, LLC and a retired Physical Education teacher, former Aquatic Supervisor, and the mother of 3 and grandmother of 7. Lynn is the inventor of Splash Count. This article is based on her observations and opinion.