When learning a new skill, it’s normal to want to be good at it right off the bat and not have to be bogged down with practice time and repetitive efforts to improve. This is common whether we’re talking about learning a musical instrument, riding a bike or learning a new sport like basketball! But in reality, we all know this just isn’t how things work. Skill development in any area, especially sports, is something that takes time and can’t be expected to happen overnight.
When kids first join a sport like basketball it is important to focus on the gradual progression of skills rather than piling on too much at the beginning. This will help set them up to create and embrace a long-term lifestyle that includes regular physical activity.
Fun in Youth Basketball is Necessary
When kids are having fun, they are more likely to maintain interest in a hobby. It is important to make having fun the first priority in learning a new skill. A child that is interested in learning how to play basketball is initially excited because it looks like fun! If they are immediately faced with having to learn a ton of new skills in their first few practices, that motivation to learn will quickly fade away.
The early stages of the Long-Term Athlete Development Model, a program designed to create a solid basis for sports as kids grow, focus on making the game fun for young kids. Both Active Start and FUNdamentals are stages designed for young kids first stepping onto the court. The intention is to encourage participation and fun daily activity while mixing in some basic skills that can be added onto as they progress through the years.
The stages of the Long-Term Athlete Development Model
Canada’s Sport for Life has established the Long-Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD) to help guide coaches and parents on how to best incorporate both fun and learning into any sports setting. This guideline for the skill development of kids is designed both to allow players to have fun in an inclusive and supportive environment and to develop skills. They’re developmentally appropriate to set players up for the greatest possibility of success.
- Active Start: ages 0-6 years. Building the fun of physical activity into daily life.
- FUNdamentals: ages 6-8 years approx. Uses practice methods like 3v3 to build upon fundamental movements and introduce basketball skills.
- Learning to Train: ages 8-11 approx. Develops overall sport skills (like teamwork) and starts to build specific basketball skills like passing and dribbling.
- Training to Train: ages 11-15 approx. Grows basketball skills and starts to introduce the idea of weight training and associated physical activity. Starts honing in on basketball IQ.
- Training to Compete: ages 15-18 approx. Teaches players position-specific skills and how to play under competitive conditions.
- Training to Win: ages 18-23. Develops all skills up to this point even further. Places importance on learning skills that will help the team win.
- Active for Life: ages 23+. Transitions players from playing basketball for competition to playing a multitude of sports in order to maintain a lifelong regular activity level.
Skill Development is a Progression
The skill development of a basketball player should be approached as a progression of skill introduction rather than something that should be rushed. This helps players to work to master a few specific skills before adding more. In turn, it will help them to develop a love for the game before feeling pressured to reach a certain skill level. Particularly for younger kids, finding the fun in something new is imperative in order to keep them interested. When it comes to skill development it’s important to remember that developing skills in potential or early basketball players is something that just can’t be rushed!