My 4 Year-Old Grandson Loves The Film "Hoosiers"!

Julian came to visit me this afternoon and I just happened to be watching Hoosiers, one of my favorite movies to watch again and again.

His grandmother (my ex) had brought Monsters for him to watch with me, but he got caught up in the action of this very fine film, so I have decided to teach him the fine sport of basketball, a sport I was pretty much clueless in in high school. (In fact, I was never very good at “contact sports” and chose fencing as my collegiate endeavor.)

At 53, I’m prettty much “past my prime” but I thought I would get him a small basketball and an adjustable goal and start working with him a little next Spring. I remember the fundamentals pretty well, but I was wondering if y’all had any suggestions. I do not want to push him into the sport, but I would like to see if he’s interested.

I would appreciate hearing from any of you who have taught the little ones how to shoot hoops.

Thanks as always!


My friend is in the film, Hoosiers. Eric is the opposing team member who pushes a player thru a glass case.
Eric and I used to smoke on the beach on Maui together and he embellished quite a bit.

The scene where Gene Hackman has his players measure the height of the basket of the gym where the finals are being held never fails to move me.

Oh. Okay. I’ll re-post elsewhere, thanks.


Checking in as a father of a 4-year old Hoosier - it is just our nature to play basketball.

Do you mean to get one of these toy basketball goals or a real full-size, adjustable down to 7’ or up to 10’ goal for the driveway?

(If this link doesn’t work, go to and search for “basketball” and it should come up)

We have both, but my son and the neighbor kids play on the toy one but not the real one - - it is just too big/high for them and a real ball is too big for them to handle. I do have him try to dribble the real basketball and to pass it, but shooting it more than a couple feet in the air isn’t worthwhile.

Shooting - With a toy adjustable hoop, most kids will want to just get as close as possible and dunk it. Let him to that at first, since making the basket is the most important thing to him initially. Then, adjust it so that it is too high to dunk and he’ll have to shoot the ball in the air a little.

Dribbling - Using a small toy b-ball (one smaller than a volleyball but bigger than a softball), have your grandson try dribbling - get up to 3 bounces then 5 then 10 and so on (but make sure he’s only doing it with one hand at a time). Find a way to make it a game out of dribbling. If he’s really coordinated, get him to dribble and walk at the same time.

Passing - basically playing catch with you, but get him to pass it with two hands - hold it at his chest then push it out to you. Kids at this age usually catch balls with their arms (hug it) instead of their hands, so there’s a bit of work to be done there. Also, show him some bounce passes (from him to you off the ground and back).

Rebounding - have him face the backboard and you bounce the ball off of it (not the rim) and have the kid catch it, with is hands over his head if possible.

Run a play - the give and go - once he can do a few dribbles and can pass to you. Have him start 10 feet or so away from the basket and you’re 5 feet away, make a few dribbles then pass to you. As soon as he passes, have him run to the basket, throw him the ball and have him shoot from close range. Repeat. Repeat again.

Also, explain that “timeouts” in basketball are not because someone’s in trouble, but to get a breather, set up a play, or to make a substitution.

This is going to sound weird and possibly untrue, but I swear it’s not. I met someone who was in Hoosiers before I had ever seen the movie. When I did see it, I remembered meeting the guy outside our apartment building in Heidelberg, Germany. And now I can’t remember which guy it was… I want to say it was David Neidorf? The guy who plays Dennis Hopper’s character’s son?

If anyone knows him, ask him if he was in Heidelberg, Germany, in the late 80s.

H8… Thanks! We are going for the real deal, and I can’t wait to get started. Thank you so much for your detailed answer! I printed it out and will keep it handy for next Spring.


No prob, Quasi. One thing I failed to mention thought, is that the practice/play list above may take weeks or months, depending on how much the kid likes to play and I suppose how often he’s at your place.

Since you don’t plan to get the “real” hoop until next Spring, I’d suggest that you can still work/play with him on dribbling, passing and shooting into just about anything with a small basketball over the winter in the house even.

If he liked the basketball scenes from the movie he may want to watch games on TV and that may keep his interest up if he could play and watch at the same time. Even a soft Nerf/foam ball would allow him to play over the winter.
And now, a basketball joke:

A huge basketball fan dies and goes to Heaven. He runs into an old buddy of his and finds out that they have games each day in the Heaven Gym. They go, and his buddy explains that the rules are the same, except the players don’t have numbers on their uniforms.

“See that tall guy there,” he points out “he has a letter “C” on his uniform because he’s the center. Those guys with “F’s” are the forwards and those little guys with “G’s” are the guards” he states.

“Okay, I think I’ve got it” says the new arrival, “but who’s that old guy over there with the “BK” on his sweater?”

“Him? That’s just God. He thinks he’s Bob Knight.”

You might be able to guess that I’m a big fan of Hoosiers too. I spent some time with my little cousin when she was about 4, and she was learning to play (You should see her now, incidentally-she can dribble behind her back, and she’s 6!). The only thing I would recommend is that you help Julian get started, and then leave him to his own devices.

Most likely, all he’ll care about for a while is shooting the ball. At the beginning, he’ll need you to show him how to bend his knees and shoot one handed, using his other hand as a guide and not actually shooting with that hand. If he has to fling the ball, he’s too far away. If he’s hitting the bottom of the rim, he’s too close. Anywhere in between is good.

When he shoots, tell him to look at the front of the rim, and try to nudge the ball right over that spot. Teach him how important follow-through is on his shot. Any shot that hits the rim or backboard is a successful one.

Teach him that you have to dribble, and how to dribble, with only one hand at a time. Watch some games with him if he wants, and he’ll probably want to do what they do. Help him with that.

Beyond the basics, though, I think he’d be best off if you allowed him to go at his own pace. Play with him when he asks you to, but that’s it. I think a lower hoop and a smaller ball is a really good idea, because if he can’t get the ball in the hoop at least a few times, he’ll get frustrated real quick. Once he understands how to play, it’s pretty much up to him if he wants to take it from there.

Above all, don’t try to teach him anything he doesn’t seem willing to learn. Trying to run a play, etc. is a good idea eventually, but it probably won’t be fun for him. If it’s not fun, and he hasn’t become attached to the game, that will turn him off to basketball just like that. Most likely, he’ll either take to the game right away, or not at all. If he does, you won’t be able to tear him away from the basket, and then you can work with him on anything he wants to. In my case, my love of the game started at about that age, and I was content to throw the ball up at the rim for hours on end. I’m not sure, however, that I’d have enjoyed learning anything more advanced at that particular time.