Entertainment

Basketball for Kids Up to Sixth Grade
Researched by Cornelia [18 September 2007]

In Japan there is a network of basketball clubs for elementary students called "Mini Basket". Usually the teams practice in elementary school gymnasiums. Sometimes a team is based at a public sports center. The court is smaller and the baskets are lowered. The teams are open to anyone, not just students at that particular school.

Fees are quite reasonable, though they vary from team to team, depending on how much is spent on uniforms and equipment and socializing. My daughter is playing with a team called "Huskers" that practices at Asahi Shogako (shogako means elementary school), and the cost is 5000yen every quarter plus 400yen a year for insurance. The gymnasium use is very cheap, so the 5000yen is mostly for all sorts of extras including uniforms.

The language for coaching and practice is Japanese. But there are some English speaking parents involved sometimes. I met an American man who has been actively coaching a "minibasket" team for several years, in Japanese. Also at my daughter's club there are two other foreign mothers, one from Austria and one from the Philippines. There are 3 practices a week. Both boys and girls are included and their ages are from 6 to about 12 (first through sixth grade).

Parent Involvement

The parents are involved in several ways. There is usually one that is most active, and sort of runs things. This includes setting up practice games with other teams. Every practice also has a parent assigned for " toban" duty. That parent must come a few minutes earlier, let the children into the gym, turn on lights, lower the baskets, pull the protective net across the stage area, open windows, get out the equipment, and so forth, all with the help of the kids.

There is also an activity participation form to fill out for the school. This includes, date, time, weather conditions, number of children present, number of adults present, problems, injuries and name of person who filled out the form. In addition, the toban person puts out cups and procures a drink for the coaches (I just bring a 1.5 liter bottle of Pocari Sweat or Aquarius, and what the coaches don't finish, I then take home with me). The duties may vary slightly from club to club.

If the club is a big club with lots of kids, then the numbers of times at toban per child's parent is quite low. If the club is small, then it may be fairly often. At three practices a week, it adds up! Of course, there are also many regular practice days with no practice. For example, when the school has it's Sports Day (undokai) scheduled, then the school needs the gymnasium.

Practices

Practices start with warming up, usually also something to get the hearts beating, such as several laps of running around the perimiter of the court. Stretching exercises are run by the senior sixth grader usually. Then there is about an hour of working on skills. Finally the coach assigns teams, and a few games are played. The younger (and usually smaller) kids appear to be left out a bit at game time, since the bigger, better kids don't usually pass to the little kids. But it works out eventually because the little kids get bigger and better over the next year or two.

Different clubs may make different accommodations depending on age groups and division of girls and boys. For example, practice may be scheduled from 9-noon on Saturday. But then the first and second graders may get their practice from 9-10 and the bigger kids come in from 10-noon. If there are a lot of girls, they may end up playing their own teams, but if there are not, then the few girls are absorbed in with the boys.

At the end there are always the wind-down exercises with cooling off stretches. Then the kids help close up the gymnasium, which includes grabbing meter long dust mops out of the equipment room and running them over the gym's floor, not always in a particularly careful or thorough fashion. The kids do their horsing around thing just like anywhere.

Finally, when everything is done there is a "thank you/good-bye" bow to the gym, the coaches and the parents/spectators.

Finding a Club

The minibasketball network in Japan is huge, and there are some big, highly organized clubs that go to national finals. There are also many smaller clubs where the kids have a good time and learn some skills. Then the ones that take basketball very seriously can get into inter-school competitions later from seventh grade on. All clubs allow free participation for a while so that a child can decide if he or she wants to join. The period can differ (from one practice up to a couple of months!) Most clubs do not have web sites yet, so you might try talking to the staff at your local elementary school to see if a club practices there.

If you kid is not that comfortable in Japanese yet, you might try to what the attitude is at the club (the coaches set the tone), or maybe provide some translator support for a few practices. At Huskers, there is one coach that is extremely helpful to newcomers. Even though he does not speak English, he patiently assists new kids in learning the drills. Unfortunately, he is not there much anymore. But my daughter benefitted greatly from him when she first began.

HuskersClub Huskers

Related links and information:

Minibasketball Network (Japanese)
Kubomachi Dream Club, Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, near Myogadani subway station, co-ed (Japanese: day1993 [at] hotmail.com)
Blue Willows Club, Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, co-ed (Japanese tel: 090-1038-1970)
Phoenix Club, Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Sengoku at Hayashicho Elementary School, co-ed)
Huskers Club, Tokyo, Toshima-ku, Nishisugamo at Asahi Elementary School, co-ed (English tel: 3576-6244)
Beans Club, Tokyo, Chofu, Komae station on Odakyu line, at KomaeChofu Elementary School, co-ed (Japanese: beans [at] basketball.memail.jp)

Yokohama Minibasketball Federation, since 1977 (Japanese)
Imajuku Club, Yokohama, Asahi-ku, girls only (Japanese)
Nakashirane Club, Yokohama, Asahi-ku, girls only (Japanese)
Sanshin Kids Club, Yokohama, co-ed (Japanese)
Yamoto Club, Yokohama at Yamoto Elementary School, co-ed (Japanese)
Gontazaka Club, Yokohama at Gontazaka Elementary School, co-ed (Japanese: akuserutaka [at] yahoo.co.jp)
Sakura Club, Yokohama, co-ed (Japanese: hamafiru [at] yahoo.co.jp)

Tokyo City English Information desk: 03-5320-7744
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