Basketball – A Great Game with Lifetime Benefits

art-0914-basketballWhen colder weather sets in, kids can get restless indoors. Basketball offers the perfect antidote. With minimal equipment (a basketball and a pair of sneakers) and a court and baskets, your kids can play out pent-up energy and reap long-lasting physical, mental, emotional and social benefits.

Complete Physical Exercise 

Basketball offers one of the most complete physical exercises of any sport.  Running up and down the court sets a child’s blood pumping and is a great cardiovascular workout. A child playing basketball is strengthening muscles in all parts of her body, using her upper body to pass and shoot the ball, and her legs for speed and agility running up and down the court. All-Star Basketball Camp Owner John Carroll, a college and NBA coach, describes basketball as “gymnastics with a ball.” The sport also builds flexibility, as children stop on a dime, change direction, twist this way and that to catch a pass, and stretch high to make that basket. 

Increased Coordination 

Practicing running, passing, guarding the ball and shooting for the basket helps each player improve his physical coordination every time he steps on the court. Hand-to-eye coordination is critical in basketball, and is a valuable skill for children to develop at an early age. Shawn Brown, a strength and conditioning coach who’s worked with basketball players with the Toronto Raptors and the University of Virginia, says physical education teachers don’t necessarily teach kids how to move and develop these skills. Many educators believe that children who develop good hand-to-eye coordination in early childhood improve neural pathways needed for the mental gymnastics required in later years of school.    

Enhanced Confidence 

When a child first starts playing basketball, she discovers a lot of actions to learn and master, like passing, dribbling, and running and dribbling at the same time. Later, running, dribbling, and keeping her gaze on the other players to determine who is open for a pass is another skill level, as is deciding when to shoot a basket, and learning how to shoot the ball from a variety of spots on the court.  

A child may not excel at every one of these skills right away or even over time, but most children will quickly find one or two basketball skills they can enjoy and become proficient at – like getting up and down the court quickly, dribbling the ball, passing accurately, or, of course, making a shot. 

The game is fast and feedback is immediate. Basketball players take lots of shots and have plenty of opportunities to assist with scoring, all of which results in points for their team. When a teammate catches a pass, that’s immediate gratification and a huge confidence builder. When a player receives a pass, and turns and shoots… what a fabulous feeling. And when the ball actually goes in? That child feels like a superstar. 

Team Building  

Learning to working together with others is an ability that will make life smoother across the board. What makes basketball a great team sport for kids is that the team on the court is only five players. Paying attention and responding to four other kids is not as overwhelming as figuring out how to interact with an entire soccer, field hockey or football team. Kids learn quickly that teamwork is critical for success. They will discover that that one player hogging the ball, or one player taking all the shots, is not the way to win. A successful basketball team is five players who take turns being a supporting player or a superstar. A team joins together to accomplish a common goal, and shares the joy when they succeed. 

Social Connection  

The social benefits to playing a team sport like basketball are immeasurable. Playing sports creates easy bonds between kids, bonds not so easily influenced by social differences or pre-formed opinions. Kids who might not spend time together off the court may find connection and synchronicity on the court where the ball and the hoops matter, and not much else. The moment a child makes a contribution to the game, he becomes part of the team, period. 

Skills for Life 

Children playing basketball think they are playing a great ball game, and they are, but they are also learning how to develop new skills, deal with new situations, overcome obstacles, and work together for a common goal. They are learning skills that can serve them for life. 

Let the games begin!  

Beverly Breton Carroll
About Beverly Breton Carroll

Beverly Breton Carroll and her husband own an All-Star Basketball Camp in Massachusetts. They are co-authors of The Confident Coach’s Guide to Teaching Basketball. Beverly is also the author of How To Coach Youth Baseball.

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