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By Mark Salamon, December 14, 2020

One of the best ways to impart healthy living habits to the younger generation is to coach your children’s sports teams. Coaching not only strengthens the bonds with your children, but helps build relationships with other parents who are eager to make up for their own lack of athletic ability by forcing their kids to finance college with athletic scholarships. 

There are some pitfalls to coaching your own children, so when I decided to coach my daughter’s third-grade basketball team I did my research, and was careful to avoid common mistakes like putting too much pressure on your children to excel, being harder on your own kids than other kids, and seeing yourself as more qualified than you actually are.

The question of whether or not I was qualified was addressed on day one, because our daughter’s elementary school didn’t let just anyone coach third-grade girls basketball. I had to take a written exam with tough questions like, “We really need coaches, would you be willing to be a coach?” I passed easily, and my coaching career was under way.

The first thing I learned was that you can’t just put third-grade girls on a basketball court and tell them to play, because if you do they will play rugby. I never found out where all these third-graders learned how to play rugby, but I was confident that they could learn how to play basketball if I could manage to teach them the fundamentals.

Fundamental one was how to not run with the ball without dribbling. This was difficult because these girls had just spent the last seven years doing basically nothing but grabbing things and running with them. Deprogramming this instinct was tedious, especially since our district prohibited the use of electric dog collars. The only technique that worked was a drill that required all the players to tackle anyone who ran with the ball without dribbling.

Fundamental two was how to not tackle players who were dribbling. While trying to teach this skill, I discovered that it was impossible to teach third-graders to selectively tackle in certain situations and not others, so I was forced to make an exception to the electric collar prohibition.

Fundamental three was stealing the ball. After an exhaustive trial of coaching techniques, it became apparent that if a third-grader steals the ball, all players on both teams immediately start playing rugby again, even with the use of electric collars. Modifying this behavior would have taken our third-graders well into their senior year of college. Without the luxury of this much time, our league implemented a no-stealing rule.

With stealing out of the way, we tackled more complex skills like running plays and shooting. Our team perfected an elaborate play whereby all of the players crowded as close as possible to the basket and took turns hurling the ball in the air where it would occasionally, with great fanfare, hit the rim. The most challenging part was deciding how long to let it go on before blowing the whistle and starting over.

Our most important fundamental was passing. Good passing made whatever our players did out there resemble an actual basketball game. The most difficult aspect was determining who was open. We accomplished this by having the players who thought they were open, which was all of them, repeatedly scream I’M OPEN until all of the spectators developed irreversible hearing loss. Luckily, scholarship offers started rolling in, which freed up much needed cash for hearing aids.