Rec league teaches the basics

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 2, 2000

Everyone likes watching small children play sports. Sure, they run down the court without dribbling the ball and defense is a concept unheard of, but everybody likes watching the fun.

Everyone, that it is, except Natchez Recreation Department program coordinator Wilbert Whittley. He enjoyed the children’s antics as much as anyone, but he also saw an opportunity.

As head of the recreation department’s Youth Basketball League, he also had the means by which to take advantage of that opportunity.

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Whittley thought he could teach children as young as 5 years old the fundamentals of basketball.

&uot;A lot of coaches didn’t believe it could be done,&uot; he said. &uot;But I think if you can teach them at that age, you’ve really accomplished something.&uot;

Whittley began actively working with the league’s Pee Wee Division – ages 5-7.

&uot;They learned how to rebound, how to dribble. We even taught them a little defense,&uot; he said.

Using a simple 2-1-2 defense as a base, Whittley developed a dance to teach the young players that would teach them to move to the ball, he said.

&uot;I called it the defensive shuffle,&uot; he said. &uot;Every kid knows how to dance.&uot;

In addition to obvious benefits of youth basketball such as exercise and the necessary teamwork involved, Whittley hopes the program will benefit prep athletics in the future.

&uot;The more fundamentals you can teach at this age, the more it helps at the junior high and high school levels,&uot; he said.