Program Progression – Building A Youth Program

With this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I would like to begin a series of posts that will take you through our Program Progression at White Oak….youth program through varsity.   As the head coach, I was responsible for putting a plan in place that would give us our best chance at being successful and that plan started with an overall vision from the ground up.  I was always a firm believer in roles. If everyone involved in the process had a clearly defined role, valued their role, and did their best to execute that role then we maximized our opportunity to be successful.  Clearly defined roles allowed for personal responsibility and accountability and I believe all successful programs have these two ingredients.

In Part 3 of Building A Small School Program, I mentioned the importance of our Little Dribbler program at White Oak and without a doubt, I believe this program was essential to our success.  Little Dribblers had been a part of our program for over 35 years (started by Coach Dan Noll when he came to White Oak in the 1970s) and was the first step in our progression to being a varsity basketball player.  In this entry of Coach With A Purpose, I will cover the setup and philosophy (posted at end of entry) of our Little Dribbler program.

The philosophy of our Little Dribblers program was based on the overall philosophy of the basketball program at White Oak High School. The Little Dribblers program was the first step in the progression these players would take as they came through the basketball program. Because this served as an introduction to our program, it was crucial that all people involved be aware of the purpose of Little Dribblers and the goals that we were striving to meet.

There were three main objectives to be met in our Little Dribblers program.  The first of these was participation. Since this was an introductory phase of our basketball program, beyond any other goal, we wanted to allow each player the chance to play regardless of his particular skill level.  Little Dribblers games were not to be played with a win at all cost attitude that might sacrifice the opportunity for lesser skilled players to participate.   

The second objective was to teach the skills of the game of basketball.  We may not have always been blessed with tremendous athletes, but we were blessed with kids that would play with every ounce of effort they had and this always gave our kids a chance to be successful. In order to make up for what we may have lacked in athletic ability, our players had to be highly skilled in the fundamentals of the game. Little Dribblers practices gave me a chance to begin working with our players on these fundamentals and I believe this gave us the chance to get ahead of our competition in this area.     

The third objective of our Little Dribblers program was to introduce our kids to the enjoyment of competition through the game of basketball and introduce the “I Believe” philosophy used in the White Oak basketball program.  This was the most important part of our program because it is the part they wouldl take with them for the rest of their lives.

Most of the kids who played varsity basketball at White Oak came through our Little Dribbler program which started in the 3rd grade.  Our “Junior League” consisted of 3rd and 4th graders which worked out for 2 hours each on 6 Saturdays starting in January. Most years my wife, who was our girls basketball coach, would conduct the workouts for our Junior League.  The first hour of each workout would consist of stationary ball handling, change of direction ball handling (crossover & spin), basic passing (chest, bounce, straight step, crossover step) and catching, offensive footwork (jump stop, pivot), and layups (right and left hand).  We did not start teaching form shooting until I got them in the 5th grade.

The second hour would consist of a full court game in which we picked new teams each week.  In the Junior League, we used a 9ft basket and a women’s basketball. Our varsity players normally came up to help demonstrate the drills and coach teams.  We used a player rotation sheet to insure that each player got to play at least half of each game and we played two 20 minute running clock halves. We also had years where parents would coach teams and assist with drills but I prefered to use our players whenever possible.  The young kids loved to be around our players and I believed it was a good service project for them. Most of our current varsity players could still recall when they were LIttle Dribblers and they remembered the guys who were there to help them. It became a tradition that I believe our varsity players looked forward to each year.  We would normally work with the 3th graders from 9:00-11:00 then repeat the process with our 4th graders from 11:00-1:00 and would normally have between 15-20 players per grade.

