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).
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 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.