Camp Simplifies Game For Keiki Hoopsters
If you’ve ever watched youngsters playing basketball on a nearby playground, you might be impressed with their enthusiasm. But you also might be less impressed with their overall basketball knowledge. Sure, they realize the object on offense is to get the ball in the basket and the goal defensively is to try and prevent that from happening, but how deep is that understanding?
Do they pass and cut? Do they move without the ball? Can they set a screen and roll off it? Can they move their feet on defense? Can they block out their opponent on a rebound? All of this is fundamental, but much of it can be lost on youngsters who sign up for youth league teams and seem to learn the game as just a set of positions on offense and defense.
Veteran collegiate and high school coach Chic Hess noticed that, too. That’s why his latest weekly basketball camp, Little Dribblers, which is held Saturday mornings on the playground at St. Anthony School in Kailua, focuses on teaching the game in a smaller setting.
“We cater to kids grades 3 through 6 (ages 8-12) and we play 3-on-3 basketball on smaller courts with a 9-foot basket,” he says. “It does wonders for their basketball IQ, and it’s also a lot of fun.”
For the two dozen or so boys and girls who show up each Saturday between 9 and 11 a.m., it’s a chance to learn the game and build confidence. Over the years, Hess had seen too many youngsters fail to blossom in part because “in 5-on-5, you can basically hide out there. One or two players tend to dominate,” he says. “With our Little Dribblers program, fewer players on the court means each player receives so many more touches of the basketball. The more touches means more opportunities, and the more opportunities leads to a player learning to make decisions more quickly in a competitive situation. The kids who come just love it.”
Hess also thinks using a rim lower than 10 feet, as well as a smaller ball, helps with coordination and development. “Kids are not miniature adults. You have to bring the game down to them,” he says. “When I was getting my doctorate years ago, I saw the difference in success at a lower rim, so I believe in it. Studies in other sports, like a smaller soccer ball for the youth in Brazil, also revealed that a smaller ball really helps the kids. Plus, the ball goes in the basket easier, and who doesn’t like the thrill of scoring baskets?”
Hess stresses a number of basic fundamentals i n his teachings, but one runs contrary to what you see in so many youth leagues or in park ball. “I think kids learn more by playing man-to-man rather than zone,” he says. “Is there anything worse than a zone defense in youth basketball? Man-to-man teaches movement and responsibility and makes the game much more fun.
“We try to teach the game in what I call ‘chunks,’” he says. “Small- sized games allows you to teach small chunks of basketball without confusing young players. It becomes easier to teach the pick and roll, screening away, how to back cut, and much more. Breaking the game down i nto chunks means more fun!”
If you’d like more information about the Little Dribblers program, feel free to reach out to Coach Hess at 282-6949 or by email at coachchichess@ gmail.com. Or, just drop by next Saturday morning at 9. It’s free!
This year’s happy campers include (from left) Logan Souza, Carlos Fraticelli, Jake Hiraoka, Joel Bolos, Courtney Kuwaye, Hunter Premeaux, Brennan Lee, Keane Guy, Logan Olsen, Jack Hess and Loeka Guy.
By participating in 3-on-3 play, campers (from left) Jake Hiraoka, Logan Olsen, and Keane and Loeka Guy receive more opportunities on the court.