With the Final Four this weekend, March Madness has official hit fever pitch!
For players an NCAA victory can mean bright futures. After winning the 2001 NCAA title with Duke, Shane Battier went on to help the Miami Heat bring home the 2013 NBA championship. For fans, the Big Dance—68 teams knock each other off to advance to the Sweet 16, the Elite 8 and the Final Four—is often what sparks a lifetime love of basketball.
The best part is that everyone, kids and grownups alike can participate. Over the years, watching the tournament on TV has become a family affair, with fans of all ages competing to pick the winningest teams. Of course, the most fun of all, is turning off the TV after the game and heading to the driveway or a local court to try recreating a favorite play.
Whether you all lace up your kicks together and go out to practice your jump shots or just stay in and play Guess the Mascot, March Madness can be great for family bonding and fitness. Here are our tips for getting in on the action:
Be active viewers: That’s Shelisa Welde’s advice for getting kids hooked on basketball. She’s found the NCAA’s Sweet 16 phase a more kid-friendly entry point for younger tykes, but says that once they’re hooked they have no trouble keeping up with family debates on everything from “basketball rules, abbreviations/initials, college, and sportsmanship.” She and her husband even wear whistles around their necks to signal impromptu drills: “Yes, we allow dribbling in the house, I suspect all great basketball players’ parents did.”
Shoot for teachable moments: Alene Cutler, creator of a March Madness kids’ app told the Deseret News that as basketball lovers, she and her husband wanted a way for her family to bond around the inspirational powers of televised sports: “I think sports are important for kids. They teach determination and discipline and work ethic and how to be active and healthy.” Their app, Mascot Madness, lets kids fill out virtual brackets using the 68 teams’ mascots and indicate seed rankings with more easily understood strength indicators. (Mascot Madness is available from the Google Play and Amazon App store, and for iOS devices)
Look for March Madness events in your town: Basketball exhibitions, are happening this month in many of the towns where the tournament takes place. In San Antonion, where the Final Four games will be played at the end of the month, the Final Four Fest is on at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. Kids under 12 get in free (tickets are $8 a piece before March 16; $10 thereafter) and the whole family can get in on all kinds of games and special presentations, autograph sessions and celebrity appearances, clinics, concerts, giveaways and more. Plus, on March 31st, college players will cede the floor to some San Antonio elementary school players, who competed this past weekend to play in their own Final Four tournament. They are mong the 1200 students from 48 San Antonio schools who participated in a 5-week program called i Play! Afterschool designed to teach kids all about the importance of living heathy active and engaged lives through sports — soccer, track, volleyball, tennis and basketball. So if you want to see some high stakes junior basketball, i play! afterschool basketball tournament will play the semifinal and championship games inside the NCAA Fan Fest presented by Capitol One..
Take it outside: There’s no better way for families to experience March Madness than watching a game together before hitting the court. Work on the basics—layups, dribbles and defense—then mix it up with competitions. Get everyone involved in foul shooting contests, which can be played one-on-one or in teams, with younger kids getting to shoot closer to the basket. Challenge older kids to work on their slam dunks. Our fave, Horse, of course, never gets old!
And if your kids get the itch to start playing, then be sure to check out our basketball games for kids guide!
Photo: U.S. Army, Flickr