Teaching Teamwork Through Basketball

Learning how to work with others in a team or group setting is an invaluable life lesson. When kids learn teamwork, they learn how to socialize, how to cooperate, how to cope with failure, how to work for a common goal, and how to accept responsibility for their actions, and all of these skills will help them to become stronger, more confident people in all aspects of their lives as they continue to grow and mature. And team sports—In this case, basketball—are one of the easiest ways to teach kids these important life lessons.

Why basketball?

The most obvious reason: it’s fun. When kids are playing basketball, they’re only focused on the game. They’re too focused on running, shooting, guarding, and competing to even noticing that they’re being taught valuable life lessons about teamwork and cooperation. And when this process is overseen by experienced professionals, like at a summer basketball camp, or school league, there is no room for fighting, blaming, or finger-pointing.

The other reason basketball in particular is a great sport for teaching teamwork, is that it truly is a team sport. Take baseball for instance. While baseball can certainly teach some good lessons in teamwork, the one-on- one aspect of pitcher versus hitter opens the door for individual heroics. Even if the rest of the team strikes out every at-bat, one player is all it takes to hit a couple home runs and win the game, whereas in basketball, no matter how skilled any single player is on the squad, he or she cannot succeed if the whole team doesn’t work together as a unit.

How does basketball teach teamwork?

  • Selflessness – The offensive part of the game provides great opportunities to teach young players to be unselfish as they work together to score and win. When you’re selfish on the basketball court, your whole team suffers. On offense, the key to scoring is to confuse the defense so they don’t know who is going to take the next shot or where that shot will come from. This is where selflessness is key. If there is only one star player taking all the shots for the team, the defense will simply double up on that player and mark them out of the game. If that star player tries to be selfish and hog the ball, he or she is going to be shut down and end up turning the ball over and hurting the team. However, if your top scorer learns to be unselfish, he or she can actually use the defense against itself by drawing their attention and then passing the ball to an open player.
  • Cooperation – On defense, rotation is key. If you see that an offensive player has been left open, or beat his or her defender to create a scoring opportunity, and you are near enough to step in and provide a second layer of defense, you then have to trust one of your teammates to step in and defend the open space that you leave behind while trying to break up the play. This means that players on a team have to learn how to look out for each other, and support each other when they are vulnerable. After a while this becomes instinctual, and players learn to both take care of their own positions, while keeping an eye out for their teammates and naturally rotating in when the defense is in trouble.
  • Accountability – Just like in life, making mistakes is a natural part of basketball. If you miss an “easy” shot, or get caught out of position, or get burned on defense, the whole team suffers and you feel it. This provides excellent opportunities to teach kids to recognize and learn from their mistakes, and take accountability when they let themselves or their teammates down.
  • Coping with Failure – Nobody likes to lose. But, losing as a team can be a great bonding experience. Just like no single star player can win by themselves, no team loses because of one single individual poor performance. When the team gives its all and still has to take a loss, each player is forced to look at their performance and think about how they can work better as a team to win the next one.

From getting great exercise to learning better communication and cooperation skills, enrolling your kids in a league or basketball camp is a great way to build their confidence, improve their ability to work with others, and generally make them more well-rounded individuals. And the best part: They’ll never feel like they’re learning, because they’ll be having a blast the entire time.