A HIGH-REACHING “MINI”
The French Basketball Federation has a very special place for Mini-Basketball. The charter dictates that it should be expanded to as many clubs as possible, and now a national convention is bringing Mini-Basketball to schools.
Every great sport that takes itself seriously knows that its future is being built today, and that future inevitably depends on training. The French Basketball Federation is working to highlight basketball for children. The Federal Youth Commission, created in 1988, manages the Mini-Basketball Project.
Besides giving the children an introduction to our sport, the project also aims to develop the individual and teach them to reach their potential in life with respect for themselves and for others.
Rene Lavergne, co-founder and staunch defender of the “Mini-Basketball” cause, speaks passionately about his baby: “Mini-Basketball aims to awaken and highlight the creative forces of children.
To do this, Mini-Basketball develops aptitude for competition by way of training based on psychomotricity, while maintaining competitiveness within the framework of education, controlling aggression, working on technique within the game and learning to live like a team in society.”
This former sports trainer is careful about amalgamation. Training a child within this particular framework has nothing to do with training a small adult. Children are different. For example, competitiveness is adapted. “We don’t reject competitiveness,” he continues. “It’s an important motivator that allows the child to acquire qualities that will serve him in life, and also a source of information to get to know the child better. O
n the other hand, what we reject is brutal opposition, exaltation of victory and searching for stardom.” Above all, it is a matter of giving a basic training, which allows the child to approach basketball in the best way possible.
A CHARTER WITH FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES
Mr. Lavergne, together with Andre Barrais, had previously started to develop “Basketball Tots” in 1950 using adapted material.
Twelve years later, in Spain, Anselmo Lopez linked this adapted game to the acceptance of responsibility by young people. He called this activity “Mini-Basketball”. The President of the French Basketball Federation at that time, Robert Busnel, gave Rene Lavergne the task of carrying out the Mini-Basketball mission successfully in France.
It was 1965, and the project was underway.
Today, clubs form in numerous schools in France, and they expand according to the demands of the youngsters and their parents.
These learning and playing locations are “framed” within the clubs. The Mini-Basketball school charter brings to mind the fundamental principles that any system worthy of that name should respect.
Values are at the top of the list: conceived by or for the child, the charter contains certain points designed to meet the child’s aspirations.
Respect for others, for the game and for the environment is as important as tolerance, autonomy and solidarity. As a reminder that schools are structures made up of managers, technical staff, youth leaders and parents, the charter sets out the tasks of each one.
Also mentioned are topics such as organisation, academics, evaluations for tracking acquired knowledge, access to competitions, and to the responsibilities that will fall to the child.
Each school that follows this copious programme to the letter can then submit a petition of recognition, if desired. Intended to gather in one document all action taken within the group, the petition, once complete, will be sent to the French Basketball Federation where it will be examined. The goal is to obtain the federal standard, symbol of a strictly followed charter and of a vibrant school serving active youngsters. Since it was created in 1999, 117 schools have received the designation “French School of Basketball” from a representative of the Youth Commission. But what does this honour actually provide? Some, such as Xavier Languenou, President of the Landerneau Club (400 graduates), have seen their membership numbers rise sharply. “For the parents, it’s a sign of the quality of the establishment,” he says.
“Proof that the children are happy: 80% participate in practices each year.” Others see it as an acknowledgement from the Federation that allows them to continue alongside other major sports such as rugby in the southwest, for example.
And others welcome the requirement to improve, so as not to fall into the routine of a programme that is already functioning well.
To that end, the National Mini-Basketball Forum, the first meeting of which was held at Sable-sur-Sarthe in 2003, has allowed many educators to profit from the experience of their peers in order to improve.
AN IMPORTANT NATIONAL CONVENTION
Every year in May, the clubs clear the decks for action and organise the National Mini-Basketball Festival under the auspices of the Federation. This is a fun and friendly way to round off the season.
For one whole day, the little ones have priority and simply play on courts set up here and there. Baskets and balls abound in the car parks, the streets and the town squares inviting children to join in tournaments and other activities.
It is the grand finale of the work undertaken by Mini-Basketball schools. 110,000 children play basketball during this festival, more than 500,000 people all over France are involved and the Federation, through its partners, provides presents for each child!
But Mini-Basketball School does mean school. At the beginning of 2004, the French Basketball Federation signed an important national convention linking it to the Ministry of National Education, the SUPE (Sports Union of Primary Education) and the NUSS (National Union for School Sports), where departmental committees play a central role. To train the teachers and help them introduce basketball to their pupils, four CD-ROMs (from nursery school level to the fourth year in primary school) will be provided for them by a nearby club, with which the school will have signed a partnership agreement.
The club, given the name “Technical Resource Centre”, will lend six balls given by the Federation, and supplementary material if considered necessary. The club will also be able to make a qualified technician available, or help to organise an inter-class tournament. Each “Technical Resource Centre” will receive a “Prospective Basketball School” form to be completed with the respective establishment and returned to the Federation. To allow each pupil to participate in several levels of basketball during his education, to understand the rules, to appreciate the game and to become an avid (live or TV) spectator will surely help to develop the culture of basketball in France.