Our “Major League” consisted of 5th and 6th graders and we basically followed the same format as the Junior League with some additions.  I would conduct these workouts in our High School Gym while the Junior League was working in our Middle School Gym. We would use regulation goals and boys basketballs for these two groups.  During our first hour workout session, we would work on stationary ball handling, change of direction ball handling (crossover, spin, between legs, behind back), full court ball handling, basic passing, offensive footwork (permanent pivot foot), layups (right and left hand), and shooting technique.  During our fundamental period, the major difference between the Junior and Major leagues was teaching shooting technique. We began with shooting to a partner ( 1 hand shooting and 1 piece shot) then progressed to shooting at the basket with emphasis on shooting correctly and not being overly concerned about the immediate result.  The biggest problem we fought with shooting at this age was shooting with 2 hands. Hand placement on the ball is crucial along with avoiding thumbing the ball or just a pure 2 hand shot. Most of these problems could be attributed to the 3 pt. Line. I love the 3 pt line for our high school teams but it was definitely the enemy for youth league! We spent a lot of time trying to break bad habits.   As frustrating as this stage can be, it paid great dividends when our players got to Junior High basketball. If they had completed all 4 years of our Little Dribbler program, they should have had a solid fundamental base. During the 2nd hour of practice, we would use the same format for our game as we did in the Junior League except for having stricter enforcement of rules such as traveling.

Conducting 4 hours of Little Dribblers each Saturday in January and most of February was very demanding especially after late games on Friday nights.  However, for us to compete at a high level, skill development was crucial, especially shooting. I believe basketball is the greatest combination of skill and athleticism in sport.  We couldn’t always do a lot about our lack of athleticism but we had total control over our skill level. There is no doubt in my mind the long hours by all involved was worth it and paid dividends in the end.

Ironically, as young as Little Dribbler age, I could almost always tell how good a particular group would be based on their participation in Little Dribblers and basketball camp.  Unfortunately, we did not have enough participation the last 3 years of my tenure to conduct Little Dribblers. Some of this was due to participation in the Longview city league (which is also on Saturdays) and some was due to an overall lack of interest.  I believe participation in city league benefited our program but there was no substitute for learning the fundamentals from our coaching staff.

This has been an overview of how our youth program was structured and, as I’ve said, it was a crucial initial step in the progression toward being a varsity player.  For anyone that would like more detail or has questions about this program, please feel free to contact me and I’d be glad to discuss it in further detail. I have also included our rules for each division at the end of this entry.

Next entry, I will discuss the structure of our Junior HIgh program which is the 2nd step in our Program Progression.

Thanks for reading and Coach With A Purpose!

 

                                                                                             3RD & 4TH GRADE RULES

 

  1.  Each player will play half of each game.  Substitutions will take place every 5 minutes based on a player rotation sheet that each coach will fill out before the game.

 

  1.  All teams must play man to man defense.  All defense shall be half court except during the last 2 minutes of the game.  In the case of a zone defense violation or double team the offensive team will be given the ball “in play” at half court.  Repeated violations will lead to a technical foul.

 

  1.  Each game will consist of two 20-minute halves.  The clock will not stop except during the last two minutes of the game and during timeouts.

 

  1.  Each team is allowed four timeouts per game.

 

  1.  Teams will be in the bonus free throw situation after seven team fouls and the double bonus after ten team fouls.

 

  1.  Players are not allowed to steal the ball off the dribble but a liberal 5 second rule will be enforced.

 

  1.  No isolation plays are allowed.

 

  1.  The three seconds in the lane rule will be extended to five seconds.

 

                                                                                     5TH & 6TH GRADE RULES

 

  1.  Each player will play half of each game.  Substitutions will take place every 5 minutes based on a player rotation sheet that each coach will fill out before the game.

 

  1.  All teams must play man to man defense.  All defense shall be half court except during the last 2 minutes of the game.  In the case of a zone defense violation or double team the offensive team will be given the ball “in play” at half court.  Repeated violations will lead to a technical foul.

 

  1.  Each game will consist of two 20-minute halves.  The clock will not stop except during the last two minutes of the game and during timeouts.

 

  1.  Each team is allowed four timeouts per game.

 

  1.  Teams will be in the bonus free throw situation after seven team fouls and the double bonus after ten team fouls.
  2.  No isolation plays are allowed.

 

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