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A Summer School Basketball SKILL Program For Grade School Kids.

SINCE BASKETBALL MOVED up alongside of baseball and football as our true national pastimes, our young people have been pretty much inundated with all kinds of one-week and two-week summer camps and one-day or two-day clinics.

All of these specialty seminars have contributed to the sport, but one thing has always been missing--a comprehensive, progressive approach to the needs of kids at the beginning level.

That is the specific purpose of the SKILL organization, an organized eight-week summer course focused squarely on the 5th to 8th grade boys and girls in southwest Chicago elementary schools.

The "students" attend two 90-minute classes a week, play organized pick-up games at specific times during the week, and are taught and supervised by a staff of high school players.

Started several years ago with 68 seventh and eighth-grade kids, the school now has a student body of about 500. Classes are held Monday through Friday (June through August) on two courts in a facility in Evergreen Park, IL.

Each child is issued a junior-sized basketball and a SKILL reversible jersey and play on baskets that have been lowered to eight and half feet (to adapt to the age of the players 7 to 14).

Morning sessions

The emphasis is on developing a love for the game, competing, and having fun. All of the drills are basic.

The dribbling drills stress the use of the ball.

Lay-ups are taught as part of fullcourt competitive relay drills. As with the dribbling drills, the kids are taught to lay up the ball with either hand.

For our shooting instruction, we break up into smaller groups (5 or 6) at each basket with an instructor at each. The stress is very much on form shooting, with the correct stance, body position, grip, and the proper arch on the ball.

The kids must practice their shooting from each side of the block area, and are taught how to use the backboard.

Competitive skills are also used in shooting. The kids are broken up into teams of three, with each team shooting at a basket. The team that sinks 10 shots first is declared the winners.

The players are then paired off for passing drills, which include the bounce and chest passes always with the use of both hands.

Most training sessions end with a 15- or 20-minute scrimmage. An instructor plays on each team to control the play and keep everyone involved. Play is stop at various times to point our mistakes and do some coaching.

As the eight weeks progress, we scrimmage a little more--while continuing our basic routines everyday.

The last night of camp is always reserved for "Prime Time Games" High school officials are used and friends and family are invited to attend. We usually draw a crowd of 400 to 500 people. Certificates of Achievement are awarded to all the participants.

Afternoon Sessions

The afternoon sessions are training periods for our Core Group (5th through 8th grade boys and girls). Boys are separated by grade, while the girls are combined at the 5th and 6th grade and the 7th and 8th grade level. The girls are a women's-size basketball, while the boys receive a regulation-size ball along with a reversible jersey.

The SKILL jersey must be worn at all levels and the SKILL ball must be brought to the training sessions. Approximately 275-325 students make up the Core Group from year to year.

Ed McNulty, the director of the evening sessions, has four instructors under his control. All of them are former SKILL students and current high school players from various schools. The children relate very well to them, as their short-range goals are to make the varsity high school team.

As with the morning program, the afternoon sessions consist of two 90-minute session per week (Monday through Friday) with from 30 to 40 students per session.

Each session starts with 15 minutes of drill on jump stops, reverse pivots, triple-three positioning, defensive stances, and back pedaling--stressing balance.

The second set of drills consist of full-court passing, catching, dribbling, and lay-ups and last 30 minutes.

After the drills, using all eight of our baskets, the students play two-on-two for 10 minutes, stressing two-on-two with instructors walking the floor, stressing man-to-man techniques, both offensively and defensively.

After a five-minute break, we break down for four-on-four play at the four main baskets. Each has an instructor who keeps scores and emphasizes screens, cuts, and feeding the post for about 15 minutes.

The final 15 minutes of class is for shooting practice under the tutelage of Tom Pomorski, a retired Chicago policeman who now dedicates himself to teaching the proper shooting to young players.

Evening Sessions

The evening sessions are devoted to competitive games at 6, 7, 8, and 9 o'clock p.m. the boys in the 5th through 8th grades play on a different night, Monday through Thursday.

Sixteen players are assigned to each game, using the number assigned to them at registration. They find their game times on a schedule given to each player listing all the numbers and starting times.

Prior to each game, Coach McNulty splits into them two teams, each wearing opposite sides of their reversible jerseys.

Each team lines up by height and each player is given a "game number" from 1 to 8, which is used for substitution purposes.

The numbers on each side are also the match-ups on the court so that when 1, 2, and 3 are substituted for by 6, 7, and 8, the competition level remains the same or as close to as possible.

Substitutions are made every five minutes, with the clock being stopped while the substitutions are being made. As you can see, all of the students have almost equal playing time in every game.

Parents and friends come to watch, never knowing until game time who is playing with whom and against whom. But they do know they will be watching only man-to-man defense, which is all that is allowed at SKILL.

The officials are Ed McNulty and John Chappetto, both Illinois HSA certified referees and coaches. Ed is the head sophomore basketball coach at St. Rita H.S. in Chicago, and John is an assistant basketball coach at St. Xavier University in Chicago.

Jack Kelly was a grade-school coach for 18 years and has been an assistant freshman and sophomore coach at St. Rita for the past two seasons.

Friday is girls game night at SKILL, with the 7th and 8th graders playing at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., followed by 5th graders from 7 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. and the 6th graders from 8:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. The same format is used for these games as described for the boys.

The Evergreen Racquet & Fitness Club, facility is an air-conditioned complex of basketball, tennis, racquetball, golf, volleyball, and workout rooms. SKILL takes over the basketball portion of the club for 8 weeks every summer from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. five days a week.
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Author:Kelly, Jack
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2000
Words:1172
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