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Basketball for the Very Young

My six-year old boys are on a basketball team. The Sandy City Parks and Recreation department has christened the team the Suns, after the Phoenix Suns, which sent one of the twins into a paroxysm of rage.

“I want to be the BYU Cougars!” he shrieked, yet they’re still the Suns. The universe is a harsh, unforgiving place.

In order to accommodate six-year old basketball players, the standards have to be lowered by about four feet, but that’s still not low enough to overcome the 80% Principle: Approximately 80% of all shots only get about 80% of the way to the actual basket. Of remaining shots that are high enough to go in, about 80% of them don’t.

I think when they start playing competitive games, they could win with a score of 2-0.

The highlight of practices is watching them learn to dribble. One of the boys dribbles two or three times, stops, takes three or four steps, and then obligatorily dribbles a few more times before flailing the ball futilely into the ether. My other boy dribbles too hard, and pretty soon the ball is bouncing two feet above his head, and he’s straining to reach the top of it and get it back under control. Both he and the ball proceed in what is vaguely the same direction, but usually the ball gets there long before he does.

If you think there’s a problem with the fact that no one calls traveling in the NBA, you should see what happens in these VERY minor leagues. I don’t know why they actually learn dribbling, because it seems to be optional. And double dribbling is quite an accomplishment in a game where quadruple or quintuple dribbling are the norm. In a scrimmage, one kid ripped the ball away from another kid and started tearing down the court with his hand outstretched like a linebacker who had just recovered a fumble.

Even the most basic rules come into question. “What do we do after someone makes a basket?” the coach asked. Nobody knew the right answer. “Who’s ever seen a basketball game on TV?” Lots of hands went up. “On TV, what do they do with the ball after they score a basket?” My son was the first to answer. “They kick it!” he said.

Note to self: Watch more basketball with my son on TV.

It’s a lot of fun to watch my boys expand their horizons, especially since I wasn’t much of an athlete myself back in the day. (The preceding sentence demonstrates my considerable talent for understatement.) The sad thing is that, at 6’4”, I might have been a decent ballplayer if I’d applied myself. My two sons are below the 50th percentile in height – it’s their 5’2” mother’s influence, I’m afraid. Their spirit is willing, but their flesh is too short.

They’d probably be pretty good at chess, though. That is, until they start kicking things.

Los Pescados
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  1. Chess is a pure combinatorial game unlike, say, Roulette, which is a game of pure chance. You should expand their horizons with mixed games, i.e. Combinatorial, Strategic, and Chance. May I suggest Stratego (combinatorial-strategic), Parchesi (combinatorial-chance), and Poker (strategic-chance). Learning game strategies to maximize favourable uncertainties, primarily bluff, chance, and logic, will help them later in life. Relative frequency will only approach theoretical probabilities if one understands the mechanics of each particular game.Basketball is favourable for cardiovascular health, which is important for long term health, allowing a longer life…to play <>real<> games.

  2. Whatever…Have them play chess. No chance, all skill. When you lose it is always your fault. It is a good way of maximizing self-loathing when you fail.