The Best System for Teaching Basketball to your Montessori School Team

Your school has decided that they are ready to start a basketball team. Parents have gotten over the hump that “competition is bad” and they realize that an organized sports team has a lot to offer the students and the school. Maybe the first year it will be an intramural or club team. Maybe you have some scrimmages lined up with some other like-minded schools. Maybe you are lucky enough that there is a league that your school can participate in that does the game scheduling for you. Either way, you will need the basics covered.

Obviously you are going to need a space with some basketball hoops. If you have a gym at your school, then you are probably covered. You will need practice jerseys and game uniforms, and players should bring their own basketball or athletic shoes. Finally, you will need to have enough basketballs so every athlete can use one. Once the basic materials are covered, it is up to the coaches to teach the players how to play basketball. Who are going to be your coaches?

Most schools rely on parent volunteers to coach their teams. While the parent may be knowledgeable about the game, they may not be the most effective at teaching the game. The school may demand that a teacher be the coach, so you hope that one of the faculty has experience playing basketball (and the interest). Rarely a school will hire a professional coach, and in many instances you get what you pay for. So if a school is going to use parents or faculty to coach, what would the ideal system look like?

Rules should be taught, not plays

If we want the student to truly understand how to play basketball, we don’t want them to be robots that just learn a play. We want to create good basketball players. We want all the athletes to get opportunities at passing and shooting. If the athletes can learn rules as opposed to plays, they are not relegated to one position with one task. Rules allow five players to be predictable to each other so they can function as a team but also have each player act as an individual basketball player, not a cog in the machine.

The system should scaffold and build upon itself

If you teach a new offensive system every year, they only have one year to master it. If you use the same system every year, they have multiple years to get better and better. If that system has multiple layers, when one skill set is mastered, another layer is introduced; you will have truly competent basketball players that understand how to play the game. A rule that is introduced in fourth grade will surely be mastered by eighth grade, and by eighth grade, they will have learned many, many more rules on top of the original layer. This ability for the athlete to continue to use what they have learned caters to the skill differences of each athlete the same way that the Montessori classroom can. Some players will not master the full program, but they will have mastered some of it. The parts they have mastered will allow them to contribute their full ability to the team. Those athletes who mastered more will be able to do more and will not be limited by another person. The exceptional athlete will be able to apply their mastery with their teammates because they all have the same foundation.

So what is this magical system? It is called Better Basketball by Rick Torbett. He has hundreds of teaching videos that provide step-by-step programs to design your offense, defense, and practices. I do not have any association with Better Basketball; I don’t get any money from them. I am a coach who has used his program for two years and has seen the development of my players skyrocket to a level I have never seen before. I have been coaching for 8 years in total, and I began as a coach who didn’t understand basketball too well. I had to teach myself about the game, and I made lots of errors in the beginning. If I had had this program from the start, I would have been ten times the coach on day one. His system teaches basketball in a way that feels very much like the Montessori method, and it is truly creating good basketball players at my Montessori school. The big picture is introduced, drills are applied, and the rules are practiced in a scrimmage to see if there is mastery. I imagine that many of you can see how this system is similar to three part cards in its philosophy.

When someone understands how to play basketball, as opposed to only knowing one or two plays they had to remember, the chance that they will be lifelong basketball players is so much greater. We don’t expect every athlete to play in high school or beyond, but we want him or her to understand and appreciate the game. If they have talent and work hard, it will be up to them how far they go, and by providing a teaching system for learning basketball, we did not limit their potential. We want to provide the ability for athletes to truly learn basketball to the best of their ability, and with the Better Basketball system, I believe that each athlete will have the mental tools to play basketball for as long as they choose.