Basketball Youth Empire

Two weeks ago God sent me an angel. Well, it was not a real angel, it was my childhood dear friend Tudor, and of course, God sent him it’s just a way of saying it. He visited me on the occasion of Jiujitsu World Championship where he was coaching his team. We had two days of a good time like in our younger days.

How you can read in my previous posts, I am also coaching a U8 team. To be entirely fair I accepted the team at the beginning because there was no other coach. When I started I said to me what most of the coaches are saying about this age: it is just for fun, it is like babysitting, they want only to run around and this is it I will treat like this.

After the first year, I become attached to this fantastic kids, and I tried to find ways to train them better and also to influence their behavior and to foster in them sportsmanship, teamwork and stuff like this.

If you read my post: “ Coach responsibility as a Cultural Leader” and how to develop life skills for our basketball athletes you will notice that not all I wrote it applies to U8 or even younger players. I was struggling to find a way to do the same with this kids, but unfortunately, to my shame, I couldn’t see.

Then, suddenly he came to visit me. We had a long conversation about his Brazilian Jiujitsu gyms and his coaching and also about my coaching and my teams. When I told him that I believe developing core values to the players has the same importance as the basketball he started to explain what he did for his younger groups. I remember what he said:

“ – Did you hear about Gamification? We started to use it, and it is working like crazy!”

Gamification? I don’t know what it means it was my first thought.

If you read on Wikipedia, you will find out that gamification is “the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts.”

Ok. But how can I apply it to basketball practice? The answer is I can’t use it only during one basketball practice. I have to create a game which looks like a video or board game, but it is happening in real life. The rules, the scores, the prizes, and what you want to achieve depends on my imagination.

One thing, in particular, makes an excellent game to be great, and this is the unknown part of what is next, the gambling which excites your curiosity. So, if you start designing yours keep in mind to take care of this aspect.

My friend gave me also his game, and I found a lot of inspiration in the way he designs it.

The first practice I propose to try a simple game. I started the training with a short talk. I told the kids like this:

“- For each drill that we do, if you focus and you finish it you will receive 100 points!

-What can we do with the points? They replied already being interested.

-If you have 400 points, you will get a mushroom!

-I don’t like mushrooms said, Nicolas!

-Ok. But to know it is not a real mushroom, it is a special one. If you have three of them, you get a life!

– A lifeeee –  shouted all of them with a big smile on their faces. And what can we do with the life asked someone?

-In two weeks, you will fight with a robot, and you will need lives to beat him!”

And this is how I start. Usually, I can’t keep the kids focused more than 30 minutes out of 90, but that day was different. They skipped every water break in their pursuit for points. For me it was wow, for them it was an excellent game.

Next practice it was the same focus and fun. Last week I was the robot, and each kid had to compete against me at some basketball trials. In the end, everyone defeated the robot and won lollipops.

I also tried it at home with my kids, and it works unbelievable. They take care of everything by themselves, and they compete against each other.

Now, let’s see how can we apply this technique to develop life skills for these kids and to help us in keeping them focused during the practices.

The game that I designed with my friend’s help consists of six levels, one for each month.

The first month is about health, mental and physical. The daily tasks are related to sport, reading, learning, healthy eating and personal hygiene. For every work that they perform by themselves, they receive 100 points and if their parents ask them, only 50.

Every day before bedtime they spin a fortune wheel where can win points.

Two times a week they receive an email with a funny secret task, for example, the parents mess the kids’ room, and they have 5 minutes to clean it. If they succeed all the points of the week are double. The task is different all the time.

When they get 10.000 points, they receive a mushroom. Four mushrooms let you go to the next level.

If they are not behaving for whatever parents consider, they are sent to “jail” meaning they can’t play video games, watch tv or use the phone for three days. They can go out of the jail with a jail pass which costs two mushrooms.

At the end of the month and of the level, they receive a t-shirt with a designated color printed with the text “Level 1 Cleared,” and if they have points over 40.000 points, they win a surprise gift (which parents can choose).

At the practices, they receive carrots which are necessary for the final competition. The last workout of the month will be a big contest for the whole family. The kids will work with one of the parents or if it is not possible with me, to finish a time race with basketball trials and funny things (for example the parent have to devour a banana or to peel a potato, etc.). If they don’t finish in a designated time, they lose a carrot, and their team can try so many times as they still have carrots.

The following months will be about: friendship, responsibility, respect, manners, and empathy. I will not develop all of them now, but I think you got the idea.

If at the end of the game one kid has more than 240.000 points, he wins a big surprise gift.

When he is at the level 2,3,4,5 or 6, he has to maintain all the tasks from the previous levels without taking any point, and if he doesn’t, he can lose the game.

A player can also help another player and donate his points if you have too many and he needs more.

At the end of the game, we will celebrate with a big party where the kids and their families will have a good time, and players will receive a very deserved gift established together with all the parents.

After six months I will be happy as a coach because I taught them basketball, the parents will be satisfied, because their kids behaved good and they practiced core values, and the kids will learn all of these by playing a game. Isn’t it fascinating?

I named my game “Youth Empire,” and I hardly wait to start it from 1st of January.

Now I challenge you: How is called your game?

And all I can say in the end for the kids, parents, and coaches:

READY! GET SET! GO!

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