As a coach or a parent are you concerned about what position your son, daughter or young athlete occupies while playing basketball. Many coaches today start teaching young athletes about specific positions in basketball and informing those players that they must play that position for the whole season. Children at this age do not know the difference between a shooting guard and a power forward; rather, they just want to play the sport and have fun.
A quick story, one of my players on my under 11 boys team was asked the question by one of the parents about which position he plays on the team. His response: ALL OF THEM! This young athlete is 10 years old and about 5’5”; which is pretty tall for a grade five. We as coaches, sometimes have a hard time trying not to slot him into that ‘Center’ position because he is always one of the taller kids on the court; however, we have worked towards teaching him how to dribble and develop a mid-range jumper. From experience, it is definitely NOT easy to resist the inclination to put big kids under the net and smaller ones around the outside, but doing this may stunt the development of these young basketball players later on in their athletic career.
As coaches, it is important not to readily choose a position for the young athlete because a child who is 5’5” at nine years old, playing a ‘Center’ position may not grow very much throughout high school and end up moving to a point guard position. Will that nine-year old know how to handle the ball, shoot from outside, and make effective passes to their teammates? With that said, the nine-year-old young athlete playing as only a center position may not have developed his fundamental dribbling and shooting skills because he was only told to sit under the basket, grab rebounds, and a heavy focus on making layups. It is almost impossible to tell where your young athlete will be in 10 years – how much they will grow, mature, or what team they will end up on in the future. So, let’s try not to limit our kids’ potential by slotting them into a position at such a young age.
Coaches are able to educate their young athletes about the roles and responsibilities of each position because I believe it is important for them to learn, although not focusing on the positions too much during this age. These young athletes are able to have a general understanding of what it means to be a point guard or a shooting guard that way when they grow up and enter into more competitive leagues, such as high school or rep teams, they will know what it is like to play that position.
Some suggestions for helping in this process includes:
Let the big players bring up the ball and allow the smaller players to play in the post
- Teach the big kids how to dribble, jab step, crossover, eyes up when dribbling, passing – Teach them to be a GUARD
- Teach the little kids how to post up, grab rebounds, drop steps, box-out – Teach them to be a CENTER
- Allow different people to bring up the ball — not just the designated point guards
During practices, focus on skill drills for every player on the team
- Every player on the team should know how to dribble, perform layups (both dominant and non-dominant hand), box-out, rebound, play defense, shoot, etc.
- These different drills allow every player to develop their skills no matter their ‘position’ on the court
- Try putting players in 1-on-1 situations that force them to play against each other and practice skills learned during the activities
Try not to separate the bigger athletes from the little athletes– Every player should be able to play together
- Working with different players – different sizes – allows each athlete to work on different aspects of their game
Set your young athletes up for success in the end
- By assigning your players a position, you may be stunting that child’s development later on in life
- You never know how or when the child will mature, so teach every player all the aspects of the game of basketball
Meeting with the parents at the beginning of the season
- Allowing open communication with your athlete’s parents informing them about what your goals are at the start of the season is a great way to keep the parents in the loop
- Inform them that you are focused on development at such a young age – each player will learn different aspects of every position
In conclusion, children at this age just want to have fun and develop their skills to eventually compete in higher levels within the sport. As coaches, we must give players the opportunity to play every position and allow them to feel comfortable at each spot on the floor. If we think about professional players such as Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, they are all big men with guard capabilities! Today’s game of basketball is changing where each individual player – no matter the position – must be able to dribble, pass, and shoot from outside. Yes, it is important to know where the different positions are on the court and what roles and/or responsibilities each one has, but that will come with experience, education, and practice.
As for right now, coaches and parents must just teach their young athlete how to be a basketball player and HAVE FUN!
Feel free to post any questions, comments, or thoughts below! Looking forward to hearing your opinion on this idea.
Chery Bennett is the Domestic Development Intern at Canada Basketball. She is currently pursuing her Graduate Certificate in Sport Business Management at Humber College, and has a passion for basketball and a former athlete within the sport.